How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Monday, December 12, 2005

So You Want To Be A Musky Hunter

By David Christian

The sport of muskie fishing is taking the world by storm. With the evolution of the Professional Musky Tournament Trail and a total of 33 states now stocking muskellunge in their waters, more and more people are becoming involved in this extreme freshwater sportfishing adventure. Catching the elusive musky is a treat in itself and capturing one of trophy proportions can be related to taking a whitetail buck or trophy gobbler.
One of the questions I am asked by my clients is, "how can I get started musky fishing?" The best way for a beginner is to hire a guide and spend the day casting your heart out. If you still feel the urge to become involved with this sport after you feel the aching back and sore muscles then it is time to get your own equipment together. Musky fishing can be a very rewarding sport but it is one that takes a lot of work and determination. Countless hours on the water throwing heavy baits with no action deter a large number of anglers from ever becoming involved, but the sight of the "freshwater

king" following 2 feet behind your lure can create urges that only a true musky nut will understand. If you are interested in getting started musky fishing then the following guidelines should help you out and give you a vantagepoint.

The Musky Rod
The musky rod can be put into two classes, the bucktail rod and the jerkbait rod. Both have their place in the industry. A bucktail rod will between 6 1/2 feet to 7 1/2 feet long with a quicker tip speed for tossing the lighter baits. A jerkbait rod will be 6 to 6 1/2 feet long and will have a much thicker tip area and will be more stout throughout the blank. These are the two basic designs of a musky rod. A good all around rod is the Fenwick HMG GTC 786 casting rod. This rod is made of IM7 criss-cross graphite and is a great rod for the beginner, it will allow you to throw both bucktails and jerkbaits There are many construction materials used for fishing rods and the technology is growing rapidly, the most common is IM7 Graphite. For the top-of-the-line in musky rods get the Lamiglass GSW7 model. This is a life-time guaranteed rod that will outperform most rods day-in and day-out. The handle of your rod needs to be made of cork. The cork handles are lighter than foam and absorb much less water. The cork also provides better feel from the rod tip, you want to be very aware when a musky strikes, sometimes it can be very subtle. A quality musky rod can cost as much as $300.00 but there are many excellent rods for under $100.00.

A Musky Reel
The reel is your workhorse, this is not an area to skimp on, your reel needs to perform flawlessly day in and day out. For the budget minded angler the Abu Garcia line of reels is perfect, preferably the UC6500C3. This reel has a bait clicker for use while trolling and will hold 200 yards of 25-pound mono line. Most of the reels that are on the market have a 5.3 to 1 gear ratio, which is fine for crankbaits, and bucktails but the higher 6.3 to 1 gear ratio is preferred for jerkbaits. The higher ratio will allow more line to be gathered during the pause of jerkbait fishing. This quality line of reels offer three disk drag system and brass gears. The musky hunter wishing to purchase a high quality reel should opt for the Shimano Calcutta CT400. This is the way to go for the smoothest reel available. There are many other reels on the market but when you are doin'-the-tango with the fish of a lifetime you don't want to take a chance.

Musky Line
There are a number of quality lines available to musky fishermen. The most popular in the industry today are the braided lines or the "superbraids". Dacron has been a favorite forever, but the new lines are taking over the industry. Berkley has introduced Whiplash, a braided line with more fibers than conventional braid and also color impregnated into the fibers so it won't fade. Whichever superbraid you purchase, you will have to remember to get a larger diameter line. The heavy lures that come with musky fishing will cause the extra-small diameter lines to dig into the spool which will cause line failure and send a lure flying. Berkley Whiplash line comes in a variety of strengths. The 100-pound test line has a bigger diameter and the strength to horse a musky from heavy cover. Also Power Pro braided line has been a proven line in the musky industry The price range of these lines will start at about $10.00 a spool for Dacron on up to $30.00 a spool for the superlines.

Some anglers use monofilament, which is perfectly fine. Berkley Big Game XT in the 30-pound class will perform well, as will all the heavy monofilaments over 25 pound test.

