Musky America Magazine September 2023 Edition Thank you for visiting Musky America Magazine! The days are getting shorter, the water is cooling down and the Musky are getting ready to “put on the feed bag”. In this issue I have included articles about weather, lure selection and tactics. Did you have a 2022/23 Musky adventure? Share that adventure and write an article! Each day of the Musky season, anglers experience encounters on the water that can provide insights for all of us Musky anglers. We are offering $10.00 for your article. For information about submitting articles for inclusion in Musky America Magazine, please CLICK HERE! Craig Sandell Owner and Fellow Musky Angler The Icons shown here are at the bottom of the Magazine pages. All Rights Reserved © 2023
Musky Fishing…The Weather Is In Charge By Craig Sandell © 2012 Rain…Wind…Drought…Heat…Cold! If there was ever any doubt that weather and Musky fishing are inseparable, the past few Musky seasons have removed all doubt. This year an early ice out in Wisconsin combined with early drought conditions in the North of the state has Musky prognosticators scratching their heads as to the effects upon Musky patterns. In 2010, I spent 3 weeks in early June beating the water and at almost every turn, my efforts were stymied by the weather. In a single week, the water level rose almost a foot due to heavy rain and the water temperature dropped from 78 degrees to 68 degrees. The fishing was tough. My fishing partner, Rob Meusec, and I were on the water every day attempting to entice our Musky friend into an assault on one of our lure selections but to no avail. The fish were turning off at the boat or hitting short. There was no perceived pattern and we were both crestfallen by the adventures with the fish that did hit but soon spit our lures back at us. While driving back from breakfast, we noticed that the recent heavy rains had swollen the creeks feeding the Chippewa Flowage. We were desperate for some success on the water and theorized that the fast moving water might have some fish camping out in the creek areas.
With that in mind, I took a look at the map of the Flowage and found an extensive weed bar that was fed by one of these creek run offs. Our plan was to fish the outer edge of the weed bar at the drop off into deeper water; hoping to locate a Musky that was waiting for an easy meal to be swept its way by the current. I loaded my rod with a bucktail, and Rob put a topper on his rod and we began to slowly reposition the boat with the trolling motor as we cast along the weed edge of the bar. About 20 minutes into our casting, Rob was rewarded by a Musky that hammered the topper. This was no timid nip but a serious attack. The Musky rushed the boat moving it into shallow water and with nowhere to go but up, it breached the water as if it were shot out of a cannon. With gills flaring, it shook its head from side to side trying to dislodge itself from the lure but without success. After a couple more skyward launches and an inspection of the boat bottom, it was finally ready to be netted. Rob led the fish to me but at the last moment it bolted to make another run. Again, Rob maneuvered the fish toward the net and this time we had him.
After some frustrating time on the water, this was a welcomed adventure. As with most catches, the lure came free from the Musky once it was in the net. We readied the camera and the measuring rule before the fish was removed from the net which was still in the water to minimize the stress on the Musky. A quick measurement, 37½ inches, and a quick photo or two and the Musky was back in the water and on its way. In all honesty, I cannot say that this catch was anything other than the luck that goes hand-in-hand with Musky fishing. Our theory made sense, and, in this instance, we produced a fish. We tried other creek areas, but lightning did not strike twice. Regardless, it was a memorable adventure. Tight Lines
Musky Bucktail Colors To Consider By Craig Sandell © 2012 Over the years, I have kept track of the Musky that I have caught on different bucktail color combinations. I want to stress that these color combinations are NOT cast in stone but are, rather, guidelines for you to consider when you are on the water trying to decide what color lure to cast. You will note that I have not included blade colors. The reason for this is related to the emergence of double bladed lures with blade sizes from 9 to 13. If you are accomplished at re-shafting your bucktails, you can mix blade colors to give you a color combination in which you feel confident. The body color chart below can also be used to make blade color selection. DO NOT forget that brass and silver colored blades are typically used in stained and clear water respectively.
