What does it mean to be a legend? I had to ask myself this very question last week when I left my office for a small town in northern Wisconsin. I was venturing that way with one of our photojournalists, Cy Dodson, and we were off to spend a week with a man named Joe Bucher. Our mission was simple - tell his story. See, we produce this show on the Outdoor Channel called "Legends of Rod&Reel." We seek out fisherman across the country that have impacted the world of fishing in some way or another. Anglers that are very well known and respected in their parts of the country, or fishing genre, and others that you and I might not have heard of before. Regardless, they are all unique in their own way. We spend time with them, fish with them, and really get to know who this person is and what makes them tick. Then we share this with the rest of the country. It's pretty cool.
For myself, it was more than an honor to be given the opportunity to help produce the show about Joe Bucher. Joe has been muskie fishing, writing about muskies, and teaching about muskies well before I was born. In the 70's he was writing articles in magazines when nobody else wanted to talk about muskies. As Cy and I spent time with this man, it was really a pleasure to learn why he made the choices that he did in his life. Like many of us, he has a passion for the outdoors. A passion that spawned the creation of lures. Muskie lures to be exact. With the encouragement of Roland Martin and Al Lindner, he decided to start his own fishing show. Soon after was magazine dedicated solely to the sport of muskie angling. Muskie Hunter is still one of the only magazines focusing entirely on that Esox. Joe has written thousands of articles as well, and as we reviewed some of them, I found it interesting to read words from the 70's and 80's that pertain directly to my life on the water today. One of the unique phrases that stuck while Joe and I talked muskie fishing was, "if you think you have something new, just go back 20 or 30 years and you'll see someone else who has also done that."
Joe was a true legend in all aspects. He was very humbled by the fact that we were filming a show because of all of his accomplishments. We talked about the past, present and future of fishing, and bounced our ideas off of each other. Also, I'm not going to give out too many details here, but I think you might be seeing some pretty cool new muskie baits in the very near future. We met his unbelievably encouraging and wonderful wife Beth, his dog Raider, and several other key people in his life. We heard him rock out on the guitar, which he does in each of his shows, and finally, when the rain cleared, we went fishing. After all, this still is a fishing show! We filmed two seperate pieces to the show. One of Joe fishing with his good friend coach Kip, and the other on a solo mission. The first trip was with Coach Kip, and boy were these two fishing pals a hoot. It was destiny from the start the Coach would catch the first muskie, and par for the course, he did. That was the only fish they saw that morning, but it was perfect. Later that day, we returned to the water on a solo trip with Joe. Like all fishing trips that guys take, the lake is a place to unwind and relive past memories. We did just that. As the sun set on our last day with Joe, the water erupted and our prayers for Joe to land a muskie were answered. After all, what else would you expect from a legnd like Joe? From the legendary waters of northern Wisconsin, Keep on chasing the dream!
Travis Frank www.trophyencounters.com
It's a crazy world we live in. Sometimes too hectic for our own good. I am as guilty as the next guy when it comes to forgetting about what matters most to me and making time for everyone. Sometimes there just isn't enough hours in the day, or days in the week. There's nothing we can do about that, but I do know one thing for sure, we are positioned to make a difference. One of my biggest passions in this world is to share my pleasures with the youth of our sports. Taking kids out on the water or in the field can be one of the most rewarding pleasures we get to experience. I only bring this up, because sometimes it is easy to forget, or get caught up in "my next big fish," or "when can I get out again." It's very easy to forget about those unable to experience these joys on their own.
A few days back I was reminded of this when I had a very good friend named Pete, and his son Danny join me on the water. Danny is 8, but if you ask him, he'll say he's almost 9. While our mission was to land a big muskie, I found it more of an initiative on my part to make sure Danny had a great experience. The fish would be the bonus on this trip. Danny was a great steward at such a young age, and listened to my every word. He was new to muskie fishing, but you could tell that he was ready for the challenge. He worked on his figure 8 at the boat, and understood what was right and wrong. It was just neat to watch him learn and improve. After a short while, he soon found a beast of a muskie boatside ready to eat his lure. The action proved too much for the beginner, and the fish didn't come in the boat, but that wasn't the point. Just the fact that he put all the pieces together to have the trophy encounter made everything what it was. A 35 pound fish flaring its gills on a lure at the boat will get anybody excited, and for Danny, it was beyond excitement. His level of confidence went through the roof. He began talking at a much faster pace, and you could see how things clicked for him about what just happened. A short while later we were faced with another similar situation, and before our evening was through, a large bass exploded on his topwater lure. Not the muskie we were searching for, but I can assure you the excitement was beyond words for this lucky angler. What I thought was an excited fisherman was now on a whole new level. A level that his dad informed me a few days later had made him want to fish again the very next day.
