2019 Kenders Sportsman of the Year - Dale Luginbill

This award is the epitome of what makes our league different than others.  This is the true meaning of our league.  Not receiving a plaque after a tournament, not cashing a check, not being named Team of the Year.  Being the best dude in the league is what we strive for this league to be about.

We had a long drive back from Canada, on our way home from a weekend fishing trip with Kenders at Flag Island Resort.  As we were trenching through another Minnesota snow storm that would make the long drive even longer, we needed an engaging conversation to stay awake and make the trip go by faster.  Let's decide who gets the honor of Kenders Sportsman of the Year.

We started with a list of guys who were a small step ahead of the rest and narrowed it down to four guys.  We went through each one and discussed them one by one until we couldn't say any more good things about the group.  Then, once we had that all dialed in, we ranked them one through four.  

At the top of both lists stood one man.

Dale Luginbill

He came into the league this year as an unknown, but at our pre-season kickoff meeting you could tell there was something different about this guy.  He had an inviting personality, mixed with healthy doses of confidence and humility.  Not only did he perform well during the tournaments, he was an ambassador for Minnesota Made and all of our sponsors.

The definition of Sportsman of the Year is tough to pinpoint.  We like to say it's the guy who best embodies the quality of person we want in our league.  Selflessness, respect, and being able to promote our league and our sponsors in the best light possible.  But, that's hard to quantify, so the best way to describe it in Lehman's terms is - the best dude in the league.

Without further ado, Dale was kind enough to put pen to paper about the meaning of all of this. 

Here it is.  In his own words, Mr. Dale Luginbill:

That's a wrap! My first ice fishing tournament season comes to a close and with mixed emotions. Even as I write this, I'm struggling to find the right words or to correctly describe everything that I'm feeling, as I reflect on it. So, let us start from the beginning.

When I joined the MN Made Outdoors League, I was cautiously optimistic. I felt I was a decent ice angler but had never really tested myself against other good anglers. I was somewhat familiar with tournament fishing, I say "somewhat", because this past summer was only my second year fishing in a tournament bass club. However, it did give me a baseline for what to expect as far as pressure is concerned.

The first league meeting before the season started, gave me a chance to get a better feel for how the league was structured, what was expected and to meet my fellow competitors. Just talking with some other teams at the meeting I knew there were some good sticks in this room and this wasn't going to be easy. In addition to describing the various pay outs, First place down to Fifth place at each event, big crappie and big bluegill for each event, big fish of the year and of course Team of the Year, MN Made had a Sportsman of the Year. This was described as up to the discretion of the directors and was based upon the character of the individual and how they felt that individual represented MN Made Outdoors. Not only on the ice and not only on tournament days but off the ice as well. At this meeting they announced last year's Sportsman of the year, Tony Dahlberg. Congratulations Tony!! Now that I know you, a well deserved title indeed! For such an honor, Tony was given a very generous prize package from a league sponsor, Kenders Outdoors. He won't be needing to buy ice jigs anytime soon! Now this is pretty cool! A league that is not just about competition and winning money, but going out of their way to elevate the sport itself and the image of it's members. I haven't even hit the ice with these guys yet and I can already tell...I found my people!

That pressure I referenced earlier, was felt at every event. Familiar or not, it didn't lessen its weight upon my mind. Which I wrote about in a previous blog. At each of the four events I went into weigh-in with slumped shoulders, thinking we were way behind the other teams. In the first three events, after our fish were weighed, we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves in the top ten! Wow! A new emotion, relief and surprise! Of course, then the "if only's" start. If only we had done this or done that, if only we caught one or two more kicker fish! If only.

Going into this fourth and final event of the season, we were standing in Fourth place overall! What?! However, the First place team had a comfortable 10 point lead. We would need some help from them, if we were to have any chance at taking the title of Team of the Year. That help did not come and we didn't really help ourselves much either, if I'm being honest. In spite of logging many hours of scouting and pre-fishing, this time at weigh in...we were not pleasantly surprised. However, I was somewhat relieved to find we weren't the only team the struggled. In fact, most teams didn't weigh a full bag that day. I guess misery does love company. Whatever emotion that is.

Fortunately, we did well enough that we didn't fall out of the top ten for the season and we took home a hundred bucks for Big Crappie! In a group of talented anglers, such as this, that is something to be proud of! At the beginning of the season, during Episode 2 of The FullScale Outdoors Podcast with MN Made Outdoors, I was asked what my goal was for the season. Obviously I would like to be in First place...but that's is a bit over zealous. I did say that I'd like to finish in the top ten. 8th place accomplishes that goal.

As I was going Facebook live during and after the weigh in as we announced the winners, it was time to announce the Sportsman of the year! Who was going to get that generous prize pack from Kenders Outdoors? I had been watching my fellow competitors throughout the season, not that I was asked to but in the case that they asked me my opinion about it, I could give them some feed back on who I thought was deserving. As the season progressed, this was not going to be an easy decision for these guys and I do not envy them for having to pick one person! Every person and every team in this league is deserving. Literally. Whether it was a mechanical break down, forgotten item, helping off load and load equipment...everyone was willing to help and would even share fishing information on the ice! That's a rare thing in recreational fishing much less competitive fishing! That may be the biggest testament of the level of sportsmanship among the anglers in this league. As I stood there awaiting the announcement, I about dropped my phone when they announced my name!

This isn't some faux humility. This honestly, was nowhere on my radar. I'm a rookie in this league, still learning from the other teams on how to conduct myself within this group. Sure I helped where I could, how could I not?! The level of sportsmanship here is incredible! If I didn't, I'd feel like a lazy POS!

As I reflect on the season, this whirlwind of different emotions, swirl about my head. From my initial rookie hope for the season, the doubt, the "if only's", the pleasantly surprised, the relief, the feeling of defeat of a poor showing on the final day, back to relief as we attained our original goal of ending the season in the top ten...then this. Sportsman of the Year. Now there is a new mixed emotion. Gratitude and humility mixed with a touch of confusion as to why me? Why not any one of the other very deserving members of this league? Those emotions finally settle on pride.

Paul Ghizoni and Jake Kuchenmeister, the founders and directors of MN Made Outdoors, you both should be extremely proud of what you've created. You both set the standards of what a Sportsman of the Year should be. The reason men of such character are in this league is because they are drawn to it, by your example. For you to pick me as Sportsman of the Year, I am definitely humbled but I'm also damn proud! So thank you for that. Thank you to all the members of MN Made Outdoors tournament league, you should all be proud! Every single one of you is as deserving, if not more. I look forward to sharing the ice with you next season. Hell, we have a lot of ice fishing to do yet this winter, why wait?

Dale Luginbill


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published