Kevin, Duke, and Chuck pushed the capacity rating for my Crestliner Raptor to the limit and it was the first time I have ever seen my beloved 150 horse Merc struggle on a take-off. These boys are big!
It was in the waning days of July when we hit the water and the conditions were tough back then. The crew worked diligently all afternoon and all evening learning the finer points of casting and working a bait at boat side. Some fish showed up and left without any signs of aggression and although we wanted to catch a fish casting, the muskies were telling us perhaps they were more in the mood for something trolled a get-your-attention quick summer speeds.
If you troll for muskies you know there is only one kind of rod holder; the Down Easter. These are pretty indestructible generally and about the only rod holders that will withstand the tork of a musky hitting your bait at speeds in excess of 50km per hour. That said, there is a learning curve with the holders as it is all about finesse and NOT strength to extract the rod when a big fish is running away with your bait and the rod is pinned. This is a great problem to have in a musky boat by the way.
Many guides don’t like their guests handling the rods in the rod holders which in turn makes some guests feel like they have a baby sitter when they get a rod handed to them. Guides actually like to handle the rods because things go wrong fast when you are trolling at 6 mph and precious fish get off. I like my guests to manage the rods in my boat if they are inclined. Proper structure trolling is not just dragging baits behind the boat. It is a lot of work to do it right. The boys had all used Down Easters a little bit and we agreed that Duke was first up on a fish. He would take two tries at the rod when it went off and if he couldn’t get it out he would get out of the way.
When the rod went off on the prop wash bait, it exploded. The reel was singing like a fire alarm and the line was ripping off fast. I handed one rod to Kevin to clear and watched Duke go to the reel. One try, two tries, three tries, and as I see the panic in his eyes and start to say ‘get out of the way’ Duke grabs my Loomis stick and pulls up hard. It’s hard to believe it didn’t break the rod in two, but it did break the Down Easter in three. With the rod still attached to the destroyed rod holder which is hanging by a thread of knarled white metal to the boat, the alarm goes silent. There is a hundred feet of Power Pro behind the boat and no fish. Duke says he has never had a fish on a line that felt like that one. He didn’t get a picture of the giant musky but he did get a souvenir picture of the two mounting bolts as thick as my finger (not Duke’s) that the big man broke in half. Don’t mess with Duke is all I have to say.
Later that evening the river did finally give Duke his reward. His first ever figure-eight boat side musky. She’s not a trophy but she’s a beautiful barred Ottawa River musky. Way to go Duke.
Thanks guys for an awesome day.