I was lucky to have this opportunity to teach and share in the muskie joys. Danny was lucky to have a great father to bring him with. For me, this was just a friendly reminder about how easy it is to grow our sport and pass it down to generations. A few hours on the water has likely changed this young fisherman's outlook on fishing, and assured us that our passions are going to continue. It also reminds me that I should make a little more free time for some other anglers that I have been forgetting to take out. I won't let it happen again, I hope you don't either! Until the next time the muskie strikes, keep on livin' the dream!
Catch more at www.trophyencounters.com
Muskie fishing is an addiction, it's as simple as that. Our sport is unique, exciting, passionate, addictive, and more importantly, it is growing. Growing at a rate that is alarmingly cool. If you've fished a muskie lake in Minnesota the last couple of years, then obviously you know what I'm talking about. It is hard to look across any muskie pond without seeing a boat with guys standing up casting huge lures. We are everywhere! While this is awesome stuff, it's important to remember where it all came from, and what we can do to protect our resource.
Coming up on Saturday October 2, one of the most instrumental fisherman to our sport is being honored and celebrated by another instrumental muskie supporting organization. I know that sounded like a lot of instrumental talk, but in reality, Muskies Inc. has really done a lot to give us the opportunities that we have to fish muskies in the metro area of our state. Not only that, but they are having a fishing tournament to honor the legendary muskie angler named George Wahl who was an important part in bringing our favorite fish to our lakes. This tournament is two-fold. To remember and honor the legacy of George Wahl, and to continue the stocking efforts of our local lakes and muskie fisheries. Yep, that's right. The more people that fish this tournament, the more money that goes back into our muskie fishery. It seems simple right? Well Muskies Inc. needs our support to make it a success. All we have to do is sign up to fish in the tournament. All the money, that's right, 100% of our entry fee of $50, will go to support the muskie fishery in our metro lakes. Once you are signed up, you will be able to choose between the top 12 muskie lakes in the metro, and there are $5,000 worth of prizes to win. Catch a muskie, win a prize and put more muskies in our lakes! Hmmm.... that sounds like a good day to me!
I know this might have sounded like a bit of an advertisement to you, but this is one of the few opportunities that we get as "muskie nuts" to help our own cause. Plus I think it will be a fun day on the water. Click here if you would like to learn more about the upcoming event. See you on the water!
Last night was one of the most incredible experiences that I have ever had as a muskie guide chasing the big toothy fish. I've certainly been blessed with a lot of them over the years, but as I sit down to write this journal update, I'm still slightly speechless. I will do my best to explain what happened last night, and why it was so incredible. I hope that you can enjoy!
It all started around 5 pm. Cody Meyers of Norwood, MN and his workmate Chris met me at the boat launch. Cody has fished muskies a couple of times in his life, and wanted nothing more than to top his person best, which was a 44 incher. Chris on the other hand resides in Michigan, and although they have some famed waters up there, he has never targeted them before and only heard about the mystique. Without us knowing what was in store for the night, we set sail with high hopes and a good attitude. You see, there was a certain glowing ball that was soon to rise in the eastern sky, and this typically means that "big things" can happen.
To be honest, our evening was quite uneventful. I got them all jacked up with the presence of the rising moon, and as I watched it come over the horizon, nothing happened. Actually a few hours passed without much of anything. In shock, I just kept encouraging the eager fisherman, and they remained about as positive as anyone ever could be. I kept reminding them that just one cast will change the entire outlook of this evening, and maybe your life. The moon rose higher and higher, and the brightness of the sun finally faded to darkness. At that point we had only two miserable and lackluster attempts from the muskellunge. What was going on?
As we talked about the lack of action, we switched locations and drove to the other end of the lake. I was not about to let these enthusiastic anglers leave with nothing, and we went to some of my favorite old haunts. That apparently was a good decision, and finally we found some active fish. The only problem was that they were just following the lure in the bright moonlight, and they wouldn't eat. It was a morale booster for the three of us to see some fish, and probably a good prelude to what was about to take place. As we drove up to a small little honey hole, I joked to Cody and Chris that this is only a big fish spot. I explained that I have only caught about a 10 fish on it in the last several years, but that 7 of them were over 50 inches.
