October 9, 2008

Minonk Man Gets Hooked on Muskies

By Scott Richardson

Bob Taylor of Minonk was hooked on bass fishing until he caught three muskies by accident at Evergreen Lake in northwestern McLean County.

The trio of vicious strikes sent his heart racing to his throat and ripped up his fishing gear.

"Bass lures don't stand a chance. Muskie lures don't stand a chance," laughed Taylor, 42, who guides for muskies on Evergreen, Spring Lake and McMaster Lake. "I couldn't get that thrill out of bass fishing. I don't know what it is about them. It's like a life- and-death struggle to get that fish into the boat. ... Every cast is a heart attack."

That was about eight years ago, and Taylor has never looked back. The truck driver for a Normal-based company became so hooked on muskies that when a misinformed female client showed up at the lake wanting a mess of crappies for a fish fry, Taylor had to run to Wal- Mart to buy the proper rods and reels.

Taylor competes on the Illinois Muskie Tournament Trail, where he leads in points in the season championship race heading into the next event at Evergreen on Oct. 18. He's on a roll. He caught four muskies to win the IMTT fall opener Sept. 21 at Lake Shelbyville. Last weekend, he caught three muskies over two days to win the 2008 Lake Shelbyville Fall Muskie Classic. Even more impressive, other obligations forced his partners to back out of both events at the last minute, and he won the team tournaments fishing alone.

Fall success can be more sporadic due to turnover when oxygen- rich water from the surface mixes with oxygen-poor water from the depths. The process frees baitfish and muskies to move anywhere in the water column they want, making them harder to find. Still, the arrival of autumn ignites dreams of trophy fish. Progressively cooling water drives muskies and other predator species to be more active and eat as much as they can to fatten for winter. They become more vulnerable as a result.

"The big fish come out, they have their feed bags on and they're ready to go," Taylor said.

Anglers usually focus on shoreline points most of the time in reservoirs, and that's where Taylor starts his search for fall muskies. He moves from deeper water to shallower and finally into coves where he targets deep drop-offs. He keeps moving until he connects with a muskie or he sees one chasing his bait.

His seven muskies in his two recent winning efforts all came on a white colored lure, a good choice whether water is stained or clear. Otherwise, he uses bright colors like firetiger in stained water and natural colors like black, shad or walleye in clear.

He also recommends casting away from shore to the open water. His son, Shawn, did that last year at Evergreen Lake and landed a 48.5- inch muskie - after falling out of the boat into the lake.

"Long story," laughed Taylor.

For information on Taylor's service, call (309) 262-9720 or visit elusivedreamsguide.googlepages.com

Tournament note

Visit www.illmuskie.com for more information on the IMTT and the Gregg Tichacek Memorial Muskie Tournament Oct. 18. Also contact Bill Hetzler at (309) 531-1831 or Duane Serck at (309) 267-1601 or [email protected] The White Oak Ramp is the launch site. Tournament hours are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Entry fee is $60 per team, with a 25-team limit.

Club note

The Prairieland Anglers host Wayne Lockwood talking about smoking and grilling fish at 7 p.m. tonight at the UAW hall on Illinois 9 West.

Scott Richardson is Pantagraph outdoor editor. Contact him at (309) 820-3227 or email [email protected] Share stories and read past outdoor and fishing columns at www.pantagraph.com/ blogs

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