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Tulibee dominate catch in Brainerd Jaycees Extravaganza

HOLE-IN-THE-DAY BAY—Les Laidlaw caught the biggest fish during the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza Saturday—and he's got a scar to prove it.

Laidlaw of Mankato tried hard to catch a fish at the contest for the last five years. This year he tried a new strategy. He simply set up a rattle reel and set back, hoping for some luck. It wasn't long afternoon and Laidlaw found himself pulling up a 5.54-pound northern pike, big enough to earn him a brand new Ford truck from Mills Automotive Group at the 27th annual event on Gull Lake.

When he grabbed hold of the big fish's head a quick move sent a treble hook through one of Laidlaw's fingers. It remained there as he ran the pike to the weigh-in tent.

"My hand's fine, it was just a treble hook in my finger, but it's OK," Laidlaw said after being announced the first-place winner. He was patched up at the first-aid tent near center ice of the 250-acre contest area.

The pike was released back to the waters seemingly unharmed.

Laidlaw was fishing with a minnow hooked to a Jammin' Jig.

Just a matter of ounces separated the first place from second place. In second was Brian Dubois, of Afton, Mich., with a 5.44-pound northern pike.

Next in line was Florence Anderson of Owatonna with a 4.63-pound walleye. It was one of few walleye caught. Scott Imgrund of Baxter reeled in the fourth-place fish, a 3.96-pound walleye.

Much of the top 150 fish that helped earn anglers prizes were tullibee—137 of them in fact. Only six northern pike and seven walleyes filled in the remaining spots.

While hundreds of perch were brought in for the weigh in, not one perch made it on the leaderboard.

The Extravaganza is completely volunteer driven and all funds go to over 40 charities in the Brainerd lakes area. The recipient of 70 percent of the funds is the Confidence Learning Center. The Confidence Learning Center is an outdoor education facility for individuals with cognitive and developmental disabilities. That camp is able to remain open year round thanks to the help of this event, according to the camp's executive director Jeff Olson. It usually raises about $100,000 of the camp's $700,000 budget.

"We'd have to change our whole budget without this event," Olson said.

The Brainerd Jaycees is a leadership development organization for young adults ages 18-40.

The Brainerd Jaycees invest nearly 25,000 volunteer hours in the year-long planning of the contest. Amongst the 350 volunteers was this year's chairperson, Brandon Freihammer.

"The enormous impact of this event on our community and the charitable organizations we donate back to is the reason we are all here," Freihammer said. "The commitment and dedication of the volunteers is impressive, and I am humbled to be at the helm of such a large event."

The Brainerd Jaycees have donated nearly $3.5 million to over 50 charities since the first Extravaganza in 1991.

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