Any Weak Links In Your Tackle Arsenal To Boat More Muskies
By Tom Dietz (www.tomdietz.com)
strong southwest wind made for a good chop on the water as my friend Dan
and I fished a particular isolated weed bed one August afternoon. We were
casting lures to the fringes of these weeds with good success, as Dan had
boated two fish over forty inches already on bucktails and I had accounted
for a 46 incher on a Shallowraider. All was going well, when suddenly Dan
set the hooks deep into yet another fish. As I scrambled to retrieve the
net, Dan's line went slack, and his fish was gone. Perplexed, we both
stood in silence as he reeled in the line. Much to my surprise, his leader
had failed right where the crimp was located. In other words, the crimp
actually failed on the leader, costing him a third quality fish that day.
What if that fish had been a forty pounder? The weak link in his tackle
arsenal was exposed, and I gently recommended to him to switch to
non-crimped leaders from that day on. Big muskies always have a definite
knack of finding soft spots in your particular tackle set- up.
article is designed to discuss potential weak spots in your tackle system
and I am offering suggestions to improve your tackle to avoid any mishaps
in the future. I will cover one end of your rod and reel rig to the other,
and point out important areas that can fail in the moment of truth.
Lures -Make sure you purchase quality lures from proven
manufacturers. Look for through wire construction if possible on your
jerkbaits and other hard lures, and for solid wire construction on any
bucktails you own. Also, an often overlooked component on a given lure is
the quality of hooks present. I have seen big fish lost by hooks that both
broke during the battle or simply straightened out. I personally use and
recommend VMC 4x or 5x strong hooks for all of your lures. These hooks are
incredibly strong and sharpen very well. It is imperative that you
thoroughly sharpen every hook right out of the package, and after each
time you catch a fish. Razor sharp strong hooks will eliminate a lot of
lost fish, period! Make sure your lures have strong split rings, and if
they don't, replace them with the premium split rings on the market
manufactured by Bucher and Wolverine. Big muskies will open up a cheaper
split ring, and it is important not to overlook this seemingly small item.
Leaders - There are numerous manufacturers of musky leaders on the
market. Many produce top notch products, and yet others produce a
liability. I am a borderline fanatic on my leader selection. I never
purchase leaders with crimps on them, since crimps can and will fail. As
pointed out in the beginning of this article, a hard battle by a musky is
often all it takes to expose a poorly crimped leader. I personally buy
leaders made by Bucher Tackle, since these hand tied leaders are proven
not to fail at the moment of truth. I am somewhat biased since I worked
for that company for six and one half years. However, I can honestly say
the neither myself, or anyone else I know, has ever had one of Joe's
leaders fail them! I have seen and heard of horror stories about crimped
leaders coming apart.
Unfortunately, all of the titanium leaders I am aware of are crimped, so I
will never try them. This doesn't mean that they are all bad of course,
but one runs the risk of having one with a poor crimp on it. I know that
it would be my luck to have a defective crimp on my leader when the
biggest fish of my life strikes, so I simply avoid that possibility all
together! Another product I personally won't use is Fluorocarbon leaders.
Many of you will argue that these are the best things since sliced bread,
but I know a prominent guide friend of mine who had a huge fish inhale his
crankbait at boatside and bit through his 100 lb. test like a warm knife
through butter. They won't do that with steel. Leaders are an important
cog in your arsenal. Make a wise choice when purchasing them, and don't
skimp when it comes to quality! After all, you are investing literally
hundreds of dollars in your rod and reel and lure purchases.
Fishing Line - Much has been written over the years about what
lines are best for muskies. Well, I must say that the advent of the super
braids revolutionized muskie angling as we know it! I strongly recommend
super lines such as Cortland Spectron. This no stretch super braid
absolutely excels in it's hook setting qualities and castability. It's
overall strength and durability is amazing, and you will find you won't be
changing line nearly as often. Some other excellent super braid brands are
Power Pro and Tuff Line. I usually run the 80 lb. Cortland Spectron on
most of my reels, although occasionally I will use the 50 lb. test for
fishing plastics in the spring. I also use the green color for it's
camouflage qualities. I do still run my line counter trolling reels with
monofilament line, however. Why? Because I want to maintain some stretch
when a fish hits my lure offering. I use Stren Magna Thin in the 50 lb.
test and this line has performed really well over the years. Make sure you
rig your reels with a minimum of 50 lb. test in the super braids, and at
least 30 lb. in monofilament. I personally believe that muskies aren't
particularly line shy (with the exception of a bright white line in clear
water) and I want to have the added insurance policy when a huge fish hits
Reels - There are many quality reels on the market today. Abu
Garcia, Shimano, and Diawa all offer great products. I use Garcia reels,
and have had great luck with them regarding durability and dependability.
I think the most important factors on any given fishing reel are the
quality of the drag, and the gear ratio offered on the particular model.
Reels are another item that I strongly recommend you do not take the
cheapest road when it comes time to make a purchase. If anything, put a
few more dollars towards your reel than the rod you match it with. Down
the road, you will be glad you did, since a quality reel will give you
years of reliable service. Another important factor is reel maintenance.
Always back off your drags at the end of each season to avoid damaging
your drag washers! It is very easy to overlook this step, and if you have
ever hooked a thirty pound musky at boatside, you will be glad your drag
works properly. Make sure to lubricate your reels several times a season
for optimum performance. I also prefer line counter reels for trolling.
These great inventions allow you pinpoint accuracy to keep your lures in
the strike zone at all times. Otherwise it's usually just a guessing game.
Successful trolling tactics require precision. Line counter reels are very
precise! Lastly, if you are fishing with super lines, be sure to use a
monofilament backing to avoid slippage of the super braid on your spool.
Rods - Once again, you as the consumer are given many options when
it comes to quality musky rods. Many more rod models are offered today
than there were just ten years ago! I use rods made by St. Croix, because
of their long history of great actions and impeccable quality of the
blanks. They offer several different price points for the consumer, as do
other manufacturers such as Shimano, Falcon, All Star, and Fenwick. A
quality graphite rod will enable you to cast a lure all day with minimal
effort, and will hold up during a heated battle with a toothy behemoth.
There are many different actions and rod lengths offered, and choose your
model based upon what lures you use mostly, etc. As with any graphite rod,
do not abuse your blanks by slamming them down on the floor of the boat,
or smacking them against the side of the boat. This will increase the odds
of creating a weak spot in the blank. If this occurs, when the rod loads
up during a hook up with a musky, there is a very good chance the blank
could fail and you will be left with the short end of the stick!!! (And
it's not funny!! )
Though this is the last part of the chain of items that lie between you
and Jaws, it is just as important as the rest. Scrutinize your entire set
up during the off season and be 100% confident when it's time to set the
hooks! I hope these suggestions shed some light on the importance of
paying attention to detail. After all, we all spend countless hours in
pursuit of the muskellunge. Let's make sure we land them after they
strike! Good luck this coming season!