VENTURA | The third annual Yellow Bass Bonanza drew 499 competitors from as far as Colorado to McIntosh State Park in Ventura last Sunday.
Most fished with a partner, although a few decided to go solo. Whether working alone or as a pair, each team could bring a maximum of 50 yellow bass to the scale.
For some it was no problem.
Kevin Hulsing and Mark Novotny headed to the big lake immediately after the 9 a.m. shotgun start. They had their first 50 yellows before 10 a.m.
“And we thought we were going to have to work for them,” said Hulsing, a Rockwell native now living in Cedar Rapids.
Despite the early success the duo kept their lines wet in hopes of adding heavier fish.
“There’s no limit,” Hulsing said. “We’ll sort them later.”
(There is no daily or possession limit for yellow bass. The 50-fish maximum was only for the tournament.)
Hulsing said he fished on Clear Lake often as a youngster and still comes up regularly. He competed in the two previous Bonanzas as well, finishing ninth and 11th.
“I’m just riding his coattails,” said Novotny, who lives in Robins.
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Rose Danaher of Homestead took a similar approach.
A relative newcomer to ice fishing, she was taking in her first tournament at the invitation of Ice Team Pro Rod Woten from Des Moines.
“He knows what he’s doing, so I said absolutely,” Danaher explained.
Woten was participating in his third Bonanza.
“I’ve been here from the beginning,” he said. “I can’t believe how it’s grown.”
Woten and Danaher also had their first 50 by mid-morning.
“It’s a good thing when you have to start upgrading,” Woten said.
Charles Weida of Riceville was on his second tournament of the weekend after fishing Lake Hendricks near Riceville the day before.
“Since I’ve been retired I get to fish a little more,” he said.
Although the bite proved slow for Weida, he still enjoyed the outing.
“It’s a beautiful day, anyway,” he noted. “We love coming over here.”
Judging by the record turnout and the number of repeat participants, it seems a lot of anglers love Clear Lake and the Bonanza.
Winners Jason Schuttler of Manly and Aaron Lauber of Clear Lake finished 30th in the first Bonanza and seventh in the second.
This year they claimed first with a weight of 15.14 pounds, a tournament record, winning a $1,000 Cabela’s gift package plus $500.
Fishing in about nine feet on the big lake, the duo had most of their luck early.
“We found them a half-hour into it and we didn’t move,” Schuttler said.
The fish didn’t seem particular with regards to the lure or bait, Lauber said. “We couldn’t keep them from biting.”
Schuttler said they caught well over 100 yellows in compiling their winning basket.
“I’ve caught way more fish today than all winter,” Lauber said.
Nick Meyer of Milford and Chris Preston of Cedar Falls took second place and a Clam Nanook ice shack with 13.85 pounds.
The pair landed over 200 yellows fishing in both the little and big lakes, although they said most came from the main basin.
“Tungsten jigs, rattle spoons, it didn’t seem to matter,” Meyer said. He noted they tipped their offerings with either red or white wigglers.