The Art of the Reel: Eating the Eight


With only seven days of musky fishing under my belt, I am no esox expert. I don’t know the lingo, the history, or more than a few techniques. When it comes to figure eights, I am all sixes and sevens and nines.

Nevertheless, after a lifetime of fishing for everything from runty bluegills to blue marlin, I consider myself a fantastic evaluator of angling talent. I have made it a priority to fish not only the best waters at the best times, but also with the best anglers. I’ve been there to watch KVD chuck a spinnerbait. I’ve been crushed and amazed by Denny Brauer’s flipping stick. I’ve watched AMart wield a dropshot with deadly determination. It’s not just bass, either. While I might not be as comfortable in other venues, I believe I can tell when a troller takes his gig seriously, or a fly caster is head and shoulders above his peers.

That’s why it was so amazing to watch Michigan guide Spencer Berman catch the 52 inch beast pictured above. The big musky would be an impressive fish no matter how he tempted and landed it, but his presentation was sheer artistry. The fish followed his bait without committing, as muskies are prone to do (I think I had four follows that day that I know of) and he did not panic, he did not hurry and he did not do anything to deter the fish. Every action he took got the big girl hotter, and she followed his one pound rubber bait through at least five figure eights before she T-boned it.

I’ve watched others do the figure eight, both in person and on YouTube, and I’ve practiced it myself to try to maximize changes in speed, direction and depth. Not only did Spencer make it look effortless (believe me, a 16 ounce lure, a 400 size baitcasting reel and a 9 foot rod are not as maneuverable as your medium-light spinning stick), but he also brought the lure to life. What seemed like a big lump of rubber at the end of my line danced and swam and enticed at the end of his.

While I certainly would have rather caught the big fish myself, it was a privilege to get to watch a true artiste at work, and this experience enters the pantheon, right up there with a front row seat for KVD and the rest of them.