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The Double First!

Waconia, last summer...

It happened on August 26th, or maybe it was August 28th, last summer. I'm not quite sure. But on one of those two days, our new-found friend Mike caught his first ever Muskie, on his first ever day of Muskie fishing.

The date's important because on the other day, Mike was sick, home from his band leader job at the local high school. And if the principal there thought that Mike was playing hooky, claiming to be battling flu but actually battling Muskies, well, you can see the problems that could cause.

But he got his Muskie, the first time out ever, on whichever of those days it might have been. He caught it on Lake Waconia, just west of the Twin Cities. He went out there with Peters and me, did what we told and showed him to do, and caught a beautiful 34–incher.

Front Cover of Muskie Magazine

And what did Jerry and I get that day?

– Nothing.

In fact, we had gotten nothing for the last two years of faithfully pounding the murky waters of Waconia almost every summer and fall weekend.

In more fact, the last (and only) Muskie we got on the lake was a cute little 30–incher I caught three years ago, in the southwest bay of the lake. I caught that fish the very first time we tried Waconia. So of course, we went back. Jerry and I went out regularly in his 17–foot Lund with that nice autopilot electric trolling motor, and we went out after the elusive Muskies of Waconia with a vengeance.

We fished. We had follows, strikes, hookups, swirls, all the usual unproductive nonsense associated with Muskies. The follows were the most seductive. On at least three occasions we had follows from "wobbler / shaker" fish. That's the kind that when you see them, your knees wobble and your hands shake.

We saw them. We didn't get them; any of the wobblers & shakers. In fact, we didn't even get any more 30–inchers, or 20–inchers, or anything.

But we kept going back. Waconia was handy to Jerry's Eden Prairie home, much more so than Canada or Leech Lake or the Wisconsin lakes. So that made it easy. And the bar at the Clearwater Marina there, the "Boathouse" was also part of the attraction. Its $1.25 bottles of Busch Beer, and its pickled turkey gizzards always provided a nice respite from our fruitless Muskie endeavors.

Well – for some.

And then, last summer, Mike entered our fishing life. It turned out that he'd been surfing the internet and stumbled across Jerry's web page ( We've got a bunch of stories, pictures, stats, and all kinds of other bric–a–brac associated with Muskies and Walleyes and fishing trips and all that, on the page. Mike read one of our stories (Rookie Muskie Tales) that had actually been published some years ago in Muskie magazine.

In that story I chronicled my own first ever Muskie, a nice little hybrid that I caught on Bush Lake in Bloomington while fishing for crappies. At the end of my story I threw in a tag line about offering to guide on Bush Lake for a "very modest fee."

Well, Mike wanted to take me up on it! He'd been reading about Muskies, watching Mehsikomer's TV show, talking to people, just getting all excited about these fearsome Muskies, vicariously. Now he wanted to try it himself. So he sent Jerry an email, asking about my availability for guiding on Bush, and Jerry forwarded it to me, and I got it, and I laughed.

Here I was, Muskieless for three years. I was clearly better at putting pen to paper than a lure to a Muskie. And this character, out of the blue, wanted me to guide for him!

Well, we exchanged some emails, and one thing led to another. On August 26th (or was it the 28th?) he showed up to meet us at the Boathouse. We had a couple of beers, discussed various aspects of Muskie fishing, and headed out on Lake Waconia.

When we got out to one of our favorite reefs, we first inspected his equipment. Surprisingly, it wasn't too bad. His Ambassadeur 4600 had seen a lot of Time On The Water, mostly for bass, but seemed to be serviceable. (We explained to him about 6500's – Jerry and I own seven between us.) His rod was okay too, heavy enough for Muskies, and he had on 20-pound monofilament. (We also explained about 36–pound black dacron.)

But his leader was frail, and the knot worse. We supplied Mike with one of our own 80–pound leaders, and showed him how to tie a multi–loop palomar knot.

And then we set to fishing.

We showed Mike how to figure eight.

We told him about looking behind the lure, not at it, to watch for following fish –

We taught him how to engage the reel, with that soul–satisfying "click," the instant before the lure hits the water and how to be already reeling when the lure enters the water.

We demonstrated how to "triangle" sharpen a hook and how to test for sharpness with the back of the thumbnail.

We showed him how to do a backhand cast.

We showed him how to point his rod at the line on the cast, to reduce friction and to get the longest possible distance.

We explained about cabbage and milfoil.

We showed him how to start the blade of a bucktail spinning with a quick jerk of the rod.

We told him about the joys and sorrows of the September Muskies Inc. international tournament on Leech Lake.

We drifted off into loon calls at night in the spring on Woman Lake..

We told him about 10,000 casts.

We demonstrated the proper technique for unraveling a rat's nest backlash.

We demonstrated how to knock weeds off a lure with a rolling swat at the water.

We taught Mike just all kinds of masterful and professional techniques and tricks.

Mike was clearly, sincerely, impressed by Peters and me: We were obviously the oldest of pro's and wisest of anglers.

Mike caught a Muskie. Peters and I didn't catch squat.

Sure, Jerry had one of those classic Waconia Muskie follows. It was big. It made Jerry's knees wobble. He pointed and yelled. We commiserated with him, about missing the fish of a lifetime.

But he didn't get it.

And then, a dozen or so casts after that monster slid away into the depths, as the sun was on the horizon and that wonderful Minnesota summer stillness was descending over the lake, Mike got his fish.

It hit just as his yellow spinner bait splashed on the still, flat surface of the lake. The Muskie struck his lure with a spectacular explosion, sending water flying everywhere. It immediately catapulted out of the water, flinging more spray everywhere. And then it took off on a perfect line-zinging run, bending Mike's rod over and taking out drag.

It did all the absolutely right Muskie things, in the grandest of traditions. That Muskie was just as professional at his end of the line as Peters and I claimed to be at our end.

And Mike, in the middle of it, couldn't contain his joy and excitement. It shines through in the pictures I took of him. Just look at the grin on his face as Peters nets his Muskie. And that big smile as he holds the fish in the classic Muskie–catcher pose.

And then, after the pictures and the quick measurement, Mike released his Muskie, again with a bit of coaching from us. He did it very nicely, swishing the fish back and forth a couple of times, and getting the obligatory spray of water in his face as the Muskie took off, obviously unhurt.

We got our fee – he bought the beer at the bar.

It was a nice, professionally competent performance all around, by Mike's Muskie, Mike himself, and even his "guides".

And we've got those photos to record the events of that August 26th....or....



We took Mike out fishing, one more time on Waconia, later in the summer. On this occasion Mike was skunked, as was I. But Peters finally caught a fish, a solid 42–incher.

I'm glad he did. Otherwise Mike might have begun to suspect things about his new–found, hotshot, fishing buddies....

What is more bazaar? Last year (1999) on July 4th Mike was along for the only the third time when I caught my 50 1/2–incher. Three times. Three fish! If I were you, I'd e–Mail Mike and invite him on your next muskie outing to guarantee a catch.

Juris Ozols

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Date Created: January 20, 1999
Last Modified: February 25, 2004
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