Last night was one of the most incredible experiences that I have ever had as a muskie guide chasing the big toothy fish. I've certainly been blessed with a lot of them over the years, but as I sit down to write this journal update, I'm still slightly speechless. I will do my best to explain what happened last night, and why it was so incredible. I hope that you can enjoy!
It all started around 5 pm. Cody Meyers of Norwood, MN and his workmate Chris met me at the boat launch. Cody has fished muskies a couple of times in his life, and wanted nothing more than to top his person best, which was a 44 incher. Chris on the other hand resides in Michigan, and although they have some famed waters up there, he has never targeted them before and only heard about the mystique. Without us knowing what was in store for the night, we set sail with high hopes and a good attitude. You see, there was a certain glowing ball that was soon to rise in the eastern sky, and this typically means that "big things" can happen.
To be honest, our evening was quite uneventful. I got them all jacked up with the presence of the rising moon, and as I watched it come over the horizon, nothing happened. Actually a few hours passed without much of anything. In shock, I just kept encouraging the eager fisherman, and they remained about as positive as anyone ever could be. I kept reminding them that just one cast will change the entire outlook of this evening, and maybe your life. The moon rose higher and higher, and the brightness of the sun finally faded to darkness. At that point we had only two miserable and lackluster attempts from the muskellunge. What was going on?
As we talked about the lack of action, we switched locations and drove to the other end of the lake. I was not about to let these enthusiastic anglers leave with nothing, and we went to some of my favorite old haunts. That apparently was a good decision, and finally we found some active fish. The only problem was that they were just following the lure in the bright moonlight, and they wouldn't eat. It was a morale booster for the three of us to see some fish, and probably a good prelude to what was about to take place. As we drove up to a small little honey hole, I joked to Cody and Chris that this is only a big fish spot. I explained that I have only caught about a 10 fish on it in the last several years, but that 7 of them were over 50 inches.
At that point, we would have taken anything, but the fish that destroyed Cody's bait out of the moonlit waters was so large that it will forever be labeled as "The Legend." A battle ensued that was out of this world. Short, but sweet, I quickly put the fish in the net, and screams could have been heard from across the entire lake. Cody had just landed the trophy of a lifetime! Not only that, but it just happened to be the largest fish I have landed in that lake. She was a giant, and came up just short of hitting that elusive 55 inch mark.
This is where the story gets even better. Not only was the fish incredibly huge and girthy, but as I held her tail for the release, I also noticed a significant mark on her fin. As it turns out, I successfully released that fish in 2004 and again in 2006. The first time she, "The Legend," was 51 inches, and the second time she was 52.5. All three times this fish was caught within inches of the same spot, and all three times she fell victim to the same lure. Talk about irony. I had no idea that this fish was still alive, but boy am I glad that she is. This fish of a lifetime now quoted as "The Legend," will forever remain as one of my greatest accomplishments for me as a muskie guide. Boy will it be exciting if she decides to show up for one more battle!
Congratulations goes out to Cody Meyers for landing the trophy of many lifetimes! Thank you for the unbelievable night on the water. Until the the next time the legend strikes, keep on livin' the dream!
Catch more at www.trophyencounters.com
Ahh yes, the fierce strike of a muskie on your topwater lure. It doesn't get any better than that. The only problem is that after the dust settles and you come to your senses, you realize that there is nothing attached to the end of your line. While your knees are likely trembling, you find that it was all for not. Just what happened during that explosion, and how can you convert that strike into success? Here's a few ideas to ponder on your next outing.
As a general rule, muskellunge always feed up. This is common sense in the muskie community, but what it comes down to is that topwater lures are a great method to score. Here's where the tricky part comes into play. When fish feed, and muskies included, they not only lunge toward their prey, but they also have a suction that occurs when they flare their gills. This helps pull their prey into their mouth. When they attempt to attack a meal above the water, they loose this suction because they aren't completely submerged. This is the first reason for a missed strike.
Reason number two. A muskie has eyes on the top of its head. When they strike, their mouth is open, and they can no longer see the food that they are pursuing. This means that they must have it completely dialed in before they try to eat it. If your lure is moving eradically, it is likely that the bait won't be in the same place the muskie last saw it, meaning that it could end up with a mouth full of air and water upon the strike. When you couple this factor with the loss of suction when they try to inhale the bait, it is a little bit easier to understand why they can miss a meager lure moving across the surface.
So what does this have to do with you and your success? If you consider these factors when choosing your lure, it may help to try something a little bit more simplistic. Walk-the-dog style lures are great for finding fish, but they tend to miss about 80% of the time. If it is windy and large waves are rolling, fast speeds might not be the ticket. As a general rule, I try to keep it slow and steady for the muskies sake. If the muskie I am after is hungry, he'll take a swipe at any of the topwater baits on the market. I just want to make sure he can grab the lure when he tries. I typically opt for a prop style bait that just crawls through his strike zone. I will throw this at sunrise, sunset, midnight, noon and everywhere in between. Topwater simply works at all times. Just as long as they can eat it.
Once the muskie decides to do his part, it is imperitive that you do yours. If it shows up behind your lure and gets ready to eat it, there is zero chance for a connection if you set the hook prematurely. Premature hooksets are the biggest reason for missed fish. Sometimes I think we would be better off fishing blind folded. Its not that you want to set the hook early, but its because somewhere deep down inside, it scares the pants off of us, and we instinctively pull away. If you stop reeling, twich, jerk, or speed up, the game can sometimes end right there. However, if you can show nerves of steel, many times that fish will continue striking until it finally gets the bait in its mouth. My rule of thumb goes like this. Watch the fish explode, keep the same exact retrieve, count to three and if I still feel the weight of the fish, then I set the hook. If there is nothing there after three seconds, I just keep on reeling and waiting for it to come back. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't. That's muskie fishin'.
And by the way, any color works, as long as it is black.
Keep on Livin' the muskie Dream!
Travis Frank - Travis@trophyencounters.com