It was a long time ago, but I can still see it clearly. . . an early summer day, beautiful day, great day to be fishing. We were fishing with Gramps Roth, a gravel pit just off the Elkhorn River was one of his favorite spots. Sometime after an hour or two of fishing, we spotted something chasing “minnows” over along the north bank. Gramps decided he should head over there, I tagged along.
I was fishing simple, a bobber and a minnow. A minnow seined from the river. We snuck over to where we had seen the feeding activity and I tossed my bobber right in the spot. We did not wait long, the bobber quivered and then popped under. Anticipation filled the air; was it a pike? Crappie? Maybe a big ole bass? I waited a second and then Gramps gave me the advice I have never forgotten, “Jerk his eye-teeth out!”
I had no idea what “eye-teeth” were, and even with a couple of fisheries degrees on the wall I still ain’t sure if fish even have ’em. But, I knew exactly what Gramps meant! I set the hook with all my might! It ended up being a bass, a largemouth bass, wasn’t even a very big one, but I have tried to follow Gramps’ advice on every hook-set I have ever made since that day. Oh yes, there have been fishing partners that even have accused me of going a little overboard on my hook-sets. “What?”
Fast-forward to a more recent fishing trip. My son and I are doing one of our favorite things, swinging for the fences, casting for muskies. You might remember that in the past couple of years I have been on a bit of a muskie slump (Slump Buster). During that slump there was a very painful loss of a nice fish, a 40-some-inch muskie. I had just spent five or ten minutes sharpening my hooks. Not three casts later I had a fish hit, and I set the hook, HARD. The fish rolled to the surface, shook it’s head back and forth. On the second shake, my bait went to the fish’s left while it’s head shook right. “And there she was, gone”. I can still see the boil on the water, and my bait just hanging there.
That image has also been seared into my mental theatre screen.
My son and I had separated to cover a section of shoreline. When we fish a stretch of shoreline, if there is a fish there to be caught, it is going to get caught.
I made a cast and about a third of the way into my retrieve I felt that “thump” that I love. Anglers talk about big fish hitting a bait lightly. I will tell you why that happens. It is because big fish EAT a bait. When you have the presentation right, they believe they are eating an actual prey item, and they eat it. They engulf it. All you feel is a thump. If you are watching your line like you should be, you will see it jump. That’s it. The biggest, baddest predator in the lake will not tear the rod outta your hands, she will just eat. Eat it whole. Hate it when that happens!
I was in position, feet shoulder width apart, shoulders square, both hands on the rod, rod in position to set the hook. That is what I did. I SET THE HOOK, HARD. If I could do anything about it, another muskie was not going to just shake my hooks out of its mouth.
I set the hook. My rod busted. Broke clean in two, just above the foregrip. It sounded like a rifle shot. My son heard it a couple hundred yards away.
You know, those braided superlines really do not stretch!
I looked down. I am holding a couple feet of the butt section of a heavy-duty rod with an ABU Garcia 6500 series reel attached. The remaining 7-feet or so of rod is sliding down my line into the water. What I was holding was worthless, I tossed it aside (later discovered I bent the reel handle when I tossed it).
I grabbed the line in a panic. Finally, I had a muskie eat my bait, and now it was going to be gone because my rod broke!
Started pulling in line hand over hand, it tightened, and then it was heading offshore! The fish was still on!
Now what do I do? I have a rather nice muskie hooked and I had to land her by hand!
Yep. That’s what I did. Had an assist on the net, but pretty much uneventfully fought the fish hand-over-hand, brought her in, put her in the net. Thank goodness she was hooked well, very well!
41 inches, and yes, still swimming!
And, I will continue jerking their eye-teeth out!