By PATRICK SLACK
Cullin Carter and Mac Gruber didn’t catch any muskies.
They didn’t need to.
In blustery weather conditions, the Pierz duo used a 33-inch Northern to catch a share of the state title at the Minnesota State High School muskie fishing tournament at Lake Alexander near Randall, June 28.
Ten teams were present at the state tournament, with Pierz and St. Cloud Apollo tying for the top spot with matching Northerns.
The tournament got started at 5:30 a.m., with Carter and Gruber heading for deep water.
“It was pretty windy, off and on rain,” Carter said. “It was cloudy. Conditions weren’t very good. The wind made it difficult to fish. It was warmer out during the week, so we decided to fish in a little deeper water.”
“It turned into a better day, but it was super windy,” Gruber said. “We couldn’t go to certain spots we wanted to do because it was blowing so hard.”
The competition continued throughout the rest of the morning, coming to a close at 1 p.m.
The pair didn’t see much during the day, but managed to catch its prize Northern with about two hours left on the clock.
“During the day, we weren’t seeing very much and didn’t see a whole lot of muskies,” Carter said. “We saw two big muskies that wouldn’t bite, but you know, that’s how it goes. We ended up catching a Northern and just kept that all day until time was up.”
“We figured the tournament would’ve been won with a muskie, since it was a muskie tournament,” he said. “Obviously, no muskies were caught. We caught that Northern and it was a pretty decent-sized Northern, so we were like, ‘Well, we better register it since we haven’t really caught a lot of fish today.’”
Calmer weather likely would have changed the landscape of the competition, with muskies preferring clearer, cooler conditions.
“A calm day when you can see everything (is ideal),” Gruber said. “Then when you see them, you try to catch them.”
“Probably a little colder weather before a storm front comes in and later in the year, fall, they tend to bite better than they do right now when it’s hot,” Carter said.
Carter and Gruber are both experienced fishermen, yet in the end, good fortune often wins the day, Gruber said.
“It’s kind of a luck thing,” he said. “You pull 1,000 casts and hopefully you get lucky.”
The duo qualified for state by placing second in their region tournament. It was the fourth annual state event put on by the Minnesota State High School League.
Not knowing where they stood throughout the competition took away some of the drama of winning, but not from the feeling after.
“The guys that measured the fish wouldn’t tell you how big the fish was, they’d just say ‘Oh, you’re pretty close. Keep on going,’” Gruber said.
“Not as exciting as I thought it was going to be,” he said. “It wasn’t as tense as football or baseball, but it was cool.”