The following originally appeared in Minnesota Outdoor News.
Last time, we considered muskie lures as tools. As I said then, a lot of the tools in our tackle boxes are specialists. Some work best at high speeds, some super slow. Some dive deep, some sink, some are topwaters. Most tools are made for one job, like a Phillips screwdriver or a 7/16 socket. We also have a few lures that adjust to multiple situations, like a crescent wrench. And for my money, the spinnerbait is the ultimate crescent wrench.
That said, there are a few others that come pretty close to multi-purpose. After spinnerbaits, the second most versatile lure in my tackle box is the Believer by Drifter Tackle.
I have forgotten the details of the licensing agreement, but the 8-inch Believer first appeared in the 1970s as a nearly identical knock-off of the Swim Whizz, which was designed by Lake St. Clair guide Homer LeBlanc. Homer had designed the Swim Whizz as a high-speed, short-line trolling lure. Homer and his clients boated a ridiculous number of muskies with his system. I had been trolling with Spoon Plugs and Rapalas when I heard of Homer’s system. The Swim Whizz changed my life.
But the knock-off was even better. Due to an improved manufacturing process, the Believer has more uniform hook hangers and, therefore, tracks even better than the Swim Whizz. I soon had a pile of 8-inch Believers. I considered them the perfect trolling lure. They ran at about 10-14 feet, depending on line diameter and amount of line out. And they fooled muskies from Deer Lake Wisconsin to Lake of the Woods.
In a case of perfect timing, just as I was getting into Canadian Shield muskies on deeper, clearer bodies of water, Drifter Tackle came out with the 10-inch Believer. The 10 incher ran at 22 feet or so, putting it right at that “twilight zone” depth just below the sechi disc reading. (Note: See Dick Pearson quoting Gord Pyzer on the “twilight zone” concept in the summer 2002 issue of Esox Angler magazine.) The 10 incher did things at that depth that the muskies had apparently never seen before. The muskies climbed all over it. I started catching half of my annual fish in the month of October … which meant trolling … which meant that about half of my fish for several years were caught on Believers.
Then I discovered Lac Seul in the mid-’80s. Sure, we caught a lot of nice fish on Lac Seul trolling Believers in the fall. But there was more. We were seeing and catching the biggest fish of our lives. On one mid-summer outing on Lac Seul-on the same day we had measured a 54 and a 57 (caught on spinnerbaits)-we got a follow, from a fish that looked to be definitely bigger than the 57. I know. Baloney, right? But I had, just a few hours earlier, handled and measured the 57. I knew that I was looking at an even bigger fish.
At times like that, you look in your tackle box and wonder: What can I throw at that monster that it will take seriously? No, the 10-inch Believer did not get her to strike. But she did follow the thing several times that week.
Oh, by the way, a guy named Jacobson-a tourist catching his first muskie-caught a 63-incher on that same rock two years later. Casting a chartreuse Believer.
So with my Lac Seul experiences-and learning through the grapevine what Doug Johnson was doing with 10-inch Believers on Lake of the Woods-I did a little math. Maybe they’re not just for trolling. Duh.
But I had no idea how much I had been missing. When connected at the shallow-running eyelet, Believers turn into a very shallow-
Believers aren’t spinnerbaits, but they handle different situations, different depths, and different speeds better than anything else in my tackle box.
And they catch muskies.
Catch a nice one and let it go. Let them ALL go.