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Aaron Pappas holds up a 26" Rainy Lake walleye, his personal best. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

A tale of two lake monsters; two happy anglers

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The alarm went off at 2:50 a.m. and though my body wanted to hit the snooze alarm, my mind had no apprehension in telling my limbs to throw the covers off my body.

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Crazy? Maybe. Infatuated with the idea that the next cast might be the biggest fish of your life? Dead on.

It was Tuesday morning and even a percolating coffee pot wouldn't have stretched my eyelids open, but the prospect of an adventure was on my mind.

The destination; Rainy Lake, Canadian side. The prospect, big smallmouth bass as I assisted two buddies, Jeremy and Jordan Anderson of Nevis in their quest to catch smallmouth in preparation for the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.

No better way to start the trek than by employing an ally, my 14-year-old stepson, Aaron. Some people might balk at the thought of rising at such an hour, but not Aaron, he's dreaming of big fish anyway, might as well chase them while awake.

We made the drive to the border between International Falls and Fort Frances, Ontario expecting a lengthy question and answer session at the crossing. After our passports were examined we were quickly admitted into Canada and were now, Aaron for the first time, international travelers, all within the span of less then three hours.

We met up with our fishing partners for the day, long-time friends from pre-adolescence and began another journey, this time across the water of famed Rainy Lake. The 212,000 acres of water sat still as the boat hull seared across her surface.

The goal for the day was to find some unique areas for the Anderson brothers to fish during the competition days, running from last Thursday through today. And even though the smallmouth were plentiful, the highlight of the day was the walleye.

Known for its healthy populations of smallmouth bass, walleye and big northern pike, Rainy Lake is at a turning point; one where mature smallmouth bass are harder to locate while lunker walleye are often hooked on both traditional and the most unlikely of baits. At the launch some anglers mentioned catching walleyes on topwater lures, an oddity for the often bottom-relative fish.

As Jeremy Anderson cranked his black Salmo Hornet crankbait to the side of the boat and paused in his retrieve to look for a trailing smallmouth, a 27" walleye smashed the lure, just inches beneath the surface. That was simply one of fifteen walleyes landed for the day, the smallest just shy of 20", the largest, a monster, yet much smaller than the one that escaped our net.

With a couple respectable northern pike brought to boat-side in addition to the numerous smallmouth and walleye, one couldn't complain about getting up early in the morning. Especially Aaron, who landed a personal best 26-inch walleye part way through the day on a Northland Bug-a-Boo jig, no leech, crawler or minnow required.

On the drive home, Aaron thought we should buy a cabin on Rainy Lake.

Sweet dreams Aaron, sweet dreams.

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