Once A Hunter, Always A Hunter — A Muskie Hunter
As one season closes another one opens. That statement can pretty much apply to a bunch of stuff on this earth. When one chapter closes, another one will begin, oftentimes whether we like it not.
The same goes for fishing and hunting. If one thinks about it, hunting is much like fishing and visa versa.
There is no better word that is goes hand in hand than hunting for muskies. Yes, the fish of 10,000 casts lives right here in our backyard.
Trolling for muskie is a tried-and-true fishing technique on Chautauqua Lake. While many think of trolling as just pulling along a chunk of wood, we have discovered that there is more to it than that.
There are many pieces to the trolling puzzle notwithstanding rod and reel combinations, line and leader selection, electronics, speed and bait-size and color. When all these pieces are put in order, when the stars are lined up, when the wind is blowing in the proper direction and speed, well you get the picture.
While the days of calling the muskie the fish of 10,000 casts is over for most of us here on Chautauqua Lake, they still can be one of the most elusive species to catch.
It’s always more exciting to fish with a friend, and when it comes to muskie fishing, it can be important. Years of experience has taught me that fighting a muskie to the boat is only part of the deal. Getting them into the net is the other piece of the puzzle. Netting any fish can be a challenge at times, but a muskie is oftentimes more so. Having a “net man” could be the difference from a fish story to a fish story with pictures.
When I’m muskie fishing with a buddy and when we are trolling, we run four total rods. So, we have two out rods and two down rods. The out rods are 10-foot medium/heavy dipsy diver rods. I like that length because it gives us a nice spread without a need for planner boards. These long rods take some time to get used to while reeling in fish. They are great, though, when you get the feel for them. The down rods are between 6- to 7-feet medium/heavy rods. These are good versatile rods for many situations. They can be put out and not cause an issue with the out rods and they can be down tip straight in the water or up with a lure in the prop wash. These down rods are also perfect when using the big planner boards.
The reels that I run are either Abu Garcia 500s or Shimano Calcutta. These reels are good because they are reasonably priced, have a good drag and line counter. Those three things are what is important to me in a trolling reel. Any brand of reel will work. I know that these are tough reels that will hold up to muskie fishing. They are good for casting bucktails and spinners.
The line that I use is 50 pounds braid. The brand is up to you. A lot of guys like 65 or 100 pounds braid. This is fine if you run a lot of bigger baits. We run 6-inch lures or smaller up until late in the fall and then we will run a little bit larger lure. Fifty pounds braid is fine for smaller lakes that have a little lighter color water. Now, when chasing monster muskies, I go with 65 or 100 pounds braid.
Here is how I spool up by reels for trolling muskie: 100 to 200 feet of cheap mono backing, 25-50 pounds test is more than fine. This does two things. One, it gives the braid something to bite into and is much cheaper than the braid. It can get quite expensive to fill the reel entirely with braid.
One of the first things you need to learn when using braid is how tie a blood knot, which is a fairly simple. There are many websites that contain great knot-tying diagrams. There are also many videos on YouTube. Once you have the braid tied to the backing, fill the spool with the braid. One thing I have learned over the years, is to make sure I use the same amount of line on every reel. This keeps your line counters more consistent with each other. By having full reels, you can cut back without any worry of not having enough line. Full reels will have a faster retrieve then an empty one.
Now that you have learned how to tie a blood knot, you should probably tie your fluorocarbon leader direct to the braid. This eliminates the need for more hardware, like snaps and swivels. You also will not keep reeling your snap through the first guide, which helps with prolonging the life of your rods. The knot will go through the guides easy and it will be easy to net the fish. I prefer a 12- to 18-inch fluorocarbon leader. Fluorocarbon is pricey, so take care of it and it will last longer. The pound test of fluorocarbon that I use is between 50- and 100-pound test. When buying fluorocarbon, make sure that you get “fluorocarbon leader material” this is much better than just the fluorocarbon line.
For most crankbaits, the best thing to use is just a snap. If you use a snap with a ballbearing you will kill a lot of the action of the lure. Sometimes the lure will not even run with the bearing. I have found that staylock snaps in sizes 4, 4.5 or 5, but any good quality, will work. If you are trolling Bucktails or spoons, it is a good idea to use a snap with the ballbearing. Snaps do wear out faster than you think, so tie new ones on after a couple days of lure changing.