Over the weekend I hit the Des Plaines in search of pike but wound up having a spectacular day for bass. I ended up getting a free day on Columbus Day- the wife was working and the kids had school (I thought they were off.) With the Sunday I'd had on the Des Plaines, I planned to spend my surprise personal day on Monday chasing pike. I was all set. I had all my pike equipment and the setup I used the morning before to fish for river bass all packed up in the car. I was determined to spend six solid hours and I wasn't giving up until I had an acceptable pike. I got to the river to find intruders in my spot. I wandered around aimlessly for about 45 minutes just frustrating myself with bad casts and bird's nests. I'm not sure what changed but I didn't want to fish there after all. I made an executive decision to drive to the Fox River. The whole drive there I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that I was making a bad decision. I was wasting a solid hour of my fishing day on driving. I didn't have my ultralight gear that I use for smallies, walleyes, and white bass- it was in the trunk of my car and I was driving my wife's for the day. And I've left fish I knew were biting only to kick myself about it later plenty of times before. Changing game plans mid-day usually doesn't work and the Fox was nowhere on my radar until about 10:00 am. I don't know what possessed me.
I jumped into the river with my trusty KVD 1.5 crankbait in chartreuse/black back tied on and waded to a spot I know of that has all the hallmarks of a big fish spot. I'd never actually caught anything there but I've got enough river experience to know this was a spot that would hold an apex fish at some point in the year. The last thought that went through my head was "this spot is going to hold a big cat, muskie, or smallie one of these times" and WHAM!
My drag was set too tightly and I hurriedly loosened it as the fish started ripping upstream. It wasn't fighting like a cat, it was racing around too fast. I was certain it was my biggest Fox smallie until it's back broke the surface and the dorsal fin to the tail was much too long. Then she went air born, it was a big muskellunge. I could see my line was clear of her teeth but I loosened my drag too much and she wrapped me around a log in an area I'd never ventured into. No matter, I waded in after her with reckless abandon. Sure enough, I plunged momentarily into a waist deep hole. I made it to the log, unwrapped, and thought for a second I'd lost her. Then I reeled down to feel weight. I was a bit panicked because I had no net. I stumbled and fumbled until I reached a rock bar I knew was close and gill grabbed her.
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