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'A Great Guiding Experience'

This week we had one of our more memorable guide trips, made possible by Don and Loretta (Lor) Musickant. Experiences like this are what make a guide's whole year.

First off, Don is 83 years old. He and Lor live on a mountaintop overlooking Las Vegas. Don has decided that there were many things he had planned to do over his lifetime, but never got around to experiencing. So, in this period of declining health, he and Lor made a list of those missed experiences and set out to 'make up the time'. Don told me he had never caught a bass over 2 pounds and that his goal was to catch a 'big one'. Lor, with a purse full of cameras, was going to record it.

Don has one of the wittiest minds and 'tongue-in-cheek' humor veins I have encountered in a long while. He has a flair for writing, I believe, as his emails were very entertaining. Some excerpts follow:
  • "This Saturday I am in a "normal" mode because my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, has drawn a bye. Next Saturday, they'll be playing Michigan and I'll need injections to keep the agitation at a minimum. "
  • "Loretta won't be fishing. She'll just keep taking pictures and applauding."
  • "It is good your STRATOS is so big, as Lor seems a bit claustrophobic lately. Every time I put a pillow over her face, she seems to get agitated."
  • "We shall meet you there at the appointed time, with great expectations and expired credit card in hand."
'Meet' we did, and what a great experience it was for all of us.

As I helped them into the boat, I put my neck out a little and assured Don and Lor that we would do even better than had hoped. Maybe there was a little premonition on my part in doing so, but I felt confident. Health conditions only allowed a few hours on the water, but the fishing had been very good in past days.

On our way across the Marsh and Farm 13, we saw wildlife galore. A big gator slid off the grass as we passed and an Osprey dove for a shad right beside the boat. Statuesque Blue Herons stood at attention and as road guards all along our way. We even had the opportunity to interrupt our run and idle close to a beautiful Bald Eagle surveying his domain from the top of the remnants of a long-dead tree. Mallards, Teal and the ever-present Coot ducks bordered us right and left the entire distance.

Pulling into a stretch of shoreline back near the SE floodgate in the Farm, we positioned the boat, set the anchors and helped Don into the front fishing seat of the STRATOS.

The first four wild shiners we flipped up to the grassy shoreline cover hardly made it to the water and were immediately blasted on the surface.

'Bam, bam, bam, gotcha!!'

Don's first fish exceeded his original 2-pound record by 2 additional pounds. The fat-bellied 4.2-pound bass appeared to be a female with developing egg sacs. In the next 2 hours, his catch of 22 more bass would all exceed the 2-pound mark significantly. I would estimate the average weight at a bit over 3 pounds. 23 bass on 36 shiners equals a 64% success rate. That's pretty darn good for anyone, let alone a gentleman with advanced arthritis and a lot of miles behind him.

When the initial blow-ups from the active bass in the grass line stopped, the bobbers were still never motionless for long. The bite of nearly all bass caught was sudden, strong and swift. There was no playing with the shiners and no giving them a second chance; the fish just went on the shiners with an intensity and determination. Occasionally, the bobber would go down so fast a popping sound was heard. Bass appeared to be passing through on a regular basis. Another boat, about 30 yards from us, seemed intent on setting a new record for mudfish catches and must have sent their bass population down our way, too.

Although Lor did not fish, as she dutifully recorded voluminous film records of the morning, she did have to rescue a rod that very nearly went over the side from a sudden strike and run. Having the rod already in her hands, Don told her to go ahead and land the fish. After a few shrieks from Lor and three excursions under the boat by the big fish, a nice Farm bass came over the side. As fate would decree it for a non-fisherperson, the fish was in excess of 5 pounds.

Sometimes during the 2-hour cycle of action, Don latched onto what would be his personal 'trophy'. After the hook set, the big fish surged up to the surface and gave us a close-up and personal look at her 24 inch frame. As Don waved me off and stated that he needed no help, the bass bullied her way around the front of the boat and to the backside. Our guest angler performed absolutely like a seasoned veteran, as he kept her off the anchor rope and out from under the boat hull.

With his largest bass weighing in at nearly 7 pounds, Don Musickant stated that he was more than satisfied that he had accomplished his 'experience' goal for bass fishing.

And, you know what? I think I did, too.

Thanks, Don and Lor. It just doesn't get much better!



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