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Published on: Feb. 14, 2012

At some point in life, our strength and will is tested. We reach our limit and must rise above it—or walk away in failure. Although I often speculated about the circumstances of this moment of truth in my life, I never envisioned it would involve a white-knuckled grip on a fishing rod.

Don’t get me wrong, I had anticipated high excitement on this fishing trip. We were chasing paddlefish, which commonly grow to 60 or more pounds (the largest on record weighed in at 198). Having spent my life drowning worms for “monster” 1-pound bluegill and throwing crankbait for newsworthy 8-pound bass, I was about as prepared to tangle with a paddlefish as a miniature golf player is for the PGA tour.

To Battle

My guide handed me a rod that resembled the lower limb of a mighty oak. I am not sure what action was written on the rod, but “none” would have been the appropriate description. The large, round saltwater reel was like nothing I had ever seen and was complemented by a spool of what could only be classified as rope. At the end of this was what appeared to be a grappling hook and, dangling below that, a pound of lead.

I was beyond relieved when my guide explained that we wouldn’t need to cast—we would troll instead. He put the boat in gear and, when we reached trolling speed, I pushed the release. I engaged the reel, the line tightened, and I could feel the massive lead weight bouncing along the bottom.

There is something hypnotic about trolling across a lake at slow speeds. The constant hum of the outboard motor, the splashing of waves as the boat cuts through the water, and the shoreline scenery gliding by like a film in slow motion all lull a person into a more relaxed state. And then my treble hook lodged in a 60-pound behemoth, and I gained a new respect for the cliché “hitting a brick wall.”

It was everything I could do to keep the rod from being ripped from my hands, and then I struggled to keep myself from being pulled into the water. The only thing that saved me was the reel’s drag, and I was surprised there wasn’t smoke off the line as it flew into the water.

Just reeling in a 60-pound weight is a daunting task, but this weight had a

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