It appears Bob Both’s recent record kokanee catch has already been shattered. On the second weekend in June an angler named Ron Campbell, of Pendleton, caught a huge 27-inch kokanee weighing 9.67-pounds at Oregon’s Wallowa Lake. If Campbell’s catch is verified it will be a new world record size for these landlocked sockeye salmon. The present record of 9-pounds, 6-ounces was set at Okanogan Lake in British Columbia in June 1988.
It wasn’t long ago when most Western kokanee anglers thought they had a whopper if they put an 18-incher in the boat. That’ still how it is on many lakes that hold these good eating landlocked sockeye salmon.
That’s for sure “not how it is” at one Oregon Lake. Wallowa Lake in the Beaver State has been kicking out one record sized kokanee after another. Three record fish have been caught there since February.
The guy who most recently fractured the previous kokanee record for the United States is Bob Both, of Lostine, Oregon. On May 8 Both caught a kokanee that weighed 8.85-pounds. His beautiful fish measured 26-inches in length and had a fat 17¼-inch girth.
Bob Both, of Lostine, Oregon, shows the whopper that broke the USA record for kokanee. The fish came out of Oregon's Wallowa Lake and weighed 8.85-pounds.
The size of Both’s fish is just one of the things that’s grabbing the attention of anglers all over the place. Both’s new record fish, like the record fish that had been caught about 30 days before, were both caught on the same type lure.
That record busting lure is one that brings together the blending of two top fish catching features of lures marketed by Mack’s Lure, a tackle company headquartered in Wenatchee, WA. One of the featured parts of this kokanee catching bait is the Mack’s Wedding Ring that’s been around for a long, long time. A second is the Mack’s Lure Smile Blade, a relatively new Mylar plastic spinner blade that continues to gain in popularity for a variety of sports fish.
Both, who retired three years ago after 32 years with the U.S. Forest Service, will tell you he’s never used anything but Mack’s Lure baits in his quest for kokanee. “I was told they work,” he says, “and I’ve never changed. Sometimes I use these lures just the way they come from the store and sometimes I mix and match the blades and beads to get different combinations.”
The specific lure Both used to put his record kokanee in the boat was a Mack’s Wedding Ring Double Whammy Kokanee Pro. This lure, and it’s identical to the one Wan Teece used to establish the record Both broke, features a silver Smile Blade with green and red stacked beads on either side of a Wedding Ring.
Few if any lures have broken the size record for a United States sports fish twice in about 30 days. The type lure pictured here has. It's a Mack's Lure Wedding Ring Double Whammy Kokanee Pro. The lure combines the brilliance and flash of the famous Wedding Ring along with the wiggle imparting action of a Smile Blade. The fish---record size fish--- obviously love it.
The folks at Mack’s Lure are pleased but not especially surprised to see one of their lures set a new size record for kokanee twice in quick succession. “Our Wedding Ring,” says Bob Schmidt, general manager of Mack’s Lure, “has been amazingly successful at catching fish for more than 40 years. A major reason for that is the brilliance and flash of the Wedding Ring’s high quality rhinestones in the middle of the lures in which it is used.
“Professional anglers had told us they thought adding our patented Smile Blades ahead of lures like our Double Whammy would work really well and they were right. Our original Wedding Ring has accounted for state size records in the past but what our Pro Series has done this year is even more impressive. Lures like our Kokanee Pro are giving anglers lures that provide a combination of wiggle and flash fish just can’t resist.”
If you think Bob Both is just a lucky guy who happened to be in the right place at the right time---guess again. He’s a skilled angler who has been fishing for a long time. He has spent his life in the Pacific Northwest and had concentrated mainly on salmon and steelhead before trying his hand at kokanee angling.
“My late father,” Both says, “taught me what I know about fishing. I grew up in Washington State and the Toutle River that has its beginning at Mount St. Helens was our favorite river for steelhead angling.”
Though neither of us knew it at the time, Bob’s trail and mine must have crossed often when it comes to Toutle River steelheading. I lived about 15 minutes away from the Toutle for 35 years prior to the eruption of Mount St. Helens. Like Bob, it was my favorite of the numerous rivers in that part of Washington State that carry these migratory battlers. I spent darn near every winter weekend on the Toutle during the time I lived nearby.
One of Both’s first experiences with kokanee came a couple of years ago at Wallowa Lake. “A friend called and asked me to accompany him,” he says. “The weather had been cold and I told him the lake was probably frozen. He said it was but that we would fish through the ice.”
Bob recalls that he caught a 16-incher through the ice that first trip. On his next try at ice fishing he caught his limit of five fish. He continued his through the ice angling and between the last week of February and the end of March when the ice melted he had caught 42 kokanee of more than 16-inches.
“I started trolling once the ice went out,” Both recalls. “From the time I started fishing in February until I quit in June I had 83 kokanee of more than 16-inches.”
Do you think Bob Both’s new kokanee record will stand longer than the two records for kokanee that have already been broken this year? Are you wondering why is Wallowa Lake producing all these whopper kokanee? I’ll share what Both has to say about that in my next column. I’ll also detail how this record setting expert uses his own Mack’s Lure baits to put fish in the boat.
Watch for it beginning July 1.
-To Be Continued-