Archive | July, 2008

Dwindling supply

July 31, 2008


I got some unsettling news earlier this week: The bait that I used to catch the largest bass of my life July 20, weighing 5 pounds, 11 ounces, is no longer being made.

It’s called a Ribbontail worm and it was manufactured by Berkley. Not only did I use it to catch a 21-inch bass and two 19-inchers on that wonderful day on the water, but my son, Andy, caught the biggest bass of his life on the same bait the following week. His lunker bass was slightly longer than 20 inches and weighed 5 pounds, 2 ounces.

After making this startling discovery, I did two things: 1. I called Berkley and got on the phone with a high-ranking manager, Ron Kliegl, who, interestingly, was part of the group of people who made the decision to stop making the Ribbontail; and, 2. I went on an all-out search to find more. I was down to my last package and really wanted to keep using them for a long time.

I was able to find one package at a local store. It was the third store I tried and it had exactly one package left, so I bought it. I also found some on Berkley’s website and ordered several more packages, which have been shipped and should land on my doorstep in a few days.

So, I think I’m set for now. This supply should carry me through the end of this fishing season. It’s next year and beyond that I am worried about. Maybe I’m being too paranoid. After all, Berkley still makes its standard Powerworm. And, aren’t they close enough to the Ribbontail that they will catch fish just as effectively?

Maybe. But, the bass have spoken and said they like the Ribbontail, so I’m not inclined to change this offering. And, at least for a little while, I won’t have to. But, unless I am able to convince the company to start making them again — which I tried to do by pleading with Ron on the phone and sending him a follow-up e-mail — I will have to find a suitable equivalent. I’m not convinced the Powerworms are close enough to lure the big bass into biting, but I truly hope the fish will prove me wrong.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy fishing the Ribbontails I have left and count my blessings that a few of them still reside in my tackle box.

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Irish humor lives in the global village

July 28, 2008


by Roddy Doyle

Ireland has changed.

The Ireland that for so many years forced its native population to leave has in recent times, seen a booming economy, so people struggling in other parts of the world are flocking to this new land of opportunity, Ireland.

Thank God Roddy Doyle is alive and well and writing to capture the turn around, and doing it in the manner that causes laugh-out-loud reading.

As always with Doyle, the humor percolates from human nature. His fiction takes advantage of the typically funny way the Irish have of dealing with life. He celebrates the joys in understated ways, but more often Doyle taps the embarrassing moments, exposing those insecurities that anyone human might laugh at, getting the largest chuckles from the instances when bigotry is revealed for what it is, when his characters realize the foot they’ve put into their own mouths, when David bests Goliath because of the big oaf’s self-righteousness.

“The Deportees” is the longest of the eight short stories, and arguably the richest. Doyle revives Jimmy Rabbitte, the main character of “The Commitments,” his story about a young Irish lad who loves soul music and puts together a soul band.

Rabbitte is grown up now, but he still loves music enough to name his children — besides Jimmy Two — Mahalia and Marvin, and wants to name the one his wife is carrying Aretha if its a girl, Smokey if it’s a boy.

He gets the idea for a band composed of members from around the globe who have come to call Ireland home, and the fun gets going big time as Jimmy opens auditions.

In all the stories, “The Deportees” included, the hard edge of dealing with racial and national prejudice rides right along side the humor.

In “57% Irish,” Doyle takes on the idea of how Irish you have to be considered one, and in “Black Hoodie” he’s crafted a combination of “Black Like Me” and “Ferris Bueler’s Day Off” that points a finger at many of our biases — and you don’t have to live on the Emerald Isle to see them in our own society and in ourselves.

He also has the wonderful ability to put himself into his characters and let them speak about their situation. And, if we learn a little bit about what a refugee to Ireland sees and feels, maybe — just maybe — we’ll be a bit more sympathetic to the immigrants who’ve come to our own land and our own communities in search of work, safety and freedom.

Fair warning: Some of the human is earthy and sexual; this is a book for mature audiences. — bz

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Deja vu

July 28, 2008


After hearing about my successful bass outing on the Minneapolis City lakes last Sunday, my son, Andy, wanted to go out and experience it for himself. He likes bass fishing just like I do and was eager to get out on the water.

So, we went yesterday, hoping the big fish were still on the weedlines and willing to bite. They were. Each of us landed a 20-inch bass. Mine weighed 5 pounds, 4 ounces and his weighed 5 pounds, 2 ounces. Interestingly, his fish was about 1/4 to 1/2 inch longer than mine. Mine was exactly 20 inches and his was slightly longer.

