Making the Cut; Simply Fishing Classic Moves past the first elimination round
Sep 18th, 2004 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Sep 18th, 2004 at 12:00 AM
Twenty teams left the dock this morning at Bay View Lodge with every intention of catching a 40″ or better muskie. The Simply Fishing Muskie Classic is the boasts the highest winning payout ever at $80000 for first place, so the motivation is very strong indeed to do just that.The field started this Wednesday at 80 teams. 160 anglers worked hard to make the Friday night cut, set at a maximum of 30 teams. Only 20 teams caught a fish, but the Big V showed off her big girls!Bob Benson and Fred Hirsch boated a 51.75″ and a 49.75″ fish the first day, guaranteeing advancement and setting the bar for the tournament. Brett Erickson and MuskieFIRST’s Jim Murphy (Murph!) boated a 48.5″ fish, and were worried that would not be enough to make the cut. Points are awarded at 50 for a 40″ fish and point per 1/4″. Ty Sennet and Luke Ronnestrand boated a 47.75, and both reported that they needed another fish by Friday night. Five other teams caught fish that day, with only Benson and Hirsch doubling.The weather turned flat nasty Wednesday morning, and changed continually throughout the three day qualifying round. Winds to 50 MPH rocked the lake Wednesday evening and night, swamping moored boats and keeping Bob Mehsikomer and some of the contestants up late rescuing boats as they broke from moorings or swamped in the huge waves at dockside.Thursday dawned partly cloudy and the fishing remained tough, but 8 fish were caught matching Wednesday’s numbers. The largest was a 47″ fish caught by Dave Hale and Scott Stabola. Interestingly, all the fish caught Thursday were boated by teams with no fish in the net Wednesday.The weather looked much better Friday with a small front moving through with showers, and clearing skies in the afternoon. The Muskies had other ideas, however, and only 6 fish were boated, but the Big V again showed off her potential. Ryan Lahman and Scott Duberowski registered a 52.25″ monster, likely to be the big fish of the event.Dennis and Dave Schaeffer had other ideas, however. A call came in to the judge boat out on the sector the Schaeffers were fishing that a judge was needed to measure a 40# plus fish.The fish in this event are netted and kept in the net and in the water until a judge boat is radioed in. The judges were assigned areas on the water that would keep the run time to a flag waving, excited contestant down to a very few minutes. The judge boats the fish, measures the fish, and allows the angler to release her unharmed, in a very short timeframe. The concern for the fish shown by the anglers and the Simply Fishing crew was displayed with each registration and release.As the Judge boat arrived, it was obvious the largest fish of the event was in Schaeffer’s net. The Big V beauty measured out at an exact 53″. This was a very special fish, as the Schaeffer’s are a Father/Son team, and this was a best for both.Last night as the teams were announced for the Saturday cut to twenty, the tension amongst the anglers was terrific. Many who didn’t make the cut stayed on for the announcement and Top twenty Team introductions. The Headquarters tent was packed with anglers cheering on those who made the cut.I spoke with Mike McCullen about making the cut with the McCullen/Olson 44″ qualifying fish. He stated, “It’s going to be interesting. The fish have been moving, and we do have some fish figured out. All we can do is get out there and get one to eat.”Jim Murphy said, “Cast, then reel. Cast again, then reel. Tomorrow will tell the story!” as he made casting and reeling motions walking out of the Tournament headquarters at Bay View Lodge last evening.What did it feel like to miss the cut? Steve Herbeck stated it simply, “You have to get bit. Then you have to get the fish in the net. We had our chances, and that’s all you can ask. My Mo Jo’s gone”Steve Jonesi said “I’m going to go up and have a Pepsi, get my gear packed later, and relax a little. That was HARD WORK out there. We moved fish, and I had a mid 40’s charge a bait today so hot I was sure she was going into the net. She turned off for no reason I could see at all. I guess that’s why they call it fishing, not catching.” When I asked him if he thought, even for a second, that he could fish the Big V for three days and not boat a 40″, with a huge smile he said, “No. No way. We were certain we would make the cut.” So were 60 other teams who are not fishing the Simply Fishing Muskie Classic today.Muskies don’t care about reputation. They care little for celebrity. The roster for this event is very impressive, with big names in the Muskie world on many of the teams. Tim Widlacki, executive director of the PMTT Muskie trail said, ” I am VERY happy we boated a 48.25″ and made the cut. If we hadn’t caught a fish, I would have caught pure hell from the fishermen at the upcoming PMTT event on Minnetonka. I would have heard no end to the `See?? Not as easy as it seems, IS it??’ Tim’s excitement and wide smile on stage with partner Jason Summers said it all.Bob Mehsikomer said last night while on stage, ” We have some of the best Muskie anglers in the world in this tent. There were some fantastic fish caught this week, and the stories of lost or missed fish I have heard indicate the bite was tough but the chances for really exceptional fish were there for almost everyone. That’s Muskie fishing at it’s best!”The anglers return at 3 PM today. How many will catch fish today in under bright, clear, conditions? The leaderboard will tell. Those who advance to the Sunday 10 team field are fishing for a first place record $80000 and a pair of Champion’s rings worth well over $1000.