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Tony Grant backs his boat into the water as fog rises off Cave Run Lake.

What a catch

story by James Collier

The way Tony Grant tells it, he turned to fishing as a hobby to get away from work, almost 30 years ago. But when the Internet killed off his phone book business, he turned that hobby into a career and started a guide service.

Now managing multiple websites to promote not only his guide services, but trade shows, educational opportunities, custom lures, and the Mountain Muskie Lodge, Tony uses the Internet to help maintain his business.

Since 1992, Tony's business has catered to anglers in pursuit of muskie, short for muskellunge, and the largest member the pike family.

"I've heard it takes 14 days to catch one, but it's my job to cut that down," Tony explains. Muskie are also called “the fish of 10,000 casts.”

"The key to being a good fishing guide is having a good book of excuses," Tony says. "The key to being a really great fishing guide is knowing who you use each one on."

Tony estimates that there are around 200,000 people who fish for muskie 10 or more days each year. Of those, maybe 5 percent are female, though that may be shifting. Vickie Banks loved the area so much she retired here around 10 years ago, and now fishes 20 to 30 days each year.

"I came here to fish with a boyfriend--I liked it, but not him," Vickie says.

But it’s more than the thrill of the catch that brings Tony's regulars back.

"I'm here because of him," says Louie Friedman, of Queens, New York, who travels down twice a year to fish the lake. "He's one of the best in the world.”

Without prompt, Tony talks at length about muskie, recalling tales of past adventures, details about their habits and behavior, and highlighting the successes of his friends and clients—all while keeping quiet about his own accomplishments. He shrugs off the praise and tells Louie to get back to fishing. 

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Fishing guide and muskie expert Tony Grant enters his "man cave" to select lures for the day's outing.

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Tony Grant heads into the early morning light to prepare his boat for the day's outing and greet guests in the parking lot of Mountain Muskie Lodge.

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Louie Friedman casts toward the shoreline of Cave Run Lake as tour guide Tony Grant looks on.

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A map of Cave Run Lake, outlining fish habitats created by Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, hangs outside the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers outpost at the northern edge of the lake.

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A fishing boat operated by Tony Grant, a local guide, drifts along the shore of Cave Run Lake as Tony's clients cast toward the bank, near weed beds, in hopes of catching muskie.

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Louie Friedman shows off his catch, a 30-inch muskellunge, known locally as "muskie." Louie's guide and friend of 20 years, Tony Grant, captures a few photos before the fish is released back into the water. While anglers in Kentucky can legally keep any muskie over 30 inches, Tony's entire operation is catch-and-release. "We'd be blackballed if it got out that we let someone take a fish out of this lake," he says.

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Louie Friedman, from Queens, New York, stops in Long Bow Marina to visit with Penni Combs after a day on the water with fishing guide Tony Grant. Louie has been fishing Cave Run Lake in neighboring Menifee County with Tony for 20 years.

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Tony Grant opens mail and prepares keys for guests arriving at Mountain Muskie Lodge. Born in Ludlow, Tony has fished Cave Run Lake for the past 28 years and has run a fishing guide service since 1992. The lodge offers 18 guest rooms and a lounge lined with trophies, plaques and taxidermied replicas of fish caught on the lake.

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The entrance to Mountain Muskie Lodge, which offers 18 rooms for guests of Tony Grant's fishing guide service on Cave Run Lake.

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