Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge: Fishing for fun and healing

Alcoholism and drug abuse has sent a lot of promising lives off into the ditch. Al and Ron Lindner know this well because their lives were at a crossroads while building a fishing business. Their story of overcoming alcohol addiction and rising above it to build some of the largest, most recognizable fishing businesses in North America is an inspiring one. Lindy Little Joe Tackle company, In-Fisherman Communications Network, and later Lindner Media may have never come about without the radical change in direction that took place in their lives.

It should come as no surprise then that Al and Ron are passionate about recovery from addiction, and they channel much of that passion into an organization called Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge (MNTC, mntc.org), a faith-based addiction recovery program that has an incredible record of success in helping addicts put their broken lives back together.

While many recovery programs offer dismal long-term success rates, MNTC has caught the attention of law enforcement, judges and families across the states they serve because of long-term recovery rates over 80 percent. Addicts fully recover not just because they are offered a change in behavior, but they are also offered a change in their heart and soul.

Al Lindner has been a leader in the fishing business for 40 years, so when he came up with the idea to have a fishing tournament that would help raise funds for MNTC, people listened. Jim Kalkofen, the longtime director of the Professional Walleye Trail became involved too, and the Minnesota Fishing Challenge was born.

The 2017 event June 3 will be the ninth annual Challenge. The contest started out small with a handful of teams fishing the event, but MNTC has had to request permits from the DNR for larger and larger fields each and every year. In 2016, 134 teams participated and raised an incredible $280,000—not bad for a one-day tournament. The permit allows 150 teams for 2017 with a goal to raise $300,000.

Because MNTC is faith-based, the government funds available are limited, but this tournament and other fundraisers have had an amazing impact on the lives of dozens of men and women who would otherwise be on the road to a life in shambles and eventually death.

Each of the two-person teams pays a nominal $100 entry fee and is asked to raise a minimum of $500 from friends, family and business associates, with many raising more funds than that. For each $500 raised, their name is tossed into the drawing for a new Lund/Mercury boat package worth nearly $20,000. There are awards and prizes for the top fundraisers as well.

The tournament itself can be as competitive as you like. Some very good anglers fish in the event, but there are so many prizes and so many categories that if you have a good day on the water chasing your favorite species you have a good chance of going home with a nice prize. These may include a new rod-and-reel combo, a depth finder, a trolling motor or even a $1,000 vacation package. Even if you do not weigh a fish at all, there’s a chance you can get one of the prizes designated for that. Many tackle manufacturers and retailers support this event, so in all, there are just about as many prizes as there are contestants.

The event is held at Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake near Brainerd, Minn. Anglers can fish any of the eight lakes in the Gull Lake Chain. When you come to the afternoon weigh-in you can choose which of the five categories you want to enter, including if you want to weigh three bass, three walleyes, a northern pike or three panfish. If you want to weigh a mixed bag, you can then weigh one of each of the three species. A rock bass is a wild card that can be thrown into any category, and prizes are awarded to the top ten of each of these categories.

You can also enter a big fish to win an award. Catch a big northern pike, bass, walleye or crappie? Simply enter that category. There are prizes for the top ten in each of those as well. Literally, anyone can be competitive in any category, and it’s surprising just how many kids go home with prizes at the end of the day.

All of this adds up to tons of fun and fellowship in a family atmosphere of friendly competition. At both the pretournament meeting the evening before and at the weigh-in, the clients of MNTC who are in various stages of recovery briefly talk about their lives before and after coming to MNTC. Then, you will hear them form a choir and sing their hearts out in a way that has to be experienced to be understood.

The Minnesota Fishing Challenge still has some openings for teams. If you are interested in fishing the event, go to givehope.mntc.org/fish for more information. And if you are interested in sponsoring a team, go to the website, pick one out and make a donation. The money will help change the life of a person—and their entire family—in a way you can hardly imagine.

For a video featuring the event, go to youtube.com/watch?v=JjDvOFx7GoY&feature=youtu.be. Visit mntc.org/event/fishingchallenge/ for more. Upon Jim Kalkofen’s retirement in 2016, Bernie Barringer has taken over the helm as tournament director.