Probably five years ago, I was fishing with Tony Grant when I hooked a giant. I'm talking 40-plus pounds of behemoth musky. And the best part about it: I had her hooked good. Then it happened. I felt her move beneath the water to attempt to jump, I leaned my rod a little to try and stop her, and then nothing. No weight, no jump, no anything. She was just gone. I will never forget that awful feeling, or what followed it.
After crumbling to my knees on the deck, I looked to Grant in hopes he would inform me of what went wrong. He just looked back and said, "Nothing. The first rule of musky fishing is muskies get off."
I wish he was wrong, but he's absolutely accurate. I have no idea how they are able to dislodge massive hooks like surgeons, but they do. And they were in rare form this past weekend.
Having scored pretty well on a fall trip to Kinkaid last November, and hearing of a hot bite, my co-worker, Alan, his friend and I again made the trek into southern Illinois to chase some slime. And just like last fall, we got the net wet. Little after 2 p.m. I had a 45 1/2-incher rush a nickel-and-black Shumway Flasher and get just enough of the hook to allow us to get some pictures.
A trophy like that should have made the trip an incredible success, and don't get me wrong, it was a successful trip. But the four other muskies we didn't get pictures of sure left us with sour tastes in our mouths.
For some reason – and I don't know a single person who knows why – muskies will sometimes get in the habit of nipping at lures. They will launch up to lures like hook-seeking torpedoes, looking like they're about to not just eat, but destroy what they see. Then right before they close their mouths, they slow down and daintily nip the back. On the frustration scale, it ranks right up there with the popcorn kernel stuck between your back two molars. Again, why they do this is unknown, but when they get in that mood there is little an angler can do to get them out of it. I have recently been told burning smaller lures will sometimes get them to commit, but that is the first I have heard of any remedy.
If you couldn't guess, the muskies at Kinkaid were severely in the nipping funk, and unfortunately it cost Alan the trophy of a lifetime. Prior to the giant, we had three muskies between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. that all hit our lures, but didn't grab hooks. Regardless, the action had us pretty optimistic. Then just before 2 p.m. we motored into a small cut I had fished previously and had success. Sure enough, about midway into it Alan made a cast back to an area with an orange-and-black Musky Mayhem Tackle Double Cowgirl and had a 50-plus-inch musky eat the lure no more than 10 feet from the boat. Unfortunately, like the previous three, she only got a taste. She thrashed her head one time and the Cowgirl was air born, with the fish sinking back to the depths, surely with a smirk.
Just thinking back on those two seconds still makes me sick. Luckily, I know where she lives, and maybe, just maybe, later this year we might get to see her again to break the rule.
Slam the hooks!
- Sean Ostruszka