EAGLE RIVER, Wis. — It’s nice to wax poetic about nature — say, a doe gingerly leading a fawn along the shoreline waters of Cranberry Lake. Even better is catching muskie good enough to overshadow the flowery stuff.
On the first day of the 34th Spring Classic for Champions, I started looking for every bit of natural wonder I could find, because Joe McCartin and I had not moved a single muskie.
‘‘All I can do is fish memories, keep moving in and out,’’ said McCartin, a Chicago dentist who has been fishing Eagle River for nearly three decades.
Memories paid off late afternoon when McCartin spotted one rolling while we fished an open-water hump.
And I learned something.
I cling to the Luddite side, especially when it comes to enjoying the outdoors. But in fishing, modern technology has changed the sport unbelievably. Last weekend was a prime example.
The muskie rolled in front of us in open water. It would have been iffy at best to triangulate and hold position. Instead, McCartin punched his Minn Kota Spot-Lock, electronic anchoring using GPS to do what the name implies and lock on a spot, It held us precisely.
Held in place, we began fancasting in front. A few minutes later, my lure stopped and the fish was on. It cartwheeled out of the water twice. While a sight to behold, it’s a lousy way to put a fish in the net. McCartin yelled at me to get my rod down. I did and reeled the fish by the boat, where he cleanly netted it.
The Classic, which the Headwaters chapter of Muskies Inc. runs wonderfully, use a format where the caught muskie is held in the net. Then a judge boat is called immediately.
It was beautiful to see Dale ‘‘Musky Pete’’ Peterson motor up to record the muskie on a bump board — 36 ¾ inches — and take photos before release.
Scoring in this Classic began with the minimum length of 30 inches at 14 points. A point was added for each additional ¼-inch, and 10 points for a successful release.
Last Sunday, the final day, came with torrential rains at takeoff on a day only duck hunters or muskie fishermen could love.
Again, technology on top of old-fashioned fishing paid off.
On a weed line, a good muskie charged my lure at the boat. Late on the first day, I changed to a Double Cowgirl, a hunking big spinner, which feels like retrieving a heavy bag through the water. That caught both of our fish.
But the muskie stopped short, so I went into a figure-8, the traditional way to convince a muskie to finish. Again, technology mattered. When McCartin saw the muskie flash at my lure, he hit the Spot-Lock, which kept us on top the muskie.
Nothing on my first two figure-8s. Then I heard Steve Statland’s voice in my head. While we fished Lake Vermilion last fall, the Muskies Inc. Hall of Famer told me bluntly that I had to go wider and deeper on my figure-8s.
I buried the rod in the water, and I barely started again when the muskie hit. After a brief battle, McCartin quickly netted it.
Even better to see Musky Pete a second time to measure (36 ½).
We ended up 10th, the final payout. More important, I made an uneasy piece with technology: Spot, lock and reel.