How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Strung Out Muskies

A good article by Tom Dietz about musky fishing line.

Strung Out Muskies -
Choosing the best available fishing line for your musky fishing applications.

By Tom Dietz

My friend Tom Hammerbeck and I were fishing together in the 1998 Eagle River National Championship Musky Open. I had pre-fished the particular lake we were fishing earlier in the week, and I found several shallow weed beds adjacent to the main lake basin that had a number of active muskies present. We decided to give this spot a try first thing on Friday morning, day one of the annual weekend event. I killed the engine and eased my trolling motor down quietly, as we were in very shallow water. After several initial casts, I wound up and launched a long cast only a couple of feet from shore.

My Topraider popped about four times before the flat clam water literally exploded into one of the more spectacular strikes I have ever seen! I leaned hard into the fish on the hook set and the eighty pound Cortland Spectron I had spooled up with did its job. Tom yelled “Holy Cow!” as he scrambled for the net. The fish started charging the boat, violently head shaking all the way. My heart was firmly planted in my throat as I knew this was a good fish for a tournament. She sounded close to the boat and stayed deep until she tired, at which point Tom was able to slide the fat 46 inch musky safely into my Frabill net. The super braid line did it’s job, and was a big part of my placing third place overall out of 1,000 plus anglers that year. The no stretch qualities of the spectra fibers enabled me to get a solid hook set at the end of a long cast, and get the fish successfully into the boat. This article will cover both the newer super braid lines on the market and monofilament fishing lines and I will discuss advantages and disadvantages of both. Your choice of choosing a quality, dependable line is as important as any other component in your angling set-up for muskies.

Today’s musky angler has numerous high quality fishing lines available to them at their local fishing tackle retailer. There are probably twice as many musky fishing line options offered today than there was only ten short years ago. It is up to you to choose which one of these lines best suits your needs, and the style of fishing you use. Let’s take a look at the two most popular lines styles available today, super braided lines and monofilament. new category of ultra low stretch, thin for their strength lines. So what exactly is a super braid lone? This would include any lines made from Aramid – Kevlar/Technora, and the UHMWPE (Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) fibers like Dyneema and Spectra.

Super lines are available in both the braided and fused varieties. The most popular brands include Cortland Spectron, Power Pro, Spider Wire Stealth, Tuffline, and Fireline. Most of the popular super braid lines are manufactured out of either spectra or dyneema fibers , which give these lines both incredible strength and sensitivity and most importantly, no stretch at all. Braided lines (such as lines made of spectra fibers) tend to have better abrasion resistance sine the fibers are held in place through the braiding process, making the product very strong. This increased strength adds up to a greater dollar value for the angler because it lasts so much longer than monofilament lines.

Many of the companies mentioned above offer lines ranging in sizes of thirty-five pound test up to one hundred pound test strength. I personally use Spectron in eighty pound test on all of my casting set-ups. Why such a heavy weight? Well, I like the added insurance of the additional strength and abrasion resistance, plus keep in mind that eighty pound test super braids have the same diameter of twenty-five pound test mono. I also like the fact that I can control the running depth on many of my lures better, particularly crankbaits. Lighter weight super braids tend to make my lures run too deep when I am casting to a weed edge because of their ultra thin diameter. This might be used to one’s advantage, however, if an angler is casting crankbaits to suspended muskies and needs extra depth to reach the baitfish zone. For the majority of my fishing applications, eighty pound is the way to go for me.

The truly incredible asset to superlines is their sensitivity! For example, I can immediately tell when I have a strand of coontail trailing from the rear hook of my crankbait while night fishing. These high tech fibers are infinitely better at transmitting movement and vibration of your lure at all times, and when you feel the strike of a musky you will instantly react a little quicker when setting the hooks. Another important benefit of these lines comes to overall hook setting power. The no stretch qualities translate into excellent penetration of your hooks and mean more muskies in your boat. Super braid lines allow anglers to cast lures farther since the thinner diameter lines offer less resistance on the guides of the rods. Longer casts often mean the lure is in the water more, increasing the odds of a strike. These new braids are offered in a number of colors, however I prefer to use the camo green color offered by Cortland for minimal visibility under water.

Do all these benefits mean that monofilament is obsolete?

It is important to note that using super braid lines require anglers to take a few important steps in reel preparation and they also require the use of special knots to avoid any potential problems. Regarding your reels, make sure that you use a monofilament backing on your spools to avoid line slippage and poor drag performance on the water. I use a heavy weight mono line for backing, and put just enough on the reel to cover up the spool from view. I then connect the two lines with back to back improved clinch knots for a trouble free strong connection. When you put monofilament line onto your spool, it stretches significantly even with a very small amount of tension. This stretch makes the line squeeze the barrel of the spool, gripping it tight. The ‘Super lines’ don’t stretch at all, so you don’t get this gripping action on the barrel of the spool, therefore causing potential problems down the road. Another critical step for successful use of super braid lines is using the right knots for optimum performance. Super braids require the use of no-slip knots since the spectra type fibers are quite slippery. A standard fishing knot will not cut it, as it would be prone to slipping free from your leader, etc.

