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Ninth annual Jig’s Up Blugold ice fishing contest set for Feb. 12

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: One lucky angler hauled in this good-sized northern pike at the 2021 Jig's Up event.

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will host the ninth annual Jig’s Up ice fishing contest from 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, on Lake Wissota.

The contest, which has tripled in participation since its inception, will once again provide anglers and winter-weather enthusiasts a fun-filled family event offering thousands of dollars in cash and prizes.

The Jig’s Up contest is co-hosted by the UW-Eau Claire recreation and athletics departments and the Lake Wissota Lions Club. Repeating title sponsors are Scheels and Eau Claire Ford, and more than $80,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded, including a two-year lease on a Ford F150 truck to be drawn from all registered fish tickets.

Participants can purchase an unlimited number of fish tickets at $25 each, with one ticket required for each fish registered. Prizes will be awarded by weight to the top 20 fish and every 10th place thereafter to 480th place, and every fish between 481st and 500th place. 

Fish tickets can be purchased online at the Jig’s Up website, where the contest schedule and rules can be found, as well as fish and raffle ticket sales locations and a full list of fish and raffle prizes.

“Eau Claire Ford has offered a vehicle prize for years,” says Sheryl Poirier, assistant director of Recreation and Sport Operations at UW-Eau Claire. “We used to tag a fish to determine that prize, but it turned out nobody was ever catching that fish. Now the dealership offers the lease every year, and everyone who registers a fish is eligible to win the drawing.”

With more than 1,500 fish tickets sold last year, the Jig’s Up event draws a tremendous crowd and has become a signature winter event for the Chippewa Valley. Leadership at the Lake Wissota Lions Club is grateful for both the community engagement and the fundraising opportunity for their organization.

“Working with the professional and student staff at UWEC has been rewarding,” says Dave Prescher, Lions Club member and long-standing Jig’s Up committee member. “The event has become one of the biggest in the Lake Wissota area, a great fundraiser for us, and we are able to watch how it develops camaraderie and leadership among the Blugold students.”

Student roles vital to event success

From the earliest planning moments of the event, Jig’s Up student coordinators play key roles in nearly every aspect of the event. According to Poirier, her team of student leaders and the student staff they supervise are the only way this event takes place at all. They play critical roles from start to finish, providing most of the work on the ground for the event.

“While Recreation is the spearhead of Jig’s Up, we simply could not do it without the students,” Poirier says. “They are modest in talking about their roles, but we really could never pull it off without their work. From marketing, IT, graphic design, social media and on-ice logistics, our student staff in Recreation and Sport Operations take lead roles.”  

The lead 2022 Jig’s Up student team members and their event roles are:

  • Zachary Menter, senior computer science major from Eau Claire; and Jonas Kohls, senior software engineering major from Elk Mound; information system technicians in charge of event website and live, on-site contest software operation.
  • Ben Johnson, junior entrepreneurship major from Neenah; student lead for Environmental Adventure Center (EAC) and one of at least 15 EAC student staff running logistics and weigh-ins on event day.
  • Kjerstin Carlson, senior organizational communications major from Prescott; event marketing and communications.
  • Kate Schwenker, senior studio art major from Pewaukee; graphic design for event marketing and media.
  • Xuewei Zhang, senior accounting major from Jiujiang, China; ticketing sales and tracking.


This is Johnson’s fourth time working on the event as a student employee of UW-Eau Claire’s EAC recreation unit. He takes the lead in assigning the event-day roles to a team of fellow EAC student employees.

“I oversee the 15 or so student staff from the EAC who provide much of the hands-on outdoor work on that day,” Johnson says. “I love talking to all the people who come out to fish, and working alongside our Recreation pro staff and learning from them is awesome. I’m a business entrepreneurship major, and Jig’s Up gives me a chance to hone my communication skills and gain valuable insight into major event planning, which has not been a big part of my coursework.”

Also serving on his fourth Jig’s Up planning team, Menter enjoys the fast pace of the event day and what he calls the “real-world” experience and the rush of operating the technology behind a large-scale event.

“In addition to setting up and maintaining the event website, the biggest thing Jonas and I do is to run the software on the day of the event that tracks the weights and lists all the prize winners at the end of the day. We display them on a screen at The View,” Menter says. “Feeling that ‘crunch time’ in the process and the pressure of making sure things all work smoothly that day has been a great learning experience that will serve me well in potential career paths.”

For Carlson, her third time working on marketing and event communication on social media never feels repetitive and continues to open her eyes as a strategic communicator.

“It’s always really exciting to be working out in the community like this,” she says. “It’s a different demographic than we typically focus on in our coursework and projects, which is usually that 18-20 age range. This is more like 34-50, so very different. I’ve learned a lot.”

As the only team member taking this project on for the first time, Schwenker has learned important lessons about teamwork and how each member of a team is equally important to the success of a project or event.

“It’s really interesting to see the behind-the-scenes view of a big event like this, versus what we normally see as a participant,” Schwenker says. “Working on a team with this many moving parts has been fun. It’s great to see how my part, which felt like a smaller role sometimes, really does factor in a big way to the overall success of Jig’s Up. My posters, my graphics on social media or the website all serve to grab a new person’s interest and make them click to learn more. It’s shown me that there are no small parts in most of business — it’s teamwork.”

As Feb. 12 approaches, the 2022 Jig’s Up student team is finalizing details and preparing for another fun and successful, if slightly frigid, day spent on Lake Wissota — and they’re ready for the challenge.

As Johnson says, the cold weather is just “part of the deal,” and often makes the success of the day feel all the sweeter.

“It’s a really long, cold day for sure, there’s no way around it,” Johnson says. “We all end up with great stories to share for the whole next year, and we all share in how great it feels to finally get out of that wind and cold!”

Visit the Jig’s Up website for details and ticket locations, and the Jig’s Up Facebook page for the latest news, trivia and updates, including "Friday Fun Facts" for the next three Fridays before the event.