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Jason Smith

The Finer Points of the Figure Eight
by Jason Smith

The defining moment as far as musky fishing comes is when the mighty muskie comes following your bucktail, the same bucktail you have been pitching endlessly all day. You seem to be in somewhat of a hypnotic trance, then your heart jumps out of your chest and you yell "thereís a fish" and the muskie that you have worked so hard for slowly says good bye. We as musky anglers have all been in this same situation, yet the question is do we continue to let it happen or do we work hard to prevent this hypnotic failure. Iíve put this article together to give a real insight to how the figure eight should be done correctly to increase your catch ratio better than fifty percent in your boat.

Lets start with the muskie I was talking about in the beginning. The first thing I always do to start is expect to have a follow on every cast, so if I expected this follow and was looking behind and not at my bucktail I would not be surprised to see what I expected to be there. Say this muskie was now in hot pursuit of my bucktail with his eyes focused and gills flared. Then without a sound I lower my rod and drive the bucktail deeper as the leader comes within six inches of the rod tip. I would also go into free spool with my thumb on the spool of the reel for the drag. The muskie will follow the bucktail down along the side of the boat and into the first turn. I use long 7í6" Lamiglas rods in order to get as long a sweep as I can. The length of the first sweep is more important than the depth of the rod in the water, because you want to make the muskie pick up speed. When the first sweep is nearing the end and into the first turn, you lift your rod up and into a figure eight, so you make your bucktail go from four feet down to only six inches down in the first corner. Iíll catch ninety percent of my boatside muskies on this first corner because they almost always kick in their tail and eat the bucktail that they think is getting away. But if this first corner is too sharp they will fly right past it, like a Cadillac going ninety on a fifteen mile an hour corner. So this means you have to keep it wide, five-foot is a good golden rule unless the fish is better than four foot, then youíll have to make adjusts to that rule. If the muskie makes it around the first corner then you can take him down the "straight away", the length of the slowly descending rod down to the second corner of the figure eight. When a racecar goes around the track they go fast the straight away and somewhat slower but higher in the turns. The figure eight is a lot like driving a race car you need to get everything out of your bucktail yet still keeping the muskie on the road. The straightaway is done a lot faster then the first sweep; again we are trying to make the muskie speed up thus making him more likely to eat the bait. On the second corner with the muskie going mach III the muskie opens his mouth and eats the bucktail as the bucktail is bought up high into the second corner. The number one mistake I see is to set straight up, most anglers seem to do this and I still donít know why. They work so hard to get the muskie to hit, only to drive the hooks in to the hard roof of their mouth and have the muskie spit it out. You already have the muskie going around the second corner mach III, the rod in you hand is at right angle to the muskies head. So with the muskies speed and your angle, you simply pull the rod handle back up under your armpit. It's a simple concept that causes the bucktail to be placed in the corner of the mouth. If you had placed your reel in free spool with your thumb on the line before the first turn, then you are also ready to fight the muskie you have been waiting all day for.

Some people say bucktails are easy to figure eight, but a topwater bait is another story. A figure eight with a topwater is very similar to a bucktail but with a unique twist. I never let the bait go sub surface and instead I make the bait move faster along the side of the boat. I believe muskies stay more tuned into a topwater bait if the bait makes very few turns. My Tuffy Esox Magnum has a deck all the way around the boat so I can walk the musky around the bow and down the other side of the boat. If you don't keep your boat clean and you can't continue to move your topwater bait down the side of your boat make your turn extremely wide. I have caught muskies on my third trip around my boat, you just have to keep them focused and make them chase the bait until they have to eat it.

Crankbaits again are very similar to bucktail figure eights but with a different twist. The Depth Raider on the retrieve is say ten feet down, in order to get the bait to come up and work into a figure eight without coming from under the boat you have to "stair step" your crankbait. The golden rule for this is to point your rod at the bait as you retrieve it and when the angle of the line is the same as the rod, without the stoppage of your reel, you lift your rod, causing the bait to still be retrieved by the reel but to be stair stepped up from ten feet to two feet by your rod. When this major move is then committed then and only then should your start your figure eight.

One thing I should mention more is using the free spool. Placing your thumb hard on the wet spool with the reel in free spool will give you more control on that crazy muskie after you just put a Depth Raider into the corner of its mouth, then a drag ever will. This should be something of a force of habit on every cast to put your thumb on a free spool. One more thing my clients often ask me is how much line should I have between my rod and bait. I recommend using a nine inch leader and stopping the line six inches from the leader, this will give you more control in the corners, if you don't believe me try doing a figure eight with five feet of line compared to six inches of line. Making the transition with the rod from hand to hand and putting the reel in free spool should be done without causing the bait to stop, drop or quit working all together. If you have to restart you bucktail because your blade stopped, you might have lost most of the interest that muskie was ever going to give you.

Catching muskies on the figure eight is only as hard as you make it. If you stay focused and believe that every cast is going to have a follow and when there is one not to get excited and yell "thereís a fish," wait tell after you buried the iron into the corner of that forty five incher's mouth that is now tail walking in front of your partner before you yell "THEREíS A FISH!!!". .

 


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