Travis Knight and Cory Simmons haven’t been fishing together that long, but from their first outing they knew they were a great team on the water.
They showed off their fishing skills this past weekend at the Sebago Lake Anglers Association’s annual Open Water Togue Derby.
Knight took home the coveted first-place trophy, while Simmons caught the third-place fish at the two-day event on Maine’s second-largest lake.
Knight, who is from Livermore Falls, took the top honors with a 15.67-pound togue he caught on Saturday afternoon. It was 34 1/2 inches tall and netted him $500 for first place overall and $100 for biggest fish on Saturday.
Simmons, his capable sidekick from Poland, recorded a togue weighing 11.77 pounds that earned him $300.
“It was my fishing partner and I’s first time in the derby,” said Knight, who was making his first foray of the year on Sebago.
It was also the first time they fished together on the lake which has become known for its trophy-sized lake trout.
The second-placed fish would have weighed more than 13 pounds.
Knight was quick to credit Glen Geisel — owner of Sebago Sport Fishing and Guide Service, which frequently sets his clients on big fish — for giving them help in hopes of setting them on lunkers.
“He took us under his wing and really gave us good information that we needed and pointed us in the right direction,” Knight said.
Preparations began in earnest on Friday when Simmons ventured out to Sebago to get the lay of the pitch for their derby attacking plan. He was lucky, for good and for bad.
He clung to a togue he said could have weighed up to 20 pounds, but his efforts were thwarted when he couldn’t get the beast into the net. When Simmons put the rod in the holder and retrieved the other net, the fish spat out the hook.
“He said it’s the biggest fish he’s ever seen or caught in his life,” Knight said.
The disappointment had dissipated the next morning, when Knight and Simmons got up early and launched the boat to claim their rights to prime fishing grounds.
They covered the basics by running four rods, two on winches and the other two with a lead core line. All were baited with jumbo minnows sewn from Lucky Dozen Bait in Poland as they only target large fish.
Knight took one side of the boat and Simmons claimed the other. They had no shortage of accommodations as they used Simmons’ new fishing machine, “Wicked Addiction”.
The conditions were perfect and they just put the boat on autopilot and waited for something to happen.
Simmons threw them, catching his 11.77-pound togue between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. It was after 1:30 p.m. when Knight’s lead core rod doubled up.
Knight estimates he had about 525 feet of line when the fish hit.
“It was a long reel, for sure,” he said. “When he stopped and I couldn’t move him anymore, I knew he was a good one.”
Once on deck, Simmons wasted no time in assessing the catch.
“He’s like, ‘you just won the tournament right there,'” Knight said.
The men fished hard again on Sunday, but only managed three short togues. It made for an agonizing wait to hear the final results of the derby.
It was the largest fish Knight had ever caught and exceeded his previous record by nearly 4 pounds. He thinks their good fortune has something to do with keeping their lucky charms in place.
For starters, Simmons and Knight only catch fish when they’re both in the boat. A potential third member of the fishing party, Simmons’ girlfriend, had backed out Thursday night.
And Knight doesn’t overlook the power of his slippers.
“The first time he and I fished together I wore a pair of slippers and we had an absolutely amazing day,” he said. “So he makes me bring my slippers every time, even if I don’t even wear them.”
His other lucky charm? A bag of honey mustard pretzels.
“It was a good time,” Knight said. “It was nice to show some of our skills and experience as we catch a lot of good fish.”
He also won a $100 raffle as part of the derby.
But, Simmons still has bragging rights in the grand scheme of things. He once caught a 16-pound togue at Sebago which is his biggest ever.
“We’re kind of in competition now to see who’s going to beat that mark,” Knight said.