Monday, June 14, 2010

the old man and the sea

No, this story doesn't take place in the Gulf.  This old man did not have an apprentice, he had another old timer fishing with him.  It hadn't been 84 days since he caught a single fish, and he is not considered so unlucky that others will not fish with him.  And walleyes weigh a lot less than marlins.  It still makes for a good story:
This is the northern Minnesota version of an old man and a lake.  The story of my dad, who has fished Lake Bemidji since he learned to walk.  And how he fished a "...unique set of cabbage" and put 500 miles on his boat in a day and ultimately won first place in the Kraus-Anderson Walleye Classic Saturday with his partner and long-time friend, Bob Strand.

As team after team walked across the stage, stepping out of their shiny painted boats, wearing spiffy shirts that loudly proclaimed the names of their sponsors, they kept the two old guys behind, in a tent to keep out the rain and the curious.  The huge walleyes they had found, hooked, and netted swam lazily in a tank, awaiting their shining moment on stage.

It was a full field of contestants,  it had been a cool, gray day for fishing.  The previous days had brought lots of rain, and the fish were hard to find.  Tales were told of missed opportunities, and the fish that got away.
To add to the impact of the day, my brother Kelly was fishing with his buddy Sparky, and his son Kaleb, my nephew, was fishing his very first tournament with his good friend.  So three generations of Hansons took to the water on Saturday.  Proud mom Angie (my brother's wife) checks in with Kaleb.
After baskets and baskets of fish had been weighed and then returned alive to the lake, and disgruntled fisherman talked about missed bites and how close they had come to a big fish, it was announced that there were only two more teams to weigh in.  The team that was in the lead was sitting on stage in chairs, nervously watching as each basket came up the steps.  And then they announced my dad and Bob.

The old guys slowly climbed the stairs in their worn jeans and heavy rubber boots.  My dad clutched the plastic tote full of flopping fish and confidently handed it to the weighmaster.  The emcee chatted with them as the fish settled in to be weighed.  The tension built as the emcee let everyone know that the current lead was 14.88 pounds, so my dad and Bob's fish needed to weigh more than that."Sixteen pounds, three ounces!" and a cheer went up from the crowd.  Dad and Bob had huge grins on their faces, but they knew it wasn't over yet, as there was one last team to weigh in. 

They love to build the anticipation at these weigh-ins.  But I saw the twinkle in my dad's eye, and Bob kept winking at people in the audience, so I had a feeling my dad already knew the results.  He is pretty good at judging the weight of a fish just by looking at it, and he had seen what the other team was bringing to the stage.

The last team climbed the steps, their fish were weighed, but it was not enough to catch my dad and Bob.  They had won! 
My sis was whooping and I was hollering and the crowd was clapping as my dad and Bob raised the fish in triumph (along with the big cardboard check for $10,000!)  Bob couldn't help hoist it, as he had hurt his shoulder and couldn't lift his arm over his head.  I have no idea how he was able to net fish that day.
The emcee spent quite a bit of time interviewing them, learning their personal stories and how they had successfully caught fish that day.  It was determined that between the two of them they had more years of fishing experience on Lake Bemidji than anyone else there.  They asked my dad about three generations of Hansons fishing, and my dad choked up when he talked about his grandpa teaching him to fish, and how he had taught my brother, and how Kelly was now teaching his grandson.
Heather was crying, I was quietly weeping, my mom was smiling through her tears.  It was a pretty neat experience.  And to think my dad and Bob had talked about not fishing the tournament this year-it's a pretty long day, and my dad is getting a knee replaced this summer.  I think their aches and pains will be forgotten for a bit.

And if I hadn't gotten food poisoning the night before, I would have missed the whole thing....  (more on that tomorrow!)

Hey mom, how are you going to help Dad spend the money?  (not even a big win like that will get my mom to show her teeth when she smiles....)


  1. Oh this is SO GREAT!! Thanks for sharing all the fun details. You captured the moment. I'm so proud of him! Great photos and a wonderful story! Thanks, Kristi.

  2. That is sooo amazing! So did he use worms? xo,t


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