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D. Daniel, Sept 2014 MuskyI’d be hard pressed to think of anything that makes Josh as happy as returning home from a guide trip with a picture of his client holding up a nice musky. And even more so if it’s the first musky his client has ever caught. On the flip side, there is a palpable sense of loss when a full day of heart-pounding musky encounters does not lead to getting one into the boat. And of course, the “one that got away” always seems to have a head the size of a water buffalo.

There are many reasons why an angler might see a musky but not get it all the way into the boat. Maybe the musky is curious but won’t commit to the bite, or they shake free of the hooks just before they’re secured by the net. The fact is, sometimes muskies are seen but never held. Sometimes there’s really nothing the angler could have done differently. But sometimes no hook-set can be traced back to the consequences of a common reaction to a big musky.

Even experienced anglers can be afflicted by a sort of musky-style “buck fever” that can cost them their photo finish. It’s understandable. The number of casts typically made in pursuit of these freshwater monsters can put the angler in a trance, whether they’re thinking about something unrelated a million miles from the boat, or if they’re keenly aware that the next cast, or the next, or the next, might be THE cast that triggers a strike. It’s easy to zone out as your arm continues to cast and retrieve like a Musky Terminator cyborg. 

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, you realize a musky is swimming straight for your bait. You see its water buffalo sized head, you see it’s thick back as it cruises through the water, ready to strike. The trouble is, as you’re noticing these things, you’re on pause, like in a dream where you want to run but your legs won’t move. You’re admiring this lake monster as if it were swimming around in an aquarium, and of course when you stop, your lure stops, and so does your musky. In those split seconds, the musky can lose interest and move along, never to be seen again. So how can this be avoided?

There is no font size to adequately express the intensity I’ve heard in Josh’s voice when he sees a musky nearly on top of his clients suddenly dead-in-the-water lure and says, “KEEP REELING!” Sometimes chances are lost because in the midst of an adrenaline jolt, an angler forgets to just keep the lure moving. If the fish is still a ways out, just keep reeling. If the lure and musky are getting close to the boat, leave out some line and walk around the boat. If you’re working with hardly any line at all, as a last resort, do figure 8’s at the side of the boat. The quicker you remember to just keep the lure moving, the better your chances of boating a trophy fish. 

And of course when your musky does bite, don’t forget to set the hook!