Musky Figure 8 Tips & Strategies for Success
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The Figure 8 Debate
This week, we're going to tackle the age old debate: Circles vs. Eights!
Luckily, resident figure-8 aficianado Josh Borovsky has the definitive answer:
But in all seriousness, here are Josh's thoughts on the topic:
"Honestly, I prefer a figure 8 whenever I can get away with one. I feel like there are more trigger points in a figure 8 and you can do a few more things with your technique to make bites happen where you want them to and minimize or eliminate them from happening in spots that are not optimal for hooking percentages."
That's a point many folks forget.... getting the fish to bite is only HALF of the battle. Getting a good hookset and landing the fish is the ultimate goal.
"That being said, there are quite a few situations that call for an oval, and despite what a lot of people think, it has nothing to do with the size of the fish."
Josh's longest fish to date (56.5 inches) was actually caught in an eight, not an oval:
"Believe it or not you can actually get your turns significantly wider with a figure 8 than an oval as long as you have the depth of water necessary to go deep with your rod on the straightaways allowing you to sweep up and sneak underneath the boat and add all those extra feet of radius to your turn that you can't get with an oval."
There are plenty of situations where ovals are the optimal option, but before we jump into those, Josh is going to touch on a few of the negatives....
The "Dark Side" of Ovals
"As explained in previous issues of Musky Insider there's a forward way and a backward way to figure 8 (see graphic below). The forward way has you doing your turns away from the boat on each side of the figure 8 giving you better hooking percentages when the fish eats on the turns.
"If you turn toward the boat the backwards way, you are super handcuffed when the fish eat on the turns because you can't set the hook back the opposite direction."
"The problem with ovals is one of your turns is the correct way (away from the boat) and the other one is toward the boat, which handcuffs you on the hookset.
"It's also very difficult to get a good hookset on the fish if they bite as you're sweeping your bait along the side of the boat in the oval. So really there's roughly 40 to 50% of that maneuver that leaves you handcuffed in a bad spot to set the hook if they bite and the end goal is to catch the fish not just get the bite."
Even so, there are some times when the benefits of an oval outweigh the costs....
When Ovals Work Great
#1 – Late & Lazy Fish
If you have a fish that comes in late & lazy when you're doing a figure 8, the fish will follow the path of your first turn away from the boat, then proceed to swim back to where it came from.
Utilizing an oval in this situation allows you to keep your bait in their field of view for a longer period of time, which keeps them engaged at the boat.
Here's an example from Nick's video:
#2 – Disengaged Fish
Fish can become disengaged in various ways. Sometimes it happens after a musky swings-and-misses your lure. Other times, they'll disengage because they see the boat and/or our movement.
And other times, they disengage because they’re muskies and they feel like it.... 😂
Regardless, sometimes the best way to get them re-acclimated and reengaged is to ditch the 8 and bust out an oval.
In the GIF below, Nick does a great job of rolling with an oval instead of crashing into a disengaged musky with a figure 8 maneuver:
Whether you're utilizing figure 8's or ovals, there are a lot of fish that will eat that first turn out there further than your normally would as Nick does here:
Holding that first turn can produce a lot of bites, but you need to recognize when you have crossed “the line of symmetry".
Crossing the line of symmetry = making one turn so large that you run out of room to make an equally large turn on the opposite side.
Josh explains what to do if you're doing standard figure 8's and find yourself beyond the line of symmetry as you extend your turn:
"When you cross the line of symmetry, you generally don't want to stick with an eight on your next turn because you'll have a really small rinky-dink turn. The workaround is to roll with an oval... basically the idea is it's better to have a big turn the wrong direction and keep the fish engaged, versus having a small one the correct direction (away from the boat) and having the fish bail out."
It's hard to cover EVERYTHING here in the newsletter....
For example, some baits works better in an oval and have different triggering capabilities to consider.
Another key variable is "speed":
"Obviously, another huge component to triggering these fish has to do with changes in your speed and when/where you do that based on what the fish is doing.
"If you always go fast or slow in the same exact places, at the same moments, with every following fish regardless of its attitude, it’s costing you fish.... a lot of fish!"
If you're interested in a full-blown deep dive on the "boatside maneuver", consider picking up Josh's Figure 8 Wizardry class.
It's loaded with 2+ hours of hardcore info that will help you put more muskies in the boat this season 👍
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