VENICE, La. There are weekend fishermen, once-a-year fishermen, professional fishermen, wanna-be fishermen, basically all kinds.
Skill levels usually dictate where you as an angler fall in the ranks. I have always heard that the number of days you spend on the water determines the amount of skill levels that you develop. But, it doesn't always work that way.
When Tom Moleski, Trevor Jancasz, Scott Cummings, and Dennis Helka were on their way down to fish with me for the second time this year, I was kind of excited.
A couple of these guys fish professional bass circuits. In fact, Trevor is fishing the Northern Bassmaster Opens series this year, hoping to qualify for the Elite series. I always liked that Elite series name.
Anyway, these guys are good fisherman except ... well never mind, moot point.
Trevor and Tom fish FLW's bass series as well, making them better than average. If they fished BASS then I would consider them truly Pros. Just kidding, Mr. FLW, don't get all in a backlash.
Back to business here. Good guys were coming in, they have some talent, it was going to be a great trip and was sure to make my life easier.
With rods rigged, tackle checked, boats ready, it was time to fish. Scott and Dennis headed out with Chris and, as luck had it, Trevor and Tom were with me.
Life was going to be easy — I had the two most experienced guys on my boat.
We pulled into an area and immediately began to see swirls, pushes, wakes and mud balls. In saltwater language, that means presence of fish. Redfish were here, and from the looks of it, plenty of big ones.
Before I could get a word out, Tom and Trevor grabbed their rods and cast into the moving water. They immediately had a double strike and, in a blink of an eye, it was all over. Both guys ripped their line out of the water, and out of the fish's mouths.
Trevor looked over at me with a blank look on his face. I, of course, was giggling.
In between my giggles, which had now turned to laughter, I asked. "What the heck was that?"
"What was what?" Trevor asked. He wasn't giggling — as a matter of fact, he wasn't even smiling.
"Man, I don't think I've ever observed a hook set quite like that," I replied, still laughing. "Oh by the way, reel in, I need to check your hook, 'cause I know there's a set of lips on it."
"Very funny," Trevor mumbled.
Actually it was.
Tom, not being quite as sensitive, was kind of chuckling to himself. Trevor quickly reminded him he had done the same thing.
"I'm just so used to yanking those green things out of the stumps." Trevor said, finally grinning. "I know from the last trip, I'm not suppose to do it, I just can't help myself."
"Don't worry about it guys," I said. "That was just the first cast — now fish like pros."
The next few casts produced several giant reds, one of them was 42 pounds, a monster on light tackle. Now my anglers were in a groove.
I was up front running the trolling motor, engaging in a light conversation with Trevor and Tom about their upcoming tournament season. I had my back to them when Trevor started to laugh. As I looked over my shoulder, he said, "See that popping cork over there about 25 feet away from the boat?"
"Yea," I replied.
"We need to go get it," laughed Trevor.
Right now I'm a little perplexed as both Trevor and Tom are now both laughing. I have seen popping corks come off before, but personally never found it to be very funny. Keeping my thoughts to myself, I'm thinking these guys get humored easy.
"See that popping cork over there?" Trevor asked again, still laughing.
I had already answered that, but I answered, "Yeah" again.
Trevor could hardly speak as he laughed uncontrollably, but managed to get the words out, "That's Tom's rod."
Now I'm laughing. "What the heck happened?" I asked.
"Just went like this," Tom showed with his hands and arms appearing to be speaking. "Don't know, I made a cast and my rod just flew away."
"Hope we can get to the popping cork before a red grabs the bait."
Now we are all laughing. We haven't fished 20 minutes. (Pros?!)
I spun the boat around with the trolling motor and maneuvered over to the popping cork. Tom reached over and grabbed the cork, pulling his rod in. He rinsed it off with a bottle of Aquafina and was good to go.
After several more casts and several more fish, Tom hooked up with what seemed like a really good fish.
This is the routine; an angler hooks a fish and I prepare the deck. I get the net, make sure the area is clear, not only so we can land the red, but also so the angler doesn't stumble on anything.
Over my right shoulder, I heard a crack, which sounded like a .22 rifle. I turned around and saw my second blank stare of the day. And the day was young.
Looking like a scolded child, Tom's lips quivered and the words sputtered out, "Gone, took all my line."
I'm not sure, but it looked like I saw a trickle of moisture dripping from the outside corner of Tom's right eye. Could that have been a tear? Naw, big boys don't cry.
"Just let me know next time and we can chase him with the boat," I said.
Should I really have to say that? After all these guys are ... well never mind, I think you know already.
