Russia Wins World Ice Fishing Championship

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The 2013 World Ice Fishing Championships, held Feb. 16-17 on Big Eau Pleine Reservoir near Wausau, Wisconsin, pitted 11 nations in heated battle, with pride of country and medals on the line. International ice fishing competition is contested under strict and detailed rules--two days, three hours each day. Teams fish separate zones for the first two days. Sectors are marked using ropes and cones, each 400 feet by 200 feet. Five 'fishers' form the lineup of each nation, with one randomly assigned to each of the five sectors. In other words, you have no teammates inside your sector. Each fisher is granted a spotter, who must stand outside the sector but can talk and give direction. Coaches are allowed to walk the neutral zones between sectors, but cannot enter the sector. They are allowed to talk with their fishers and coach them during the competition. After the ice chips settled on Day Two, Russia had won the team gold with 42 points (low score wins). Finland won silver with 48.5 points, and Lithuania bronze with 49 points. Team USA, favored to win a medal going in, had a tough first day, rebounded well on Day Two, but finished just out of a medal in fourth place, with 51 points. American Chad Schaub had the biggest catch of the competition on Day Two and soared into third place to win an individual bronze medal. Fighting back tears at the weigh-in and having difficulty talking, he mainly expressed disappointment that the Americans missed a team medal so narrowly, but was obviously thrilled to be taking home a medal to Michigan. All in all, it was not what Team USA had drawn up, but there was great pride that they won Day Two handily over every other country. "I thought the team performed almost flawlessly today," remarked coach Brian Gabor immediately after the horn sounded, ending the event. "There were a few tactical things, but everybody did the game plan, and the game plan worked." Team USA trials set for early March: open trials are being held in a few weeks, to select the 10 members of 2014 Team USA Ice Fishing. The trials are March 8-10, 2013, near Rhinelander, WI. Team USA will be traveling to compete in the World Championships next February in Belarus. For more information and to register to compete, go to www.usaiceteam.com.
Two members of Team Russia settle in to watch American Billy Whiteside practice on Friday, the final day of preparations before competition began Saturday morning. The Russians wound up winning team gold.
At the opening ceremonies in the Plaza hotel in Wausau, a group of Native American dancers performed for the assembled nations.
Team USA's Michael Thompson (left) listens as co-captain Myron Gilbert (center) describes how he wants Thompson to help him when Day One unfolds. Thompson, who fished and fished well on Day Two, was Gilbert's spotter on Day One. Team USA's Glenn Delorme listens in.
American coach Brian Gaber (far right) talks strategy with Myron Gilbert (lower left) during a final team meeting Friday night. Clockwise from upper left, Michael Thompson, Jeff Kelm, Billy Whiteside, Chad Schaub and Juan Arellano (back of head).
The best competitive ice anglers in the world get their game faces on, as one of two buses fill up before leaving for Big Eau Pleine Reservoir on Saturday morning, first day of the world championships. Team USA co-captain Mike Boedeker is at lower left.
Japan's Kouichi Ogasawara shows an official one of his bait containers prior to the competition. All containers, which must adhere to strict regulations, are inspected.
The march of nations onto the ice prior to Day One. The designated fisher report to one of five sectors, then wait for a horn that indicates it's five minutes to start, at which point only the fishers may enter the sector. There is typically a mad rush for prime real estate, as anglers are allowed to place their nation's flag on the ice, securing a spot five meters in circumference, but must wait until a second horn sounds, indicating the start of competition, before drilling a hole.
"Okay, on two, gentlemen, USA!" yells co-captain Myron Gilbert (far right). "You know what this means to me, and I know what it means to you, too," he said to them. We don't give anything up, and we fish right to the end."
A russian filmmaker trains his camera on the Americans (upper left). Visible Team USA members, clockwise from left: Glenn Delorme, Chad Schaub, Michael Thompson. At upper right is Sean Warner, Team USA's International Delegate.
Team Ukraine's Dmytro Korzenkov casts a large shadow as he waits for the competition to begin. No one is allowed inside the sectors until exactly five minutes before the starting horn sounds.
Let the drilling begin! Instantly, when the opening horn sounds, augers are flying. Competitors are allowed to place their country's flag on the ice beginning five minutes before the opening horn, claiming the spot. Team USA's Mike Boedeker (second from left, in blue) despite being 63 years old, is one of the fastest drillers in the world and a former individual gold medalist. To Boedeker's right are Ukraine's Dmytro Korzenkov, Russian Alexey Zhelezkin and Finland's Petri Ahola.
