Wisconsin Trophy Fishing

Trophy Fish article written by Michael “LOBY” Lobenstein

Welcome to another edition of my monthly fishing articles. Hard to believe we are looking at the fall transition period already, but September is most definitely here….. time to talk about targeting trophy class Musky and Northern Pike.

With many fishers hanging up their fishing gear and preparing for fall hunting it is the time of year I personally most look forward to for fantastic trophy “Big Fish” action. The obvious luxury of fall fishing is that congestion on area waters reduces dramatically and fishing pressure becomes almost non existent which leaves a lot of water and fishing for those who realize this is the perfect time of year for catching trophy class fish.

Understanding fall patterns is the key to success and it is critical to get out on the waters of your choice fairly frequently and in doing so, trophy fish locations and preferences will be revealed. During the first and subsequent outings, covering water is important and “eliminating” unproductive water as you fish and from future outings. Areas that are holding fish are then revealed and also remembered.

To do this one simply needs to use “impulse” class baits that allow you to move along with your trolling motor quietly and throw a lot of casts which should be focused on areas likely to hold large fish. Likely targets would include: feeding flats adjacent to deeper water, existing green healthy plants and grasses submerged and points as well as other classic lake or river features.

Years of experience speeds this process immensely but in the same regard part of the fun is in “finding” the areas holding “trophy class” fish. “Impulse Baits” are a classification that is broad and may include large “Buck tail spinner baits known as “in-line” as well as other many favorites such as bobbi-baits, buzzbaits as well as oversized Bass style spinner baits and other popular stickbaits with names as crazy as they look. They allow a fisher to cover much water quickly and in the process a distinct pattern will occur and with a little luck, some explosive encounters with mean and nasty Pike and Musky will follow suit.

When using large spinner baits, buzz baits and impulse style baits always use “Trailer Hooks” on your lures. Trailer hooks are hooks with enlarged eyes that allow you to slip an extra hook over the lure hook which dramatically swings the likelihood of successful hook-ups in your favor and also, don’t forget a piece of surgical tubing which secures the trailer hook to the main lure hook.

Using super braid lines as opposed to monofilament lines in my opinion is also a wise tip to adhere to. There are many super lines out on the market such as “Fire Line” {my favorite}  by Berkley or “Power Pro” and many others. These lines offer incredible fighting strength with low stretch properties which allow the fisher to connect with bone jarring hook sets increasing and perfecting consistent solid hook ups and in the process, a lot less “lost” fish due to broken lines.

If you are a mono user, there are some good ones out there however, it should be noted that new line is in order each season as monofilament lines are much more susceptible to abrasion and damage due to stretch and ultraviolet sun exposure which affects adversely your lines properties and will result in missed “big fish” opportunities.

Once you are comfortable that your equipment is suitable for big game fish and you have re-spooled with quality appropriate strength line which should be rated between 12-40 pound strength, some fine tuning is in order to further stack the deck in your favor when battling big class fish. Checking to make sure your rod guides are in good shape is critical.

Many guides are now made of titanium and hold up extremely well, even these however can get bent or “burrs” can be discovered on them and need to be filed smooth or replaced. In the event that your rod has “ceramic rod guides, inspection of these are even more critical as damage to them is more likely as they are not nearly as durable as the titanium guides. Damaged eyes or guides as well as tips can cause line to become damaged which left undetected will result in a premature line failure.

This generally will occur when you are battling the best fish you have had on and that is where the heart ache will set in. So, visually inspect the guides for damage and using a common Q-Tip run it inside each guide…if there is damage the Q-tip will reveal it by snagging on the damaged area which will alert you to the need to repair that guide.

Using the larger style baits spoke of above and trailer hooks also leads to the need to be ever more aware of the importance of making sure your hooks are as “Sharp” as can be at all times. Carrying a simple smooth flat file as well as a variety of hook sharpeners is a must. Periodically running your hook hone over your hooks during your outing can not be stressed enough and will allow you to more easily penetrate the rugged jaws of these toothy water wolves. It takes very little time to do so and once you do it as part of your outing it will become second nature to keep those hooks sharp and ready to connect with that trophy fish as well as penetrate deep enough to keep them under control, hopefully for the “duration of the battle”.

The lure, line, rod, and reel choice and their proper maintenance as discussed is obviously critical but the chain is only as strong as its weakest “link”. The weakest link is your KNOT. The subject of “Fishing Knots” could take an entire article in itself so we will simply address the “importance” of checking your knot often and tying it over routinely as it becomes frayed or damaged in any way.

If you have “knot tying” concerns, GOOGLE it on your computer which will lead you to “animated” knot tying sites to help you. In taking these steps prior to “ hook up” with that big fish, you will have “peace of mind” in knowing you have done everything to up your odds of landing the fish and allowing yourself to concentrate on actually battling the fish properly.

Once a large Pike or Musky strikes, setting the hook with authority is key in “engaging” the battle which immediately shifts to a situation where your mind should immediately be processing how much force you can apply to the fish. If you connect near obstructions such as tree tops that may have fallen into the water where the strike occurs, etc. you must turn that fish away from those obstacles quickly in order to have a chance at landing it.

Critical mistakes are made in the first seconds after hooking up with large fish. The most prevalent mistake is the syndrome of what I call “reeling like a MANIAC” otherwise known as “horsing”. This should be avoided at all costs. Immediately after hook up on these trophy fish a second hook set can be applied to make sure it is set and then what I like to refer to the “lock-up” period should take over.

This entails a brief period where you keep your arms locked and constant pressure on the fish without reeling to allow you to settle in for what can be a battle that may last for as much as 15-20 minutes or as little as 2-3 minutes depending on the range it strikes from the boat. Taking that brief breath and the assessment period allows you to gain composure and control and reminds you that you must take line when the fish allows you to, as well as, allow it to take line when its power dictates it does so.

As this process occurs which in big battles can be repeated runs by the fish, it will become tired and allow you to make progress in bringing it into net range. A good partner who then becomes the “net man” is also critical in sealing the deal.

The net chosen for these type of outings is also part of the “chain” theory and a weak link if it is not up to the standards that trophy class fish require to be netted. “Frabill” and “Beckman” as well as a handful of others make specifically designed “large hoop” adjustable handle nets that are made to take the punishment that a thrashing 50” fish can deliver. Hoping that you release these fish once landed makes the net material very important. “Coated” rubberized nets substantially reduce damage to fish as opposed to abrasive vinyl “cheap” nets.

It also should be noted for strength concerns that an adjustable handle shaped in a “V” offers much more strength when lifting the fish and a “Bite resistant” glove should be nearby to place on your hand when handling as well as dislodging the hook[s] and photographing the fish.

The “fish handler” glove by “LINDY LEGENDARY TACKLE” company is awesome and allows you to safely handle these monster fish and also are great for handling during the release process which should be done as quickly as possible to ensure the healthy return of the fish to the waters with minimal stress and damage allowing for it to grow larger and be available for another “close encounter”.

In handling these giants, minimizing exposure to the sun and avoiding excessive handling and flopping “about” the boat is paramount to their safe release. We take great pride in landing, photographing and releasing these fish in less than 3-4 minutes which is actually quite easy to do once you have your system in place and follow the game plan from the initial strike to the final release.

Further tips and discussion can be found on www.lobybaits.com by registering on the “discussion board”.

“Stay Safe”, fish with a friend and until next months article, help keep our waterways clean, protect our resources and practice “catch and release” whenever possible. Our fishing future depends on it as well as our future generations.

GoOd FiShIn!          LOBY

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