The best part for me was being able to share the experience with him and watch him catch his biggest bass ever. He caught a 21-incher four years ago, but it was lean and weighed about 4 3/4 pounds.

His fish yesterday definitely was fatter. In fact, the fish are running heavier than I have ever seen. Usually, they are a bit lean in July. They are just coming off the spawn and are starting to fatten up. Strange thing is, the spawn happened later this year because of the unusually cold spring and early summer. Obviously, the fish are in great shape.

I’m looking forward to getting back out on the city lakes, but first, I will go to Lake of the Woods next week with the winner of this year’s youth fishing essay contest, Cody Lensing of Shoreview. He and his father will be joining me for three days at Adrian’s Resort. Hopefully, the weather will be good and the walleyes cooperative.

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July 25, 2008


I made a trip to the taxidermist earlier this week. After some deliberation, I decided to mount the 21-inch bass I caught on Sunday. It’s the biggest bass I have ever caught, weighing 5 pounds, 11 ounces on my digital scale. It also was a very nice-looking fish with no oddities or damage to its skin or fins.

I called my friend Steve and he recommended a place called Minnesota Valley Taxidermy in Burnsville. The owner, Jack Cudd, has done several mounts for Steve that he’s been very happy with. And, Steve recently caught a 30-inch walleye that he’s going to bring to Jack.

When I called Jack, I discovered that he does lots of fish mounts, including bass. In fact, he did the mount of the state record bass (8 pounds, 15 ounces) caught by Mark Raveling on Oct. 3, 2005. I saw the picture of the finished mount and that got me pumped about my fish.

Fortunately, my fish was in excellent condition and Jack said that will help ensure a colorful and lifelike mount. I tried to be conscientious about handling the fish carefully and getting it into the freezer right away when I got home. Jack said proper field care of fish is very important to the quality of the finished mount.

He said the number one thing anglers should do is try to preserve the skin color of the fish. Fish, especially walleyes and trout, can lose skin color fast, even before they die. He recommends killing a fish right after landing it, smearing borax on the skin, putting it in a plastic bag and then putting it on ice. Once you’re ashore, put it in the freezer as soon as possible.

If you’ve done all of this correctly, there’s no hurry to take the fish to a taxidermist. Jack says the fish will remain in good condition for a long time — up to two years. The important thing is to prevent the skin from fading because lost color is hard to replace, even with paint.

In my case, the skin color was nice and dark like it should be, even though I didn’t use borax. Jack said bass don’t fade as quickly as walleyes and trout, which is why I was able to get away with not using borax.

While talking to Jack, I also learned that taxidermists are very good at knowing the true length and weight of fish. He said lots of people bring in 19-inch bass thinking they weigh more than 5 pounds. But, a 19-inch bass generally weighs about 4 pounds.

That jives with what I have seen. I weighed one of the 19-inchers I caught on Sunday and the scale read exactly 4 pounds. That’s why I’m so proud of the 21-inch fish — it’s a legitimate 5-pound-plus bass. I’ve been waiting a long time for a fish this big and I look forward to getting the mount back. In the meantime, I’ll start trying for a 22-incher!

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Big bass bonanza

July 21, 2008


Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by the largemouth bass. I think I was first hooked when I watched the late Curt Gowdy’s weekly fishing program, the American Sportsman. He often would fish for bass in Florida and usually tied into some big ones.

I’ve been trying to do the same here in Minnesota. Specifically, I wanted to catch a fish over 20 inches and weighing more than 5 pounds. Within the last few years, I have reached the 20-inch mark twice, but neither fish weighed 5 pounds. One of those fish came from Lake Calhoun last summer.

Over the last few years, I have done a lot of bass fishing on the Minneapolis City lakes — Calhoun, Lake of the Isles and Cedar. I know these lakes have the size fish I am looking for and I figured it was just a matter of time before I tied into one.

That time came on Sunday. I had specifically picked this day because it came the day after a busy six-week stretch of photographing weddings every weekend. I shot one both on Friday and Saturday and decided to reward myself with fishing on Sunday.

The alarm went off at 7 a.m. and I was tired, so I fell back asleep. I woke up again about 8:15 and was leaning toward staying in bed. Then, I looked out the window and saw bright sunshine. Something inside me said I needed to get out on the water, so I did.

