I'm catching up with editorial projects after last week's adventure at Rainy Lake, a huge (some 225,000 acres) shield lake on the Minnesota-Ontario border. On this trip, sponsored by Cabela's, four of us joined veteran guide Billy Dougherty on his flagship houseboat, Chairman II, with ace cook Bernie Lessard and guide John Bakaski. I joined Wes Remmer of Cabela's and two veteran outdoor writers, Gary Lewis of Bend, Oregon, and Mike Pehanich of Illinois for three days of fishing.
While houseboats are popular on some of Minnesota's big northern lakes, as well as southeastern impoundments like Dale Hollow, Cumberland, and Bull Shoals reservoirs, I'd never resided on one. But it wasn't long until I began to enjoy the charm and convenience of a home on water, with a couple of sturdy Lund boats in tow to fish from.
After cruising east for an hour and a half, past countless rocky islands covered with trees and native vegetation and barely a single human habitation, Billy nudged the 60-footer ashore on a rocky bank where a sign announced Brule Cove. The entire area is part of Voyageaurs National Park, and sites for houseboats are maintained by the U.S Park Service. Once securely tied to a couple big trees, we headed to a series of reefs on the American side where Billy graphed schools of walleyes holding in 23 to 25 feet of water. They were eager takers for a Northland Disco Jig (1/4-ounce) and leech, and we soon had keepers in the livewell, while releasing many fish from 18 to 24 inches.
After the fast walleye bite, we decided to look for smallmouth bass among the countless rocky islands, interspersed with beds of narrowleaf cabbage. The bass were cooperative, too, especially where current passed over the outcrops and Mike Pehanich demonstrated his expertise with a Jackall Flick Shake Worm, wacky-rigged. We each hooked one close to four pounds and marveled at the power of these bronze battlers.
Part of our mission involved testing Cabela's new Platinum ZX Spinning Rods and Prodigy MG Spinning Reels, along with the company's new Made in the Shade Shirts and Pants. Constructed using 3M High Performance Resin technology, the rods are about 15 percent lighter and 30 percent stronger than previous top-of-the line rod offerings from Cabela's. In addition to their light weight and sensitivity, we found the new Aero Reel Seats made for a sure fit, so the common problem of reels coming loose was eliminated. The MG reels, with a magnesium frame, sideplace, and rotor, performed admirably as big walleyes and bass made sizzling boatside runs. The clothing proved most comfortable in the unseasonably warm conditions, fast drying and wrinkle-free as well.
Toward evening we headed back to the Chairman II where Bernie had been busy preparing a fine dinner, headed by ribs and chicken done to perfection on a grill on the bow. With cold beverages, we shared fish stories and enjoyed a brilliant sunset over the lake.
The next morning, we found that Bernie had risen early to prepare a fine breakfast for us, as well as sandwiches to bring fishing.
Our odyssey continued two more days of fun fishing, relaxation, fellowship, and great meals, while exploring one of the true aquatic treasures of the Midwest, Rainy Lake. For more information, contact Rainy Lake Houseboats, 800/554-918, www.RainyLakeHouseboats.com.