Big summertime muskie patrol shoreline and midlake structures at premier locations such as these Minnesota hotspots: Leech Lake, Cass Lake and Lake of the Woods. Their movements are predictable and catching them doesn’t have to be tough.
“Muskie are not the fish of 10,000 casts, but, they can be if you let them.” said Iowa muskie expert Lance Christensen. He is a top muskie tournament pro and has been a top Muskies Inc. Master Angler for many years.
Muskies are all about attitude.
“I don’t pick up a muskie rod and go fishing thinking I am not going to catch a fish,” Christensen said. “I think I am going to catch one on my very first cast. If it’s 9:30 at night and I haven’t seen a fish all day, I believe that I am going to catch one at 9:31. The first time you stop paying attention, that’s when one will strike right at the boat.”
Early muskie anglers struggled to adapt saltwater gear to the demands of muskie fishing while learning something about the specie’s behavior. Rods were short and equipment was heavy, a killer combination when making long casts for hours. Eventually, the tools of the muskie trade evolved for convenience and comfort, and time on the water taught fishermen what they needed to know for consistent success. They learned that summertime is a great time to catch big fish. A thunderstorm rolling nearby is all the better. Although muskies have a mean reputation, they are delicate and need to be handled carefully, especially in hot months. July and August can offer some of the best opportunities of the open-water season.
Tips To Improve Your Odds
Here’s how to improve your odds:
* Target lakes with good populations of fish. Pay attention to stocking numbers and creel reports from state conservation departments.
* Unlike the old days when rods resembled pool cues and water-absorbing, 36-pound Dacron was the favored line, invest in modern light-weight rods up to 8 feet long. Pair it with a durable baitcast reel spooled with some of the new no stretch super braids. Some of the 100-pound super braided line has a diameter of 20-pound monofilament. Use 10-inch to 14-inch leaders. Christensen ties his own out of 100-pound mono for jerkbaits and surface baits and 7-strand wire for crankbaits and bucktails.
* Most muskie anglers own at least one of everything in the bait shop, they take everything they own on every trip and they spend most of their time changing up. That’s just not necessary.
“Keep your bait in the water,” Christensen said. “You’re not going to catch a muskie when you’re rifling through the box looking for a bait. Don’t give muskies credit for thinking. They have a brain the size of an acorn. Keep it simple. Basic stuff will catch fish all the time.”
* Think small. One school of thought promotes big baits for big fish. Sometimes that’s true. But with more fishermen pursuing the brutes, the trick often is to show fish something different. They get “bait sensitive” after seeing the same thing zoom by them 1000s of times. Try throwing some spinnerbaits that are sized for bass, but made from heavier wire.
* Once on the water, start fishing by searching for deep edges of weedlines. Don’t waste time fishing the entire length. Turning on the GPS plotter and motor along the outside weed edges. When done, you have a map showing all the points and turns along the way. None is too small to warrant attention. Christensen has seen three muskies come from a spot no bigger than a boat.
Also note where slots run through the weeds from deep to shallow water. Armed with that information, return to those high-percentage spots and cast. Use surface baits like the Giant Jackpot, the Hog Wobbler, Tally Wacker, or Lindy Giant Tandem Spinnerbait.
* If you don’t connect with fish, move to the inside weed edges or to bullrushes. Big fish can come from depths of no more than 4 feet.
Try Trolling Crankbaits
* Next, try trolling a crankbait like a Believer, Lindy Big M or a jerkbait. Big muskies will often suspend as shallow as 6 feet down over 30-feet of water. Vary speeds from 1.5 to 5 mph off the outside weed edge. Bigger muskies will often prefer slower speeds. They got to monstrous sizes by conserving energy, not wasting it.
* Still nothing? Head to rocky mid-lake structure. Troll the edges, and cast over the top.
* Provoke muskies to attack by radically altering lure direction to change speeds. Twitch crankbaits during the retrieve. Keep the rod tip pointed at your lure until it’s 15 feet to 20 feet from the boat. Then, dart the rod tip to the right to make a 90-degree turn or rip it right straight and then pause it.
* Always do figure 8s at boat-side. Half of your fish can come while using this tactic.
* Contrary to common thought, even big muskies often hit lightly like a walleye. Pay attention. Remember — a positive mental attitude helps you stay on top of opportunities, which can be on the next cast and close by. Don’t rear back too hard and pull the lure out of the fish’s mouth when you feel a strike. The fish will drive the hooks into its mouth while it tries to get free.
Once the fish is at boatside, work quickly and release it as soon as you can. If you take a picture, carefully cradle the fish’s midsection as you lift it horizontally to avoid injury to the fish.
Get an attitude. Try summertime fishing for muskie. It’s hot!
For a fine assortment of Fishing Gear, click here.
Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson write a weekly column for sportsmansguide.com. Ted has many fishing achievements, including a victory at the 1993 Mercury Nationals and the 1995 Professional Walleye Trail Top Gun award. He reached the pinnacle of both angling and business when he was named PWT Champion in 1998 and president of Lindy Little Joe, Inc., of Brainerd, Minn., a year later. (Ted’s sponsors include Ranger Boats, Mercury Outboards, Pinnacle Rods and Reels, Bottom Line Electronics, Minn Kota, Stren, Normark, Flambeau, Master Lock, Gamakatsu, Aqua Vu and Nautamatic TR 1.)