Man, we LOVE Texas bass and this picture from Chris Coufal sure doesn’t disappoint. This monster went 12 lb 3 oz and measured 27 1/4″ long with an amazing 20″ girth. Chris was fishing O.H. Livie Reservoir and says his heart almost stopped when this gal came out of the water twice. Best of all, this fish was released. A double “Bravo” for Chris on this one!
I had always wanted to fish with someone who I considered a fishing “personality”. So I picked up the phone and called Babe Winkelman.
We had an island cabin on Lake of the Woods in Ontario, Canada about 7 miles south of Sioux Narrows. Occasionally after dinner we would watch some of Babe Winkelman’s “How To” videos on walleye, crappie, pike, or musky fishing techniques. Back then there were maybe 10 or 12 videos and I think we owned them all. For us Babe was a real star and someone we admired through his videos.
My buddy Keith Gate and I considered ourselves excellent lake trout fishermen and hardly ever came back to the cabin without a trout or two for the smoker. In all of Babe Winkelman’s videos there were none specifically addressing lake trout. So I figured he would be a candidate for Keith and I to show just how we caught these fish when everybody else was getting skunked. When it was the middle of August and in the 90’s we always caught B-I-G lakers day in and day out.
I called Keith and asked him what he thought about asking Babe to fish with us. “I dunno. How much will it cost?”, he said.
Cost? Hell, I was thinking zero. After all, we would be showing him how we catch lake trout at a time of the year that’s notorious for very tough fishing and usually only one fish if you’re lucky after a hard day of fishing. Quickly I explained this to Keith.
“I suppose it’s worth a try, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up,” said Keith.
And so the stage was set. I looked on the back of one of the videos and lo and behold there was his company’s name and phone number. How easy was this? I grabbed the phone, dialed the listed number and in less than three rings was connected. I told the operator who I was and why I was calling and asked if she would pass my name and address on to Mr. Winkelman and ask him to give me a call back. “Just hold on, I think he’s here,” she replied.
“This is Babe Winkelman,” said the voice that came on the line.
“Wow, I’ve actually got Babe Winkelman on the line,” I thought as I gathered my wits. “Mr. Winkelman, my name is Tom Ashby and I wanted to talk to you about the possibility of joining my friend Keith Gate and me for a lake trout fishing trip. I have a cabin on Whitefish Bay on Lake of the Woods in Canada and…..,” I rambled on.
I told him about how we fished for lakers, the average fish size, what boats we had, and anything else that I figured he would entice him to agree to come fish with us. He listened, asked a few questions, then said, “OK, sounds like a good idea. How about this Friday?”
I was floored! In less than 10 minutes I had gotten Babe Winkelman to agree to fish with Keith and me for lake trout! Am I a great salesman or what? OK, maybe “or what”, but at the time I was ecstatic. Here was a guy who we watched on TV coming to our cabin to fish with ME and my buddy Keith, wanting US to show HIM how we catch fish!
I called Keith and told him the good news. “This Friday we’re fishing with Babe Winkelman!” Can you be here at about 6 AM so we can get ready for him and his crew?”
“Nope, gotta work. No way I can beg off so soon again,” Keith said.
I hated that. Not so much as I needed Keith, but just because he wouldn’t get a chance to meet Babe. But, life goes on and I was confident that I could handle showing Babe and his crew how we caught big lakers in mid summer.
I was up early Friday, making sure everything was ready and whatever we needed to do to accommodate Babe Winkelman was set up. We really hadn’t been given an exact time for his arrival nor told what he would need. I figured he would arrive no later than mid morning and may or may not need to use one or more of our boats. Around 10 AM the phone rang. It was Babe who said he was at the government dock in Sioux Narrows and would I come and lead him out to our cabin.
As I approached the government dock I saw Babe and his then current wife, Charlie, standing with several other folks on the dock. There were 2 boats already in the water. I idled up to the dock, introduced myself to Babe and Charlie and his crew and in no time all 3 boats were headed for our cabin.
I motioned for Babe and his crew to tie their boats up on one side of our dock as I slid our boat up to an unused dock crib. I introduced Babe and Charlie and the crew to Dixie and asked if anyone wanted some coffee or any food.
“No, we’re all set and really need to start filming as soon as we can,” said Babe. We also want to use downriggers since we have Noel Jackson with us who owns the company. That OK with you?”
Downriggers? They want to use downriggers? Now I understand about catering to your sponsors and I knew Walker was one of Babe’s bigger sponsors, but I really hated downriggers for lake trout fishing. They were a pain and I had never seen them produce many fish. Certainly no big fish. At least not in the middle of August. We could catch many more, many bigger lakers using our heavy jig method. I looked at Babe and said, “Sure, no problem.”
