Feb 16, 2018
The Winter Olympics are underway, but the international competition that really matters took place last July at Aikens Lake. If you somehow missed all the coverage on ESPN, we’re talking about the annual Aikens euchre tournament between Team Canada (Pit and Pat) and Team USA (a group of friends led by Bill Lapp who’ve been coming to Aikens for the past seven years).
The best-of-seven series carries with it both bragging rights and a giant trophy some consider on par with the Stanley Cup in terms of prestige. The Lapp group stayed at Great Grey Owl this past summer, so the nightly games rotated between GGO and Big Molly’s.
With a convincing four games to one victory, Team USA won the world championship for the third consecutive year, much to Pit’s chagrin.
“Gene was getting crazy cards,” Pit said. “The year before we had a 7-2 lead in the deciding game but we choked. This year, they pretty much had us the whole time.”
In reality, of course, the tournament is just one small piece of what’s become a fantastic annual trip for a group of friends who love spending time together on the water.
“I was recruited by Bill Lapp (group leader) a few years ago and we’ve had some success with the cards,” said Gene Reibel, from Omaha, Nebraska. “It’s just a fun little competition between the ‘Canadians’ and ‘Americans,’ and it gives another reason to spend a little more time at Big Molly’s.”
The trip itself provides a reason––and a rare opportunity––for a group of busy friends to relax together and enjoy the Aikens Experience. Bill Lapp started the tradition, as he went to Aikens with his brother-in-law a dozen years ago. He loved the experience so much he brought a group of his friends up to Aikens the next year, and a new tradition began.
“The trip is about four days of unplugging from the world (no work, no cell, very little internet), great time with good friends enjoying the outdoors and catching fish,” said Gene.
The weather was great––80 and sunny nearly every day––and the fishing was good, with the group registering three Century Clubs (one by Larry, two by Garrett). The year prior was one of their best fishing year’s to-date at Aikens, with six different group members making the Century Club and two guys catching Master Angler trophies.
“I’ve not caught a Master Angler but nearly everyone else in our group has,” Gene said modestly. “But it’s great simply just catching fish, large size and large numbers. If you like walleye and pike fishing this is a bucket list spot. Five-star location. Not sure I would even have a suggestion for change. They do it so well now.”
As entertaining as catching the fish is, eating the fish is arguably just as much fun.
“Shorelunches are always wonderful,” said Gene. “It’s always fun to watch our guides led by Kik creating shore lunches. They seem to always have a wonderful surprise in store for us.”
Over the years, those shorelunch surprises have included baked fish, poutine, filet-o-fish and even a white-wine shallot cream sauce for the fish.
The unexpected surprises provided my Mother Nature deliver a highlight in their own right.
“One year for two evenings in a row, we were fishing around 8pm at the Falls and a moose and her calf came out of the woods into the water,” Gene recalled, noting they’ve seen other moose and countless bald eagles over the years. “She was only 150 feet or so away and they were there for 20 minutes or so. Not very often you can be that close.”
The entire experience has provided the group with many memories––beyond their run of success in the World Series of Euchre.
“It’s superior hospitality, food, staff and accommodations in a beautiful outdoor setting combined with world class fishing that makes Aikens special,” said Gene.
For our part, we enjoy having such a fun and genuinely kind group here at Aikens, even if they’ve been a little too good at euchre lately.
“They’re all just really nice guys,” Pit said. “The staff and guides love them, and they’re a fun group to hang out with. It’s also cool to see a group of friends like that who enjoy each other’s company and have an annual trip like this to share with one another.”
As for Gene, he can’t imagine the annual trip taking place anywhere other than Aikens.
“People sometimes want to try new locations or lakes in Canada but I really do not know why our group would ever look elsewhere or even think about it,” Gene said. “The fishing is world class and the accommodations and hospitality are five-star.”