In the fishing tackle business, old lures often aren’t replaced by better lures — just newer ones.

As evidence, consider Gary Gehrman of Stillwater, whose favorite bait is a Whopper Stopper Hellcat — a crankbait that has been out of production for some years.

“I buy them on eBay,” Gehrman said. “I like them because the way I fish, I need a bait that will wobble at very slow speeds. And the Hellcat will wobble slowly.”

Gehrman is a troller. More than that, he’s a planer board troller, meaning he sends small boards, each outfitted with fins, to port, starboard and aft of his boat. Each board transports a fishing line and lure a good distance from his boat.

The three lines are legal on many Wisconsin lakes he fishes.

“On a recent day, I was trolling on Lake Wapogasset when a cold front came through,” Gehrman said. “I had been on the water about a half-hour, when a 40-inch northern pike hit one of the Hellcats.”

Gehrman, who was alone, boated and quickly released the fish, then resumed trolling. Fifteen minutes later, he thought another of the Hellcats — they were all colored chartreuse — was snagged.

“I thought it was caught on a log on the bottom,” he said. “It turned out to be a 45-inch muskie. It took me quite a while to get it into the boat. But when I did, I hailed a nearby bass fisherman and asked if he would take a photo. He did. Then I revived the fish and released it.”

Gehrman’s trolling method is unique. He travels at less than 1 mile an hour, with a 1-ounce sinker attached to his 10-pound-test line about 6 feet from the lure. He wants the sinker to bounce on the bottom, with the slow-wobbling bait trailing behind a foot or so off the bottom.

With the big northern and even bigger muskie to his credit, Gehrman would have been happy to call it a day. But before he could head to shore, another of his three trolling rods pulsed.

“This third fish was also big, a 22-inch walleye, which I released because it was in the lake’s protected slot,” Gehrman said.

The only damper on the day: The fisherman who took Gehrman’s photo with the muskie wanted him to kill the big fish because he believed muskies feast on Wapogasset’s bass and walleyes.

“I told him I would never do that,” Gehrman said. “I released the muskie.”


Dennis Anderson