Move over bass tournament series, there’s a new kid in town. 2019 will mark the third full season for the Western PA Hardwater series, and each year it gets bigger and better.
Organized by tournament angler and ANGLR Expert, Gus Glasgow, this one of a kind ice fishing tournament series looks forward to its biggest kickoff so far with five events planned.
Glasgow had previously fished in three ice fishing tournaments. One was a professional event in Michigan and two on Lake Arthur. Those two were organized by Billy Hines for the Slippery Rock University Bass Fishing team as an open fundraiser. Glasgow can’t remember there ever being an ice tournament anywhere on Lake Arthur prior to that. So why not create one?!
What is the Western PA Hardwater Series?
Hosted by the Western PA Tournament Fishing Association, the Western PA Hardwater is a series of ice fishing tournaments held across western PA. It’s the region’s only competitive ice fishing events for both amateur and professional anglers.
While there are a variety of ice fishing tournaments across the United States, there are really only a couple of tournament series for ice fishing. Being the only ice fishing series in the state of Pennsylvania makes the WPA Hardwater pretty unique. There are one or two in New York, a few in Vermont, and The Elite North American Ice Fishing Circuit is all the way out in the midwest, traveling around through multiple states.
“Someday we hope to grow big enough that we could consider doing that on this side of the country,” Glasgow pondered.
The series offers a collection of five tournaments located on five different lakes, including one two-day event on Presque Isle.
January 5th – Lake Arthur (Butler)
January 19th – Kahle Lake (Emlenton)
February 2nd – Sayers Lake (Howard)
February 16th-17th – Presque Isle Bay (Erie)
March 2nd – Pymatuning Lake (Linesville)
The Sayers Lake location in Central Pennsylvania was added this year as a step towards expansion in the future.
“Last year’s series brought in an average of 30 to 40 teams,” began Glasgow. “This year, based on the impact we had last year, we expect to easily double that, if not triple it.” He explains why:
“We had some really successful events last year, so we were able to turn around and reinvest back into marketing and advertising to really promote the series and get the word out.”
In the past, the WPA Tournament Fishing Association had relied heavily on word-of-mouth.
Anyone that wants to fish is welcome. “Anyone that has a desire is able to ice fish. Anyone can go get a rod and reel. They’re not expensive, so anyone can do it and be successful,” he says. “We’ve had a lot of father-son teams, and a lot of husband-wife teams, and a couple of female partnered teams. We’ve even had mother and son teams.” Diversity like that is really not something that you see so often in many other forms of competitions.
What to Expect of an Ice Tournament?
Glasgow describes the ice fishing tournaments as being unique from other tournaments, ice aside. “They’re a lot of fun and friendly. These guys actually share information.” The atmosphere tends to be more relaxed than typical bass tournaments. No one is trying to hide information. You can literally walk right up next to someone fishing and watch what they’re doing and ask them questions. They’ll tell you all about what they’ve tried, what’s working, and what’s not.
Sometimes some anglers will be a little protective of what they’re doing in their spots, but anyone else can walk up next to or near your hole, so there’s no way to hide anything.
“Everything you do is in plain view and in the open, so we know where the guys are that are winning. We know what they’re doing and where they’re fishing, and everyone can share that.”
Unlike bass tournaments, one of the rules that Glasgow intentionally left out was the “no cell phone” rule. “We allow them to share information, and we openly want them to,” he said.
Glasgow recalls the event on Kahle Lake during the series’ first year. “It was about two in the afternoon, and we were to weigh in at three. All of the sudden, out of the 40 competitors we had, I saw about 20 of them pick up all their gear and almost sprint to one area. I’ve never seen anything like it! It was comical,” he reminisced as he wondered where everyone was going.
Here, one of the anglers was having success in this particular area and told his buddy, who told another. “Suddenly everyone packed up and moved to that one spot.” They all wound up catching fish when the beans were spilled, after a day where the lake hadn’t been fishing well all day.
“You can still run into the same handful of guys that tend to do really well,” he began, “but we’ve had teams that have never fished in a tournament before win!”
Ice Fishing is for Everyone
The WPA Tournament Fishing Association really appreciates the help that they get from their sponsors. They have a collection of great sponsors already, and several more came on board this year, donating products and prizes. ANGLR Labs, the creators of the super-helpful fishing tracker app is one of this year’s featured sponsors.
Everyone has a chance to be a winner. “We have one big item for each event that we save as a drawing, not as a fish catch prize. We’ll draw one random name out of the contestants for that event.” That means that literally everyone that participates can have a chance to win something, regardless of how they fish.
The first event is set to kick off on January 5th on Lake Arthur. Registration begins at 5:00 am, with the event beginning at “faint light.”
Safety is a primary concern, so the schedule may be subject to change, depending on the ice conditions on the water. All fishermen are required to wear an awl at all times on the ice. They also must either have life jackets within reach at all times, or be wearing a float suit, such as those made by Striker. The suit consists of a jacket and bibs that float, as an extra safety precaution.
Can Spectators . . . Well . . . Spectate?
They sure can! This series gets a surprising number of people that show up to watch the events, cheering on their favorite angler.
On top of that, every single fisherman stays behind to watch the rest of the event and cheer their friends on. Warm weather tournaments tend to lose a lot of the anglers that don’t do well early on. “A lot of times, they’ve already loaded up their boats and are headed home, even before the official weigh-in time. Usually the only guys that tend to stick around are the top contenders that think they may have won a prize,” Glasgow explains.
With ice fishing, everyone that fishes in the tournament stays to watch the weigh-in. A lot of aunts and uncles, friends, siblings, and cousins come out to watch the weigh-in, too. “For a lot of these guys, this is their first official step into any kind of tournament.”
In a time of the year when most of the general population is hibernating, ice fishing is fascinating to the rest of the public. News and journalists and videographers can usually be seen at several of the events.