The Double Hover…

Used Water Can Be The Best.

By: Craig Sandell 2012


An overcast drizzly day, water temperature about 68 degrees, low water, Musky in a predictable location, and a light ripple on the water…it was 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.

Knuckle BustersI 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 anyone’s way. I quietly motored in and set up shop well away from the other boats in about 15 feet of water.

Skimmer Blk W/Grn BladeI 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 wasn’t 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 didn’t 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.

Knuckle Buster FishI didn’t 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 don’t 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: "Don’t 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.