"Fishing with these walleye pros can wear a girl out," WW&W wildlife correspondent Paris Hiltunen whined, casting her fate to the wind on wave-tossed Gratiot Lake. "Neither the weather's worst nor my best can keep them off the water when they're hunting trophy wall-hangers."
"WW&W music correspondent Dolly Partanen and I re-wrote Ted Nugent's 'Cat Scratch Fever' tweaking the lyrics to 'Last Cast Fever' as the 'offishal theme song' for Mark Martin's Last Cast Fever Fishing Tour," she sang and danced around the bow of Mark's beamy 21-foot Lund, wiping the whitecaps off her snowmobile suit. "When you're out on the water in the kinda weather that sunk the Edmund Fitzgerald, Ice Armor is the answer."
She was right as rain, and glad she wore long-johns over her lingerie, but then Paris can be pretty pragmatic when it comes to staying warm. With hacksaw-edged north winds kicking up a frothy 3-foot chop, Gratiot was barely fishable. We were the only boat out there.
When his tournament season is over, veteran PWT and AIMfishing.com walleye pro Mark Martin doesn't hang around the house. He likes to lollygag here in the landa the late-season lunkers, feeding them trophy crick chubs and Rapala look-alikes, and fishing up a storm. Call it a last hurrah on Houghton and Keweenaw County lakes before they turn hard.
"With temps in the 40s, 53-degree water and 25-35 mph winds gusting to 50, fish were hugging the bottom or suspended just off it," Martin said, "we bottom-bounced 'em at less than one mph and picked up a couple nice eaters for our annual multi-species fish fry."
The fishy feast starts with glazed backstrap of northern scallops, then evolves through smallmouth, perch, crappie, lake trout, splake, steelhead, coho and king salmon, all caught in the Keweenaw, fresh and smoked, plus a filthy-rich kala mojakka made from alla the above.
"If there's one thing the pros and I have in common, it's we like our fishing action hot and heavy and fast and furious," Paris recognized, "I just pick up the pace and let my inner fishinista take over."
A lotta luremakers wish they could imitate her wiggle which always will catch more fishermen than fish, but she's all business when she's after the kinda northerns that eat brookies for breakfast, smallmouth big enough to pull your planer board under, and lakers that dance with dipsies and downrigger balls.
"The Last Cast Fever Tour includes Copper Harbor, Eagle Harbor, Lake Medora, Lac la Belle, Bete Gris, Gratiot Lake, Portage and Torch Lakes," WW&W inland lake correspondent Fanny Hooe itinerized, "plus side trips to Otter Lake and Lake Gogebic."
The bug is contagious to the outdoor media, afflicting a hardcore contingency of WW&W regulars, plus western Yooper correspondents Bruce Crossing, Paul Ding and Merri Weather, and the notorious real-life Buck LeVasseur of WLUC-TV6's "Discovering."
"It's when we field test the heck outa sponsor tackle in a whole buncha different venues and environments," Martin said. "Paris was right about Gratiot Lake being brutal; even with a 21-foot Lund, 250 hp Merc Verado, and Optima-powered MotorGuide bow mount, boat control is a challenge in a 3-foot chop and high winds."
"We also give Berkley, Shakespeare and Fenwick rods matched to Abu Garcia reels a good workout," he continued, "not just with thousands of casts, but trolling, bottom-bouncing, planer-boarding, dipsy-diving and downrigging; My go-to lures are Rapala and Storm crankbaits in UV colors, all with a lotta Yooperfish teethmarks in 'em."
"When you're fishin' live bait, I like Roach-rigging the biggest crick chubs I can get through the lips on a red Daiichi No. 2 Bleeding Bait hook tied to 6-pound test Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon line and leader," he tipped. So does Lac la Belle guide Larry Smith, who was working a walleye double-header with Mark.
"I run Northland holographic spinner crawler harnesses behind a stainless steel Slick Stick bottom bouncer," he continued, "pinch your crawler off just behind the second hook to leave a scent trail in the water and fool those notorious nibblers."
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at jjunttila@ chartermi.net.