The trip from Florida to my pickup point at the Minneapolis Airport was a long one but uneventful. It was sure nice not to have the worry about a rod tube in the baggage compartment on this trip. There have been times in the past I arrived and when claiming my luggage rod tips were hanging out the end of the broken tube. That is a tough way to start any fishing trip with your rods broken and no time to get replacements. With the Emmrods all 13 of the poles I brought along were safely tucked away in my duffel bags. The gear for my entire week at Oak Island was packed in just two of them and other than my computer bag on the plane with me it was all the luggage there was to worry about. I loved the fact unless the airlines just lost my bags entirely my rods were arriving safe and sound.
My brother Gary his life long buddy Steve and their sons picked me up at the airport for a short ride up to Baxter, Minnesota for our first night on the road. We have done this for years since it allows us to buy groceries and final supplies for the trip. We headed out early Sunday morning for Baudette MN and our yearly visit to United States customs for our I-68 forms which allows us daily passage by boat back and forth to our fishing areas. In addition everyone had earlier applied for and were granted Canadian Remote Boarder Crossing Permits. That form handles the Canadian side of the crossing security concerns. Of course everyone had passports too since they are now required by all to return to the US when the trip is over. All of these documents along with the proper fishing licenses must be carried at all times while fishing. We crossed into Canada just north of Warroad MN without any issues. Once we entered Canada our first stop was the Shell Gas Station in Sparage Manitoba to purchase the fishing licenses we would require during our trip. Our last stop before the boat out to Oak Island was yet another customs check at a phone booth type station to report we were heading back into MN at Northwest Angle. If this all sounds a bit confusing it is but thank heavens we have done it long enough to understand the process.
Once at Northwest Angle we hooked up with Deb Butler who runs the Island Passenger Service with her husband Marv. The trip our to Oak took two boats this year. One with Marv and all our gear and the other, Deb’s boat “The Red Head”, with our group of 8. It was sunny the ride was great, within twenty minutes or so we arrived at Oak Island. As always Paul Jensen was there to meet us at the dock with a warm smile and handshake. My brother his buddy Steve and the boys shared one cabin. My father, brother Robert and I shared another. We had three Lund Alaskan boats with 40hp Mercury 4 strokes and electric trolling motors gassed and ready.
I planed on 8 or 9 rigged Emmrod outfits in the boat. Getting them unpacked and rigged up was much simpler than the conventional rods I have brought in the past. Even though I have used these rods for three years now there was a little concern in the back of my mind I was depending on them the entire week. I had of course used them over the last three years but this time they were all I had. My concerns vanished after the first few casts. I was back in the grove with them just like out of my W kayak back in Florida and the fish had much to be concerned about.
We had a few hours after unpacking and rigging to hit the water Sunday afternoon. I tried a few casts to no avail with one of my Mr. Sam’s trip lures and then switched over to a Redfish Magic style bait on one of the Emmrod pack rod spinning models. Those little rods combined with the Daiwa 1300 reels I enjoy so much are a wonderful angling tool. Light in the hand and able to cast from virtually any angle. It was not long before a smallmouth bass became the first of many catches for the week. The spinning rigs I used all week were the same. A Daiwa 1300SS reel loaded with 10lb Fireline and leadered with 20lb fluorocarbon. No hardware in the way of swivels, clips, or snaps all my rigging was done with two knots. The four turn surgeons knot to connect the line to the leader and then the canoeman’s loop to attach the lure. For the most part our entire group was rigged up the same way with either superline or mono, the fluorocarbon leaders, the loop knot, and the lack of hardware. For folks who have not tried rigging this way the knots are easy to learn and with practice even a full re rigging takes only a few minutes. The canoeman’s loop knot uses very little leader on a retie and the knot itself can be tied in about the time it takes to use a snap. I believe that much of our success fishing for the week can be credited to our knot only rigging.
When you are fishing three people from even an 18′ Lund Alaskan you must be very careful about back casts and lure control. Nothing can end a trip much faster than a lure hooked into some part of your body and medical help a long ways off. The Emmrods were wonderful in this regard. You could cast as far as you needed with almost no worry about hooking the person behind you. Rod storage during the day was much simpler than in years past. The little Emmrods even in their largest configuration the Rugged Flex took up almost no side deck space at all. I carried between 8 and 9 rigged outfits all week in the space I could only have kept 3 or 4 convention poles. Any concerns about rod shafts smacking the gunnel which is death to regular rods in a aluminum boat were nonexistent. All the Emmrods would have done is knock a little paint off the gunnel rail with no harm to the poles. Of course at the end of each fishing day all of the gear is taken out the boats and brought back to the cabins. It amazing how many Emmrods you can grab in one bundle and never worry about anything breaking and when you get to the cabin that notorious rod tip eating screen door is thwarted from the start.
Along with the spinning outfit I mentioned earlier I had bait casting rigs set up too. My two Packers were rigged with ABU reels. One was a single tip rod combined with an ABU 5500C reel loaded with 16lb Momoi mono. This rig was actually the first Emmrod I took up years before. The other Packer rig was a two tip rod and an ABU 6500 UltraCast loaded with 20lb Momoi mono. This is the rig that landed my personal best northern pike on the afternoon of 6/23/09. That fish hit a Slayer jig harness with a one ounce Spro saltwater jig tipped with a white curly tail. The rig would be considered a magnum sized Redfish Magic. It was raining and the skies were very dark, we had been catching a number of smaller pike in a weedy bay on the west side of an area called Anstron Bay. The action was great and we were having a ball. I rigged up the heavier setup just to see what would happen. I caught a smaller pike right away and continued to cast. Then I got a strike that just stopped the lure cold deep in the weeds. Smaller pike will ball up under these conditions in a mass of weeds so I just pulled very hard. The fish came toward me as I winched in my catch with that 6500 ABU. As it came to the surface I had visions of my Florida home and a gator head swimming toward me. Thanks to the power of that two tipped Packer and the extreme net man skills of my brother Gary the fish was quickly landed and pictures taken. It was released unharmed and gave us a little surface show before heading back to the weedy depths.
