Those who know me closely, know that my time on the water has been limited the past several years. I truly enjoy getting out to chuck some big baits for a musky every once in a while, and this weekend I got my first chance of the year up on Leech Lake in Minnesota. Since it’s been about 6 or 7 years since my last musky, in the boat, and I’ve never been on Leech Lake, my expectations weren’t too high.
Friday, we got up to the cabin a little later than expected with some backed up traffic in the Brainerd/Baxter area. After the pleasantries with my wife’s relatives, and a quick supper, I snuck off for my first expedition on the famed musky waters of Leech Lake. At the landing, I spoke with another fisherman who had some heavy tackle in his boat, and I asked him where to try for muskies. Turns out, it was only his third time out on this lake, so he couldn’t share much. But he did give me a lure that he has developed called a Twisted Spoon Lure. After a pleasant exchange, I hopped in my boat and looked at the LakeMaster map on my Garmin fish finder to find some likely spots to try. 45 minutes of some uneventful casting near some reeds, and I headed back to the cabin for the night.
Saturday brought overcast skies with a good 10-15 mph chop on the water. Even with a late morning start, I still liked my chances. Again, with no idea where to try, I relied on my LakeMaster map and sonar. First couple of spots had no action, but a wind blown point with a good dropoff to deep water gave me the first action of the trip. Using my gps, I followed the middle of the depth contours casting off both shallow and deep sides. Not paying attention (always seems that way), I finally get a STRIKE!! I crank the reel about 3 times and before I know it, my walleye colored Bulldawg is swimming freely through the water once again. Replaying this event over and over through my mind led me to the conclusion that I forgot to set the hook! Rookie mistake…I’m better than that.
Still in disbelief that I forgot to set the hook, I motor upwind and decide to drift through again. Numerous casts and nothing happening until WHACK! Same exact spot as before, I get a fish to hit it once, but couldn’t get the hooks buried. One more drift through the area and everything is quiet so I look to the gps map for an answer.
One failed rock bar and a couple dozen casts later, I find myself creeping along a rocky shoreline into a bay when a low 40 inch cruiser is sneeking in on a homeade double-bladed bucktail. Before I know it he turns back to the deep and I’m thinking I’ll never catch another musky. Running out of time and options, I decide to try the windblown point where I missed fish earlier. Drifting across and following the same gps tracks as before, all of the sudden there’s a fish closing in on my Bulldawg. Looking to be in the mid 40’s and closing in fast, I thought this might be it. One big turn of the figure eight, he follows, and disappears. Crap. Time to head in for supper.
Sunday morning brought bright blue sunny skies with a 10 mph wind. I wasn’t sure if I would try one more time for a couple hours before taking the 3 hour drive back home. After a little heeing and hawing I convinced myself that I may not have another opportunity to try for muskies this summer, so I better get my butt out there.
First stop: windblown point. Though the wind has changed direction, I am still marking a ton of fish with the fish finder. I work thoroughly through the area with no luck.
Second stop: shallow rock bar. Even though this spot failed on Saturday, it looked too good to not try one more time. I work through the area and it’s a barren sea. With a little bit of time left, I motor on over to the cabin where the family is outside enjoying the weather. I let them know that I will try for a bit longer than head back.
Third stop: There is a point close to the cabin that extends shallow for a ways then drops to deep water. Before dark, on Saturday night, I saw a boat casting some large plugs on this spot and I thought I might give it a go. Starting shallow and making my way deeper, my walleye colored Bulldawg remains on the end of the line for my last hoorah. After a jerk of the rod, BAM! Fish on! Holy Cow! This is it! I actually have a musky tied up on the Bulldawg, I loosen the drag to extend the fight and give the medium heavy rod a heave as I extend the net into the water to secure my fabled fish of more than 10,000 casts. There is a sigh of relief as I triumphantly raise my fist into the air. I’m finally off the Schneid. A beautiful spotted 38” fish resurrected my musky fishing fire inside of me. This time, I can go home with a smile on my face and a story to tell, that I’ll never forget.
My name is Brad Bolton, a husband and father of four. I live in Minnesota and I enjoy spending time in the outdoors and also spending time with my family. If there is water nearby, I want to fish it.