It was a beautiful day and the city lakes were bursting with people in kayaks, canoes and on the beaches. The fishing was slow at first and I wondered if all of the human traffic was playing a role. Then, around 11:30 or 12, I started catching fish. My first bass of the day was a plump 17-incher that inhaled my plastic worm. That was a good sign. I figured I would catch more and I was right. Within an hour, I caught an 18-incher, then a 19-incher.

At about 2 or 2:30, I moved to another area and was going to fish two spots that had produced in the past. On the first one, I popped a 21-incher that weighed 5 pounds, 11 ounces on my digital scale (in photo, on the right). Then, just a short while later, I caught my second 19-incher of the day (in photo, on the left). Even though the fish were going, I quit fishing and headed in so I could make 5 p.m. Mass at Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul. I wanted to give thanks to the Lord for the nice fish He gave me.

The good news is, there is lots of summer left. On these lakes, the fishing gets really good later in July and all through August and into September. And, I’ll be there to try and catch them. I’d be happy to land some more big fish, but I’m thankful just to have the opportunity to enjoy beautiful weather and good fishing. Thanks be to God!

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Five-star service

July 18, 2008


Good service can be hard to find in this day and age. Sometimes, it’s tough enough to speak to a live human being on the phone, let alone get the results you’re hoping for.

That’s why I’d like to pass along an outstanding example of customer service I had this week. It came at a place called the Motor Clinic in Bloomington, a factory-authorized service center for MinnKota electric trolling motors. Back in February, I bought a reconditioned MinnKota Maxxum bow-mount trolling motor for the Crestliner fishing boat I had recently purchased.

I worked with one of the shop’s technicians, a guy named Terry Nordby. He’s been at it a long time and really knows his stuff. When I described my boat and the type of fishing I do, he recommended the Maxxum with 80-pound thrust. He did the wiring of the motor for my boat and got it ready to go. There was some question about the shaft length and whether I might need a longer shaft. But, Terry said not to worry. “I’ll take care of you,” he reassured me.

Starting last week, he did. First, he helped me diagnose a problem with the battery wiring. There was a bad fuse on one of the wires and it blew while I was running the motor on Lake Calhoun. Terry said to replace all of the fuses with breakers. I did and the problem went away.

Next, I discovered that the shaft was, in fact, too short. When I put my two oldest boys in the back, the front of the boat came up and the prop of the electric motor was barely under the surface. So, I called Terry and he said to come down to the shop to exchange this motor for another one with a longer shaft.

So, I came in on Wednesday and he pulled out another Maxxum with a 62-inch shaft, the longest one available for that motor. He did the wiring, mounted the quick-release plate and even helped me slide the motor onto my bow. He got it all done in about three hours, even though he was very busy with lots of other work.

When I thanked him at the end, he merely smiled and said, “I told you I’d take care of you.”

He did, indeed, and I called one of the shop managers and told him the story, then wrote a letter to the company president, Steve Baumann. I’m sure Terry’s not looking for recognition, but I think service like this should be acknowledged. Thanks to Terry, I look forward to enjoying the rest of the fishing season.

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Good tools for passing on the faith

July 18, 2008

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“Learning Centers for Advent and Lent,”
by Doris Murphy

Doris Murphy is doing her best to make it painless for families to grow in their Catholic faith.

From her experience as Director of Faith Formation at St. Bridget Parish in River Falls, Wis., Murphy has gathered easy projects that parents can work on with their children, projects that will help these “first teachers” of their young ones develop the foundation for a life enriched by the knowledge and traditions of Catholicism.

As she has for First Reconciliation, First Eucharist and the Whole Community in earlier books put out by Twenty-Third Publications, Murphy utilizes the learning center approach to enable parents to be those first teachers of the faith that they are called to be for the seasons of Advent and Lent, too. In the learning center methodology, the parish gathers needed material and instructions, then invites parents to use age-appropriate activities that have hands-on tasks, that invite talking with their children about their faith, all the time reinforcing material the children may be learning in their faith formation textbooks and classes.

It’s handing on the faith through example, through family rituals and through conversation. As important as the projects’ purposes are, maybe even more important is the time a parent spends with a child around something of a religious nature: It enables adults — the most influential people in a child’s life — to both tell and show a child that their own faith is important to them and that it’s a faith full of meaning and history, something to be greatly valued, remembered and cherished.

