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2011 Midwest Open Ice Fishing Tournament Story

Lansing-area fishermen Keith Kniffen, left, of Eaton Rapids, and his father, Ron, middle, of Lansing, were all smiles while talking to professional ice fisherman Dave Genz during the weigh-in at Columbia Central High School for the Midwest Open Ice Fishing Tournament. The Kniffens walked away with more than $12,000 in prize money and merchandise during the Sunday tournament at Clark Lake.

Lansing-area fishermen Ron and Keith Kniffen won’t make the same mistake they made in 2010.

After finishing in the top 10 – on various teams – in 2008 and 2009 at the Midwest Open Ice Fishing contest near Brooklyn, the duo was too late in signing up for the 2010 event.

The Kniffens made up for that on Sunday by winning the top prize of $12,000 at the ice fishing tournament held at Clark Lake. The duo finished with 11 total fish – eight bluegills and three big crappies – to total 5.59 lbs. in winning the 12th annual event.

In 2009 the Kniffens placed fifth at Devils Lake and Ron took another partner to the 2008 event since Keith was out of state and placed eighth. They were surprised that the total held up all day.

“I thought we would be in the top 10, not first place,” Keith said. “We only caught three crappies, but they were big.”

“We waited too long to sign up for the 2010 contest,” Ron said.

That appeared to be the theme of the day – it was tough to capture crappies. Each two-man team attempted to catch eight bluegills and eight crappies for a total weight contest. A number of teams finished with eight bluegills, but no crappies.

Winning the contest with his father was special for Keith, age 25.

“I have been fishing with my dad since the age of three,” Keith said. “I was unbelievably nervous because we were one of the first teams [28th] to be weighed in.

“My nerves are shot right now.”

Keith also claimed the $200 prize of biggest crappie with one that weighed  1.04 lbs.

Last year’s champions – Bob Richardson and Chad Hamlin – finished second with a total of 4.88 lbs. of bluegills and crappies. Richardson and Hamlin earned $3,500 for their efforts.

Onsted High School juniors Bronson Burch and Zak Decker finished third to claim $2,000; Steve Webb and Ron Borton finished fourth and earned $800; and Jim and Glen Martin placed fifth to earn $400.

Nick Tucker won for biggest bluegill at .59 lbs to earn $200.

More than 1,000 people attended the weigh-in at Columbia Central High School.

            It was announced at the rules meeting that the 2012 event will be held at Devils Lake on Sunday, January 22. The tournament is already a sellout of 150 teams, according to Jim Knutson.

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