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Carlos' Amanda Steidl wins Ice Fishing Challenge

Amanda Steidl of Carlos shows off the 3.255-pound northern that won her the $15,000 first prize at the Ice Fishing Challenge on Saturday afternoon. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

There were a lot of local anglers at the top of the leaderboard for the 2014 Alexandria Sertoma Ice Fishing Challenge, and Amanda Steidl of Carlos stood above all the nearly 1,200 anglers that took to the ice on Lake L’Homme Dieu on Saturday afternoon.

Steidl, 25, has fished in the IFC almost every year, and she was rewarded for her persistence when she latched into a 3.255-pound northern almost 45 minutes into the tournament. She was fishing in about 10 feet of water when the fish grabbed a hold of her shiner minnow.

“I was using a large, white flipper with a pink leaf with sparkles on top,” Steidl said. “My brother would call it an ugly rig because he can’t believe I catch fish on it, but I do.

Steidl knew she had a nice fish from the moment it hit.

“You could feel the weight,” she said. “It was a guaranteed hook, and it came right up the hole. It is pretty sweet [to win] considering I fish it all the time.”

Steidl kept things in perspective over the final two-plus hours as she waited to see if her lead would hold.

“I was very calm,” she said. “Everybody was like, ‘Why aren’t you excited? You just won $15,000, and I was like, there’s two and a half hours left. A lot can happen.’ ”

Steidl’s lead did last and so did the 2.74-pound northern that won second place for Alexandria’s Tom Schonauer. The 28-year-old has lived on L’Homme Dieu and knows the lake very well. He was out on the ice at 8 a.m. today to make sure he gave himself a chance to set up in a hole that he knew was near a weed line in about 14 feet of water.

“The only advantage that I think I might have is I pretty much understand about how the fish move around under the water column, where I might find more fish,” Schonauer said. “I normally fish right on the weed lines, as close as I can get to it.”

Schonauer didn’t have to wait long as he latched into the fish just minutes into the tournament. He then spent parts of the final hour checking the leaderboard hoping he would stick in second place.

“I’m just totally pumped,” he said of taking home the $5,000 prize. “It’s an experience of a lifetime. I never once thought this would happen. It finally did and it’s just great.”

Local anglers made up the entire top three as Bruce Amundson of Miltona finished third with a 2.730-pound northern that earned him $2,500. There were more than 200 fish caught in the challenge with nine of the top-10 fish on the leaderboard being northerns.

The biggest walleye of the day was the lone exception to that list. Scott Gefre of Wahpeton, North Dakota caught that as he finished ninth overall with a 1.98-pound walleye that he caught in the final hour of the tournament.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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