Old Reliable

Nick Simonson

By Nick Simonson

As fishing lures went, the bait I found buried among the myriad muskie offerings on the wall in the old boathouse was a first generation bucktail.  The fluted Indiana blades came from a bulk order I placed when I was first tying up the in-line spinners for muskie fishing more than a decade ago when the fever bit my brother bad, and I indulged his early passion by supplying him with the lures to pursue the fish of 10,000 casts, while joining in on occasion.  The slip-on coil adorned with white bucktail and red thread fused perfectly into the collar I had built around the top of the slightly tarnished, but still sharp Mustad treble, with the hook points poking out just beyond the delta of hair covering the business end of the lure.  At some point over the past ten years, the smaller stinger treble on the split ring above the lure dressing had been removed, leaving the metal circle resting between the beads of the lure’s body and the bucktail.

With the early morning wind rising slightly out of the northwest just after dawn, the conditions signaled a whitecap day on our side of the lake, and I figured I’d throw a few casts with my old creation and relive some of the magic before things got choppy.  At the very least, as I attached it to my brother’s most recent muskie combo resting on the table in the beachside hangout, I figured I’d see if the blades – which I’ve long since upgraded on newer offerings – on the old model still spun.  Knowing the penchant for pike around the creek to smash the traditional silver-red-and-white combination, I figured there was a good chance I could hook up with a quick fish before the day began, and work, family and other obligations ahead of the holiday weekend pulled me away from the water.

Clipping the hook into the keeper above the cork handle and reel, I inspected the wraps of thread at the top of the junction between wire and hook.  They looked as they had on the day I assembled the lure, with ample head cement forming a solid bond around the thread bringing everything to a smooth, tapered finish, even if it was a bit bulkier than later attempts where I would refine my process and reduce the size of the tie-in area. Walking out on the dock, the aluminum structure bowed and clanked with each footstep, and the blades on the bait jingled out a response in treble to the bouncing bass below until I reached the end, unhooked the offering from the rod and wound up for a cast.

My lab, Ole, disinterested with the stick still floating in the shallows from his morning swim, came up the dock and joined me as I fired the lure off into the slight waves mounting under the clear skies and the green braid whipped in a curl and then straightened as it zipped off the reel. I felt the little blades begin to whir and put the slightest of bends in the heavy blank of the rod and through the clear water I could see the distant silver-and-white twinkle of the bait. As it approached, my dog caught sight of the spinner and whined out his hope for a fish he’d likely have a chance to sniff at.

As if on cue, a green-and-white streak zoomed in front of us as the bait approached the dock and the rod jumped with the strike.  I pulled back reactively, and my dog lunged forward as the pike broke the surface and splashed across the water.  With a thunderous cannonball, Ole hit the water and the pike streaked into the shallows alongside the dock.  With the bulk of the baitcasting rod I easily hoisted the fish up and out of the water so my lab wouldn’t entangle himself in the sixty-pound braid, or worse, one of the hooks on the treble attached to the thrashing four-pounder at the end of the line. 

Headed back to shore, my lab allowed me to unhook the pike and turn it back into the clear waters of the lake, and it wasted no time jetting out into the bluer depths.  By the time Ole made it back to the end of the dock, I had realigned the bait and leader, cleaned off a few leaves of aquatic vegetation and prepared to cast it again.  Shaking off the last of the lake water, he let out a whine as the old reliable in-line spinner took flight and began its trajectory for yet another retrieve in its long history.

Simonson is the lead writer and editor of Dakota Edge Outdoors.

Featured Photo: One of the author’s first bucktails, in classic red-and-white, still gets the job done. Simonson Photo.

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