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 Eliminate Any Weak Links In Your Tackle Arsenal To Boat More Muskies
By Tom Dietz (www.tomdietz.com)

A 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.

Tiger MuskieThis 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 my lure! 

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! 

www.tomdietz.com

 


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