Three Seasons of Musky Fishing
When it comes to musky fishing there are three seasons of fishing; spring, summer and fall. In order to catch fish in each of the three seasons, an angler must be willing to change his tactics. As the seasons change, so does available food, cover and water temperature. All these things need to be taken into consideration when fishing for muskies.
Early in the spring season, things are just coming to life. To catch a musky now means being able to locate areas of the lake with the warmest water. Look for areas where the bottom is dark-colored and in shallow bays. These spots tend to be the warmest and will attract baitfish, small panfish and other food sources which in turn attracts prowling muskies.
I like to throw a bucktail like one from the Mepps Musky Killer Bait Series in the spring. These lures are designed to mimic the natural food sources within the waters. There is not much to know about fishing a bucktail. It is as simple as throwing it out and reeling it in. As soon as the spinner hits the water start cranking the reel. If you need the spinner to run a little deeper, let it sink a couple seconds before beginning to reel. As the water warms up, speed up the retrieve. I will run it right under the water’s surface or burn it over the top of a weed bed as the water warms.
A crankbait in the six to nine-inch range is another good choice anglers have at their disposal this time of the year. When retrieving crankbaits, slow and steady usually wins the race. The trick is to let the musky have a good, long look at the bait. This will often induce a strike.
Much like fishing with a bucktail, once the water warms, the crankbait can be retrieved a little faster. It is OK to add some pauses and to speed it up throughout the retrieve. Breaking up the monotony of a steady retrieve might be enough for an uncertain fish to strike.
My rod and line combination does not change from season to season when musky fishing. I prefer to use a St. Croix® Legend Tournament Musky Downsizer Casting Rod spooled with either 50-pound Seaguar Smackdown Braid or 100-pound Seaguar Threadlock Braid.
This is the time of year when all the fish are actively eating, and the water is warm. The same crankbaits and bucktails you used in the spring are still catching fish in the summer. But, because the water temperature is as hot as it is going to get, use bigger lures with more action and a faster retrieve.
It is alright to throw bucktails and crankbaits a foot or more in length. Swimbaits are another good summer lure especially for muskies suspended over deep water. A swimbait can be fished like a jig, crankbait or jerkbait.
By now you have fished tirelessly through the spring and summer and boated a few nice fish. But, as fall kicks in it is time to catch the monsters, especially from the time the lakes turnover to first ice.
To catch a monster, you need to break out the jerkbaits. A jerkbait has just enough lead to give it little to no buoyancy. The larger the jerkbait, the better. Do not be afraid to throw a jerkbait 10-inches in length or longer. But, soft plastic swim baits such as a 5 ½-inch sucker from Live Target is great for throwback applications when fish refuse bigger baits and it is also a good bait for pressured fish.
The easiest way to fish a jerkbait is to use a slow retrieve and stop every few feet. The bait will either suspend or rise very slowly. This is about as much as a big musky can take. Expect a strike to happen towards the end of the pause if it is going to happen.
Another tactic, but a tad more difficult method to fish a jerkbait is to “walk the dog”. This involves dropping and lifting the rod as you retrieve the bait. With practice it can be learned in little time. As you practice, watch the bait and watch how it moves.
Z-Man has some great plastics quickly becoming my favorite plastic for musky fishing. Z-Man HeroZ Shad is a 10-inch bait that is great for retrieving over the top of weeds and around rocks and stumps. The Mag SwimZ is a little smaller bait with a paddle tail for added action. Both lures are good for steep breaks with stumps or rocks and jigged down it. Because of their ElaZtech material these lures will hold up for several muskies.
Live bait is probably the best fall tactic to land monster fish in the fall. I use a quick-strike rig. A quick-strike rig is designed to hook the fish quick and allow for a release.
The fish is often hooked in the mouth and lives to be caught again. The old rigs that were once used caused the angler to have to wait several minutes before setting the hook. By then, the musky was hooked so deep that catch and release was no longer an option.
As easy way to fish a live sucker is to let the sucker move freely in the water and attract a big musky. Another method is to fish the sucker under a big bobber. Either method is exciting and successful.
Catching a musky does not have to live up to the reputation of being a fish of ten-thousand casts. These methods will put the odds in your favor throughout the season.