Video: Boatside Muskie Strike Results in Broken Fishing Rod

The angler is rewarded with a big muskie, but the fish has the last laugh because it destroys an expensive fishing rod during the battle.

Video: Boatside Muskie Strike Results in Broken Fishing Rod

In the 13-minute YouTube video below, you’ll see an intense encounter with a big muskie from September 2023 in Canada. Watch the entire video if you want to see everything these three muskie anglers saw and caught that afternoon, or simply fast-forward to the 7:58 mark to get right to the boatside strike described in this article’s title.

In real time it’s difficult to see the angler’s muskie rod break while fighting the fish, but you’ll get a better look a bit later in the video during the slow-motion replay (8:40).

So what happened, and did the angler do anything wrong that caused his expensive muskie rod to snap near the tip? Because I’ve spent 40 years pursuing muskies myself, I feel qualified to offer my Monday morning quarterback comments. Let me dissect it.

The angler does a beautiful job at the end of his cast, keeping the lure deep in the water as he makes an “L-turn” to the right. Sometimes this simple move will cause a following muskie to strike. But this one doesn’t. Again, the angler does the right thing and sweeps his rod tip away from the boat and then to the left to begin a wide figure-8 pattern. (Anyone who is familiar with muskie fishing knows all about the figure-8 technique.)

As the angler finishes his first outside turn of the figure-8, the muskie eats the bait. Perfect! But here’s where things turn south.

At the 8:08 mark you hear the angler in the back of the boat say, “Nice job, nice job!” Then a split-second later, “Don't forget a free spool; get a free spool!”

If these words don’t mean anything to you, let me explain: He’s offering advice to press the free spool button on his baitcasting reel to allow the muskie to swim away from the boat. You see, almost all muskie anglers have the drag setting on their reels set very tight – no line will slip off the reel. This helps with a solid hookset when a muskie strikes your lure during a retrieve away from the boat. The downside to having the drag set this tight is it severely hampers an angler’s ability to effectively fight a muskie, especially if it strikes near the boat. In general, it’s easier to press the free spool button than loosen the reel’s drag adjustment in the heat of the moment. Of course, if you press the free spool, then you must put your thumb on the spool to control how the line comes off the reel; if you don’t, then you’ll get a tangled mess (think backlash).

Unfortunately, the angler isn’t successful hitting the free spool button, so he’s fighting the big muskie on less than 18 inches of line. And this length is quickly shortened when the muskie, which can’t swim away because the drag is locked, begins to roll. The line and leader become wrapped around the muskie’s head and gill covers, and soon the fishing rod’s tip is literally in contact with the ballistic fish. Not good!

Yes, they finally net the muskie, but not before the rod breaks. They don’t show the rod afterwards, but it looks to me like it snapped at least 6 inches from the tip, maybe 12 inches.

Look closely during the release (10:52) and you can see the scars behind the muskie’s head caused by the line, leader and rod tip, which all ended up in a tangled mess attached to the fish. Crazy!


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