In Tribute To Frenchy LaMay

Verlin Henry LaMay, born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, on June 19, 1922, first started fishing when he was just a boy, teaming up with his cousin Warren Schreiber to go bank fishing for trout and bluegill in Half Moon Lake. After Verlin graduated from high school in 1939, he attended the UW Eau Claire for a while, but then enlisted in the United States Army-Air Force as soon as he turned 18. Becoming an instructor in the use of arms and bombsites such as the Nordan Bombsite, Verlin quickly rose to the rank of Tech sergeant, supervising all of the instructors within his division. In 1944, he received his commission as a second lieutenant at Yale. Shortly after the Japanese surrender, Verlin was sent to Japan for a few months where he witnessed first hand the aftermath of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Upon returning home in 1946, under the GI Bill, Verlin attended the UW Eau Claire, for three years. It was at college that he was given the nickname of "Frenchy." There, he met a fellow student named Bruce Tasker, and the two became good friends. It was Tasker, already a dedicated muskie fisherman, who first introduced Frenchy to muskie fishing and the Chippewa Flowage. It was 1946 when Bruce and Gordy Roholt took him on his first muskie outing to the Flowage. They trio fished all day and caught nothing, except for Frenchy accidentally hooking Bruce’s hat on a backcast. At first, Frenchy thought, "To hell with muskie fishing," but he stuck with the sport and he eventually began having action, later reflecting, "Well, when one ends up throwing a bucket of water in your face, it gets to you… it really does."

Successive weekends fishing trips up north followed with Bruce and their other college chums, John and Neil Zeug. Today known for setting the standard in lure making, Frenchy caught his first muskie (in 1946) on a homemade suick that he had carved out with a knife and wood rasp. In 1951, Frenchy had on and lost one of his biggest muskies ever, in a spot where he had seen Louie Spray fishing on Callahan Lake. By 1952, Frenchy began fishing the Flowage more, where there was the promise of even larger fish. That same year, after running into the principal of Gilman High School out on Cranberry Bar, Frenchy got his first teaching job.

In the fall of 1954, Frenchy began teaching at Oshkosh High School. After school let out the following spring, he spent the entire summer in John Kondrasuk’s cabin, tucked away in the Chippewa Flowage’s Yankee Joe Creek. Regarding this as the best summer of his life, Frenchy caught his first big muskie that year, a 26 pounder on Cranberry Bar. Frenchy would get supplies and register his muskies at Indian Trail, where the owner, Elsie Hornewer, quickly took a liking to him and allowed him to bunk in the laundry house with the choreboy during the coming seasons. With teacher’s salaries as low as they were back then, Elsie’s accommodations were much appreciated by Frenchy, who in turn helped out when he could. Frenchy also did some guiding on occasion during those early years, once guiding his friend Walt Roman to a 31 pounder in July of 1956.

In 1957, Frenchy caught the biggest muskie of his life, a 41 pound, 54 inch long beauty off of Pete’s Bar. That angling feat, along with his consistent ability to produce good-sized muskies, soon established Frenchy LaMay as a much revered muskie angling presence on the Flowage. After Herman’s Landing created a small trailer court during the late 1950’s, Frenchy put a trailer in there and made that his fishing base until moving it to Indian Trail’s new trailer court in 1968.

It was probably around 1967 when Frenchy began consistently making muskie lures for he and his muskie fishing buddies at Indian Trail. Frenchy’s lures were larger and stronger versions of the standard Globes and Toppers that were so widely popular. They produced a deeper sound and often had spreaders, for better hooking ability. As the years progressed, Frenchy’s paint jobs became more elaborate, eventually getting to the point of becoming works of art. Frenchy never sold his lures; he only made them for either his own use or for his fishing friends.

Starting in 1984, Frenchy began selling some of his lures in the Little Red Bar, in order to help put his daughter, Annie, through college. After losing the sight in one eye in 1994, Frenchy sold his trailer at Indian Trail, quit making lures, and–after nearly 50 years in the sport–pretty much quit muskie fishing. In 1995, along with several of his fishing buddies, Frenchy formed the LeLure Tackle Company, mass producing a variety of surface lures based on his time proven designs. Frenchy’s LeLures were every bit as good in quality and fish producing ability as his own lures were. The LeLure Company continued making lures for about five years, until costs pretty much shut down production.

Over the years Frenchy has boated some 300 muskies out of the Chippewa Flowage and Callahan Lake, with his two biggest being in the 40 pound class… a feat which few anglers can claim. Over the years he has introduced many to both the sport of muskie fishing and the Flowage, serving as one of the resort’s most prominent guests and being a large part of why Indian Trail Resort has become so well established as a muskie fishing camp.

Into his early eighties, Frenchy LaMay was a visible presence in the muskie world, attending lure swaps and fishing functions whenever he can, giving sagely advise to eager anglers and regaling them with his many colorful stories from his muskie fishing days. He passed away on August 14, 2005.