The bite is slow, the pulse of the lake is slow, I’m slow, and everything is moving slow…
Before I go further, a Tiger Musky is a hybrid cross between a female Musky and a male Pike. They’re an apex predator. They love a big bite and I’m going to let them have what they want. I’ve caught Tigers on many different swimbait models but today I’m using an 8” Huddleston Trout.
Many anglers have several ways of rigging their swimbaits. For each different type of swimbait technique, there are equally as many different rigging methods.
The 8” ROF5 Huddleston Trout swimbait doesn't come with hooks. I’m rigging two treble hooks along the belly of the bait. Look at where a Tiger’s eyes are positioned on their head, look at their body shape. The attack will most likely come from behind and below the swimbait.
First, I remove the bottom rear fin. With an Exacto knife, I trim it off from the body of the bait. This is exactly where I want the ‘prime’ hook to be. The hook and the bottom fin can’t co-exist, and the bait swims fine without it.
Next I rigged a 4/0 Gamakatsu treble hook using Berkley uncoated 7 Strand 90 lb. wire with A3 sleeves. It’s important not to cross the wire inside the sleeve. The crossed wire will compromise the system and a big fish may excerpt enough force to cause a failure.
You can tell by the compression marks the crimping tool leaves on the sleeve if the wire is straight inside.
When I’m freshwater bass fishing, I often embed one of the hooks from a treble into the soft plastic body of the bait to hold the hook in place. Tigers and their big razor teeth are going to slice the bait, and often these fish will slash at prey before taking it. I don’t want the embedded treble to accelerate the destruction of the soft plastic swimbait. So, when Tigers are the target I cut one arm off the treble. If you cut the wrong treble arm off, the hook will not lay properly with the remaining two arms held equally out from the swimbait. You have to examine the symmetry of the hook to decide which arm to remove.
I want the eye of the treble hook to sit touching just behind the pelvic fins. This places the hook well towards the back of the bait without influence on the lure’s tail action. I’m using two sleeves at each end of the treble harness. In this photo I’m sizing the length of the wire; the sleeves relating to the treble hook end of the harness are not in position and haven’t been crimped yet.
To secure the ‘prime’ hook in place, I prefer making my own staples from thin solid copper wire. I’ll make them from old bent used single wire leaders.
This wire is smaller in diameter than an office staple. I find the smaller wire size holds well but doesn’t loosen the bait material as much as a regular thicker diameter staple will. The flat bend has advantages too.
I use 3 clips to hold the rear treble in place. One clip goes towards the hook end of the shank and two go on each side of the hook’s eye. The two on each side of the eye prevent the hook from rolling towards either side, holding the hook in alignment.
Lastly, I add a 3/0 Gamakatsu treble and 90 lb. SPRO Power Split Ring attached to the bait’s harness ring. The wire harness must lie free and behind the split ring. A SPRO 100 lb or 150 lb solid wire leader connects the swimbait to 80 lb braid spooled onto a Shimano Calcutta 400 reel coupled with a big bait swimbait rod and that completes this set-up.
…back to the fishing. I've been at it for a while now, and the bite is as cold as the day is. Occasionally a Tiger would breach the surface, giving hope.
Based on the conditions, my plan was to swim near the bottom and as slow as possible. So slow, Crayfish could jump up and attack the bait.
I had one bite this day. It was a good one, and despite these conditions, this fished SLAMMED the lure!
When fishing for Tiger’s do not use any lure that you are afraid to lose or become damaged, especially soft plastic swimbaits!
Respect and Conserve
These spectacular action packed ready to explode on your lure fish, represent a limited resource. Tiger Musky are sterile and can’t reproduce. I highly recommend that you practice proper ‘Catch, Photo, and Release’.
That also means that Tiger Musky must be handled in a particular manner. This is important not only for the health and safety of the fish but yours as well. All of this requires that you also have specialized equipment, from a large treble hook friendly net or cradle, to extra-long needle nose pliers.
Long handled needle nose pliers allow you to reach further down the throat while keeping your hand from danger. Just like any fishing type, sometimes for the health of the fish it’s better to cut the hook than attempt to remove the entire hook. These hooks are bigger so your average dikes aren’t going to work; these small bolt cutters handle the job nicely. Jaw spreaders are very handy, when released they hold the fish’s mouth open allowing an angler to easier work on hooks. Do not skimp on the value of your spreaders. My first pair was worthless; they wouldn’t work even with the smallest Tiger.
It is highly inappropriate to be ill-equipped, both with gear and knowledge, when fighting and handling these awesome fish. If you’re not careful, you can easily harm the fish or seriously hurt yourself. If it’s your first time, I recommend that you fish with someone who has experience handling Musky and large Pike. An experienced fisherman can show you how to successfully manage these fish and protect yourself at the same time.