Now you’re probably think “what a weenie” but Babe was our guest. He was well respected by lots of fishermen. Perhaps he has some new downrigger method that will produce more and bigger fish than what our method does. Who knows?
Soon we were on the spot and ready to set up. And you know what? They would fish the same way that everyone else does using downriggers. Nothing new. Nothing different. Certainly nothing exciting. Just good old boring downrigger fishing with engine noise and exhaust a constant companion. Geez, I really hate downrigger fishing for lake trout. Now here I was as a somewhat unwilling participant.
I soon began telling Babe how we fish for lakers and suggesting that it would be worth trying should these amazing Walker downriggers somehow fail to produce the desired number or size of fish necessary for a full half hour show. Babe smiled. Noel smiled. The same smile you give a kid when you’re thinking, “Oh, he’s so young and just doesn’t understand.”
We fished and we fished and we fished and caught nada. Nothing. Not even a strike. I lobbied harder for the jigs. Same smiles. Time passed – so slowly time passed. Babe would regale all with stories featuring, who else, Babe Winkelman. I learned about his trips, his many business ventures, his net worth, his first wife, how to cook fish, what sunglasses are best, and, most importantly, why downrigger fishing is the only way to fish for lake trout in mid August.
And so the boat (and Babe) droned on. For hours. Then, suddenly, there was something on one of the lines! Babe grabbed to rod and started fighting the fish in. Hmmm, that rod isn’t bending much. But Babe pressed on. The drag, which I suspect was not tightened down much if at all, played out. Babe fought and fought and voila, here was the fish. And what a fish it was, all 1, maybe 1 1/2, pounds of gut churning lake trout. My God, how were we able to land such a monster?
And that, my friends, was the only fish of the day produced by those magnificent Walker downriggers. Now it was getting late and about 2:30 PM Babe said that there was no way they had enough footage for a show, so it was time to think about heading in. I decided to make my plea for jig fishing for trout one more time.
“What do you say we try our jig fishing method for an hour? At least you would have a chance to see how we fish and maybe even experience some results,” I suggested to Babe. To my surprise, he agreed to give it a go.
We rigged up some white 1 1/2 oz elongated egg shaped jigs with white natural buck tail skirts and a stinger hook off the main hook. Using casting reels with 12 lb mono we just hit the spool release button, let the jig free fall to the bottom, and then reeled it back up fairly fast. In that next hour we caught 3 nice lakers; 11 lb, 8 lb, and 7 lb. In an hour! Sorta blew Babe and Noel’s theory of “don’t think they’re biting today” completely away. Told ya’!
Around 3:30 PM Babe and Noel said they needed to head back to the Twin Cities. That was fine. I had proven that Keith and my “big jig” method for lake trout was an obvious success. I felt sorta’ sorry for Noel. After all, it was HIS company and his company’s products – Walker downriggers – that hadn’t produced. But in retrospect, I never had seen downriggers produce lake trout of any size or number in Whitefish Bay. It just wasn’t a place where this method of fishing worked.
I led Babe and his crew back to the government dock and helped them load the boats and gear. It had been a nice day and I had had my chance to fish with a “celebrity fisherman” such a Babe Winkelman. Even got to kiss his wife goodbye. I still think about that day and wonder what would have happened if we had started out using our “big jig” method instead of downriggers. Heck, I probably would have been on TV. Maybe even in one of Babe’s videos. Possibly even had my picture on the wall behind Babe’s desk. Possibly……
Folks, we have a heck of a deal to offer this issue. We have a fantastic 2-for-1 deal on Sunline that has never – repeat-never – been offered before. Just buy a spool of Sunline FX braid, Sunline Super FC Sniper 200 yd spool, Sunline Super Fluorocarbon 200 yd spool, or Sunline Super Natural Mono 330 yd spool and you’ll get 2 spools for the price of one! All the details are below so be sure to take a look. This is our BEST SUNLINE DEAL EVER!
We also have lots of new products this issue. Shimano 2012 Citicas and Curados are here, Power Pro Super Slick now every part number in stock, All the new Eco Pro weights and accessories, Daiwa Ballistic and Procyon spinning reels, and lots more that you will want to read about below. We also have some great specials that we are still offering. If you’re an early Christmas shopper we think you will want to give all of these specials below another look. They are truly some great bargains on some first class products and shouldn’t be missed.
Thanks to all of you again for your friendship and partonage. You are the reason we are here and hope you know just how much all of us appreciate every one of you.
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