Battle on Bago Biggest Ever

By Evan Kruegel, Local 5 News

Published 02/21 2014 09:22PM

Updated 02/21 2014 10:31PM

Oshkosh, Wis-

Jeff Berholtz battled the conditions today, setting up his shack on Lake Winnebago.

        "Home away from home for the weekend," he said.

He's one of 7,000 fisherman hitting the ice, but he won't be looking to snag the biggest fish. First place will receive $2,014, but even bigger prizes sit down the line. 150th place will win a brand new Ford truck, and 400th and 600th place will win new Mercury boats.

        "This gives the average joe a shot at winning something you might not ever win in a professional tournament," said Committee Member Glenn Curran.

The prize structure means even a 1 pound fish could land you a brand new truck, and competitors say that helps even the playing field.

        "I think it's a great tournament because its luck of the draw," said contestant Jamie Trepanier.

        "If you can catch a white bass and win a boat that's awesome," said Tracey Ambecher.

Organizers say it also helps mitigate potential cheating.

         "If we put the biggest prize in first place guys would have 10 pound fish swimming around in their bathtubs for a month or so. So that's why we do what we do."

But that's not to say it's an easy tournament. Conditions Friday made for tough fishing.

        "The wind was tough," said Trepanier. "You had two guys to hold the shack and if you were moving, you had to tie it to the truck and be ready cause if not it was gone within seconds.

But with thousands of dollars in prizes on the line, competitors say it's well worth it.

        "It's fun for everyone," said Contestant Kurt Miller. "You don't have to be a professional fisherman."

As contestants hope for big prizes.

        ""I'd take the boat, "said Trepanier. "But I could use a new truck, and if I come away with a beer I had fun too."

The event runs through 2:00 Saturday afternoon.

Organizers raised $500,000 for charity the first six years of the event. This year alone, they expect to raise close to $300,000.

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