By Musky Hunter Staff
At first, Joe Gensini thought he was snagged. Once he realized he was hooked to a fish, it took him a while to comprehend how big it was. Now, the size of the musky he ended up catching is still sinking in.
Gensini, of Hennepin, Illinois, caught and released a 60 3/4-inch musky while prefishing for a bass tournament on Green Bay May 9, after a battle that lasted an hour and ten minutes.
“It was really a neat fish, a giant fish. I’ve fished in Florida, California, and throughout the northwoods, and I’ve never before seen a fish of this size,” said Gensini, 39, of Hennepin, Illinois. “I’m not a musky hunter. I’m a tournament bass fisherman. I didn’t realize what I caught until after the fact.”
Gensini was prefishing for the Cabela’s North American Bass Circuit tournament, which was held May 12-13 on Green Bay. In the boat with him was Paul Malone, a full-time fishing guide from Pleasant Valley, Iowa.
The two anglers had positioned their boat in about 10 feet of water in Little Sturgeon Bay and were casting to a drop-off that went from seven to 10 feet when the fish hit on Gensini’s second cast of the morning at about 10 a.m.
“I caught it on an eighth-ounce homemade black hair jig … just a plain old black hair jig,” Gensini said. “My goal was to fish the hair jig real slow. I cast it out, let it fall, and I felt just a ‘tink.’ I set the hook and when it didn’t move I thought I had a snag. I kind of went to pick up again and then I could feel I had a fish.
“At first I thought I had a big smallmouth. She really didn’t know she was hooked. Once she realized she was hooked she came out toward deeper water and I could finally see her in the clear water. I still didn’t realize how big it was.
“I already had some time invested so I told my partner I was going to try to catch this fish. We ended up chasing it around with the trolling motor for an hour and 10 minutes.”
Gensini and Malone took turns with the rod during the fight. “Paul and I both fish a lot of bass tournaments and it’s rare we get to fish together. Halfway through the fight I handed the rod off to him so I could tie up my lines and prepare myself for the day of prefishing. We really landed it as a team effort. I’d run the trolling motor and he’d dance around the boat, then we’d switch and he’d run the trolling motor while I danced around the boat,” Gensini said.
Gensini’s rig included 8-pound test PowerPro high-visibility green braided line that had been spooled for him that morning at Howie’s Tackle in nearby Sturgeon Bay. The braid was tied to an 8-pound test fluorocarbon leader, and fished off a Shimano reel and 6-foot-9 medium-heavy Fitzgerald spinning rod.
Finally, the anglers brought the musky to the boat. “We didn’t have a net big enough for it, so we got the head into the net and I then body-hugged the fish and got it into the boat. We then proceeded to take a video of getting the fish unhooked. It was hooked right in the corner of the mouth,” Gensini said.
Fishermen in another boat who had watched the fight had a tape measure and digital scale, and let them borrow it to record the details. Gensini said the musky had a 28 1/4-inch girth. Though various formulas for estimating fish weight suggest the musky should have weighed more, Gensini said the digital scale read 40.1 pounds. “We also marked the length of the fish on a rod. I just wanted to get a feel for how big the fish was. I even pulled the drawstring out of my sweatshirt to girth it, and cut it off at the girth,” Gensini said.
They released the fish after measuring, weighing and photographing.
Gensini said the best photo of the fish is the one pictured here of Malone, and said the entire fish was not included in photos of himself. They took video of the release and hope to pull better still images from it.
While he knew he had a big musky, Gensini, who owns Gensini Excavating and is a part-owner of the fishing jersey company Rayjus, didn’t know how significant a 60-incher is until he talked with his friend, Mike Novak of Hinsdale, Illinois. Longtime Musky Hunter readers may recall Novak’s catch of a 55-inch, 46-pound 10-ounce musky in 1994 which won the Vilas County Musky Marathon that year, or they may have seen him on the “Fishing With Joe Bucher” TV show.
Novak was stunned. “I’m not looking for anything nor do I want anything from this fish. I just caught a big musky, and I’m telling Mike about it and he says, ‘Oh, my God. Do you realize what you’ve got?’,” Gensini laughed.
Gensini, who says he has caught and released a 14-pound largemouth bass and an 8-pound smallmouth bass without having replicas made, said he intends to have a replica made of his big musky.
And how did Gensini and Malone do in the bass tourney? They ended up 26th.