An overcast drizzly day, water temperature about 68 degrees,
low water, Musky in a predictable location, and a light ripple on the water
time for me to hit the water. I mounted my tri-hull and headed for a spot on the Chippewa
Flowage where I knew fish would be, "Knuckle Busters".
"Knuckle Busters" got its name many years ago when
reels were not as sophisticated as they are now. This spot on the Chippewa Flowage had a
reputation for producing Musky because of its proximity to deep water, its large food
shelves and its underwater cover
(lots of stumps, weeds and wood clutter) and when a
fish would hit, the Musky angler, being caught by surprise, would usually have his
knuckles assaulted by the reel handle
henceforth the name.
I was really ready for a Musky as I motored around the point
of "Fall Shores" and the "Knuckle Busters" area came into view. Disappointment, there were two other boats fishing
"Knuckle Busters". Well, I thought, there are plenty of other places to fish and
plenty of fish to catch
I just had a feeling about "Knuckle Busters" today.
I was just getting ready to motor
off to another spot when I noticed the pattern being fished by the other boats. One was
fishing deep in the stump field in 3 feet of water and the other was fishing a shelf area
between "Knuckle Busters" and "The Sticks". I reasoned that there was
plenty of room for another boat without anyone getting in anyones way. I quietly
motored in and set up shop well away from the other boats in about 15 feet of water.
I decided to fish the outside shelf facing
deep water while keeping track of where the other boats were fishing. With a bucktail on
my rod (black w/green blade), I started the slow methodic search for a lurking Musky. As I
worked the spot, the boat that was in the stump field worked its way out and began to hit
the trough between "Knuckle Busters" and "Bog 2 Stumps" all the time
putting more distance between us as it moved off "Knuckle Busters". The other
boat was moving off into the other direction leaving "Knuckle Busters" to me.
While fishing Musky over the years, I have often marveled at
the frequency with which Musky are caught on "used water". There is
another article of mine on the Website that illustrates this
condition; and so, with that in mind, I began to work my way toward the edge now vacated
by the boat moving onto "Bog 2 Stumps".
Maintaining a depth of 12 feet under the boat, I covered the
area using surface baits, and twitch baits as well as the bucktail. I had the water pretty
lathered after about 30 minutes or so. I decided to take a little break for a drink of
water and a candy bar and just enjoy the excellent day on the water.
After the break, I looked over the area I had fished and
decided that the water had been covered really well. If there was a Musky looming, he just
wasnt on the bite. I got ready to move onto another spot, when that feeling hit me
again about "Knuckle Busters". It was almost a compulsion to try a few more
casts. Well, I didnt HAVE to be anywhere else so I picked up the rod with the
bucktail and fired toward the deep edge of a weed bed. After about 3 cranks on the reel my
hard work and compulsion was rewarded with a solid Musky strike.
This Musky hit that bucktail aggressively and all I had to do
was hold on as he set the hook on himself. The Musky hit about 20 feet from the boat and
must have come up from under the bucktail as it passed over him. There was a tenacious
thrashing as he went to swim away with his "prey". The water foamed and I held
on for all I was worth. Finally, the Musky started to come toward the boat. I had the rod
tip high as I reeled in the line trying to keep the line tight. This is usually the moment
of truth during a fight when you either loose the fish or you find yourself in the thick
of a battle
for me, this time, it was the latter.
As the Musky came toward the boat, I got my first look at
him. It was a healthy sized fish with nice broad shoulders and I was excited to see him
hooked very well. As concerned anglers, we all want to limit the time we fight a Musky in
order to keep him from exhaustion and thereby ensure a good release. The problem is trying
to find that perfect time when the fish is just tired enough and positioned just right for
a good "net job". Being alone in the boat and trying to fight the fish and
coordinate a net landing is no easy task as anyone who has done it knows.
The moment seemed right as the Musky approached the boat, so
I grabbed the net and got ready to land this fish
he had other ideas. As I went to
net him, he took off and I had no choice but to drop the net and resume the fight. After
another run, the Musky was ready to be landed
I went to grab the net I had previously
dropped and discovered that it had become embrangled in the hook of a lure attached to
another of the rods I had in the boat.
What to do
? I looked at the Musky and it was just a bit
too big to shoulder (it is real dangerous to shoulder any
Musky). My only choice was to fight the Musky with one hand while I freed
the net with the other.
I didnt know it at the time, but another boat that was in the area was
enjoying the show. It must have been something to see
I felt like I was being pulled
in two directions at once. In my mind, I was sure that I would lose this fish. As luck
would have it, and dont ask me how, I managed to free the net
the Musky was
still on the line and I scooped him into the net ending a very memorable adventure. He
measured out a chunky 41 inches (probably 19 pounds). The other boat came over and snapped
a photo for me and then the Musky was on his way.
There are many valuable lessons from this adventure, not the
least of which is: "Dont overlook the potential of used water."
Obviously, one of the reasons I was successful here was because I knew the piece of water
upon which I was fishing. Remember, however, that one of the most useful and productive
tactics is the double hover.
Fishing water fished by another angler is just another variation of the double hover.