Take figure-eight to next level with 'Hang Move'

Muskie fishermen who practice figure eights after every cast know the maneuver will increase their catches by around 25 percent each season, and that on certain waters the figure will hover near a remarkable 50 percent. But there is one twist to the figure eight that can make it even more effective.

Giant, wide turns in a three-dimensional manner are customary among those skilled in the figure eight, but the ploy that has triggered more big fish for me the past few seasons is what those who practice it call the “hang move.”

I strongly believe in giving credit where it’s due, and, in the case of the hang move, the guy who deserves a collective pat on the back from the muskie world is legendary Lake of the Woods muskie guide and resort owner Bill Sandy.

Called by some the “Muskie Whisperer,” Sandy shocked the fishing world about a decade or so ago when magazine articles credited him with the then unheard of total of more than 300 muskies caught each season.

Growth in the practice of catch and release, combined with huge muskie year-classes, have taken fishing on LOTW to levels that may have never before been seen, and it’s likely that Sandy has left the 300 number in his rear-view mirror. There’s no doubt the hang move has triggered many of those fish.

So, just what is the hang move? It’s a slight slowdown, or delay, in the figure eight that provides an easy, sideways target for a following muskie. In many cases, rather than follow the figure eight through each turn, the muskie will short-cut its route and T-bone the bait as it hangs, and then it’s just a matter of setting the hook and fighting the fish to the net.

Here’s how to do it. First, you should already be making a figure eight at the conclusion of each cast because doing so will prepare you for the moment when a muskie is following, so you aren’t surprised and then do a herky-jerky figure eight. A smooth transition to the figure eight – which will come with lots of practice – is essential.

Pull the lure toward the boat at the conclusion of your retrieve, and then turn either right or left, depending on what’s more comfortable for you (right-handers often prefer to go right, lefties usually go left).

Make a big turn quickly next to the boat and then pull the lure away from the boat to what eventually will be the second turn of the figure eight. Just before you enter that turn, however, slow down the rate at which you’re pulling the lure so that it pauses (or hangs) for a moment, then make the turn and pull the lure back to the boat for turn three. Make the third turn quickly at the boat, but pause again before entering the fourth turn.

If the muskie still hasn’t grabbed the bait through the first figure eight (and two hangs), continue at least as long as the fish is in sight. Sometimes a muskie will move off and watch the figure eight from a distance, and sometimes it may move out of sight into the shadow beneath the boat, so it’s wise to keep the figure eight going for a few more laps after the fish has seemingly lost interest.

Once, I made more than 75 figure eights with a fish that would move off and then re-engage periodically. Sometimes it appeared to be catching its breath, and I wish it had allowed me to do the same! (It never did hit, by the way.)

Besides giving the muskie what it must recognize as an easy target, there are two other benefits to the hang move – pausing as the bait is moving away from the boat before turns two and four means the fish is now looking solely at the bait rather than back toward the boat, and when a muskie grabs the bait going away, the chances of hooking it increase exponentially.

The hang move will work with any lure that works in a figure eight – bucktails, topwaters, crankbaits, plastics, you name it. But there’s another twist to the hang move that my buddy, Kevin Schmidt, and I have added in recent years.

Kevin and I catch a lot of muskies on minnow baits or floating/diving jerkbaits (think Suick) when used as a throw-back lure to a fish that previously had followed but didn’t hit the bait, and it’s the floating action of these baits that can be incorporated into the hang move.

As we pull these baits into turns two and four of the figure eight, we may stop the retrieve altogether and simply allow the bait to float back to the surface, like a dying baitfish. Usually it’s a simple hang move that will trigger the fish, but if we have taken it around through a couple figure eights and it still hasn’t struck, stopping the lure and allowing it to float may work.

Some of the strikes that we have experienced with this practice have been breathtaking. Imagine a topwater strike at your feet, and you get the idea. If the fish doesn’t hit the bait, pull it back under and resume the figure eight.

The hang move also can be performed in a big oval, if that’s the boatside maneuver you prefer. In this case it seems to work best to make a fast turn and then slow (hang) the bait in the long straightaway.

You don’t need to be a muskie whisperer to catch big fish. Doing a figure eight alone will increase your muskie catches substantially, and if you add a hang move to the mix, your boatside catches will be that much greater. You can hang your lure … er, hat, on that one.

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