Shallow-Water Techniques For Muskies & Pike: Part 2

Pike and muskies cruising shallow reed flats are perfect targets for spinnerbaits. The single-hook design enables these lures to slip through even the thickest clumps, without hanging up. Whenever pike or muskies part the reeds as they approach a spinnerbait, but are reluctant to hit, try the “change up” trick. Any sudden, sideways line movement will usually trigger a strike. In nearly every case, the spinnerbait will be lodged deeply in the corner of the fishes? mouth.

When cover isn’t too thick, adding another “stinger hook” will help you hook more fish. Pike and muskies will often swipe at a spinnerbait without ever opening their mouths.

Spinnerbaits and jerkbaits both have taken a ton of muskies and pike over the years.

Certain spinnerbaits flutter much better than others. Balance between the leadhead, wire arm length and the style of spinner blade used is critical. Usually, 1/2- to 1-ounce models with a short overhead wire arm and a small blade flutter are best. Long blades, such as willow leaves, are great for straight retrieves. They provide outstanding flash; however, they don’t flutter well. Rounder Colorado- and Indiana-style blades are better choices here. Mounting them on a ball-bearing swivel helps even more.

Single spins (spinnerbaits with only one blade) also flutter downward more rhythmically than those with two blades. Tandems provide superior lift and flash, making them excellent for shallow, straight retrieves.

Straight-Shaft Spinner Tips
Surprisingly, even though tons of pike and muskies are caught each year on straight-shaft spinners, few anglers really study retrieve techniques for this lure. Perhaps the biggest improvement involves a technique called “synchro casting.” Because most strikes occur within the first 10 feet of a retrieve with spinners, it is more productive to start the blade spinning as soon as the lure hits the water. To accomplish this, switch your cast/retrieve hands while the spinner is in the air and engage the reel before it hits the water to begin the retrieve.

Long rods make spinner fishing more enjoyable than fishing them on traditional “pool cues.” Instead of trying to cast a lightweight spinner on a short stick, try casting the same lure on a 7- to 7-1/2-footer. Casting distance and efficiency is immediately increased. It also makes it much easier to figure eight a spinner at boatside, which is extremely important when muskie fishing. Four out of 10 muskies will be boated on a bucktail spinner during a properly done figure eight.

Blade styles and sizes on straight-shaft spinners are always worth a close examination. Basically, large round blades make the lure lift quickly — a better choice for heavy cover and real shallow waters. Smaller, thinner blades have less water resistance and consequently run deeper.

Blade tones and colors can make a difference at times, too. Copper, brass and golds are best in coffee-stained waters. Silver, nickel, chrome and prisms are most productive in clearer lakes. Fluorescent blades really take fish in darkly stained lakes, or in any waters with a heavy algae bloom or runoff.

Jerkbaits: Big Baits For Big Fish
There are a number of ways to take pike and muskies in shallow waters, but no technique or bait is as strange as “jerkbaits.” Jerkbaits, which are more traditional muskie lures that catch lots of pike “by accident,” are large wooden lures that usually have little or no inherent action. Their fish-triggering movements are created by the angler jerking a stiff-action rod.

Short, stout 5 1/2- to 6-foot, fast-taper rods are standard equipment. New lightweight graphite’s are a big advantage here. They simply make it much easier to work these lures for longer periods of time, and even increase the numbers of jerking techniques.

A heavyweight, low-stretch line is an integral part of a jerkbait fishermen’s tackle, also. Lines with a lot of stretch absorb most of the jerking motion created at the rodtip. Low-stretch lines transmit more of the rod action to the lure. Heavier-rated lines do not fatigue at the knot from casting jerkbaits, which often weigh 4 ounces to 8 ounces. Most veteran jerkbait casters are partial to a braided dacron in the 30-pound to 40-pound test range. Braided dacron has very low stretch; therefore, it’s the traditional favorite. New copolymer lines in the 40-pound to 50-pound class have similar low-stretch qualities, plus superior durability and shock strength. They also make great jerkbait lines.

Buoyant jerkbaits with a pronounced up and down action are preferred when fishing weeds that grow near the surface. They can be jerked down until they hit the weedtops, then they will float upward during line pickup. This automatically frees the lure from fouling and puts it in perfect position for the next jerk.

Another style of jerkbait that can be much easier to work, and is an exceptional cold-water fish catcher as well, is the neutrally buoyant “glider” jerkbait. This lure is usually torpedo-shaped and has more of a classic side-to-side lateral action than an up-and-down movement. It is not as good in heavy weed cover, but works great around low weeds, wood and big boulders. It is usually heavier than buoyant jerkbaits, but easier to work through the water after the cast is made. A combination of simple twitches with slow, easy pulls is usually all that is needed to make this bait do its “dance.”

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