For Advent and Lent, Murphy’s workbook of just over 100 pages offers fun, easy, purposeful ideas that any parish, any director of faith formation, any catechist or any parent will find helpful.

It’s a how-to book from the word go, full of practical projects and turn-key materials, and DREs might find these ideas are worth a try. If they work in River Falls, Wis., maybe they’ll work for you. — bz

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Have Yourself a Bloody Little Christmas

July 17, 2008


“The Spy Who Came for Christmas,”
by David Morrell

Think Rambo having a Christmas Eve change of heart — well, in part at least.

Think a geopolitical way to look at the biblical story of Christ’s birth.

Think terrorism on a snowy stage on the holiest night of the year.

“The Spy Who Came for Christmas” is all of the above. When a planted American spy decides he can’t go along with the latest assignment the Russian Mafia has called on him to carry out — to kidnap a baby, a baby that’s suppose to be a symbol of world peace — the action goes at a pretty crisp pace, for the most part.

There’s Arab bad guys and spousal abuse and alcoholism and Soviet Communism and religion all mixed together in a story that teeter-totters between Christian principles and graphic violence. When this is made into a film — maybe a made-for-TV one at least — there will be blood all over the screen.

The only slow part is when the good-guy spy tells a way-out version of the Journey of the Magi; they become spies for Persia intent of causing disruption of Herod’s rule. Interesting — but gosh does it take a long time to tell.

Calling “The Spy Who Came for Christmas” a page-turner would be a bit of a stretch, and it’s an admittedly okay yarn. But Morrell’s name and Christmas in the title is sure to be a winner in the marketplace. — bz

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Know D-Day like never before

July 14, 2008


by Jeff Shaara

You’ll feel like you’re in on the planning of the Normandy invasion with Ike and Monty.
You’ll ride the landing craft with the foot soldiers as they near Omaha Beach.
You’ll drop from the sky with the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne.
And you be there as so many of the men who landed in France on June 6, 1944 died in order to free the world from tyranny.

The middle novel of Jeff Shaara’s three-part World War II saga rivals the film “Saving Private Ryan” for realism. War is hell, as we’ve heard, but Shaara pounds in the point.

His reader-gripping fiction puts you right in the violence of the battles, the mental strain of those leading the attack that started the end of Hitler’s Third Reich, the political hurdles that challenged Eisenhower and his foe across the English Channel, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel.

So much has been written about D-Day, so much known through film, that Shaara’s work in a couple of instances seemed less than original. In fact, when they made those great war epics, good screen writers may have been using some of the same source material that Shaara did for “The Steel Wave.” Insight into Rommel may be the most enlightening chapters.

But where this book is at its best is jumping from the plane and walking in the boot steps of Sgt. Jesse Adams, a real-life soldier whose ordeal leading a platoon as it fights its way across the hedgerow country of France is what brings drama and punch to “The Steel Wave.” Finding out what happens to Sgt. Adams and many of the other players in the Normandy invasion is a fitting end to a very nice read. — bz

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Storm damage

July 14, 2008


When I heard that last week’s storm went through Goodhue County and included a tornado touchdown, I took notice. Our family hunts there for both deer and wild turkey, so I went on-line for more details of the storm’s path of destruction.

It turns out the tornado touchdown occurred three miles east of the small town of Vasa, which is located a few miles south and west of Red Wing. I looked on a map and discovered that two farms where we hunt were located three miles east of Vasa. I have gotten to know one of the landowners very well, so I e-mailed him to ask about damage on his farm.

Sure enough, the storm hit his farm and did some damage to both the house and barn. In addition, the crops may be a total loss, depending on what the insurance adjustor said. I felt bad for him, but he seemed to be in good spirits. He is a very devout Christian and I know he will rely on the Lord to get him through. He has a regular job that he works and rents out the land to someone who grows crops on it, so I think he will be OK financially.

I feel for those farmers who aren’t so fortunate. It’s too bad the much-needed July rain brought damaging winds with it. It’s hard to know what good can come out of something like this, but God’s word says it clearly in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans: “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his decree.”

This is a verse that should comfort anyone dealing with tragedies such as this. At the same time, the “good” that God brings often is not evident when such an event occurs. That’s where faith comes in. I must admit, I fall short in that department. And, that is exactly why I often pray a prayer that is found elsewhere in Scripture:

“I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.”

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