After the dust finally settled and the smoke quickly cleared, Chris Willen, Mike Schultz and Blane Chocklett walked away with the Paul Puckett art telecaster trophy as Overall Grand Champions of Hardly, Strictly Musky 2016.
Presented by Towee Boats, Costa, Flood Tide and Patagonia, this year’s event drew an even 70 registered anglers from 16 states – as far West as Colorado, as far North as New York and as far South as Florida to the Collins River near McMinnville, Tennessee to chase river musky on the fly and experience a long weekend of great food, great drink and great friends. Festivities kicked off with the traditional welcome party at The Foglight Foodhouse on Thursday night where anglers were treated to a Cajun meal put out by Chef Philpot and his crew. Patagonia, Costa, Flood Tide and Flymen made sure that the angler goodie bags were chocked full of swag.
Day one saw five fish released with a quickly approaching approaching cold front. There were lots of active mid sized fish and most anglers had multiple shots throughout the day. John Mauser of Team Project Healing Waters/TFO held the lead with a 35 1/2 inch fish at the end of day one which was capped off with a Friday The 13th Party at Towee Boats and tons of door prizes including lots of Patagonia packs and boat bags.
Day Two dawned much colder with less active fish. At 11:50 am Maryland angler Katie Blizzard released a 42 3/4 inch fish which would hold as this year’s biggest. Minutes later and many miles away, Michigan angler Mike Schultz released at solid 41 1/2 inch fish just short of Blizzard’s high mark. Within the hour Schultz followed up with a 36 to pull his team ahead in overall points. Virginia’s Blane Chocklett ended the dat with a 40 inch fish that sealed the deal for them and their teammate Chris Willen of Wisconsin and Tennessee.
With the fishing over, anglers got back to the important things on Saturday night – more good food and craft beer at the newly restored Park Theater in downtown McMinnville for Costa Movie Night and the guitar trophy presentation.
We would like to thank Flymen, Hatch, Monic, Regal, TFO, Southern Culture on the Fly and Schultz Outfitters for all they did to make this event possible. A huge thanks goes to Mandy Eller and the crew at the McMinnville – Warren County Chamber of Commerce for all they do to promote our fishery and make good things happen and McMinnville Mayor Jimmy Haley for his continued support. And while we had a huge number of people who pitched in to help out, a special thanks goes to Steve Tatarchuk, Greg Morgan, Tommy Hensley, Gary Soloway and Eric Cohen for all they did to make this event come off smoothly.
Most of all we would like to thank our anglers – we just provide a place for this all to happen – it’s the anglers who always have and always will make Hardly, Strictly Musky what it is. You folks rock.
We literally started planning for next year’s event with an impromptu board meeting around the fire ring just after Midnight as the last anglers were turning in. Stay tuned for news on Hardly, Strictly Musky #6 May 11th-13th, 2017. It’ll be the biggest and baddest yet with several new twists. We look forward to seeing you all on the river.