“Nothing like catching musky in your front yard!” said Chris Burnette to the start of his and Harry Haddix’s week at Bear’s Den Lodge. The seasoned West Virginian muskie hunters had fished some of their favorite French River muskie holes, but after a long day they decided to troll home during the twilight hours.
As the minutes passed so did the casts as they entered into Bear’s Den Bay when Harry’s last cast of the evening had action. A boil of water rose to the surface as Harry was retrieving his suick. His hands quickened as he worked his action, doing all that he could to entice the would be trophy to clench his lure, but to his and Chris’s dismay “she would not take the bait” as she eventually lost interest. Without giving up, Harry cast three more times into the same hole he originally brought her out of and to his surprise he hooked into a different muskie.
The two were ecstatic to a strong start in their week as Chris had high hopes that it would be his turn for the next muskie. Chris had brought with him a custom handmade pull bait that his dad made in 1969.
At the time Suick had one size and it was eight inch and it had five colours, because I still got the original that my dad had in the box. Anyway, he wasn’t happy with colours or size available. He spent his breaks at General Motors cutting out the body, sanding it and the tail he took it out of the Chevelle Trunk Department’s scrap metal. He did use this in the 1970s but he was never able to catch one on it and I said to him, I want to try it. He gave it to me and I tried it. It looked great on the water but the clear coat was hand painted and started to peel so I took it to Sharon Crane Baits where they refinished it for me. She gave it to me and she said, “It really looks good, do you like it?” and I said to Sharon, “Have to catch one on it. He don’t want it looking pretty, he wants to see a Musky on it!”
That’s my first musky on a pull bait… Dad’s 86 and he’s the one who got me into Musky fishing. I hated it when I was first growing up, nothing I hated more than going Musky fishing. If we were going bass fishing, pike fishing, anything else that was great but I had to go on the musky trips too.
I told dad, that it would get me a big one, one of these days up there [Canada] and it did. It did at two o’clock in 100 degrees and the funniest thing is we were trolling in; turned off the motor and I said, “reel ‘em in Harry.” Harry then said, “We drove by that big fish that’s sitting over by that rock a hundred times this week.” I said to Harry, “And I am going to show you how to catch ‘em!”
First catch, first jerk, never seen her but I felt my line get really tight and I heaved. The line started going and that’s when my heart quit beating as my legs were shaking bringing her in. We both thought her head went right into the net and Harry scooped. The rod started squealing again and line going out and he’s holding the net up in the air saying, ‘There must be a hole in the net!’ and that’s when my heart really sunk. I was thinking, If she got through that net, we got a real mess, but I realized my pole is going this way and if the line was going through the net it would be pulling it too and I said to him, “There’s no hole in the net, Harry!” “I thought I got her,” was his response back to me as we were both dumbfounded. Then after that I figured, Well she had a chance to get free by now. Meanwhile, Harry was giving me confidence saying, “You hooked her good! She’s coming up!”
Now with those big boils, you can’t tell what’s going on in the net or not, but he bagged her in the front yard. Harry bagged his muskie at the beginning of the week in the front yard and we ain’t done yet with the front yard. I can’t wait to tell my dad what I caught a 53-inch musky for him this Father’s Day, he is going to have a smile from ear to ear and I can’t wait to see it!
Authored by Joe Barefoot, M.B.
Photos by Chris Burnette & Harry Haddix