Travis Knight of Livermore Falls shows off the 15.67-pound, 34 1/2-inch lake trout he caught on Saturday to win the Sebago Lake Anglers' Association Open Water Togue Derby. Credit: Courtesy of Cory Simmons

Travis Knight and Cory Simmons haven’t been fishing together that long, but since their first time out they knew they made a great team on the water.

They demonstrated their fishing skills last weekend during the annual Sebago Lake Anglers’ Association Open Water Togue Derby.

Knight took home the coveted first-place trophy, while Simmons caught the third-place fish during the two-day event on Maine’s second largest lake.

Knight, who is from Livermore Falls, took top honors with a 15.67-pound togue that he caught on Saturday afternoon. It measured 34 1/2 inches and netted him $500 for first place overall and $100 for the largest fish on Saturday.

Simmons, his capable sidekick from Poland, registered a togue weighing 11.77 pounds that netted him $300.

“It was the first time my fishing partner and I have ever participated in the derby,” said Knight, who was making his first foray of the year on Sebago.

It also was their first time fishing together on the lake that has become known for trophy-size lake trout.

The second-place fish reportedly weighed more than 13 pounds.

Knight was quick to credit Glen Geisel — owner of Sebago Sport Fishing and Guide Service, who frequently puts his clients on big fish — with giving them some help in the hope of putting them on some lunkers.

“He took us under his wing and really gave us some good intel that we needed and pointed us in the right direction,” Knight said.

Preparations began in earnest on Friday when Simmons ventured out on Sebago to get the lay of the land for their derby attack plan. He had some luck, both good and bad.

He latched onto a togue that he estimated might have weighed as much as 20 pounds, but his efforts were thwarted when he couldn’t get the beast into the net. When Simmons put the rod in the holder and retrieved the other net, the fish spit out the hook.

Travis Knight of Livermore Falls (left) and Cory Simmons of Poland finished first and third, respectively, in last weekend’s Sebago Lake Anglers’ Association Open Water Togue Derby. Knight’s fish weighed 15.67 pounds and Simmons’ catch tipped the scales at 11.77 pounds. Credit: Courtesy of Cory Simmons

“He said it’s the biggest fish he’s ever seen or caught in his life,” Knight said.

The disappointment had dissipated by the next morning, when Knight and Simmons rose early and launched the boat to stake their claim to some prime fishing grounds.

They covered the bases by running four rods, two on downriggers and the other two with lead core line. All were baited with jumbo sewn-on shiners from Lucky Dozen Bait in Poland as they only target large fish.

Knight took one side of the boat and Simmons claimed the other. They weren’t lacking for accommodations as they were using Simmons’ new fishing machine, “Wicked Addiction.”

The conditions were perfect and they just put the boat on autopilot and waited to make something happen.

Simmons got them started, snaring his 11.77-pound togue sometime between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. It was after 1:30 p.m. when Knight’s lead core rod doubled over.

Knight estimates that he had some 525 feet of line out when the fish struck.

“It was a long reel-in, that’s for sure,” he said. “When he stopped and I couldn’t move him anymore, I knew it was a good one.”

Once it was on the deck, Simmons wasted no time in evaluating the catch.

“He’s like, ‘you just won the tournament right there,’” Knight said.

The men fished hard again on Sunday, but managed only three small togue. That made it an agonizing wait to hear the final derby results.

It was the largest fish ever caught by Knight and surpassed his previous best by almost 4 pounds. He figures their good fortune had something to do with keeping their lucky charms in place.

For starters, Simmons and Knight only catch fish when only the two of them are in the boat. A potential third member of the fishing party, Simmons’ girlfriend, had backed out on Thursday night.

And Knight doesn’t discount the power of his slippers.

“The first time him and I ever fished together, I was wearing a pair of slippers and we had an absolutely amazing day,” he said. “So he makes me bring my slippers every time, even if I don’t even wear them.”

His other lucky charm? A bag of honey mustard pretzels.

“It was a great time,” Knight said. “It was nice to kind of show off a little bit of our skills and experience, because we catch a lot of great fish.”

He also won a $100 raffle as part of the derby.

But, Simmons still has bragging rights in the grand scheme of things. He previously caught a 16-pound togue at Sebago that is his biggest ever.

“We’re kind of in competition now to kind of see who’s going to beat that mark,” Knight said.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...