By Kerry Drager
Dairyland Peach Contributor
The joy of fishing often begins in a child and is carried into adulthood as a lifelong pleasure. Chris Blank of Sauk Centre has been an active fisherman for 30 years. Like many Minnesota youth, he started fishing when he was only 6 years old when his father took him out onto Long Lake and caught his first 6 pound bass.
“My best friend, Jeremy Schrantz and I have been fishing competitively in both the amateur and the professional leagues for 20 years,” said Blank.
The cost of the leagues can run up to $400 with professional circuits costing more than the amateur leagues. Entry fees have never deterred those who enjoy the sport, but the rising cost of living expenses and gasoline has put a damper on leagues across the country. For Blank and Schrantz, this means that they are no longer able to afford as many leagues as they would have enjoyed going to in the past.
“A lot of circuits are starting to shut down due to lack of interest, which is caused by the cost of things, gas prices being the biggest. We backed off the last two years but we fish a league on Tuesday nights and do about five competitions a year,” said Blank. “We’re thinking about fishing the Minnesota Pro Team Bass Tour, but we haven’t put in our entry fee yet. The championship is on Sauk Lake this year, and we know that lake and have been fishing it for 30 years.”
Despite the rising cost of the sport, Blank will always make time for fishing. It has provided comfort and peace to him after his father died when Blank was only 18 years old.
“My mom let me keep his boat. That boat kept me going. Fishing is my number one therapy. It was then and still is.”
Some may believe that bass fishing is easy and anyone could become successful at hooking one, but Blank disagrees. To truly win a bass fishing competition, you have to know the lake, the habits of the fish and always be experimenting with different techniques and lures.
“Everybody thinks anyone can catch a bass, but you are always moving. You are casting under a tree or over a lily pad. Always casting and reeling. Opposed to walleye fishing where you’re trolling over the side of a boat, with bass fishing you’re always flipping and reeling, trying to get under docks,” said Blank.
To help reel in league winners, Blank tweaks many of his lures. His favorite reels are Abu Garcia brand due to the smoothness of their action and the reasonable price. He enjoys using Duckett for his fishing rods, many of which he received while under sponsorship with the company. The majority of his fishing gear comes from the Tackle Warehouse, an online store.
To get through the weeds, Blank likes to use a lot of weights. He will try anything he can put onto his heavy, braided fishing line and use with his 8 foot rod.
“A lot of people are scared to fish that way, but I think that’s what separates us from the other fisherman.”
These best friends have been successful throughout their years in the tournament circuits. They are known as the “Sauk Lake Guys” and have been given a hard time for being shallow water anglers, but Blank and Schrantz showed the Alexandria area fishermen that they could handle the deeper water and pull out prize winners.
“A few years back we had a magical day. No one was within two pounds of us. We turned some heads that day. We beat those Alex guys on their home turf. It wasn’t the ‘swamp’ like they try to make Sauk Lake out to be, and we still beat em’,” said Blank.
Fishing is a hobby that will last a lifetime. It can cost a bit these days but it will forever be worth the price of reeling in a mountable or a tournament winning fish. Even if you’re not there to win any trophies, it is still a source of endless hours enjoying the outdoors.
Blank firmly believes that fishing is an important part of childhood and every youth should get an opportunity to reel in their first fish.
“We didn’t have computers when we were young. This generation of kids is not picking up a fishing rod like we used to. I’d like to see kids give fishing a try. There are a lot of programs out there to get kids fishing. Have a kid learn how to fish and watch them get that funny feeling in their stomach when they get a fish for the first time. Most of those kids will be hooked for life.”