The morning of June 15, 2004 was just like any other June morning, a little cool as we had an unseasonably cool spring. As I got the boat in the water my client for the day pulled up and started unloading his gear. I noticed he was alone, but I had booked the day for 2 guys. We said our hellos. He informed me that his fishing partner would be a little bit late so we pulled away from the boat launch and got started.
As we were chatting, John told me that this was his second musky outing and that he had not caught a fish yet. His first trip was the year before with a young guide from Minnesota. I think he had said Millacs; well anyhow his buddy Joe bagged a 53 ½ incher on their first trip.
I think this was weighing heavy on John. He also let me know that through the winter he had taken Spence Petros fishing class. I’ve read a lot of Spence’s teachings over the years and I think he and I share similar beliefs, as I like to incorporate a trolling and casting approach together. A short time later Joe pulled up. We picked him up at the dock and got to work.
We set up and made a couple of drifts across the North Bay & shoreline without much success, the morning was un-eventful. After lunch, I set 4 rods and started trolling. After a while, I could hear the desperation in John’s voice, because we had not seen much to this point. The fish were being typical Muskies!
I had to give a pep talk and tell a few big fish stories, when finally, as if on cue, the drag started screaming on one of the reels! FISH ON !! As luck would have it…it was Joe’s Rod! When I pulled the rod from the holder I could tell it was a good fish, but we had not seen it yet. I looked at Joe and asked if we could let John take it, Joe being a good friend, instantly said yes. I handed John the rod and the fight was on! He battled the fish like a real pro: rod down to the side, reeling like crazy and no messing around! We put the fish right into the net the first chance we got: a real textbook catch. That fish had no chance to jump off the hook. TOUCHDOWN! Big fish in the boat.
This is where things began to go wrong… I always ask clients if they are comfortable holding the fish for a photo, or if they want me to hold it for them, so nobody (including the fish) gets hurt. John was fairly confident that he could manage, so I instructed him that if the fish started to get away from him, get it in the water and not on the floor of the boat. Then, I handed John his catch.
We got a perfect photo of the 43” beauty. However, the next thing I know, the fish was on the floor! Oh NO! However, we managed to get control of the beast with no damage done. As John went to release his prize catch, I turned and tossed my tape towards the back of the boat, when I turned back around, I saw that John was losing his balance and was headed OVERBOARD. With lightning fast reflexes, I was able to grab John by the back of his pants, as he went face first into the lake, muskie gone in a flash.
Now John is 2/3rds in the water, face down, arms flailing, both feet still in the boat. Outweighing me by 100 pounds, I couldn’t drag him back up by myself. I looked over my shoulder to see if his friend was coming to the rescue, but Joe was doubled up laughing hysterically. I had no choice but to let go (or keep drowning him), SPLASH. he did a triple lindy right off the front of my boat!! MAN OVERBOARD!!!
When he popped up several feet from the boat, not wearing a life jacket in 16 feet of water, we were stunned in disbelief. I was able to grab hold of him and pull him to the side of the boat so he could hold on.
After 30 seconds of tugging, heaving, thrashing, kicking and splashing at the bow like a Great White was after him… I was able to convince John that he needed to get to the back of the boat to climb back into the boat. Working him around to the back took a lot of effort since we could not stop laughing, and I think he was worried the muskie was coming back for revenge. He lost almost everything in his pockets. But lucky for me, he had put my pay in his front pocket, and it managed to stay on board the big guy.
Therefore, I came home with a handful of wet money and some great pictures. The jinx followed me home from the lake as Alice (my wife) managed to download my picture of Big John’s fish into oblivion. All that is left is a giggle and a good 1st musky story!
Keep a tight line,