Musky Mania 14, June 1994
Opening morning of the tournament found us navigating the boat down a shallow, dead-head choked creek towards High Lake. The prop-gouged sunken timbers below the channel's surface bore testament to the passage of diehard musky fisherman who had ventured through to probe the High and Fishtrap Lakes' waters before.
A gentle breeze carried upon it the mournful cries of loons in the early-morning light. As we entered the lake, crystal clear water greeted us and a pristine birch, pine, and tamarack studded shoreline surrounded us. The scenery alone was worth the trip.
All morning we flogged the water. By noon we were glad to rendezvous at the mandatory midday check-in point. Only one fish had been caught so far, a 28 incher that Jim Jessup had quickly released after measurement.
Camaraderie dominated the hearty shore lunch and fish check-in ritual, but the underlying competitive tone was also apparent. As soon as the rest period was completed, the musky hunters took to their boats and disappeared across the lake once again. Everyone but Dale Peterson, that is. Dale headed to a wedding in his musky fishing clothes, lures dangling from his hat and all.
Dave Justmann and his partner, both first-timers, borrowed Dale's boat for the afternoon. Hidden deep within Dale's well-organized storage compartments, the pair found a marked-up secret map of all Dale's musky hotspots on Palmer Lake. They headed straight there, borrowing Dale's rods and tackle that were so conveniently found inside the boat Dale lent them. Once on the water, they tried without success just about every lure in the top tray of Dale's tackle box. Then Dave noticed one concealed near the bottom: a chartreuse Jaz-Ma-Taz prototype hand-crafted by Dale.
As the fishermen drifted over the musky weeds in seven feet of water, Dave felt a strike and soon boated a 20 incher. Seven minutes later, Dave's "first legal", a 34 incher slammed the bucktail. The 'lunge rocketed out of the water trying to shake the lure loose, but was soon netted, measured, and released.
A few casts later, Dave spotted a torpedo headed directly at the boat in hot pursuit of Dale's secret prototype. Both anglers figure-eighted their bucktails in front of the mid-thirty-inch musky as it stalled out at boatside. This wise old fish had seen all this before and knew better. It just stopped, smugly sank into the depths, and disappeared. The weather was changing. The clear blue sky was giving way to dark, ominous rain clouds. The pair decided to Wildcat.
At the boat ramp, they met up with two of the other contestants, Mark Jacobs and Gordie Shaw. They'd not even had so much as a follow yet. Dave told them of his good fortune of catching two already and seeing a third. Painful disbelief was written all over their faces. They'd heard before the tournament had begun that Dave was on a lucky streak, having won the kitty at the Darl-Inn, and now this was just too much.
Well, standing there at the boat landing feeling genuinely lucky, and feeling sympathetic towards Mark, Dave held out his hand and said "Here, let me shake your hand to pass you some good luck." Then Mark and Gordie headed out onto the lake. As soon as Mark's walleye-colored Reef Hawg hit the water's surface, a musky clobbered it. The musky taped 29 inches and Mark was now destined to take third place in the final tournament standings.
The next morning the cafe was abuzz with fish stories and muffled talk of strategies for the upcoming final hours of the contest. Some entrants had opted to forego the meal, catch a little extra sleep, and head directly to the lake. Two such entrants were Jim Jessup and Bill Harvey. Their strategy paid off. The partners were casting into a shallow, weedy bay when Jim tied into a 31 incher with a six-inch prism Grandma bait. The fish made a terrific run and leapt out the water twice before Bill was able to net it, securing second place. The hooks were so deeply imbedded in its mouth that Jim cut them all off.