Tiger Musky 101
The fish of 10,000 casts...the Musky. We're fortunate in Washington state to have 7 lakes in which to pursue this fun and hard fighting fish! This is the first in a series of articles on hunting the Tiger Musky.
The Tiger Musky is a cross between a pure bred Musky and a Northern Pike. They have been planted in Washington state to control populations of nuisance fish such as the Northern Pike Minnow and various species of Suckers. Tigers can grow to 50+ inches and 40+ pounds, making them an appealing sport fish. They are known as ambush predators, using the available structure to conceal themselves while they wait for the next meal to swim by. In this article I will discuss basic equipment needed to get started Musky fishing.
Muskies are powerful fish and can push your equipment to it's limits, especially when they approach that magical 50" Mark. Rods with plenty of backbone are a must when targeting Tigers. A rod in the 7.5-9.5 foot length, heavy power with a moderate fast to fast action that can handle up to 25 lbs. test line will cover most applications. If you don't own a Musky rod (as most Anglers don't) a flippin stick for Bass fishing or a back bouncing rod for Salmon will work nicely. A heavy spinning rod will also do the trick.
A reel with a quality drag is a critical part of a good Musky set-up. Numerous manufacturers make excellent reels, it's a personal preference which one you choose. In the bait casting style I like a 200-300 series reel such as the Shimano Curado. In a spinning reel a 3000-4000 series reel will do the job.
There are 3 options when it comes to line....Monofiliament, Braid or Flourocarbon. I've been fishing Mono since I started chasing Muskies and have had very few problems with the performance, though a number of anglers prefer braid for it's no stretch qualities. Our Musky lakes in Washington have clear water and I like a line that won't be seen by the fish. Flourocarbon is a good option for the clear water but cost and questionable knot strength are a concern. I like a minimum 20 lbs. test in mono and will fish up to 30 lbs. test in heavy cover situations. In braid 50-80 lbs. test works well and is actually preferred on spinning reels for it's limpness and cast-ability.
Tiger Muskies have a mouth full of razor sharp teeth and will have no problem biting through your line if you don't use an abrasion proof leader. 2 types of leaders are available, heavy fluorocarbon (80-120 lbs. test) and steel. I prefer fluorocarbon for it's near zero visibility in the water. Most commercially sold leaders are 12-18 inches long with a ball bearing swivel on one end to prevent line twist and a snap on the other end for connecting your lure.
A variety of lures will catch Tigers, including but not limited to: crankbaits, swimbaits, spinnerbaits, jigs, spinners etc. Tigers seem to prefer smaller offerings than the pure bred Muskies of the mid-west, with lures in the 5-8 inch size range in natural color patterns getting the most bites.
The most popular lure among hardcore Tiger hunters is the Buck-tail spinner, which consistently produces numbers of fish on all 7 of our lakes. The buck-tail can be fished fast, which allows me to cover a lot of water when I'm hunting for aggressive fish. Fished around shallow water structure and weed beds the buck-tail can provoke vicious strikes! In an upcoming article I will go more in depth on the different lures and how to fish them effectively.
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Written By: Michael Floyd
2007, 2009-2013 M.I. Ch. 57 Angler of the Year | 12 time Tournament winner
Auburn Sports and Marine fishing team | Fishing Addicts Northwest | Got' Em Coach Tackle