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Little things make all the difference for ice-fishing champs

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Updated: January 30, 2014 6:35AM

Tony Boshold notes connections between his ice-fishing success and that of Chicago sports teams.

In 2005, when the White Sox won the World Series, he and Mike McNett won the North American Ice Fishing Circuit Championship. In 2010, when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, he earned a gold medal with the USA Ice Team. On Sunday, six months after the Hawks won the Cup again, he and Mike Hoffman won the NAIFC Championship on Mille Lacs in Minnesota.

His next connection is a reach.

‘‘I am hoping the next one comes with the Cubs,’’ he said. ‘‘Maybe they will let me sing the national anthem or something and some of my luck will rub off.’’

Seriously, though, little things matter in any big success. That’s especially true in finicky ice fishing.

That was certainly true last weekend. Boshold and Hoffman were in third place after the first day. They had eight bluegills weighing 3.22 pounds, largely on some half-pound sunnies and a .77-pound bluegill caught by Hoffman. Few crappie were caught on the first day. The teams ahead of them had two crappie each.

The NAIFC tests overall skills. On the first day, anglers plied Wahkon Bay for the heaviest eight crappie and eight sunfish. On the second day, it was Isle Bay for the heaviest eight crappie and eight perch.

On the second day, Hoffman and Boshold blitzed the field with 15 fish weighing 6.43 pounds, nearly double the closest team.

‘‘We had found crappie,’’ Boshold said. ‘‘What happened was Mike got on a hole where he could see clear to bottom and was catching these crappie. . . . He was in the sand spot in the tall weeds.’’

Hoffman was using a 21/2-mm gold Fiska jig with one red spike. Boshold switched to Hoffman’s technique and couldn’t catch the crappie. There was something about Hoffman’s jigging and his spot.

‘‘We were feeling pretty confident,’’ Boshold said. ‘‘The cameras were on us by 10 a.m., and [ice-fishing guru] Dave Genz was watching.’’

As attention came, competitors tightened around them.

‘‘It was transition areas where the bottom changed from harder to softer,’’ Boshold said. ‘‘That is all it took. Basically, he single-handedly won it for us.’’

Boshold made Hoffman hold his spot until nearly noon. Then they went to deep water for perch.

That was its own adventure. They were down to Boshold’s snow machine and ‘‘wiped out’’ when they missed a fork in the plowed road because they were so charged up on adrenaline and busted some auger blades. But they got to their perch spot and began ‘‘whacking them all by ourselves,’’ Boshold said.

At 1:40 p.m., they wanted to run for check-in, but they were fishing in knee-deep snow and their machine was frozen. They unhitched the shack to get the machine loose, then found the hitch was bent.

‘‘My dad [the late Jim] would stand up and kick it,’’ Boshold said.

That’s what he did. Then they raced back to the pack. Others already knew they were the winners. They were, each earning $7,500 and detailed blue diamond rings.


Twitter: @BowmanOutside

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