Musky – The Fish of 10,000 Casts Came Early.
Our plan was simple. Drive to Ottawa and learn everything there is to know about musky fishing in one day from the local expert, John Anderson of The Ottawa River Musky Factory. The next day would be spent on the water on our own applying what we had learned from John. We would then catch a 50″ musky on camera and call it a day.
By day 3 on our own we were humbly returning for more of John’s guidance after not moving a fish. Loomis Pro Staffer Wally Robins joined John, Bill and I and together we headed out for another session of Musky chasing on the Ottawa River. Within minutes of arriving at our first destination, Wally managed to land this 51.25″ beautifully patterned beast he caught on a BullDawg in about 6 feet of water. It was shaping up to be a very good day.
Two hours later, I was finishing a cast with a second boat-side figure eight and as the bait was being lifted from the water a musky exploded on it, raked the tail of the bait and disappeared. Although a bit disappointed that I hadn’t seen any signs of a follower prior to the strike, I was encouraged by the fact that the fish were active. Fast forward 3 hours. Changing baits a bit more often now and with a glimmer of sun left in a late afternoon sky I chose a big ‘Dawg in pearl white from the collection, snapped it onto the leader and started casting in earnest. Only a few casts in, I felt a tug on the tail of the bait and instinctively let the bait drop back. A second later the musky returned and slammed the bait. Hookset, hookset, hookset and 20 seconds later my largest musky was fifteen feet off the side of the boat and just sub surface when she gave the bait back to me …
We had collectively moved 6 fish by the end of the day and aside from Wally’s beauty had only managed to get one other small musky into the boat – John and Wally’s boat, not our boat.
What HAD worked for us was our ability to find the baitfish, select appropriate baits for the changing conditions and present the baits in such a way to elicit strikes from 2 decent fish. So what had NOT worked for us? After a day of reflection and some very constructive feedback from John and Wally, the answer was simple. Attention to detail – or lack thereof.
11 hours of casting musky baits can be a physically exhausting exercise. It can also be mentally fatiguing. The key is to make everything easier upfront. Have the decks clear, landing and hook extraction equipment readily available so the fights can be short and the releases as stress free on the fish as possible.
From a casting perspective, sharpen all hook points of each bait as soon as they are selected. The hooks need to be ‘sticky’ sharp in order to penetrate inside the bony mouths. Secondly, in order to up the odds of hooking up, the drag needs to be almost clamped down during lure retrieval. This will transfer the full motion of the hookset directly through the 80 to 100 pound no stretch XPS braid to the freshly sharpened hook points. This leads to the final detail, the hookset itself. In John’s words “when you strike, I want you to try to break the rod”. Not possible if holding the rod (as I was) in traditional ‘bass’ style where wrist and arm action alone are used in striking. The extended, counterbalanced grips on 8’6″ BPS Musky Angler rods we were using make it easy to tuck the grip under your arm, hold the rod forward of the reel while retrieving, and be in a position to strike from the waist up using a full upper body turn.
I know what you’re thinking. This is all just common sense. I thought so too but a day of throwing monster baits had made me complacent. And complacency cost me my biggest fish.
Now that the musky bug has bitten and we know what to do differently, we’re looking forward to going back to the Ottawa River next week to try again.
Only this time with sharper hooks and tighter drags.
Thanks to John Anderson of the Ottawa River Musky Factory and Loomis Pro Staffer Wally Robins for their help and friendship during our indoctrination into the sport of monster musky angling.
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