How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Go with the Glow for Muskies

I'm a big fan of Mepps and have had some good luck with them. I'm definetly going to give this a try.

by Steve Heiting

If there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s being outfished. My ego isn’t big enough that I have to outfish others, but it dictates that my effort must at least be respectable. And the results from my boat were anything but that.

Halfway into the second day of a 3-day trip to Lake of the Woods late last June, I had yet to put a musky in my boat. While that isn’t necessarily unusual, I was comparing my results with those of LOTW guide Bill Sandy, at whose Blackhawk Island Resort we were staying. And the comparison wasn’t pretty.

With me on the trip were Todd Plath, national sales manager for Mepps fishing lures, Mepps sales representative Chuck Nelson, and Reed’s Sporting Goods owner Jeff Arnold. Chuck and Jeff had fished with Bill Sandy on the first day and boated seven muskies, while Todd and I had managed a couple of short strikes but put none in the boat. Chuck and I fished together on day two, while Todd and Jeff fished with Bill.

And the skunk was still in my boat despite prime conditions. My on-board barometer was hopping, thunderstorms were forecast for later in the day, and Chuck was looking at me with that “I swear they were here yesterday” look. I searched for a rabbit to pull out of my cap, and found one.

Considering the bright sun and dark water, I recalled a pattern that my regular fishing partner Kevin Schmidt had discovered while on the tannic-stained waters near his home in northwestern Wisconsin. “Chuck, do you have any glow-in-the-dark blades with you?” I asked.

“No. But I do have some glow Mr. Twister tails,” Chuck answered.
“Gimme one.”

I threaded the tail on the back of the Mepps Musky Killer I was casting, fired one cast toward the weedbed, cranked two or three times and boom! Instant musky.

The fish, a solid 25-pounder, powered past the boat and stayed deep during the entire fight. Just when I thought the fish was whipped and I figured it was only a matter of time until I netted it, the musky jumped a short distance from the boat, dove, and the bucktail popped out.

I was crushed. Not only was this a good fish and what would have been my first on this trip, but it was one of the hardest-fighting muskies I’ve ever encountered. More than two minutes of video footage was shot while I fought the fish, and yet I didn’t get it.

But I’ve lost fish before and I’ll lose fish in the future. So, after muttering a few choice words, we were off to our next spot. There, my third cast was greeted by a 42 1/2-inch musky whose fight was captured for my new video, “Muskies On The Move.” Sensing a pattern, I advised Chuck to add a Mr. Twister tail to his bucktail, and soon we both enjoyed fast action everywhere we fished, with a number of big muskies spotted. I topped the evening with a 40-incher.
Back at Sandy’s resort, we learned that Bill, Todd and Jeff had boated just one small musky that day. They too had been fishing with Mepps products, but had not enjoyed anywhere near the action Chuck and I experienced. And no, they hadn’t considered adding a glow teaser on the back of their lures.

The third and final day was the clincher. Todd was in my boat again, and he and I enjoyed a tremendous day with six muskies in the boat. Meanwhile, Bill, Jeff and Chuck were blanked. Both boats had fished a number of the same locations. When we compared notes that evening, the only difference in approaches between the two boats was that Todd and I had used the glow tails on the back of our bucktails while the others did not.

It’s hard to ignore comparisons like that, especially since Bill is one of the top musky producers anywhere. So, with Musky Hunter’s University of Esox Canada Musky School at Monument Bay Lodge at Lake of the Woods fast approaching, I loaded up on glow Mr. Twister tails in order to have enough for myself as well as any of the students in the school who wanted to give them a try.

The school’s results solidly confirmed the pattern. The first day I struck gold with a 49-incher off an island point on a silver/black Mepps Tandem Musky Killer with a glow Mr. Twister tail. As the week progressed I ended up handing out about 150 glow tails to the students. I guess you could say they had success with them, too. All told, 60 of the 91 muskies caught in the school were taken on bucktails, and many of those bucktails had glow tails.

So many muskies were caught on bucktails sporting glow tails that a pattern actually emerged as to the size of the grub. While a 4-inch tail seemed to be perfect, a 5-incher with an inch cut off the grub end produced better action. I can only surmise that the larger tail section produced more vibration and flash.

When fishing stained water after returning to my home in northern Wisconsin after the school, I continued to affix glow tails to my bucktails because of the earlier success. And I continued to catch fish.

THE GLOW ADVANTAGE

While attaching grub tails to the back of bucktails and other musky lures is nothing new, the key here, I believe, was the luminescence of the glow tail. And the founder of the pattern, Kevin Schmidt, concurs.

“They probably can’t see very well in dark water and have to rely on their lateral line to find most of what they eat. During the day, glow probably is just another shade of white to them, but one that they can see better,” Schmidt said.

Conventional thinking calls for luminescent baits to be used after dark to not only help muskies see a bait, but to help the angler see the lure as it nears the boat. Whether muskies will more readily strike a glowing bait after dark is debatable — some night fishermen swear by glowing baits, others don’t like them. But most savvy night fishermen affix a piece of glow tape to the back of their crankbaits or to the blades of their bucktails in order to see them better as they near the boat.

While hardly scientific, a quick glance at the most recent Rollie & Helen’s Musky Shop catalog reveals that only about a fourth of the companies making musky bucktails and spinnerbaits offer color patterns featuring glow. And glow becomes even more rare when you start looking at the color charts of crankbaits and jerkbaits. Thus, glow is doubly effective — not only is it a color that’s easier for a musky to see, but it’s one the muskies don’t see very often and may not have become conditioned to.

Luminescence may provide a greater profile for a lure in the water, too. Look at a glow lure in bright sunlight and it appears to radiate into the water around it. This is similar to the way a chartreuse lure seems to “grow” in the water on sunny days, or how a prism-sided bait gives off a flash larger than itself. A musky looking for a big meal may be fooled by a lure that appears larger than it really is.

LOOKING AT THE RECORDS

Pressed for more data, Schmidt checked his own fishing records for instances when glow paid off. Wind helps the situation in dark water, he said, but glow really stood out as a producer on bluebird days after a cold front.

“I have many instances in my records when we were fishing clear-out days and the glow bucktails only moved one musky, but the fish was caught. I think it really made a difference because it turned an otherwise fishless day into a successful one,” he said.

In clear water, Schmidt feels that glow can be used as a “shocker” bait, one that gets a musky to reveal itself so that it might be caught later under more favorable conditions.

That observation concurs with my own fishing records. I’m a big fan of the Bull Dawg plastic bait, and if I’m throwing multi-colored Dawgs my two most productive colors are black with an orange tail followed by black with a glow tail. And the glow-tailed Dawg seems to get them to move when everything else fails.

Musky Innovations, the manufacturer of the Bull Dawg, also offers an all-glow Dawg. While bright almost to the point of being obnoxious, it was an all-glow Dawg that produced a 51-incher for Schmidt while we fished together in Minnesota during October of 2000. That fish was caught from a dark water lake just after sunset. Again, it was a bait that probably was just a little easier for the big musky to see. Or, maybe, its coloration and action in the water baffled the fish, which was caught near schools of spawning whitefish.

Luminescence is certainly not a miracle color, one that is guaranteed to put a giant in your boat in the coming season. However, it has its place in certain situations, and should not be overlooked anytime you’re on the water.

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