There’s a reason muskie are commonly referred to as “the fish of 10,000 casts.” They can be agonizingly frustrating to draw into striking. Even with their predatory instincts, muskie require special tactics to entice and get them to follow a lure. For anglers seeking these toothy fish, that means mastering the art of the Figure-8.
Known for being ambush predators, muskie are long-bodied, long-toothed fish that specialize in ambushing prey from the cover of weeds or other structures. This habit of curiosity is what leads them to often follow a bait to the boat. It’s the angler’s job to trigger this instinct.
The Figure-8 technique starts after you make your cast and you get a muskie to follow your lure to the boat. Once this happens, speed up your retrieve to get the fish to chase. Then, plunge the lure down a few feet into the water as you begin to sweep your rod in a Figure-8. As you do this, lift your bait high on the turn so that it’s only about a foot under the surface, about two or three feet higher than when you started. As you bring the lure back to the center of the 8, lower it again, and then bring it back up high on the opposite side of the 8.
Mastering the Figure-8 tactic involves more than just going through the motions. It’s vital to make sure to maintain the action of your lure as you sweep it in the Figure-8. If you’re using a bucktail, for instance, you’ll need to keep its blades spinning the entire time. Bucktail lures from Musky Mania, Northland Fishing Tackle, Blue Fox, Mepps, and Hildebrandt are solid choices.
Ultimately, the Figure-8 is a game of keep-away, but you don’t want to let the fish lose interest in your lure. It’s not just about getting the fish to strike, either; you want it to hit your lure at a particular time during the Figure-8—on the outside turn, as you lift the bait. A strike at this point allows you to set the hook back into the fish, hooking it in the corner of the mouth, which not only increases your hook-up rate, but also reduces potential harm to the fish.