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On January 10, 2015, over 1,000 anglers will hit the ice for a great day of ice fishing. With over $185,000 in cash and prizes, the Mobridge Ice Fishing Tournament has become a fixture in this South Dakota town, and a winter highlight for fishermen from across 12 states.

To enter the lottery for the 2015 Tournament, click here between Aug. 11 and Sept. 19.

The Mobridge Area Chamber's Tourism Committee held an emergency meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 5 to discuss the future of the Mobridge Ice Fishing Tournament. Years ago, the Committee realized they were going to have to make some hard decisions. The Scherr Howe Event Center, where the tournament's rules and results meetings are held, was filling rapidly, and the Committee had to decide how it was going to fit all of its anglers into the building safely and comfortably.

Committee members voted to give past fishermen preferential treatment rather than opening all 500 spots up to a lottery each year. "The Committee wanted to give the anglers that had been fishing the tournament from the beginning the option of fishing it every year as a thank you for their loyalty," explained Haden Merkel, Chamber Executive Director.  Although the tournament was popular, the Tourism Committee expected some teams to drop out each year. The plan was for these unclaimed spots to be put in a lottery for new anglers interested in participating.

"Last Thursday was the last day for teams that fished in last year's tournament to sign up for their guaranteed spots," said Merkel. "When the smoke cleared, we realized had just 5 spots for the lottery." Merkel, who received 41 requests to get into the lottery just within the last month, informed the Tourism Committee of the issue and members decided to schedule an emergency meeting.

After thorough discussion, the Committee voted unanimously to increase the total number of teams in the tournament to 525. In order to accommodate 50 more fishermen, the Committee is considering changes to their floor plan for the event and relying on new Platinum Level sponsors to increase the total value of prizes given away to anglers. "We have three ice shacks instead of one this year, and a total of over $185,000 in prizes, up from $175,000 last year," said Merkel.

In order to make sure the lottery remains open to at least 25 teams each year, the Tourism Committee also decided to make all lottery spots unguaranteed going forward. "Anyone who wins a spot in the tournament through the lottery this year is not guaranteed the spot the next year," explained Merkel. "We had to chose between doing it this way or not having a lottery at all. We figured having a chance at an unguaranteed spot is better than not having a chance at all."

As anglers who have secured spots leave the tournament, those spots will be added to the unsecured lottery. Eventually , the Committee hopes to have 450 guaranteed spots and 75 lottery spots each year, but they will have to wait for anglers with guaranteed spots to opt out of the tournament before they can hit that goal. For anglers who really want a guaranteed spot, the Committee is still raffling off their three guaranteed eBay spots. "Once we are back down to 450 and know our lottery entrants have a healthy chance at winning an unguaranteed spot, we'll re-evaluate things," promises Merkel.

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