My other bait cast rigs were also pretty successful. I used one of the new Rugged Flex pack rod handles and a single tip rod to create a light all around bait cast rig. The reel was an ABU Record 4 their top of the line multi piece frame casting reel. Properly tuned these are said to be the longest casting ABU reels ever made. On the Emmrod they do live up to their reputation. We were setting up to film some action shots on video the morning of 6/23/09 having just arrived at Anstron Bay. We started out in a area we have always called “Pike-O-Rama” for the huge number of northern pike we catch there. I picked up the Rugged Flex and gave the spool control on the ABU a twist for luck. Tied on was a Slayer harness rigged to a ½ ounce Mission Fishing jig head with a Redfish Magic white paddle tail trailer. I made one long cast, my first of the day, off into the weeds while chatting with Steve over in the camera boat. As soon as the lure hit that water something nailed it. I pulled and it pulled back, hard. So I reared back and set the hook then began the battle. Short and sweet thanks to the power of even that four coil rod it easily got the fish to the boat and my brother manned the net. That muskie was one of two legal ones we got on this trip. We took no still shots of this fish but have it on video.
The two young fellows on this adventure were Steve’s son Joe and Gary’s son Eric. Both these boys used Emmrods the entire week along with their regular tackle. By mid week most of their fish and fishing time were on Emmrods. Duane was kind enough to let both boys have the new Emmrod spinning pack rods they had been using to take home with them. Hopefully we’ll see some action shots of them fishing their home waters in Illinois and Indiana on the Emmrod website soon. For kids the Emmrods certainly are much easier to handle. The rods are much shorter and they don’t have to go through acrobatics to get weeds off their bait or clear a tangle at the tip. But unlike all the other short rods out there sold as kids outfits these Emmrods are serious fishing tools they can use their whole lives. There was nothing swimming up there at Lake of the Woods that could have beaten those boys and their Emmrods. All week they caught pike, smallmouth, and walleye without a hitch. In fact some of their catches provided us with a great walleye fish fry one evening back at the cabins. For those of you that enjoy fish walleye has got to be among the best tasting freshwater fish. Freshly prepared they are simple wonderful.
Everyone in our group had time with the Emmrods and they all caught fish on them. There were many times we had doubles going with two fellows in the boat hooked up at the same time, we even had a few triples. My father made the comment the Emmrods did not look traditional. The image of the angler with his pole arched back over his head with a trashing fish on the end of the line just was not there. Of course in real life that’s the way you break poles and most rod companies don’t encourage putting severe bends in to their products. The reality on this trip was that the Emmrods had all the power and then some of conventional tackle. We were able to simply crank the fish in and get them landed. It was just as much fun and because we could choose to end the battle sooner far better for the fish.
We had the advantage this year of very cooperative weather. You plan for the coldest nastiest days and when they don’t happen it’s great. Our cold weather gear was repacked to go home and never used all week. Rain always happens and we were more than prepared so stayed dry without any problems. Each day we had shore lunches of the new millennium. That means that each day it was brats and hot dogs rather than fresh fried fish. Ontario fishing regulations allow only two fish per day on their conservations fishing licenses. We have limited our take per for the week to only one fish dinner on the trip. That preserves the fishing for the future. We had no rain at all during our shore lunches and that was a pleasure. Compared to hot weather at home in Florida with temperatures over 100 we had nice mornings calling for a long sleeved shirt or light jacket then comfortable t shirt weather by noon. When it did rain the cold was easily held off by just a rain suit so for the most part we were very happy with the conditions.
As luck would have it the last morning on the island we awoke to heavy rains and wind. That meant wet gear that would be packed back into the vans for the long trip home. I used water proof boat bag duffels and it was wet enough even my gear got a little damp. We went back on just one of Deb and Mavr’s boats. Marv showed up a little late around 6:30 AM for the Saturday extraction. We loaded up for the ride back to the Northwest Angle. In all the years we have been up there the boat ride itself has been calm and pleasant. This time however it reminded me of that movie “The Perfect Storm”. I’ve never seen such waves and that big heavy boat was tossed around like a toy. At one point we nearly rolled with the water coming right up to the gunnel on one side. My brother Robert was standing next to Marv at the pilot station and said the man was praying the whole time. But he got us through the bad stuff and to the dock where we loaded up all that wet gear for home.
As I write this I look back on the performance of those Emmrods compared to all my years with conventional fishing rods. I’ve used them all from high end production models, to “mart rods”, and finally custom made poles of many types. The Emmrods can hold their own in that mix with no problem. In fact based on my experiences this year I can’t see the need to trouble myself with delicate difficult to transport fishing rods so long as the Emmrods are available. At this juncture they are my choice for fishing in the world class waters of Lake of the Woods. We have next year already booked and the Emmrods will be right there as my exclusive fishing rods for the 2010 adventure.