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Musicians/anglers take advantage of weather to nab 30-inch northern pike

Ryan Whitacre holds 30-inch northern pike he caught released under Lake Shore Drive bridges Wednesday. | For Sun-Times Media

Ryan Whitacre holds the 30-inch northern pike he caught and released under the Lake Shore Drive bridges Wednesday. | For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 5, 2013 6:35AM

Ryan Whitacre and Dan Lastick were so caught up in bass fishing Wednesday on the Chicago River and the Ogden Slip downtown that the storm almost caught them.

‘‘I thought, ‘I should check radar on my phone,’ ’’ Whitacre said. ‘‘Good thing we did.’’

They saw what was bearing down, then sought cover under the Lake Shore Drive bridges about 9 p.m.

What followed isn’t an urban legend but another piece of the Chicago River revival: a 30-inch northern pike caught and released.

Let’s sing the song of the Chicago River.

Start back with an evening of fishing for largemouth bass so good that they decided to put five in the live well to see how much they would weigh and to take some photos before release.

Whitacre hoped the bass might be higher with the incoming weather, maybe even high enough for the rare chance for a topwater bite on the Chicago River. That didn’t happen, but they caught bass at every corner and outflow from Wolf Point to Ogden Slip on drop-shot rigs and tube jigs. Every place there should have been bass, there was.

It was one of those nights.

Whitacre and Lastick are in The Saps, a Chicago band that has been described as alt-county or country punk. Lastick does vocals and guitar. Whitacre, 29, took over as drummer when his brother Brett went to the Nashville, Tenn.-based Shack Shakers, best described as hillbilly punks.

This is urban fishing.

Whitacre, who runs a food-delivery service in Wicker Park, asked if I had heard of Cast Crew.


‘‘You will,’’ he said.

Something new this way comes.

‘‘It’s a movement,’’ as Arlo Guthrie put it for my generation in ‘‘Alice’s Restaurant Massacre.’’

This is not bass fishing to country pop. It’s urban music, lifestyle and clothing tied into both urban and traditional fisheries for something completely different. I recognize a few of the guys in Cast Crew.

The lead paragraph to their mission statement on puts it this way:

We are everyday people. Our mission is to show the world an elevated perspective of our addiction to fishing through our music, creativity, fashion and lifestyle. An epic movement of supreme angling that is on the verge of a takeover . . .

So the storm came — wickedly.

‘‘The run-off from rainwater started blowing out of a hole in the bridge and created current,’’ Whitacre said. ‘‘The light bulb went on.’’

On the second cast, it was on. He was fishing a drop-shot rig with a Dragin Bait drop-shot worm on 4-pound line, a very light line.

‘‘When I set the hook, I was thinking good bass,’’ Whitacre said. ‘‘There is a really bright light in the middle under the bridge. It is brighter than daylight. It came up right in the light and went broadside, and I said, ‘I think it is a pike.’ [Lastick] said, ‘Are you sure?’ I said, ‘Yeah, get the net.’ ’’

Pike aren’t fabled fighters, but they have teeth. In that regard, Whitacre was lucky. He had the pike hooked perfectly in the snout and a net in the boat from the last tournament he fished.

‘‘Finally, he gave up and came into the net pretty easy and didn’t thrash around too much,’’ Whitacre said.

It was a thrash of a different sort.

An audience doing an evening stroll on the shoreline cheered.

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