Many fishermen immortalize the muskie as “the fish of 10,000 casts.”
But on a day when gray, puffy clouds produced a steady drizzle at Pomme de Terre Lake, Jim “Coach” Wilson was overcoming those odds.
Moments after he had cast a wooden bait that was scarred with the teeth marks of previous muskies he caught, a fish came out of nowhere and savagely hit the bait.
“Did you see that fish explode on that bait?” Wilson said as he fought the muskie. “That’s the top of the food chain in action.”
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The muskie put up a ferocious fight and didn’t stop battling, even when it was in the net. Wilson put on a glove, then got the pliers to unhook his catch. Even then, he ended up with a bloody thumb.
Finally, he was able to calm the beast and lift it onto a measuring board.
“Thirty-seven inches,” he said.
Wilson then posed for a couple of photos, cradled his catch and lowered it into the water. The muskie swam away with the flip of its tail and Wilson was celebrating another victory at Pomme de Terre Lake.
“Muskies aren’t the fish of 10,000 casts at this time of the year — not at Pomme de Terre anyway,” said Wilson, 70, who runs Coaches Guide Service. “ Fall is their time of the year.
“They’ll move shallow, and they’re feeding. Your chances of catch a big fish are better in the fall than any other time of the year.”
Still, it’s a challenge. Understand, the muskie is like a ghost. Some muskie fishermen grow old without even landing a monstrous fish.
Muskie fishermen are a dedicated fraternity, talking reverently about “follows” and the location of legendary fish that they have seen but never hooked. They sling oversized baits for hours on end, waiting for that one giant strike.
Muskies will do that to a man or woman. It took Wilson two years of fishing at Pomme de Terre before he caught his first muskie. But many years later, he’s considered an authority on the subject.
On a recent trip, he landed two muskies — one 37 inches, the other 36 1/2 — and had another on, only to lose it at the boat. He also had two muskies emerge from the shade of docks to come out and explode on his bait without getting the hooks.
That’s a career for some muskie fishermen. Not for Wilson.
He and his partners have landed more than 40 muskies so far this year. His crowning moment came last weekend when he and his fishing partner, Matt Ginnings, won the annual Muskies, Inc. tournament with four muskies in two days of fishing.
“I’ll be out four or five days a week at this time of the year,” Wilson said. “I just can’t get enough of this muskie fishing.
“You’ll be casting forever, you’re tired and half-asleep, and then one will come out of nowhere and hit right at the boat. I don’t care who you are, that will raise your heartbeat.”
Wilson paused and held up a battle-scarred Eddy bait that had already lured two big muskies that day. It was missing most of its paint and had been chewed on by muskies in he past. But it still worked.
“I don’t think it’s the color so much that attracts them, it’s the action,” Wilson said. “When this bait glides side to side, they can’t resist it.”
Wilson launched a long cast and the lure landed with a loud splash. It sounded like someone had thrown a large rock in the water.
“People will ask me why that splash doesn’t scare them away,” Wilson said with a smile. “But these muskies are at the top of the food chain. Nothing scares them.”
Wilson fishes with everything from bucktail spinners to large crankbaits to topwater lures to persuade the muskies to hit. Late August into November is prime time, he said. He often keys on docks, shallow structure and humps to look for muskies.
“They’re ambush predators,” Wilson said. “They’ll set up in a place and wait for something to swim past.
“When they want it, you’ll know it. They’ll just kill that bait.”
For more information, Contact Jim Wilson at 417-399-3111 or go to his website www.coachesguideservice.com