Orin Larsen

Professional rodeo bareback rider Orin Larsen. Hubbell Photos

Nebraskans qualify for National Finals Rodeo

Three Nebraskans have qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the PRCA’s world championship held Dec. 5-14 in Las Vegas.

Bareback riders Steven Dent of Mullen and Orin Larsen of Gering and tie-down roper Riley Pruitt, also of Gering, will compete in what is called the Super Bowl of pro rodeo.

Dent enters this year’s finals in 10th place. His season was plagued with injuries, which allowed him to compete for only three months.

Dent, who is 32 years old, tore his MCL at last year’s WNFR, then in February broke the coracoid bone in his shoulder. After he returned to rodeo for the summer, he tore his abdomen and groin muscles from the pelvis in late August at a rodeo in Washington.

He had surgery on August 29, and got released to compete a few weeks ago.Out of the nine times he has qualified for the finals — the top 15 in each event qualify to compete at it — he has finished as reserve world champion three times.

He is married to his wife Kay; they have three children, ages six, four and two, and the family ranches near Mullen.

Because of his ranching and family obligations, he plans on cutting down on competition next year, going to about 40 rodeos. “I need to be around home more,” he said. “I have a lot going on here, and I put a lot on my wife when I’m gone.” He hopes to do for his kids what his parents did for him. “I want to give my kids every opportunity my parents gave me, and I can’t do that if I’m rodeoing full time.”Dent enters this year’s finals in 10th place with $93,798 in the year’s winnings.

Pruitt will compete at the finals for the second time.

The tie-down roper finished the 2016 season at the WNFR as the average champion, the cowboy with the fastest combined times on 10 runs.

Pruitt, who is twenty-eight years old, had a good winter, winning money at the big winter rodeos like Houston, the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Florida, and in Jackson, Miss.

Then the summer slump hit. After he won a check at the Clovis, Calif. rodeo, he went two and a half months, up to the Cody, Wyo. rodeo, without winning any money. “I got in a slump and couldn’t win,” he said.

His luck turned around at the Northwest rodeos in the fall, starting with Bremerton, Wash. and continuing on to the Pendleton, Ore. Round-Up, where he was champion.

Pruitt, the son of the 1990 world champion tie-down roper Troy Pruitt, will haul two horses to the WNFR. Bentley, a ten-year-old sorrel gelding, did well for him this year. Graybird, a 21-year-old gray gelding, will also make the trip.

Pruitt prepares for the ten consecutive days of rodeo by practicing and keeping his horses in shape. He’ll decide which horse to ride when he arrives in Las Vegas.

Pruitt is married to Jenna; they have a 23-month-old daughter and a son, to be born in March.

The Gering man enters this year’s WNFR in eighth place with $99,535 in winnings for the year.

Larsen, a native of Inglis, Manitoba, he now lives in Gering with his wife, Alexa, also heads to Las Vegas. Larsen enters this year’s finals in third place among bareback riders, with $173,442 won for the season. This is his fifth year-end qualification.

Tips for ice fishing

While first- or second-year ice anglers can catch bluegills fairly easily with a flasher and a power auger, larger fish like crappies and walleyes beneath the ice are tougher to get.

Nebraska Game and Parks fisheries biologist Daryl Bauer offers some tips for fishers.

“Folks ice fishing for bluegills won’t do a whole lot different than what they’re doing right now,” Bauer said. “Because crappies are larger than bluegills, a bigger bait would be a start.” Baits include ice fishing spoons, Swedish pimples and a minnow head itself.

In many waters, Bauer said, bluegills and crappies will be cruising the same habitat. However, where there is significant vegetation, bluegills will be more partial to that habitat while crappies will lean toward some sort of structure or suspended in open water.

“Walleyes are tough,” Bauer said. “You can definitely catch them in many of our reservoirs, but there are so many baitfish, like shad and alewives, that are cold-water stressed all winter long and they make easy food for walleyes.”

To have a chance at these fish, generally it’s a low, light bite with jigging spoons or rattle baits. Look for points and drop-offs and cut a number of holes in an area, making sure the lure presentation is different for each of the holes.

For example, have stationary rods at various depths and one or two jigging rods to give movement. Once the fish become active, naturally match the presentation because the windows for success with these fish can be small, so be prepared to make adjustments quickly when the bite does start.

Check out the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s lake maps section here. These maps, which cover more than 125 water bodies in the state, reveal contour changes and structure and can be used to help pinpoint fishing locations before an angler steps on the ice.