Never Cut Corners for Trophy
by Tom Dietz
Joe Bucher once told me "You learn the hardest lessons from the biggest muskies". That is exactly the truth! This article will help you avoid utter disappointment when a monster strikes by paying attention to detail.
It was my second season chasing muskies, and I was up near Eagle River, WI on a lake known to have nice fish present. I remember the day vividly. It was late June, and a severe cold front had blown in the night before, and it was really windy with a slight overcast. The north wind made it feel like late September instead of summer. Well, based on what I had read and heard, I figured I was in for a tough day. My partner and I headed to the west end of the lake where I knew fish were present along a deep weed edge. I tied on a custom Buchertail 700 with a 800 Series blade that was nickel with a red/white tail. I made about 10 casts when I felt a strike. It was not a jolting strike by any means, and at first I thought I hooked an undersized musky or a decent pike. I did not even call for the net as the fish was charging the boat fast.
The upper forty inch fish suddenly appeared at boatside, and it was not real pleased to be hooked. I could also see she was hooked very well in the corner of her jaw. The big girl started rolling furiously, and I hollered for the net! My partner had just grabbed the Frabill, when suddenly the line went slack, and she was gone. I was shocked, and at first I didn't realize what had happened. Upon further inspection, I noticed my 30 lb. test mono had parted. Why? Because it was only 30 pound test and worse yet, it was at least a year old. My laziness cost me a real nice musky.
I learned an important lesson on this fish, and I have never repeated that mistake to this day. I always use fresh line each year. I sometimes will change my lines during the year, especially if I am fishing areas with rocks or other abrasive cover. The other lesson was learned again from Joe Bucher. When I told him what happened, he asked me why I was using only 30 lb. test. I told him I thought that was plenty strong for muskies. He told me that in his 24 years of full time guiding, he had witnessed incidents like mine fairly often with clients using their own rods and lighter line, such as 20 to 30 pound test. I took his advice and have not had line problems since going with 50 pound test or more. Why should one take chances with a real big fish with light line? After all, with all of the hours we put in for a fish of a lifetime we should prepare ourselves properly for that moment of truth.
These lessons and a few others have made me a better musky angler over the past twelve years. I want to give you some tips to help you win your battle with a monster musky. I have discussed line above, and I use 50 pound Stren Magna-Thin or 50 or 80 pound Cortland Spectron on all of my rods. I have the utmost in confidence in these lines, and use them with either a palomar or power knot for added security. Check your line often for nicks or abrasions and retie as needed. I use this line with quality rods (St.Croix) and reels (Mitchell SCP-900's). The added investment made on good rods and reels will also usually prevent equipment failure. Joe Bucher also taught me to use heavy duty split rings instead of snaps. He lost his biggest fish ever when a snap opened up in the musky's mouth. I use a straight wire leader and run a Super Split Ring through the loop. This is another safeguard that gives you the extra edge.
It seems there are a number of anglers who believe that hooks are plenty sharp out of the package. Not true!! This is a major reason many muskies are lost each year. Purchase a quality flat sided file and learn the proper sharpening techniques. Sharpen all of your hooks and touch them up after every fish, snag, or sign of rust build-up. Figure-8's are another important piece of the puzzle. Do them after every cast, until it becomes routine. Reel your lure close to the boat, hit free spool and place your thumb on the spool for control. Then make a figure-8 shape or large oval, and if a fish strikes, hammer the hooks home and let the fish swim away from the boat, all the while keeping tension on the spool. You never know when a thirty pounder will gulp down your lure at boatside! This simple, yet effective manuever will put more fish in your boat every year.
Do your homework and find a couple of lakes known for harboring big muskies. Fish these lakes hard and develop a milk run of spots. Your dedication to continually fishing big fish water will pay off big time. There is nothing wrong with fishing "numbers" lakes occasionally. If you are in pursuit of a true trophy, I recommend that you limit your outings on these lakes and concentrate on the big fish lakes.
Be sure to hit your milk run of spots at prime times, such as a major weather change, sunset or sunrise, or moon rise or set. While never a guarantee, these lunar or weather factors will put the odds in your favor time and time again. You will especially notice this if you keep a detailed log of your fish catches. I strongly recommend keeping detailed records of your outings and catches. You will notice trends that will enable you to make quick decisions under various conditions.
Learn as much as you can from experienced anglers. Attend seminars, read magazine articles and as many musky books you can find. Watch educational videos. The quest for more knowledge never ends. Pay attention to detail and you will be rewarded. Learn from your mistakes and ask yourself why they happened. Pick several lakes and learn them inside and out. Spend time on the water whenever possible. If you start out practicing the tips mentioned above, your odds of losing that fish of a lifetime will drop dramatically!
Tom Dietz - Conover,WI.
Joe Bucher Tackle Co.
PO Box 1105
Eagle River, WI 54521