Tuesday, May 13, 2014

2014 Mn Governors Opener on Gull Lake, an awesome memory in the books..

What an opener 2014 was!! At Leisure Outdoor Adventures, we've always said fishing is about the stories that unfold and memories that are forever cherished. With most of us playing hosts to several major media personalities and me under the microscope of taking the Lt Governor, this was sure to be a opener to remember.

The Pressure builds….
The pressure of the event was really low key leading up to this event. However, all this changed when the Lt Governor and I actually met on Thursday evening at the fishing host dinner. I shook her hand for the 1st time just prior to dinner, “Hello, I am Yvonne Prettner Solon, you can call me Yvonne. This will be my 4th Governors opener and I have yet to boat a walleye on opener and have never beat the Governor. I would really like to do so this year” she said with a gentle yet serious tone. Talk about straight to the point. Yvonne  then proceeds to show me a picture that had been posted on the press release that had myself and son Hunter Kvalevog posing with a big walleye we caught last year. “I would like to catch one this big, can we do that”? “Ummmmm, Sure!” I said with just enough confidence to give her hope, but now realized it’s time to step up my game. It was at this moment that I realized that Yvonne was definitely in it to win it! “Are we going to go out at 12AM? The Gov is going out at Midnight, so I would like to too”. I had originally thought there is no way that the Lt. Gov, a golfer by nature, would want to hit the water at Midnight, just to catch a fish before the Governor, I WAS WRONG!
My son Hunter Kvalevog and I holding a pic of a nice fish that the Lt. Governor wanted to beat. Below was her new expectations looking ahead to Saturday’s “Opener”.


With the my game plan of starting at 8 AM out the window, I had to hurry home to rig a few more rods for night fishing before hitting the hay. 5 AM radio interviews were scheduled out at Grand View Lodge (host site) to kick things into full swing. Not sure who let the cat out of the bag but every interview had the same theme, “So we hear that the Lt Gov is going to out fish the Gov”? Oooh boy! With every interview the knots in my stomach would pull just a little more. After a dozen or so radio and tv interviews it was off to school where some how I would have to keep my mind on students for the next 8 hours. Thank God for a great PE staff at Forestview Middle school; they had my back in this, just like the boys at LOA. Eventually that 3 PM bell rang, T-Minus 9 hours to go and it was off to the races!

The Itinerary for the day had me scheduled for two more interviews up in Nisswa at 4:05, with the Chamber, I had to hurry. While there, I had the pleasure to stop and breathe for a second and watch my son and the rest of the Forestview Middle School band play for Governor Dayton and the Lt Governor. Yvonne was kind enough to take a minute to pose for the group.

Yvonne Prettner Solon and the Forestview Band under the direction of Chuck Carlson at the Nisswa picnic Friday evening.

It was at 6 PM that I realized that I hadn’t even seen the boat that I was going to be fishing in. This years opener was sponsored by Larson boats, and being a Lund Pro Staff, I was not able to fish out of my new boat. So this was going to be a borrowed boat deal, and I didn't know what it was rigged with, or if it floated for that matter. After a quick call one of the organizers, I was set to meet the Larson Boats rep at the Grand View Lodge docks to see the boat and take a test spin.
Away from the docks, just me and the Larson, things were if for only a moment, NORMAL! It was also the moment that I was able to get a grip and realize that “I GOT THIS”!

Everything in the boat checked out. I was able to make a quick trip up towards the North end of the lake were the warmest water and current comes into the lake, “the Channel”. Water was 5 degrees warmer in the channel that the lake. With the spawn just getting going, I realized that this would be our best bet for midnight. I could anchor up and work a variety of techniques. It was 7 PM when I put the boat back on the lift, 5 hours until the BIG EVENT. I was headed home to load the truck and maybe catch a quick nap.