I was going to offer Tom one of my rods, but would you? Not if you saw what I had. Instead, I said, "Hey, I've got some more line under the seat. We will just put some ... "
Before I could finish the sentence, I spotted something out of the corner of my eye — something that turned me into ... SUPER FISHERMAN! That's right, I ripped off my shirt, exposing my blue and red Under Armour super hero shirt with its giant 'SF' on the front and back. (I hate when I have to do that but they promised not to tell anyone, it's supposed to be a secret)
My whirlwind blinding speed catapulted me to the bow and I grabbed the trolling motor, shifting it into high gear. OK, I don't really have a super hero shirt or whirlwind blinding speed. But, I did make it to the front of the boat pretty fast.
Tom and Trevor again had that blank stare on their faces.
"What are you doing?" Trevor asked.
"Look over there on the water," I yelled."You can see the braided line on the surface moving away from us."
"Holy Mackerel, we're going after it, aren't we?" Tom asked.
"Get ready boys it's about to get crazy — real crazy!" I warned them.
We closed in. The line was moving but it was still on the surface and we were getting closer. I was glad we were only in two feet of water. As we got close enough, I told Tom to grab the line.
As he handed the line to me, I said, "Now, grab your rod."
Again, there was a blank look.
Keeping the trolling motor in high, I pulled in about 35 yards of line and could still feel the fish on the other end.
"OK Tom, thread the line through the eyes of the rod," I said. "Good! Now tie the line to the reel."
There was that look again.
Keeping tension on the fish with just my hand, I held the line. When the fish made a run, I just followed him with the trolling motor.
Once the knot was tied, not easy under pressure, I released the line.
"Now, Tom," I said. "Reel your fish in again."
"Unbelievable," Tom kept muttering over and over.
The giggles started, which soon turned to laughter as Trevor and myself are now cheering Tom for the second time with the same fish. After a 20-minute battle, a 48-pound 'brute' was brought to the boat. We took pictures and released the fish.
"Can you believe that?" Tom yelled out. "That was the most exciting moment in fishing I have ever experienced!"
"Yeah, pretty cool," I answered.
"Absolutely amazing," Tom said as he walked to the back of the boat. "Absolutely amazing."
"Alright guys, that's about enough excitement for one day, let's just catch fish and keep it simple," I said.
All agreed. They kept casting and the fish kept biting. The 20- to 40-pound fish were aggressive, just like you want them.
They double hooked up again. Actually, they had several but one was a little different. Tom's screamed straight out the back, but Trevor's headed straight for the front of the boat. Trevor is a big boy at 6 feet, 3 inches and about 210 pounds, but he was pretty graceful and maneuvered his way right to the front of the boat, smooth as silk.
Trevor's fish dumped about 100 yards of line straight off the front, then turned hard right, 180 degrees and headed straight back at the boat. This fish was screaming like a freight train and it didn't slow down as it raced down the side of the boat. Headed straight to the back, Trevor was in hot pursuit.
Trevor looked like a sleek-footed running back, working the sideline to the end zone as he glided down the gunnels. That was, until he reached the back of the boat. That's when it happened. It looked as if an imaginary linebacker slammed him as his whole body, and I do mean whole body, lifted off the deck, turned horizontal, and then gravity pulled the plug.
Trevor was gone. Like a magic trick, now you see him, now you don't.
All that was left of Trevor was the water droplets from his splash raining down on Tom and me. He then popped up, grabbed the side of the boat and, before Tom and I could help him in, was back in the boat. His rod was still in hand and, yes, he was back in the saddle fighting his fish. His hat, sunglasses and everything were still intact.
If you think there was laughter earlier, now I was crying from laughing so hard.
Think about it — how does a 6-foot, 3-inch guy disappear in 2 feet of water? All he had to do was stand up. Heck, the water couldn't have been much past his knees.
Tom had to net the fish as I was still laughing. By then, Trevor was laughing as well. He continued to fight the fish, bringing it to the boat.
We were all still laughing, while Trevor's 35-pound redfish was released.
"What a goof I am," Trevor said.
I replied, "I don't know about a goof, but it sure was funny."
"You're in luck Trevor, I have spare clothes in the front compartment," I told him. "Let's get you dry."
Tom chimed in, "Boys, it's time to go back to the lodge. We've caught plenty of fish. And certainly more excitement and memories than any angler could wish for."
I kept my mouth shut, but I wondered in my mind, "Wish for?"
Well, anglers, all I can say is from weekenders to beginners, and of course don't forget the professionals, be careful what you wish for as the next laugh may be on you. Just hope it doesn't happen all in one day, as all this happened in about 4 hours on the water.
Trevor, Tom, good luck this year!
By the way, these guys are fishing with me again in April. So there may be a part two.
Capt. Mike Frenette is a Redfish Cup angler. For more information, visit his Web site, www.venicefishing.net or e-mail him at email@example.com.