Living Legend ‘Lunker Lou’ Lived up to his Name


“… Anne, tell Dan we have a Sea Nymph boat guide from Green Bay who we’d like you to film a show with in northern Wisconsin. …”

Lunker Lou is a top muskie man—he tells us he can produce enough fish in a day to complete an entire TV show. And when those who organize the TV episodes found out he was available, they were anxious to get to him and get it done.

“You have an open day after the Mount Vernon, Ill. crappie show before the cameramen need to be back in Chicago for their return flight to Little Rock,” urged Debbie McKinnis, to me over my cellphone.

I then informed my partner, Dan Gapen, Sr.

His retort was a bit colorful.

“Anne, does Debbie have any idea how far we’ll have to drive tonight to make it feasible to get even eight hours of fishing in?” Dan questioned. “It would be me who’d have to make the call back to our production manager of OMC’s Anglin’ USA TV show. Furthermore, it will take at least three muskies to produce a show.”

Moments later, I dialed the phone.

Debbie answered and explained she was under the gun to come up with this show. I then let Dan know.

“To make you even happier, Debbie tells me this guy is a full-time dentist!” I told him.

This really set Dan off; his reaction cracked me up. I told him we had to make the best of it.

So it was in the world of TV fishing shows—sometimes you had to come up with something under less- than-ideal conditions.

We’d just come from filming on a very rough Lake Erie where I was seasick. Even when flying in light aircraft I didn’t get motion sickness, but on bigger, choppy water I sometimes did—oh well.

To add fright to those days, our crew had dodged tornadoes while driving to a reservoir on the same day after the Lake Erie shoot and crappie shoot on Rend Lake.

… Now this!

Dan had always said we’d need five to seven days to complete each 30-minute TV episode.

Why were we in such a hurry to get all these shows done?

These were shot for the first shows for OMC’s Anglin’ USA, which were needed for over 100 Fox and ABC TV network stations.

An all-night drive was in the works; Dan would drive as I played a music band road game with the camera crew. This lasted until all my fellow players fell asleep. I would now be the next to drive.

I remember my partner mumbling loudly as he slid into the passenger seat.

“Lunker Lou and a muskie show in 8 or 10 hours—they’re nuts for scheduling it!”

Later, we arrived, and there he was. Lou was standing at the boat landing on our designated muskie lake, all patched up with one of those hero jackets and an 18-foot, brand new Sea Nymph U-Bottom complete with his name painted on the front and all the electronics necessary to ply his fishing trade.

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Dan was last to get out of the van, after more mumbling.

“You must be ‘Bobber’ Anne!” Lou exclaimed, looking in my direction.

His smile and statement released some of my partner’s negative muttering previously bestowed on me.

An hour later we were loaded, and we took off.

“Guys, there’s a couple of tiger muskies that hang out just off that reef,” Lunker Lou said. “They’re not big, but will make a good start.”

We soon slowed down and the electric motor was dropped. Five minutes later, after six casts, grumpy old Dan was into a high-flying, 36-inch tiger muskie. A lot of film was shot on that fish at my partner’s insistence.   When finished, the cameraman had an odd look on his face.

“People, I don’t want to rush you, but Debbie told me we’d need about three or four fish to make the show,” he said. “Let’s get at it.”

Lunker Lou then said we could troll the deep-water weedline, which was about 100 yards from where we were, using that same black buck tail.

“We should hit a couple of 42- to 46-inch fish along there,” he said.

A block into the troll, my rod slammed down hard. Eventually, a 43-inch muskie was netted. Glancing at Dan, I noticed an “I’ll-be-darned” look on his face. We filmed the fish quickly and released it.

Dan was next to pick up a fish.

As Lunker Lou proved why he had this nickname, Dan’s focused expression changed to a broad smile and then an announcement came that we had enough for a show. All of us breathed a deep sigh of relief.

The patches on Lunker Lou’s jacket seemed to dim. His highly electrified Sea Nymph boat had not been a hindrance, but instead had been a key, helpful factor.

We caught two more muskies that day. Dan moved further into a happy, positive mood, but our film crew was completely worn out now. Next, we headed on to Chicago where the crew would finally head home.

This wasn’t the first time the crew with us had been through a tough shoot.

Once, after a group’s first daylong trip of a two-day shoot, I nearly took out one of the crew while in a small jon boat on Indiana’s Tippecanoe River.

The same film crew was assigned later on to film one of ESPN’s aerobics shows, but they’d be minus one soundman. The first show we were filming on the water was attempted after Chicago and northern Indiana got 10 inches of rain. Of course, the river was in the “high flood stage” when we had arrived to do the smallmouth show, which was guided by one of OMC’s Johnson Evinrude boat dealers.

The show director and extra cameraman had requested that we slide in under a big willow to get an “artsy” video shot of Dan and his guide working the shoreline for fish. I had objected to running the camera boat into such a dangerous location, but the director insisted; he was boss of the boat.

The main soundman was nearly decapitated by a big branch from the willow tree. He ended up with one leg and one arm in the river during the “creative shot,” desperately attempting to get back into the boat.

Later on that night after all the excitement, the film crew begged me to pull rank. They wanted off this grueling fishing show shoot. They eventually were able to catch a red-eye, midnight special. They ended up never having to do another show for Debbie with her crazy pair of hosts, Dan Gapen, Sr. and yours truly, “Bobber” Anne.

It’s the stories like these that just prove some of your suggestions that the “Ol’ River Rat” and I are so lucky to fish all the time.