Rural Tennessee: Home of the Musky

By Courtney Bennett

The Musky. Fish of ten thousand casts so they say. I either cast a lot more than I think I do, or I must be one of the luckiest anglers ever as I have now landed three of these absolute beasts. 

Musky, or die

I wasn’t targeting this Musky the day it found its way to my XCite crankbait that mimicked the color of a Bass.  I was actually targeting Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass as usually the fall bite for those two species is on fire. But as fate would have it, my lure enticed one of the many Muskellunge that inhabit our local river systems. This is the second Musky I have caught using a crankbait and 12 lb Monofilament.  Fortunately, my line held and my Cashion Icon cranking rod in MHMF never came close to snapping as I managed to get the Musky to the bank where my husband helped me remove the lure and safely release this monster of a fish.

Courtney Bennett by her kayak at the landing

My husband, James and I had not been out on the water in several weeks due to having a lot of rainfall. Our rivers had been effectively blown out for some time this fall. Each time I had an opportunity to be off from work, it would rain and put our rivers in a dangerously high zone. So, we patiently waited for the water levels to go back to normal before we headed back to one of our favorite spots. It was a Saturday, a perfect fall day. The sun was shining, and the sky was blue. James and I had gotten up, made breakfast, and then loaded our kayaks into our truck and took off for the day. I was hoping to catch and release a Smallmouth as I think their coloration is so beautiful. James was hoping to anything, he isn’t very picky about his catches, but I know he’s secretly hoping to feel the tug of a Musky on the other end of his line one day. That’s right. James remains 0-0 for his Musky catching. 

Once I was out on the water, I tied on a crankbait that is the color of a Largemouth Bass. It was a shallow runner, about 2-4 feet. I was sitting in an area that was pretty shallow with some trees that had fallen into the water. I decided I would cast toward the lay down to see if a beautiful, bronze Smallmouth might be hiding there, but no. I felt a bump of my line, then a sudden smash. My bait started running and I knew what had happened. It was a Musky. On the first cast. 


I yelled to James and since I was no more than about 30 yards from the ramp, I decided I would get back to the ramp to land the fish. I worked hard to get back to the ramp. I fought the fish and watched as my pole bent all the way over. The huge Musky ran under my kayak and it dawned on me that the fish was so large it could probably flip me right out of my kayak. I adjusted my grip on the rod and continued on toward the ramp. James was waiting with his fish handling glove on that wouldn’t allow the fish’s teeth to penetrate the glove. He also had his fish grips. 

We did not take the Musky out of the water for photos. Musky are highly sensitive fish and are very easily stressed. Lactic acid build up during the catch and release process will sometimes cause a Musky to die. It’s important to remove the hook and let them go as quickly as possible. It’s my personal policy to not hold the fish for photos for two reasons: one, they have teeth and two, I don’t want to risk taking the life of the fish. As ancient and archaic as they look, they are still beautiful in their own snaggle-toothed way. 


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