It seems like football is on everyone's mind lately, but when Scott Kleinschmidt of Kenyon talks about hard hits and making a good tackle, he not in front of the TV. He is not even sitting in the bleachers.
A Friday evening or Sunday afternoon are likely to find Kleinschmidt just where he wants to be: on a boat fishing for the elusive trophy musky.
Fishing is a consuming passion that led him to start his own business, Musky Safari Tackle Co. In fact he handcrafts about 4,000 musky lures in a year, selling them at musky fishing shows and businesses around the country, continent, and even Europe.
An engineer by education, Kleinschmidt is not the sort of person who goes in for the easy fix. When he began musky fishing with a friend in Wisconsin back in the early 1990's, old-timers advised him to buy 10 of whatever lures he found to work best. The problem was that many musky lures were not built to last, and often, not constructed or engineered to perform correctly. A serious fisherman had to buy 10 lures to get a few that would work, and then not fall apart.
Out of necessity he began tweaking some of the lures, re-balancing and reconstructing them to suit his ideas. Although he has been making bait for about 18 years, Kleinschmidt officially started Musky Safari Tackle in 2000. He make and markets over 30 different musky baits, including 4 new designs this year.
The shop is an efficient use of space. Lures hang from pegboard in neat rows, organized by color, size and type. The bright colors and sparkling streamers on the lures hide large quad hooks strong enough to hold a 70 pound fish.
All the work is done by hand because that is the way Kleinschmidt wants it. To that end, most of his evenings are spent in the shop meticulously crafting his designs. Every fluffy feather or streamer on a bucktail lure is hand wrapped. Each metal spinner is perfectly stamped by hand with his own design. Each spray of sealant and brushstroke of paint is done at his touch. A lathe in the corner of the shop is used to turn special woods into the shape of various musky lures.
The eye of a fisherman will notice the unique s-curved spin attachment used to secure the metal spinners of Kleinschmidt's lures. Previously a craftsman had to stack two c-shaped ledes on the wire to attach two spinners. To avoid the inevitable unbalance and wear, he designed a special s-curve attachment that balances the spinners and keeps them perfectly spaced. It just made sense to him.
Kleinschmidt's trophy room holds a display of trophy musky, bass and salmon as well as a good number of deer head mounts.The fish mounts are not made from the actual fish, he said, as it would defeat the purpose of catch and release fishing. Instead, the mounts are fiberglass, made from moulds and painted from pictures of the fish.
A muskellunge must be at least 48 inches in length to keep in Minnesota. Kleinschmidt throws them back after snapping a picture, and he only prints an 8x10 enlargement for his wall if the fish is 48 inches or larger. He said it takes a minimum of 10 years to grow a 50 inch fish in an ideal lake.
Musky fishing is a challenging sport, the fisherman explained. As the top of the food chain, musky are the toughest and smartest fish in the lake, but also the least populous. He held his arms in a circle to represent the total population of all fish in a lake, then put hands together to form a small circle. This small circle represents the number of musky, and even fewer are the trophy sized fish.
He readily admits that the sport may not be for everyone. Some people like to catch a lot of fish in an afternoon, and get bored waiting and searching for the big musky. It might be two days out in the boat for one good bite, or the big fish might stalk the bait close to the boat and then never make a hit.
"Muskies are like ice cream," said Kleinschmidt. "They're all good."
The fish is a challenge to find, bring in and land. They get big, he said, and when people experience their power, how they hit the bait so hard, how they jump out of the water when on the line; once somebody catches their first musky they are hooked.
Framed photos on the wall show Kleinschmidt smiling, holding giant musky with two hands.
Muskellunge are typically 28–48 inches long and weigh 5–36 pounds, though some have reached up to 6 feet and almost 70 pounds. On the corner of many of the frames, he has attached the bait used to land the prize.