I use and recommend a Palomar Knot (see Diagram 1), an easy to tie knot that simply will not slip. Another excellent choice is Joe Bucher’s well known “Power Knot” (see Diagram 2), which is the strongest “no-slip” knot that I know of. It is imperative you learn to use either of these knots with your super lines to avoid any mishaps on the water.

Do all of the above mentioned benefits of the super braid lines mean that monofilament is obsolete? Absolutely not! Let’s take a look at several applications where monofilament lines offer an angler a better choice for certain fishing situations.

Monofilament lines come in a wide variety of sizes and name brands. Some of the most popular lines used by today’s musky anglers include Cortland’s Musky Mono, Stren’s High Impact and Magna-Thin lines, and Berkley’s Trilene XL. All of these lines come in heavy weight line tests, and are relatively low stretch (fo mono) and fairly abrasion resistant. I again am a strong advocate of heavy weights here, especially fifty pound test strength. Once again, the reasons are simple. Big fish insurance, and lure depth control. I learned a valuable lesson a number of years back on a thirty-pound class fish that I lost due to running a relatively light weight of monofilament line. I remember that particular day vividly. It was late June, and a severe cold front had blown in the night before. It was really windy with a slight overcast.

The north wind made it feel like late September instead of summer. I figured I was in for a tough day of fishing due to the conditions. My partner and I headed to the west end of the lake where I knew fish were working a deep weed edge. I tied on a bucktail with a silver blade and a red and white hair and made about ten 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 my net, 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 line had parted.

Why? Because it was only thirty-pound test and worse yet, it was at least a year old. My laziness and failure to pay attention to detail cost me a real nice musky. I learned an important lesson on this fish, and I have never repeated that mistake using monofilament line to this day. Now I always use fresh line, changing my spools several times a year on any rigs I have spooled up in mono. I also make sure that I never use a line no lighter than forty pound test strength.

Monofilament lines are ideal for both trolling applications and for late fall fishing in bitter cold weather. In regards to trolling, mono lines give the musky angler the added edge of more stretch in the line at the time of the strike. While this might seem to contradict what was discussed earlier, it is important to note that when a boat is under power the shock of a musky hitting a lure makes no stretch lines a poor choice. It is better, in my opinion, to have a little give in this situation for better hook ups under power. I feel that hooks can tear free easier with super lines, even with softer action trolling rods.

Another disadvantage of super braids for motor trolling is that they tend to slip more when using in-line planer boards. The board releases tend to grip the thicker gage mono and I tend to have a lot less problems with my planer boards using monofilament lines. During late fall in the northwoods of Wisconsin, it is not uncommon to have temperatures dip down into the twenties. Mono lines excel for casting and trolling under these conditions because they do not hold water like the braided lines do. This advantage allows the angler to fish more effectively in very cold weather. If you are using super braids in late fall, it is very important to take your rods and reels indoors each night to keep them warm and dry the line out. If you leave a wet super braided line in the boat overnight when it is below freezing, you will have big problems come the next morning when all of your reels are froze up solid!

I also like larger gage monofilament lines for crankbait fishing shallower weed edges. The thicker line diameter restricts the lure’s diving depth and allows me to fish much more efficiently in and around the cover. I learned this effective cranking technique from Joe Bucher, who is a big advocate of using quality heavy-duty mono lines for muskies. The larger diameter line works great for pitching cranks into weed pockets and shallow edges, yet provides the extra strength needed for trophy muskies. Mono is also a great choice for casting crankbaits to weed edges after dark, because it minimizes fouled lures and wasted casts for the night time angler. While I use monofilament lines in several different applications, I am not a proponent of the new Flourocarbon or heavy weight mono leaders.

A good friend of mine lost a thirty pound upper forty inch musky at boat side oner night when she hit him on a figure-8 maneuver and literally swallowed his straight model Depthraider. After a brief tussle, she was gone, lure and all. She easily bit through his mono leader costing him his trophy. I like the added insurance of wire leaders for handling big fish, and I always purchase wire leaders without crimps, as these are also prone to occasional fialure if they were not crimped properly during the manufacturing process. I typically run my leaders anywhere from fifty to 90 pound test on the seven strand, and one hundred and sixty-five pound test on my straight wire leaders.

Today’s Musky anglers have a lot of choices and options when it comes to choosing a quality fishing line. I recommend analyzing your fishing style and picking the right line to do the job. I hope that the insights I provided here will assist you in this decision. Using a high quality fishing line is just as important for musky fishing success as are quality rods and reels, sharp hooks, and lures. In today’s market, we as musky tackle consumers have a lot more quality lines to choose from and assist in our angling success. Take advantage of today’s technology to help you boat more muskies each year.

Tom Dietz is the Marketing Manager for both Guide’s Choice Pro Shop and Guide’s Choice Fishing Schools in Eagle River, WI. Tom also is an Advertising Account Executive for Musky Hunter Magazine. He can be reached at or at


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