January 12, 2023
By Matt Ahrenholtz
Muskie fishing after 40 presents some unique challenges that many people haven’t faced up to this point in their lives. Limbs don’t bend the way they used to; mornings are harder than they used to be—or perhaps mornings are easier as you have begun waking up at ridiculous hours no matter when you called it night the evening prior. This may also mean you are ready for bed before the sun sets.
An advantage to the aging process is the wealth of knowledge gained over the years; however, our bodies do not always allow us to use that knowledge the way we think it should be able to. This becomes frustrating. Quickly.
I would like to share some insight into some areas that has helped me put a few extra fish in the net as the grind has gotten harder with age.
I can’t stress enough how much a stretching and exercise routine has helped me as I’ve aged. I try and stretch every morning and walk or do some kind of simple exercises at least every other day. I have developed some simple exercise routines that I do at home with body weight and some dumbbells. I have spent no more than a couple hundred dollars on the equipment used and spend no more than 30 minutes total in the mornings.
These routines help me in my everyday life. The aches and pains in my back and other areas that I used to deal with are virtually nonexistent. When it comes to my fishing, I know it makes a difference, especially during a long grinding day. I don’t get the pain between my shoulders, the tightness in my neck and back, and it helps with the aching in the legs. My figure 8s are also much better at the end of the long day, as muscle fatigue isn’t as much of a factor.
Overall, it helps with your focus and keeping a positive attitude as a long day wears on. This absolutely leads to more fish in the bottom of the net.
It’s a joke as old as time. As people age, they can’t (or don’t want to) keep up with the new technology. Now, just because something is new doesn’t mean that it will automatically put more fish in your boat. However, some of the technology that has come out in recent years has certainly put extra fish in my boat.
I’m not going to get into the how’s, what’s or the whys, but I do want to stress how important the willingness to learn is. I don’t necessarily mean electronics either when it comes to technology, it could be new techniques or equipment as well. Ask questions of people that are actually using the equipment or technique and see if it is something you can utilize. If someone is expounding the virtues of a new electronics to you, ask them about specific situations where they utilized that technology to put more fish in their boat. It’s possible it’s not something that you will be able to utilize on the waters you fish. Or it might be something that doubles your catches.
You will never know the answers if you don't ask the questions. Use the off seasons to research and talk with people that are knowledgeable to see if new techniques or technology are right for you.
I will share one example that has made a huge difference for me. I used to think the power grip or jig ripper handles were only for people that couldn’t handle the stress of muskie fishing. Then I finally tried one when a friend had one in the boat. The difference it made for me when casting large blades was unbelievable. It puts my wrist in a more natural position and also allows for more torque and leverage when going through the figure 8. It has made a huge difference in my fishing, and it’s something I would have never tried if I hadn't listened to a friend and tried something new.
Many of us used to be able to start before dawn on the longest day of the year and cast any bait we wanted straight through sunset. Now, that’s not so easy. Planning and thinking ahead can make your day more enjoyable and productive.
If you are on a great blade bite at sunset during the late summer you don’t want to burn yourself out casting big blades all day just to be exhausted when the fish start going at sunset. Spend the morning throwing some topwater. Do some deep fishing during the day. Then be ready with your big blades and fresh body to boat a few fish during that sunset bite.
Another thing I have started to do is mixing in more trolling. Don’t be afraid to take a break midday and eat some lunch while trolling and learning some new water. A decent trolling break during the middle of the day also gives your legs and feet a chance to recover.
I would make a bet that most of us use premium fuel and additives in our boat motors. We also make sure all the batteries are charged before we head out for a long day on the lake. If we treat our bodies the same way we treat our boats and pay attention to what we are fueling them with we will run better as well.
Paying attention to what I fuel my body with before spending time on the water has made a difference in how long I can stay on the water, and how effective I can be with that time on the water. Eating a good meal the night before and a good breakfast the morning of starts the day off right. The night before I prefer lots of proteins and carbs like vegetables, baked potatoes or rice. Avoid greasy meals that might call for a long boat ride back to shore for a bathroom break in the morning. For breakfast I like proteins, like eggs or yogurt and granola, and any fruits to go along with it for some energy.
Avoiding lots of caffeine will keep you from getting the highs and crashes associated with it. During the day I like snacks that are filling and give good energy. Fruits and nuts are my favorite. They store easily in the boat and make quick and clean eating with little mess. I avoid sugary drinks and snacks for the same reason as caffeine. I don’t want the quick jittery high followed by the crash.
Lastly, and maybe the most difficult when it comes to a fishing trip with friends, is avoiding lots of alcohol. Having a cocktail or two after a good day on the water (or a strategy session after a good skunking) is certainly a mainstay. However, alcohol dehydrates us and going into a long day on the water, especially muskie fishing, dehydration is the last thing you want for your body. Muskie fishing is physical. Alcohol and the dehydration associated with it leads to sore and aching muscles. Your figure 8s will not be as crisp, and your focus will wane much easier. This leads to missed opportunities. Keep the alcohol to a minimum. Keep your body feeling better and your focus sharper. It will lead to more fish.
I don’t know about you, but when I take a trip, it’s to a place where I have a chance at a fish that I probably can’t catch on my home waters. You want to be able to take full advantage of these opportunities when you have them. You can have a couple extra cocktails with your fishing buddies during the offseason. The time we have to fish is fleeting and you want to make the most of it. This leads me to my last note.
Enjoy your time on the water. Enjoy those moments with friends and family. Take that fishing trip. You never know when your last day on the water will be.