Red barns & muskies: How Jim Saric’s mind works

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Jim Saric talking at his Musky Hunter booth at the Chicagoland Fishing, Travel and Outdoors Expo about the Internet and muskie fishing.Credit: Dale Bowman

Red barns and muskies?

Maybe you have to think like a muskie hunter, say Jim Saric, to make that connection.

Last Sunday afternoon, when crowds finally thinned at the Chicagoland Fishing, Travel & Outdoor Expo, I walked to Saric’s Musky Hunter booth to introduce Cam Riedesel, a teenager who shares a similar history with Saric when he was a young fisherman.

Younger fishermen may only think of Saric, now of Deerfield, in terms of muskies: fisherman, teacher, publisher/editor/owner of Musky Hunter Magazine and host of Musky Hunter TV, already in its 10th year. But growing up in the south suburbs, Saric was schooled by two of the most competitive all-around fishermen in Spence Petros and Joe Bucher.

That competitive fire is in Saric, too, for more than muskie. Take 1989, when he teamed with George Coniglio to win the third Masters Walleye Circuit on the Illinois River at Spring Valley.

Since then Saric has grown into a statesmen of the muskie world, if I can stretch meanings and put statesman and muskie fisherman in the same sentence.

It was logical for Saric to moderate what has become my favorite part of the Schaumburg Show: the muskie forum on Friday evening with top muskie guys. The last couple years the panel has been Bucher, Mike Hulbert and Chris Taurisano, with Saric emceeing.

On one crowd question, Saric stepped out of his moderator role and offered his take on technology.

By modern fishing technology, he doesn’t just mean fish finders and GPS, but also the information available online and on social media.

Sunday we veered off into that subject. For me, fish photos are about the fish, the expressions and the fisherman or woman or kid.

Saric more methodically and deliberately mines photos and videos online and in social media for knowledge, pieces he can use to catch fish.

“If I am going somewhere, I am online trying to find and look at every video I can find,’’ he said. “Everybody has a GoPro now on their head or boat.’’

It is not just landscape that he is checking in the videos or photos, but any signs or hints of the lures used. If the same bait comes up multiple times, there is something concrete to note.

In filming his show, Saric, much like people with only a few days of vacation, has a window of only a few days to catch enough muskies for a show. He only has cameramen for a few set days. That is real pressure to glean as much information as possible so he can be in prime areas at prime times on those days.

So once outdoors show season is over and before he begins filming for next year, he does intensive online work to make the best use of his time when he does get time on the water with a cameraman.

In essence, it’s advice that applies doubly to those with only a few days to fun fish. Gather as much knowledge as possible to make the best use of that time on the water.

“You can bet if I see a red barn in a couple of the [GoPro] videos online, that by the end of the first day there I will have found that red barn,’’ Saric said.

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