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Eagle Lake tradition

When Shon Bachleitner was celebrating his 21st birthday, he and a bunch of his buddies decided to go ice fishing on Eagle Lake in Frazee.

Everyone pitched in five bucks and it was a winner-take-all kind of thing.

The birthday boy actually came out a winner, but little did he know that the 35-man adventure would turn into a 150- person fishing tournament 14 years later.

The Eagle Lake 14th Annual Tumble Fishing Tourney is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 15 from noon to 4 p.m.

The tradition that began as a birthday hoopla continued in the same manner for about three years after the initial outing. But Bachleitner thought, why not make it a fun event that everyone could participate in?

"It was three years after that is when I decided to go out and get sponsors to sell tickets," he said.

Now businesses in Frazee and many more from the lakes area are pitching in to provide door and cash prizes and make the annual tournament a tradition that brings anglers from near and far.

"There are about 30 and some odd sponsors on the list," he said.

This year's top winner gets a $300 cash prize, the second wins $150 and the third goes home with $50. But there are plenty of door prizes for avid anglers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Last year, Bachleitner had some extra cash -- so he added fourth, fifth and sixth place prizes. He suspects the same thing will happen again this year.

"Right now I'm going to try to buy more door prizes, but it's a good chance that I'm going to add a few more prizes," he said earlier this week.

The first place winner gets to keep a traveling trophy for a year until the following year, but that doesn't mean others have go home empty handed.

If history repeats itself, the "Dumbest Move Award" and trophy will go to the guy who tries to drive through a 5-foot snowdrift in a pickup truck and gets stuck, a.k.a last year's winner Brad Knutson.

Or the 4-year-old who caches a floppy, 2-pound northern, too big for his little hands, that causes him to slip and fall on the ice.

"He wanted to cry so bad but all he can say is 'where is my fish, where is my fish?'" Bachleitner said of last year's "Hardest Fall Award" winner Zack Roforth.

Although the tournament keeps growing, Bachleitner wants to keep it at 150 to preserve the small Frazee-area lake.

"Eagle Lake is not a very big lake and I don't want to kill it," he said.

Participants are allowed to set up permanent or portable fish houses anywhere on the lake.

Those interested in registering for the tournament should act fast -- there are only a few spots left. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased by calling Bachleitner at 218-850-8888.

The man who was once the winner of a little outing on the lake became the founder of the Eagle Lake Tumble Fishing Tourney, who now gets to organize the annual event for 150 happy anglers.