A leader is the protective component for the end of your line. The leader will stop a bite-off from these toothy critters. Leaders come in a wide variety but there are certain leaders for each situation. Terminator Titanium Leaders offer more flexibility and movement for crankbaits and spinnerbaits, thus, allowing for more action and vibration transmitted from your lure. These titanium leaders also do not kink or coil. Solid wire leaders are mainly used for jerkbaits. They provide more darting and side-to-side action. The average leader will be around 10 inches long and has a test strength of 100-125 pounds. You must match your leader to the lure you are tossing though, smaller lures need smaller leaders so the bait can perform properly. Leaders will range from .50 cents up to $12.00 apiece for Titanium. Keep a variety of leaders on hand so you can match your components properly.

Musky Lures
Lures will be your most expensive investment as a group. Obviously, as with any fishing technique, you will need a wide variety. So, let's say you've gotten hooked on muskies and you are ready to fill your box. First you will need a big box, Plano's 1173 hanging tackle box holds the large plugs associated with musky fishing. For the angler who

needs a little more organization get the Plano Guide Series 3341 soft sided box. This will keep all your accessories well-organized. The bodies of water you fish will be the determining factors in lure color and selection. A general selection for the basics will consist of these favorites.

Jerkbaits, Three our four will suffice from this category.
9 " Suick
8" Reef Hawg
Musky Mania Burt
Rapala Husky Jerk

Bucktails, I'd say ten would be plenty, in a variety of light and dark colors.
Grim Reaper Mag model 1100
Joe Bucher's Magombo Combo
Ghost Tail from Hirch,s
Mepps Giant Musky Killer
Super Slayer Slippery Sam

Spinnerbaits, a variety of colors and weights are all you will need.
Grim Reaper Lure Co. offers 18 different models, from 1/2 ounce up to 3 ounces, prices start at $6.00. Most one-ounce spinners will capture the king of freshwater but remember to add a trailer hook.

Crankbaits, five will get you started, but you will add more!!
Musky Manias 'Lil Ernie and Big Ernie
Musky Innovations "Invader".
Rapala Shad Rap and Super Shad

Twitchbaits, these are needed for the shallow, finesse situations.
Musky Mania's Jake Bait
Castaic Gizzard Shad

This selection of lures will get you started banging the water and are some of the hottest lures available across musky country. Remember to check with your local musky hunters for more "lake specific" items and colors.

Big Musky Net
The only net to own is a Frabill Power Catch with a rubber coated bag. This net offers protection to the fish and the rubber coating keeps the hooks from becoming entangled in the mesh. It has a 48-inch bag, obviously large enough for any fish. This net will cost you about $125.00

Misc. Equipment
1. One of the first things you will need is a quality pair of bolt cutters. has a pair of midget bolt cutters that will cut through any hook. This is a must have item if you are going to be a musky hunter or concerned with a fish's unharmed release.

2. A pair of long-nose pliers and a set of jaw spreaders, both of these items need to be the "oversized" versions for your own safety. South Bend makes a great pair. Add some gloves to this combination for extra protection of your hands.

3. A ruler at least 48 inches long will be needed for good, honest measurements of those big fish.

4. A hook file, I prefer The Checkpoint CP212 Big Game Sharpener because you can get all sides of the hooks much easier and you can get them very sharp.

5. A high quality pair of polarized sunglasses so you can see a following musky. Maui Jim's are the best for blocking glare and they offer prescription lenses, there are many quality glasses in all price ranges.

6. You must take care of all this equipment, especially the reel. This is the heart of arsenal, to keep it running smooth it must be cleaned regularly. Reel Saver offer cleaner, grease and oil in one convenient package to keep your reel clean and operating smoothly.

7. And finally, keep extra split rings, VMC 9649 Round bend hooks and leaders in a small tackle box for easy access.

This total of miscellaneous items will add up to approximately $75.00 or $100.00.

There it is, loaded up and ready to go, all $750.00 worth of it. You are now on the road to becoming one of the most feared anglers on the water. But before we go to the water lets go over a "how-to" run down of where you're going to start after spending this $750.00. Magazines will provide information, two of the industry leaders are Musky Hunter and Esox Angler. For more musky related tackle there is Rollie and Helens "the worlds largest musky mail order catalog". Then, decide on which lake to target. Buy a map and make the baitshop run, asking questions from the "locals", most folks are more than happy to help. Remember all that information your guide taught you? Now is the time to use it! Always focus and continue to beat the water with a vengeance! Your extreme nature has brought you to this point and there is no turning back. "The King of Freshwater" better watch out, a new musky hunter is on the prowl, adding to the growing popularity of this demanding and sometimes unforgiving sport.

Good Fishin'
David Christian/Team Bigfish


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