This past June, Elite Ambassador Eric Leininger and G. Loomis Brand Manager Red Kulper set out to experience some of the Midwest’s epic fisheries first-hand. To do it right, they enlisted the help of our Elite Ambassador and Pro guides native to the region.
MIDWEST PRO ERIC GRAJEWSKI - LAKE ST. CLAIR - DETROIT, MI
“It was 3:40 pm when we tossed our luggage into the rental car and hit the interstate towards Detroit. We gave Eric a call to arrange a meeting time for the following morning, but he let us know he was on the water for the evening and asked us to join. We realized very quickly about Eric the extent to which he prioritizes time on the water. If he’s not guiding, he’s likely out on the lake fishing — and, more importantly — developing new tactics and techniques to increase the odds of hooking up. We learned a ton from Eric right away: how to properly animate big flies, the right way to figure-eight, and how much work he’s put into finding areas where encountering muskie is likely. We had some follows, a few blown hooksets, a personal best smallmouth for Leininger, and a whole lot of fun.” - RK.
ELITE AMBASSADOR MIKE SCHULTZ - HURON RIVER - YPSILANTI, MI
“We had a blast with Mike the day prior. Enjoyed a consistent bass bite and capped it all off with a huge hexagenia hatch after dark that provided consistent action until midnight. Earlier that afternoon, Mike started talking about a huge storm that was likely to pound the area the following day. Sure enough, we awoke to monsoon-level precipitation the next morning. The kind of rain that quickly blows out rivers back home in the Pacific Northwest. We gave Mike a call, and to our surprise, he let us know that he had a plan. When we hopped in the boat, he said, “Hey boys...you ready to feed mulberry flies to carp?” I remember thinking, “mulberries? Like, the fruit? Carp eat fruit?” Turns out, the fish patiently wait on the bank below overhanging mulberry trees for birds, squirrels, and other critters to knock the ripe fruit into the water. Wrapped in foul weather gear, armed with a handful of dry flies, we shared a “ramp to ramp” day of double hookups. It was one of the wildest fishing scenarios I’ve ever experienced.” - EL.
MIDWEST PRO KYLE ZEMPEL - LOWER WISCONSIN - BLACK EARTH, WI
“I’ve followed Kyle on Instagram (@blackearthanglingco) for quite some time, so I thought I had a pretty good idea of what Eric and I were getting into. We quickly came to realize that those preconceived notions were just a small piece of the overall experience. The lower Wisconsin River is a mighty, braided system with abundant baitfish biomass and textbook smallmouth structure. Most surprising to discover was the opportunity to hop out of the boat and cruise the expansive sand flats barefoot, eyes peeled for bass crushing bait near the surface. We visited at the beginning of a season Kyle dubs “Crash Camp,” a timeframe when the forage is concentrated and the fish aggression is pinned at “11”. Blind casting isn’t part of the program…shots are made when the surface explodes with furious feeding behavior, inadvertently revealing the target’s location. This incredible program deserves a slot on any angler’s bucket list. Both Eric and I are seriously looking forward to coming back and do it again.” - RK.
ELITE AMBASSADOR CHRIS WILLEN - HAYWARD, WI
“Being the final stop on tour, I knew fishing with Willy was my last chance to tangle with a muskie before heading home. With high hopes, we kicked off the first day before dawn. A thick mist clung to the water’s surface, creating a simultaneously spooky and “fishy” mood. About thirty minutes after pushing off from the landing — and halfway into warming up my casting arm — the early morning light exposed a flash of green from something pushing water off the bank behind my fly. I remember thinking, “just keep stripping,” doing my best not to lose my composure. In what felt like a fraction of a second, the fly disappeared in her white mouth lined with razor-sharp teeth. The strip-set was answered with a ferocious, water-displacing thrash. A quick wrestling match, followed by an expert scoop into the bag by Willy, closed the sequence of events. Finally. What an excellent reward for all those casts. I’ll never forget the “stoke” of that moment. Mission accomplished. The forecast was calling for temps in the upper 90’s the following three days, so we adjusted our plans to fish early when the water temps were lower. This provided plenty of time in the afternoons for Willy to walk us through the tying process of a few of his signature patterns. I couldn’t imagine a better way to cap off the tour. Dreams come true in Wisconsin, that’s a fact.” - EL.