It’s a funny thing, the mind of a walleye pro in the off-season. With no need to obsess about lead core, dive charts and the best crankbait colors for Lake Oahe, a pro’s mind finally gets to relax and take time to just fish. And fortunately, this winter I was able to travel north to Sportsman’s Lodge on Lake of the Woods in Baudette, Minn., to hang with some pros resting their minds. There, my dad and I spent a little time with Scott Steil, National Guard pro Mark Courts, Brian Brosdahl and new National Guard FLW Walleye Tour emcee Chip Leer. All of this was put together in conjunction with Frabill and Noel Vick from Traditions Media.
Get to the buffet early
The night before our first day on the ice, we were told to get to the buffet by six. We should have made it five.
A frigid 26 below zero greeted us that morning, so a warm breakfast was in order. Unfortunately, we weren’t the only anglers with the idea. The destruction 40 walleye guys can do to a buffet in an hour’s time is staggering. By the time we showed up, the hearty breakfast buffet was missing the “hearty” part, and most of the “breakfast.” Half a sausage patty and a slice of toast will barely fuel an 80-pound ballerina dancer, let alone a 200-pound ice fisherman – maybe a little bigger in the case of `Bro.’ Luckily, we convinced the waitress to whip up a few more eggs, and we were off to the hard houses for a day of fishing.
Our chariot awaited on the ice. Bombardiers have been the choice of Sportsman’s Lodge for decades as a means of transporting anglers to their designated houses. And once dropped off at the door, anglers are greeted to open holes, supplied bait and house temperatures that can bake bread.
After adjusting to the temps and getting situated, it was a short wait for the first sign of life to come from the house.
“We have schmeplication,” shouted Steil from across the now 102-degree house.
A solid upward yank of the 28-inch stick, and we had our first fish, a `cigar’ sauger.
“Ah, mud rocket,” Steil pouted.
Side note: Walleye pros’ minds aren’t just obsessed with walleyes. They’re also remarkably creative. Thus illustrated by Steil’s announcement.
Those of us that watch too much television may recognize the term “schmeplication” from a beer commercial. However, out on the ice, a walleye pro’s mind is free to wander and tap into its creative side. So instead of simply saying “I have a fish over here,” Steil’s mind sought to figure out a better way to alert everyone. The result: Schmeplication became the battle cry that indicated to the others in the party that there was a walleye or `mud rocket’ entering the danger zone of our offerings.
I later heard another colorful expression on a separate trip used by friend and contributor of FLW Outdoors magazine Ross Robertson: Fire in the hole!
Did someone say lunch?
After a few hours of schmeplication and half a pail of saugers, the symphony of stomach growls had begun to grow – did I mention the part about walleye guys and buffets? Anyways, just as I was about to bite down on my last miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, lunch arrived. Part of the benefit of going through a lodge such as Sportsman’s is the warm, drool-inducing lunch made fresh in a custom-made Bombardier and delivered to your door. On the menu that day: cheeseburgers and fries (if you need a minute to comprehend the glory of that lunch, please do so now before reading the next sentence). Oh, and I couldn’t think of a better way to top of the meal than with a fresh chocolate chip cookie the size of a serving plate.
Full to the point of bloating, fishing suddenly became a sidebar, which was good considering the schmeplication seemed to dwindle. Instead, we traded fish for barbs as we told stories and badgered each other till it hurt to laugh. Not a bad way to spend a day.
There is still time to get up to Baudette, Minn., and Lake of the Woods to take advantage of the extraordinary fishing and hospitality of Sportsman’s Lodge. They tell me fishing is good through the end of March. So get together with a few of your own walleye guys for some fun, fishing and schmeplication.
A special thanks goes out to Traditions Media, Baudette Tourism, Frabill and Sportsman’s Lodge for great hospitality and letting a former Minnesotan get back to his roots.