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by Brett Erickson If you’re content throwing the same old bait, on the same old spots and getting the same old results, then move onto the next article! If you’re a progressive individual who wants to learn about the hottest new products, some background info on them, specific techniques, how the manufacturers and guides used them while prototyping them and even how to modify them—then read on!!! This is The Cutting Edge and that is exactly where we will keep you. Here we will highlight the latest products for all kinds of fishing but, with the explosion of popularity that muskie fishing is experiencing right now, we will focus most of our attention on products for big predator fish as this is the fastest growing segment in the fishing industry today. Let’s kick off this inaugural column with the single hottest product in the fishing industry today—the Double Cowgirl. It seems like just yesterday that I was in a restaurant with Brad and Carrie from Musky Mayhem Tackle. They had released the original Showgirl and Cowgirl baits earlier that year and were thinking about buying another company and looking for some advice. My advice to them was to do their own thing and grow their company their own way. We kept talking about Cowgirl and its impressive catches. The original Cowgirl was a 14”+ tinsel bait that had a huge cowbell spinner on it and weighed around 8oz. and came through the water at a 45 degree angle (it was that heavy!!!). To the average person, this was just going to be a trolling bait. I suggested that they lighten it up a lot and make it shorter so most people could cast it. Brad and Carrie went home and started playing around with different size baits and blade configurations and came up with one they liked, the fish liked and Brad’s guided clients liked. Later that year, they gave some of these new prototype baits to Gregg Thomas, Luke Ronnestrand, Jason Hammernick and other friends who were guides. As they say, the rest is history! It was three years ago when we were sitting in the restaurant. Since then, the Double Cowgirl has boated over 500 muskies over the 50” benchmark! They have only been on the market for 2 years and have already caught more giant muskies than any other bait made!!! What makes them so special? For that, you’ll have to find a muskie that can talk! What I can tell you is what they do different. Let’s start with the blades. The 2 #10 Colorado blades pull hard. Yes, you’re going to hurt after throwing these for a day or two, but you will also hurt after throwing a Giant Jackpot for a couple of days. It is all about matching the right equipment to the task at hand (more on this later). Back to the blades pulling hard. It accomplishes a couple different things. Probably the most important thing is that they move an incredible amount of water that the fish can easily sense through their lateral line. Luke Ronnestrand (guides on Mille Lacs and Vermilion in Minnesota) recently told me that ‘the harder they pull, the bigger they produce’. By pulling hard, and moving so much water, they let a muskie know that a big meal is within their strike zone. A couple of people have gone so far as to flatten the blades out a little to get them to pull harder. The other option is to go faster (we’ll go over how to make this easier in a little bit). The other these big blades do is that they create such a vortex behind them that they suck all the tinsel forward and this really makes the tinsel move around and dance. Where most bucktails just look like a long, thin line coming through the water, a Double Cowgirl is a big, moving blob that could represent a single large fish or a school of tightly packed baitfish. I also believe that with all this course tinsel moving around that The Cutting

there is a very unique sound being produced by it that the fish haven’t heard before. One last benefit of the 2 #10 blades is how well they go through vegetation. These blades swing so wide and move so much water that they will blow most vegetation away from the hooks during normal to high- speed retrieves. About the only modification that I make to a Double Cowgirl is that I will take a split ring and attach it to the wire just above the sinker. To this I will attach about a 3/4oz. Dipsey style sinker to give me longer and easier casts. Ok, so how do the guides throw these hard pulling baits day after day without killing themselves? One option is lots of good painkillers so they can’t feel the pain! The better option is to get the right tools for the job. For rods, 8’ to 9’ heavy or extra heavy action rods work the best. Popular rods are the Shimano Calcutta CLC-X80H, the St.Croix Tournament TM80MHF, and a custom built rod made on a G-Loomis Steel SW96-20 blank. If you are on a budget, look at the Shimano Compre CPC-M80H. These long rods make easy casts, give you the length to do big figure 8s and have the power to drive the big 7/0 hooks in and control an angry 50”+ giant. As far as reels, this is really where you get what you pay for. In the past, I’ve always thrown them with a Shimano Calcutta 400TE spooled with 80# or 100# Western Filament Tufline Plus and have never had a problem with slow to medium speed retrieves. If you want to go high speed, then that is where it is going to hurt! A lot of the guides would throw the Abu Garcia 7000 in the C3 or HSN models as they were faster and less fatiguing. The only bad thing is they would only last a month before they needed service. Most people aren’t going to the abuse on a reel that a guide will, so the 7000 is still a good option if you are on a budget. So, what haven’t the guides broken, that will go fast, have lots of power and doesn’t kick their butt? Saltwater reels that are designed to cast. Specifically, the Shimano Trinidad 14 and Trinidad 16 Narrow. The Trinidad 14 is the most popular as it is the size of a Shimano Calcutta 400TE and easily fits in your hand. They have extra large and tough saltwater gears that produce a ratio of 6.2:1 that take in 36” of line per crank of the handle. This produces your speed. Because of the extra beefy gears, Shimano is able to put a longer handle on the reel that reduces the torque and makes it easier on you. This gives you the power. Sound like the perfect reel? Well, it is—in the right situation. That situation is baits that you will crank in with out any jerks or twitches. It is a saltwater reel and therefore has no line guide, pawl or worm gear to lay your line back on your spool evenly. Won’t all your line pile up on one side? Yup, but here’s how you solve that problem. First, use a superbraid line that is more round and larger in diameter. This will help the line lay itself evenly on the spool. Cortland’s 80# Masterbraid is what most people are having great success with as it is round, has a larger diameter and is soft and easy casting. The other thing that really helps is to only fill the spool ¾ full and not to the top. The last thing is to point your rod at the bait and keep your shoulders square to the bait. If you’re turned sideways while cranking, the line will pile up on one side. If you are facing the bait, the line will lay evenly and you’ll be in the perfect hook setting position when that monster eats your Double Cowgirl! To complete your perfect Double Cowgirl combo, add a 15” 130# fluorocarbon leader. If you’re going to be fishing after dark, slide a 5mm Owner Soft Glow Bead on your line before attaching your leader. These beads are soft and protect your rod tip from being jammed by or broken by your swivel at boatside and, being that they glow, they let you know visually when to start your figure 8. Ok, these baits have been out for a couple of years—how is this cutting edge??? Well, all Cutting Edge “Mayhem”