Fishing memories of Mike

There are times that you often regret not doing something.
I hadn’t thought about this until I received a call from Irene Baranowski at my cottage on the weekend. Her husband, Mike, had been determined that I should catch a musky and for the last few years, we have arranged fishing dates in mid-June to catch that elusive trophy fish. Mike had died earlier that week.
The two previous years, I had been skunked, but this year we were determined to go out and reverse my fortunes. The date was set and then giant storms loomed in the forecast and I called and cancelled.
Mike had warned me that this would probably be my last chance to fish with him as his health was not good. I put that off to Mike being a little bit down and his older age catching up.
He was still a young man in mind and loved the chance to fish and tell his stories. He had a library full of them and was a great raconteur to a willing partner in his boat.
Our fishing together began in the third or fourth year of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship. He and I would share a day’s fishing on Rainy Lake.
What I knew about bass fishing at that time could probably have been written on the back of a postage stamp. But he was patient with me. He showed me shorelines that he felt had fish on them. We targeted rocky shoals and we would have caught 10 or 12 bass in the day’s outing.
Mike really liked to talk about the young talent he saw coming along in fishing. In 1999, he told me that he expected Davis Viebeck would top out as an upcoming angler and outdoor writer. He was not wrong.
A year earlier, he let me know that a young gun named Jeff Gustafson would eventually be recognized as an elite Canadian fisherman. There too he was correct.
Later Mike invited me to Lake of the Woods to pre-fish for the Sioux Narrows tournament. Together we fished many different bays. Sometimes we were lucky. Other times, we were not.
I caught my first large mouth back in Snake Bay. Mike had the boat up on plane to run through a small river to get to the back end of the bay where his years of fishing told him that large mouth would be lurking.
He was right.
I had the wrong line on and when that large mouth circled around a bunch of weeds, the line broke. I received a lesson on the proper line for large mouth bass fishing.
On the water, Mike liked to put his decades of fishing to good use teaching. He had a passion for musky fishing and determined to be a better musky hunter, he entered several such tournaments in Wisconsin.
I learned a great deal from Mike. He helped me become a better fisherman.
Last year, I had clear instructions. A big red buck-tail with bright shiny spinner out front was to be used. I had the titanium leader out front as I had been instructed and the line had been geared up to 30 pounds. A heavier rod was called for and I met all of Mike’s instructions.
Mike brought along his assortment of big lures. Thinking maybe the big red lure was not the right bait, we changed trying several of his tooth worn musky baits.
Mike didn’t fish much on that day trip. Together we didn’t attract any of those big fish, instead switching in the afternoon on Crow Lake to go after small mouth bass. But sitting on the front of his bass boat, he regaled me with stories. Many I had heard before.
The sun was warming for him and he had lost his morning chill. There was just a ripple on the water from a very soft breeze. It was a perfect day. And when it was over we promised each other we would tackle musky fishing again.

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