When 10-year-old Colby awoke Wednesday morning, he was in a fishing kind of mood. He and his parents were vacationing near Park Rapids, Minn., and Colby had climbed out of bed early, grabbed his rod and reel and headed with his mom, Kaia, and dad, Seth, for Mantrap Lake.
A skilled angler, particularly for his age, Colby developed his pitching, skipping and generalized well-honed casting techniques in part by watching pro angler Scott Martin’s YouTube channel. Called Scott Martin’s Challenge, the regularly updated videos feature the Lake Okeechobee-based Martin chasing all manner of fish, including Minnesota walleyes, bass, northern pike and muskies.
Colby watched Martin’s videos so frequently in part because in 2017 the young boy was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. He had complained to his parents of a sore elbow in February of that year; a rash followed. Ultimately, his kidneys failed.
“When Colby was in the hospital for treatment, and later when he underwent chemotherapy, he watched a lot of videos,” his mother said. “His dream always was to fish with Scott Martin.”
Before his health problems, Colby had been an active young boy. He and his parents live in Worthington, Minn., and Colby regularly fished near that southwestern Minnesota city, as well as in the Alexandria area, where he and his parents vacation.
Colby couldn’t have known during his treatments at Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., that one of his doctors recommended his parents reach out to Make-A-Wish Foundation to see whether that organization could help restore normalcy and happiness to Colby’s life.
Which put in motion a series of phone calls from Make-A-Wish that ended at 3M corporate headquarters in Maplewood.
3M and Martin, as it happened, had worked together on various projects.
“Watching Scott’s videos helped Colby endure his hospital treatments, and ever since then, Colby has dreamed of meeting Scott and fishing with him,” said Mike Laninga, a 3M communications specialist. “Because of our partnership with Scott, working with Make-A-Wish, we could help make that dream come true.”
So it was Wednesday morning when Colby’s parents woke him early that they were staying at a Park Rapids-area resort for a weeklong vacation, courtesy of 3M. (By policy, Make-A-Wish doesn’t divulge last names of kids it helps).
A short while later, when Colby stepped onto a Mantrap Lake dock prepared for a morning of fishing, he recognized the decal-splashed Ranger he saw tied there.
It was Scott Martin’s boat!
“I was standing out of sight, around a corner, and when Colby saw my boat, I walked up behind him and said, ‘Hey, man, what’s going on?’ ” Martin said. “Then I said, ‘Why don’t you just jump in this boat of mine and we’ll do a little fishing together?’ ”
Star-struck, Colby, who will have quite a story to tell his fellow fourth-graders when he returns to school next week, said, “When I saw Scott, it was more like a dream than something real.”
“It was all a surprise to Colby,” his mom said. “We had told him we were going to Mantrap Lake to look at some boats. He didn’t suspect anything like this.”
Since coming to Minnesota a few weeks ago, Martin has covered a lot of water. He spent four days fishing for Rainy Lake smallmouth bass while filming episodes of his Scott Martin Challenge television show, which is broadcast on the Discovery Channel.
Then he launched his boat in Mille Lacs, looking for giant smallies.
“More recently, I’ve been fishing for northern pike and muskies,” he said.
None of which diminished Martin’s enthusiasm Wednesday morning for spending a few hours with Colby on Mantrap Lake — where, as if by providence, fish were biting.
“I’m not just saying this about Colby because I was fishing with him,” Martin said, “but he is an excellent fisherman, especially for his age. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being an expert, I would say he’s a solid 7 or even better. He can cast, flip, set the hook. He can do it all.”
Demonstrating his angling prowess, Colby, whose health has stabilized, his mother said, matched Martin cast for cast while skipping crankbaits underneath docks. He also expertly cast and retrieved black and blue jigs and handled a spinner/live minnow rig with aplomb.
The result: Among other trophies, Colby boated 4-pound largemouth and smallmouth bass — one of each — which were personal bests.
“I caught a total of five bass,” Colby said, “and two northerns.”
Set up to create lifetime memories for Colby, the outing, Martin said, also will remain with him forever.
“I’m blown away by how special the day was,” he said. “Colby is a great boy and an excellent fisherman. Years from now he might be on the Tournament Trail himself as a professional angler. This could be an event that changed his life.”