Dmytro Korzenkov of Team Ukraine is locked on his spring bobber, watching intently for light bites. You'll notice that very few anglers ever wear gloves during the competition. Despite 21-below-zero weather at the start of the day, and despite the fact that his hands are wet from cleaning slush out of the hole, Korzenkov appears oblivious to the conditions.
Finnish fisherman Petri Ahola turns to watch what's going on around him. In world ice events, the anglers are constantly spinning around to make sure nobody else is getting ahead of them. It's one eye on their own line, one eye on the competition. The instant somebody starts catching fish and gets noticed (they are experts at hiding success), flags and augers descend as close as the five-meter rule will allow.
American co-captain Myron Gilbert displays the face of intensity, as he watches one of his opponents fish. Despite intensely cold temperatures, he never put on a pair of gloves, including while walking on and off the ice. His hat is from 2010, when Team USA won the gold medal.
Team USA coach Brian Gaber offers up mid-heat adjustments to one of his charges. The coaches are allowed to walk in the neutral zones along the edges of sectors, but cannot enter the field of play.
Two on-ice officials work together to make measurements between holes or locations where anglers intend to drill holes. New holes must be drilled at least five meters away from the nearest opponents' hole, so officials are busy with requests for measurements throughout the three-hour heats. They stretch five-meter ropes between them to ensure compliance.
Team Russia's Alexey Zhelezkin fixes his gaze on his bite detection device. Cold-front conditions, with high skies and high barometric pressure, virtually negated the advantage Team USA was banking on. The Americans were focused on larger crappies suspended perhaps 4-7 feet above bottom, but those fish proved difficult to catch. Most or all other teams specialize in fishing on or near bottom for smaller fish, and their approach was better suited to the conditions, particularly on Day One.
A competitor from Kazakhstan grabs his flag and is on the move. Fishers routinely run full out between holes, in order to maximize fishing time. (More evidence that these guys don't wear gloves: it's 20 below zero, and those are bare hands on metal!)
American Myron Gilbert focuses on where he's headed with his frozen flag, and grabs the auger by feel as he goes to 'box out' an opponent on a spot he's trying to protect.
Russian angler Alexei Diachenko keeps an eye on the competition as he bores a new hole.
Members of Team Ukraine, followed by Lithuania (green jackets), then Poland (red-and-black suits), make the trek onto the frozen surface of Big Eau Pleine Reservoir before Day Two. Temperature was 21 below zero at the start of competition.
Russia's Alexey Zhelezkin prepares by shadow boxing just prior to Day Two. Poland's Slawomir Zoladz, perhaps saving his energy for the horn, watches with casual interest.
"Yellow card, yellow card!" calls Poland's Slawomir Zoladz, pointing at the ice. The charge: he's claiming that the Russian flag put down by Alexey Zhelezkin had fallen down before he came over and picked it up. According to the rules, if an angler's flag is not upright (so that others can plainly see it), it is a violation. A yellow card is a warning, but stays with the offender for three years. If the same angler gets two yellow cards that means a disqualification, resulting in points being added to his team's score - one for every team in the competition, plus one. Because low score wins, getting that many points added is a killer.
Extremely cold temperatures, high pressure and bluebird skies meant a tough bite during the World Ice Fishing Championships. America's Mike Boedeker, a former individual gold medalist, grabs his stuff and heads off for a new area.
Team Kazakhstan's Timur Kovalyov squints to see through the frost on his eyelids as fishing gets underway in minus-20 degree temps on Day Two. He was a familiar figure, with spare rods tucked into the brim of his hat.
Reprising his world-class hairdo that helped Team USA win a gold medal in 2010, Mark Keane, who assists the team with equipment maintenance and other duties, watches the action on Day Two. Keane also worked the event as an on-ice official.
Team USA's Michael Thompson fights a good crappie up the hole on Day Two. Fishing in a difficult zone, Thompson barely missed winning it. Mongolia's Oyunbold Battumur weighed in 259 grams of fish, while Thompson had 252 to finish second.
American Chad Schaub had a monster catch on Day Two, the biggest of the competition, rising to third position and an individual bronze medal. As he comes off the weigh-in stage, he is greeted by fist bumps from Billy Whiteside (over his right arm), Mike McNett, Team USA Ice Division Director, and will soon be bumped by assistant coach Jason Gruett and coach Brian Gaber.