12 AM = GO TIME………….!!!
Joining me were Congressman Rick Nolan, Lt. Gov Yvonne Prettner Solon and her son Matt. With the boat loaded and last preparations being made, I could feel the buzz around the docks at Grandview. We were waiting on the Gov to return from Rochester. At 12:02AM  we met on the docks and had a formal press moment. We were all very excited to get going. Congressman Rick Nolan had the quote of the night. “Every day we spend fishing, adds a day to our lives”. I hope this is true, I should live to be 100 :) With countless interviews in the can and cameras pointed in our faces, the 2014 fishing opener for me began at roughly 12:15AM on Saturday morning on the docks of Grand View Lodge.   
With the anchor tied securely just off the edge of the channel edge on the mouth of Booming Out Bay. I opened the rod locker to discuss strategy. Without being able to “PRE-FISH” we would need to figure out what they (Walleye) wanted. Congressman Nolan would be in the back of the boat with a 1/8th ounce Jig and shiner. His job would be to work a shallow flat just behind the boat. Matt (Lt. Govs son) would be up front working a ¼ oz jig and Shiner. His task was to work a 12 foot hole of deeper water. Yvonne would try a slip bobber technique that had worked well in years past. With the education piece behind us it was time to catch em.

Before we could get our 3rd line in the water I hear the words I had been waiting 2 weeks for, “I GOT ONE” cries the Congressman. I didn't have the net out yet, It was pitch dark and brief pandemonium had struck! Mr. Nolan’s ice breaker walleye was about 18 inches and one HUGE relief for this guide. The Skunk Was out of the boat.


After a new minnow and another missed fish from the Congressman I knew I had to switch the Lt Governor to the same tactic, jig and shiner. On her 1st cast with the jig she yells, “I think I have one too!”. Sure enough, the light sound of a the drag and splashing next to the boat, we had something of sorts on. Even with a headlight, the dark water of the channel does not allow for a clue as to what might be pulling on the line. I remember praying, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, don’t get off. After what seemed like an eternity, the fished surfaced near the side of the boat just out of nets reach. I had to lean way out into the darkness towards the glimmer of gold and was able to get a net under it.

One of the most memorable moments of my fishing career will always be that exact second when the deal was done, and all pressure was off. Yvonne had caught her fish and we had boated it before the Governor. She and I could not have been more happy. High fives and hugs were in order and it was truly an awesome moment for all of us.


The evening bite did not end there. Both the congressman and Matt struck again. Every member of Team Lt Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon scored on this magical night. Jigs and Shiners were definitely the deal. Around 2:30AM with the bite slowing to a few short strikes here and there, we decided to make our way back to the docks for a short rest before the morning trip.

Congressman Nolans second walleye of the night was just a little icing on the cake. A great night to be on Gull Lake.

Pressure was off….

Saturday morning was awesome! Our success the night before was the buzz amongst the media. The Lt. Governor was more than gracious in her credit to me for our success the night before. It was sure a lot easier to stand in front of the media having put a few fish in the boat already. The heat was all on the Governor now and Yvonne and I got to enjoy our morning on the water pressure free.  The morning fishing trip came and went without too much to report. Matt lost a pretty good fish towards the end and Yvonne had boated a perch. Pretty slow for Gull Lake standards, but our success was already in the books.

In the end the Lt Governor beat the Governor in her quest for the Governors Opener title. She was very humble in her victory and the Governor gracious in defeat. The real winner of 2014 was the Brainerd Lakes Area, Grand View Lodge, and many of the other resorts in the area that will reap the benefits of our event here in Lakes Country. Over 420 volunteers and an extreme amount of time and money went into this years event. Its not until you are part of something like this that you truly get it. This is SO much more than about a couple of politicians and their quest for a fish. The opener is really about showcasing  an area and the kick off to the tourism season. Fishing generates over 2.8 Billion dollars in revenue for the state of Minnesota and, for many, its a way of life. On behalf of myself and the rest of the team at Leisure Outdoor Adventures we say thank you to everyone involved.

Also, I would like to give a big shout out to Ray Gildow who had the task of hosting the Governor. Ray had twice the pressure as I and handled it like a true professional. Behind the scenes, Ray had several mechanical type issued to work through with some of the equipment he was required to use as a host. Through this diversity, he performed like a champion and gracious host. Well done Ray!

Guiding starts officially in a few days for this guy, look for the report soon!

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