Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Frankies Live Bait and Marine

While watching the fishing shows on television this weekend I saw a commercial that really made me smile.  The star of the minute was Frankie Dusenka Jr from his business bearing the same name, Frankie's Live Bait and Marine of Chisago City, MN.  It gave me pause to think about one of the truly great boat dealers I have ever met, one I have been doing business with since 1989.   Thinking back Frankie has been an important part of my fishing experience for 24 out of the 30 years I have owned a boat.   About the only thing that has changed is we both have a lot less hair and it's gotten more gray!  The way I am treated as a customer has never changed.  My first experience with Frankie was in the summer of 1989, I had a 1986 Lund Nisswa Guide with the "new" Mercury Classic 50 outboard motor.  The Nisswa Guide was Lund's fiberglass boat, at 16.5 feet it was super wide and heavy.  To heavy for that motor as one afternoon on Mille Lacs the waves were 3 feet and I could not get the boat on plane.  Mark Taylor was with me and after turning down wind we finally got her going before swinging around back to the landing.  That Monday I checked out the Sunday paper and there was an ad "Non Current 1988 Suzuki 55 hp Outboard Sale, 651-257-6334".  1988 and 1989 were tough years for the marine industry and many dealers had either gone out of business or had a ton of inventory.  Frankie's had a number of these and although I wasn't excited about owning a Suzuki (Heck, I didn't even know they made outboards), the price was very attractive and they would take my outboard on trade.  It was a done deal.  Frankie assured me that I would not be disappointed and he was right, that 55 woke up the Nisswa, it was a new boat.  In January of 1990 I had the opportunity to buy a Ranger 680T without a motor.  I put that Suzy on the Ranger, sold the Nisswa and wow, did that boat move.  The 680T was a nice boat but in the big waves of Mille Lacs it was somewhat inadequate.  In the spring of 1993 I drove back to Frankie's to talk about something different.  I left ordering a new Skeeter 135T with a 75 Mariner, trading in the Ranger.  Now Frankie is an optimistic guy and I was assured that it would be delivered by Minnesota Fishing Opener.  I soon learned that it was more related to whether the factory had a full load coming north from Texas than one guys expectations.  After calling Frankie to discuss he said that if I wanted to get the boat, he could refund the transportation charges.  My brother Jon was unemployed at the time, gas was still about $1.25/gallon, I offered him the full $300 and he went and picked it up in Kilgore Texas.  With just a few days to spare, Frankie's got her rigged up in time for my annual Leech Lake Opener.  The next year I ran over a plastic bag which sealed my water intakes and my new outboard froze up while traveling full throttle 7 miles from shore.  I got her started and got back to the landing and dropped it off with him, yep the pistons were scored.  After contacting the insurance, we worked a deal where he put on a new 1994 75 hp, it had 6 cubic inches more than the 1993.  We re-propped it and I ran it till 2001, when at a walleye show Frankie grabbed me and showed me the new Ranger 620T he just got.  He was right, I needed that boat and he was willing to sell.  He quoted me a price, $26,500 with a 115 Suzuki, dual axle trailer, and could order whatever color I wanted.  Giving me almost what I paid for the Skeeter I still decided to check around.  Crystal Marine was the big Ranger dealer in town so I checked, $29,000 with a Yamaha and a single axle trailer.  After telling him he was really high priced the next comment was he wanted to beat Frankie, I'll match his price.  To late, I don't play that game. 

The Dusenka's have always treated me as their #1 customer.  I can assure you that they have customers of a much higher profile than me, as being the 1st or 2nd largest Ranger Dealer in the World doesn't come from me!  Frankie's wife Deb, runs the service department and many times I have called to inquire on parts and she will always order them for me without regard.  Frankie's brother Brad runs the bait shop and in both 2002 and 2004 he advised me on our fishing trips to Alaska offering to use his boat on the Kenai.  It was the difference between a nice trip and a great trip.  They do all of my repair work and in 2009 my '01 Ranger tilt switch stuck causing my outboard to tilt up to the point where it broke off the tiller handle.  Back to Frankie's, they fixed everything and when I picked it up we began to talk about a possible trade.  I left buying a 2008 Ranger 620T with a 115 Suzuki, exactly like my 2001 only updated with a longer shaft motor and a better trailer and one heck of a price.  In this age of come and go marine dealers it's really nice to have someone you can go to who you trust, that treats you like their best customer, sells top quality products, and is always looking out for your best interests based on a number of things....usually the way you fish.  

So I did get out this weekend, on Sunday afternoon my neighbor Tom and I drove to Pelican Lake to see what was biting.  The ice is pretty thin for this time of year guessing not more than 12 inches.  Because of this we decided to go on the north end and walk out to our spot.  There were plenty of guys including Chad Bentley, a friend I snowmobile with out west who I haven't seen in a few years.  This end of the lake is about 8 - 9 feet deep and arriving at around 3:00 we figured the crappies might be hungry.  My friend Kevin felt sorry for me from last weeks trip so he sent me a Jason Mitchell Meat Stick, an excellent panfish rod.  I mounted a smaller fly reel loaded with 2# test orange colored Suffix line and was eager to try it out.  We caught about 40 sunfish, some were almost big enough to keep but honestly, I have enough fish in the freezer for a while.  Tom did get this 2 pound largemouth that put up a nice fight but that was about it.  This weekend is the end of walleye season so I might head to Mille Lacs for one last try.  Lake of the Woods is still open until April 15th and a trip north might be in the future.  The weatherman says that Sunday could see our first significant snow of the year but I have heard that before.


Anonymous said...

Kind of scary Dave. My first boat was a Nisswa Guide and my second was Ranger 680T.

AK Keith

Dave Anderson said...

I was always following the Nisswa guides! I think the Nisswa was named after you guys. My 680T came from Vacationland Marine (reposessed). My 620T was the 2nd one rigged in Minnesota, immediately after Marv Koeps.