Weather Updates

Some serious fun on ice

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

‘We thought about fishing the next morning just for fun, but we didn’t wake up until later,’’ Joe Jaworski said after he and Bart Sitarz won the North American Ice Fishing Circuit Championship in Rhinelander, Wis., last Sunday.

Sound like my kind of guys. They take their fishing seriously, and work at it. And their fun, too.

Winning makes the most fun, and they did last weekend by getting away from the crowd.

Sitarz, 31, a limo driver from Palatine, and Jaworski, 28, a personal trainer from Lyons, weighed a two-day total of 12.7 pounds to beat the Wisconsin pair of Bob and Neil Jacobson by only .08 pounds.

Each team could weigh their best eight bluegill and eight crappie each day. Sitarz and Jaworski weighed limits both days.

‘‘With 40 minutes to go [on Day 2], we went to the edge of the group and drilled where they hadn’t been fished heavily,’’ said Sitarz, who doesn’t understand how half of the tournament was fishing in the same clump.

‘‘We try to stay away from pack as much as possible,’’ Jaworski said. ‘‘We always try to find our own spots.’’

They landed three of their biggest fish, including a 1.07-pound crappie, in the final minutes on a backup crib on Lake George to clinch the championship with 9.2 pounds. On Day 1, they pulled 3.5 pounds from Lake Thompson.

Not a bad showing for a first-year pairing. Buddies suggested they team up. Sitarz has fished ice tournaments for years. This was the first year for Jaworski, who grew up ice fishing, but not in tournaments.

‘‘Joe is my best partner,’’ Sitarz said. ‘‘We just work really well.’’

When pressed, he said a good partner is ‘‘somebody who is willing to drill holes and a lot of them.’’

Odd as it may sound, Jaworski thinks that is his great addition to the team. He values the nickname bestowed by Sitarz, ‘‘Drill Bit.’’

‘‘I like to drill holes, and I like to use the auger,’’ Jaworski said. ‘‘I like drilling holes and catching fish. I might not be able to hook them all, but I can get them to bite pretty well.’’

When competing against the best in North America, nuances make differences.

They had some. Key to get noncommittal fish to commit was a school-bus (‘‘goofy yellow orangish and glow eyes’’) Fiskas jig. Wax worms produced better than plastics. They used Pro-Cure bait scents. Hometown luck came with a last stop before heading north to see Jim at the Salmon Stop in Palatine for bait.

On the ice, they used MarCum flashers to better see what fish were doing inside of cribs. To find the cribs they relied on the precise GPS maps from Electronic Guide Service.

There’s the mental side, too.

‘‘Biggest thing is confidence — not panicking when things don’t go like they are supposed to go,’’ said Sitarz, who used the example of the best crib on George shutting down last Sunday, so they had to move.

‘‘[You have to have] confidence and a game plan,’’ he said. ‘‘We sit in a room every night before the tournament and say, ‘We are going here, here, here and here.’ We have all our scenarios figured out so we don’t change our plans when we are on the water.

‘‘Every time we have a game plan, we have done better. When we don’t have a game plan, it never works.’’

Sitarz thought there was an otherworldly touch, too.

‘‘And the last and most important thing: We had a friend, Ted Cwik, leave us at the too young age of 51 a few days before the tournament,’’ he said. ‘‘Ted, this one is for you. I know you were watching from up there.’’

To the winners goes the credit.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.