At that point, we would have taken anything, but the fish that destroyed Cody's bait out of the moonlit waters was so large that it will forever be labeled as "The Legend." A battle ensued that was out of this world. Short, but sweet, I quickly put the fish in the net, and screams could have been heard from across the entire lake. Cody had just landed the trophy of a lifetime! Not only that, but it just happened to be the largest fish I have landed in that lake. She was a giant, and came up just short of hitting that elusive 55 inch mark.
This is where the story gets even better. Not only was the fish incredibly huge and girthy, but as I held her tail for the release, I also noticed a significant mark on her fin. As it turns out, I successfully released that fish in 2004 and again in 2006. The first time she, "The Legend," was 51 inches, and the second time she was 52.5. All three times this fish was caught within inches of the same spot, and all three times she fell victim to the same lure. Talk about irony. I had no idea that this fish was still alive, but boy am I glad that she is. This fish of a lifetime now quoted as "The Legend," will forever remain as one of my greatest accomplishments for me as a muskie guide. Boy will it be exciting if she decides to show up for one more battle!
Congratulations goes out to Cody Meyers for landing the trophy of many lifetimes! Thank you for the unbelievable night on the water. Until the the next time the legend strikes, keep on livin' the dream!
Catch more at www.trophyencounters.com
Ahh yes, the fierce strike of a muskie on your topwater lure. It doesn't get any better than that. The only problem is that after the dust settles and you come to your senses, you realize that there is nothing attached to the end of your line. While your knees are likely trembling, you find that it was all for not. Just what happened during that explosion, and how can you convert that strike into success? Here's a few ideas to ponder on your next outing.
As a general rule, muskellunge always feed up. This is common sense in the muskie community, but what it comes down to is that topwater lures are a great method to score. Here's where the tricky part comes into play. When fish feed, and muskies included, they not only lunge toward their prey, but they also have a suction that occurs when they flare their gills. This helps pull their prey into their mouth. When they attempt to attack a meal above the water, they loose this suction because they aren't completely submerged. This is the first reason for a missed strike.
Reason number two. A muskie has eyes on the top of its head. When they strike, their mouth is open, and they can no longer see the food that they are pursuing. This means that they must have it completely dialed in before they try to eat it. If your lure is moving eradically, it is likely that the bait won't be in the same place the muskie last saw it, meaning that it could end up with a mouth full of air and water upon the strike. When you couple this factor with the loss of suction when they try to inhale the bait, it is a little bit easier to understand why they can miss a meager lure moving across the surface.
So what does this have to do with you and your success? If you consider these factors when choosing your lure, it may help to try something a little bit more simplistic. Walk-the-dog style lures are great for finding fish, but they tend to miss about 80% of the time. If it is windy and large waves are rolling, fast speeds might not be the ticket. As a general rule, I try to keep it slow and steady for the muskies sake. If the muskie I am after is hungry, he'll take a swipe at any of the topwater baits on the market. I just want to make sure he can grab the lure when he tries. I typically opt for a prop style bait that just crawls through his strike zone. I will throw this at sunrise, sunset, midnight, noon and everywhere in between. Topwater simply works at all times. Just as long as they can eat it.
Once the muskie decides to do his part, it is imperitive that you do yours. If it shows up behind your lure and gets ready to eat it, there is zero chance for a connection if you set the hook prematurely. Premature hooksets are the biggest reason for missed fish. Sometimes I think we would be better off fishing blind folded. Its not that you want to set the hook early, but its because somewhere deep down inside, it scares the pants off of us, and we instinctively pull away. If you stop reeling, twich, jerk, or speed up, the game can sometimes end right there. However, if you can show nerves of steel, many times that fish will continue striking until it finally gets the bait in its mouth. My rule of thumb goes like this. Watch the fish explode, keep the same exact retrieve, count to three and if I still feel the weight of the fish, then I set the hook. If there is nothing there after three seconds, I just keep on reeling and waiting for it to come back. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't. That's muskie fishin'.
And by the way, any color works, as long as it is black.
Keep on Livin' the muskie Dream!
Travis Frank - Travis@trophyencounters.com