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Chasing Monsters

When I was invited to participate in a friend's wedding this year, I immediately started thinking about how to fit in some fishing time. I had been to Minnesota once before and had heard rumors of some large muskie to be had. The last time I was there we chased walleye, which was fun. But, this time would be different.
 
My good friend Jeremy knew of a local river where big muskie lived. Muskie feed on other large fish...and I knew right away that they couldn't pass up a well presented AC Plug. Before the trip I had placed a call to my dad and let him know that I needed some lures. He built me some big originals and some mag shads. I couldn't wait to give them a try.

The river we wanted to fish was notoriously difficult to access. The launch ramps and landings were old and in need of repair and the take out points were spread out, leading to intimidating decisions about where to put in and take out. The river also featured many shallow rapids that posed problems for our small pram. We poured over our maps before heading out, trying to strategically choose our drifts to ensure that we would make it to the take out points each night. We planned 5 solid, dawn to dusk days of trying to get that elusive "fish of 10000 casts".

Nice smallmouthThe first day was filled with lots of small pike, smallmouth bass and one 12 pound muskie. We covered an amazing 10 river miles and saw some beautiful scenery. We had maybe 20 pike and 10 bass apiece for a respectable first day count of around 61 fish. We knew the bigger muskie would be lurking in deeper, darker water and were hoping to find some soon. A blue and silver AC Orignal had been the lure of the day.

Day two was filled with great expectation. Unfortunately we didn't know what the water looked like until we actually drifted it. Every bend in the river brought more hope for that deep, dark water we craved, but it never materialized. We caught a bunch more smallmouth and small pike. It is funny how a 4 pound smallmouth doesn't hardly bring a high five if you are targeting monster fish. If you were on a smallmouth trip, that same 4 pounder would get everyone on the boat very excited.

25 pound muskieWe hit the jackpot on day 3. The river turned into exactly what we hoped it would. Slow S-bends in the river carved deep mysterious undercuts. Submerged trees and other stick-ups screamed muskie. There was some nice, rip-rap bank that held fat smallmouth. We hooked and landed lots of quality fish that day including a 25 pound muskie, 8 pound muskie, many smallmouth to 4 pounds and some more pike. It seemed like every time we found a nice, deep hole without pike in it, we hooked a quality muskie.

We knew exactly where we would be fishing on day 4. The stretch the day before was too good to not cover for a 2nd time. Some of the deep holes we fished held promises of even larger fish. At one particularly good looking location I hooked an absolute monster. This fish was way bigger than any other freshwater fish I have ever hooked.

I have been fishing with my dad my entire life and know what a big fish looks and acts like. The muskie that came out of a submerged tree and engulfed my AC was absolutely HUGE! I conservatively estimate its size at around 40 pounds. It swam at the boat and I clearly saw its size. Its back looked to be 8 inches across and the length was....long, very long. It saw the boat, lazily turned to swim upriver, peeling drag in a slow, methodical manner. I could do nothing to stop this fish. My hands were shaking and the adrenaline was pumping big time! I watched in horror as the beast turned and buried its massive frame into some river side stickups. I prayed that it would stay on long enough to allow us to free the fish, but the hook suddenly pulled. I said goodbye to the largest freshwater fish I have ever had on my line. To add insult to injury, we missed our take out in the fading light and were forced to run 2 more river miles to access the road.

Eric with a nice oneThe 5th and final day we decided to hit 2 separate stretches. We started strong with a nice 10 pound muskie. We kept slinging the ACs and I had another huge muskie inhale my plug. I set the hook, felt weight and then nothing. I actually saw the inside of the fish's mouth when it ate my lure. I certainly won't forget that anytime soon!

All in all it was a fabulous trip. With two absolute monster hooked and some nice muskie to 25 pounds landed, I felt we had done pretty well for an exploratory trip. We ended up with 25, 20, 15, 12, 8, 4 and 2 pound muskies. We had a 10, 9 and many 5-8 pound pike. Our biggest smallie was 5 pounds and we had several in the 3-4 pound class. The hot ACs were originals in walleye and blue/silver. I also did well with a large mag shad. I hope you enjoyed my story as much as I enjoyed my trip!

Eric Cole

 
 
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