The Great Muskie Challenge

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Published on: Sep. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

a terrific whoosh, as my shoreline planer board was pulled across the water toward the boat's wake.

When I reeled in my line I felt no resistance, no fish. The whoosh was all I got.

Amazingly, I trolled for about six more hours and all that came to the boat were a few small bass - largemouth and white.

I also hung a crappie. Imagine a car-chasing dog getting its collar caught in the bumper of a motor home and you have a good idea of how the 8-inch crappie looked at the end of the 11-inch wonder lure.

Trolling gives you time to think and I pondered for a long while what traumatic events had occurred in that crappie's youth to make him overcompensate so.

I also thought about bowling, which I hadn't thought about in a long time, making me wonder if, perhaps, I hadn't already trolled too long.

"Still no reason to despair," I reminded myself.

That evening began the casting segment of The Great Muskie Challenge, which was prompted in large part by my outboard motor quitting in mid putt and resisting all my efforts to resuscitate it.

Fortunately, it was calm and the small amount of juice left in my batteries allowed me to maneuver the boat into a small cove near the launch ramp, which I began saturating with lures.

The episode taught me that man, uncustomized, or as he comes out of the box, so to speak, is not built to cast muskie lures for several hours at a time. The joints send a few warning pains, then just give out, starting with the wrist, working up to the elbow and shoulder and back. Toward the end of the evening, I was trying to relieve some of the pain by changing the shape of my casts from the traditional one- handed wrist snap to a sweeping two-handed over the head toss, a blend of a Thor's hammer throw and Chris Everett's backhand stroke.

There's a bit of tomfoolery connected to muskie fishing that I should mention: The figure 8. Most muskie anglers perform this maneuver, which involves putting their rod tips in the water and pulling their lures around in a figure 8 pattern at the end of every cast, to entice a fish into hitting.

They do this because muskies frequently cruise after lures without striking, to the point that muskie fishermen count "follows," when they are telling their fishing stories. That's a

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