Muskie are infamous for following a lure all the way to your boat, where only the most seasoned anglers know how to implement a figure-eight to entice those curious followers to strike. The technique itself involves more than just sweeping the rod back and forth, however. Done poorly, it will result in nothing more than exercise for your arm. Done well, however, it can enable you to catch fish that most would otherwise miss out on.
Here are a few preliminary tips for figure-eights: if you’re fishing for muskie, and want to experiment with the figure-eight technique, you’ll need a heavy-duty baitcast reel with the drag set tight. If, after retrieving the lure to the boat, you notice a fish following it, thumb the spool and push in the free-spool button. This way, should the fish strike at the boat, you can set the hook and let out line if it makes a run.
When you see a muskie behind your lure, it’s crucial to learn to how to read its mood in order to determine your next actions. If the fish is aggressive, there’s a strong chance you’ll be able to entice it to strike. However, if it isn’t interested in striking, you probably won’t be able to get it to bite at all. You can tell if the fish is in the mood to hit your lure by observing its head. If it stays within a few inches of your lure and its mouth is opening and closing, then you’re in luck. If this happens, trace a large figure-eight with your rod tip just off the side of the boat, with the lure a few feet below the surface. If the muskie is still hesitant, bring the lure over its snout, which will often trigger a strike.
Now, if the fish is following a few feet behind your lure and swimming lazily, it’s most likely not interested yet. You can try one or two figure-eights, but if there’s still no strike, pass on the fish, as not to spook it. Be sure to note the location, however, as it may be in the mood to strike later on in the day. Also, if you’re using a surface lure and the fish follows it to the boat, don’t attempt a figure-eight at the surface. Instead, dip your rod tip into the water and use the technique a few feet below the surface.
The real secret to getting a muskie to strike a lure is doing everything you can to keep the lure away from the fish in the water. Many inexperienced muskie anglers mistakenly slow the lure down when they see a fish follow, but this will almost always cause the fish to lose interest. You should only ever slow your retrieve if the fish quits its chase, but then speed the lure up again swiftly, as this erratic change will sometimes bring the fish back.
You may think that all this close proximity to a muskie at the boat would spook the fish, but muskie will be so interested in the lure and its behavior, that they won’t even notice you. I mean, after all, it’s four feet of teeth and predatory instincts; it’s not going to be scared of much. Just stay focused and don’t panic should anything happen to catch you off guard. The figure-eight technique takes a little practice, and learning to read the fish’s behavior is a gift that only comes with experience, so keep at it. After all, if it was too easy, it wouldn’t be fun, would it?