Lure Body Color Guidelines Time Of Day Clear Water Stained Water Muddy Water Early (5:30am) Purple, Blue, Yellow Orange, Yellow, Red/White, Black/Orange White, Yellow, Red/White, Orange, Brown/Yellow Mid-Morning (10:00am) Blue/Yel/Chart, Chart/Blue * Blue, Red/White, Orange Blue/Yel/Chart, Red/White, Chart/Blue, White Noon (12:00pm) Black/Orange, Red/White Blue/Yel/Chart, Chart/Blue Black/Chart, Purple, Blue/Yel/Chart, Blue MidAfternoon 4:00pm Orange, Black/Orange, Chart/Blue, Black/Chart Blue/Yel/Chart, Purple, Red/White, Orange Red/White, Blue/Yel/Chart, Chart/Blue Evening (8:00pm) Brown/Yellow, Blue/Yel/Chart, Blue Black/White, Yellow, Black/Orange, White Orange, Black/Orange, Yellow, Brown/Yellow After Dark Black/White, Black/Chart, Black/Orange Black/White, Black/Chart, Black/Orange Black/White, Black/Chart, Black/Orange *Chart is an abbreviation for Chartreuse Hopefully, you will find these guidelines helpful as you hunt for our Musky friend this season. Good Fishing
Lure Selection...A Monthly Profile By: Craig Sandell © 2023 The table shown below is the basis for the graphs that display a picture of lure production over the seasonal months. May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Bucktail 12 128 77 124 107 16 Surface 2 93 102 188 153 4 Crank 16 16 13 17 19 18 Jerk 1 7 11 16 37 25 Live 7 2 4 3 28 74 The chart shown on the next page provides a more detailed perspective on what lures worked well for each of the months of the season. As you can see, there are some predictable lure patterns in the chart presentation. One of the interesting patterns, though, is related to crank baits.
The interesting thing is not the number of Musky caught on crank baits. What is interesting is that even though the crank bait catch quantities for each month are generally low, the productivity of the crank bait was consistent over 6 of the 7 months of the season. Although trolling is allowed on the Chippewa Flowage, the crank bait does not get a lot of use because of the relatively shallow water and the abundance of sub-surface clutter even in the deeper river channels. This study would seem to indicate that a crank bait is a good lure choice for almost any time, assuming you are fishing the type of cover and depth of water most conducive to the crank bait. Not surprisingly, bucktails and surface baits account for the majority of the Musky caught over the Musky season. The study shows that bucktails and surface baits are producers, however, you MUST keep in mind that these are classic Musky bait categories. The high numbers of Musky caught on them could be related to the fact that more people are fishing with these types of lures than with other lure types. The jerk bait also shows some productivity over 6 of the 7 months of the season although
September and October have higher catch totals than the other months for the jerkbaits. Once again, this could be related to the fact that not as many people fish jerk baits as other lure types. Personally, I didn't have confidence in the use of a jerkbait, until relatively recently. Once I started using the jerk bait, I found that it produced Musky and was productive in almost any condition of weather and structure. The live bait catch information is not a surprise either. Late in the season is live bait time, however, many people swear by the technique of hanging a sucker over the side, while casting other lure types, throughout the Musky season or what is referred to as "Suckering Musky". Well, are bucktails and surface baits the most productive lures? The catch statistics would appear to tell us that, however, we need to be sure that we are not "shortchanging" other lure types. What is the best approach to lure selection? When I fish, I have 3 rods set up with different line weights, different reels with different retrieve ratios and different lure types. I try to balance the use of each of the artificial lure types, depending, of course, on the condition and depth of the water and the prevailing weather.
Musky Lure Selection...A Weather Profile Note: This data applies to Musky caught by cast, NOT trolling ! The conventional wisdom of Muskylore is that overcast days and rough water represent the best chance for a Musky catch. In deed, the data does show that overcast days do have good Musky production. It is, however, significant to note that partly cloudy (and therefore partly sunny) days also have very good Musky production. If you add up the Musky caught on clear and partly cloudy days, you will get a total of 488 fish from the study. Overcast days accounted for 517 fish. That is not that much of a difference in productivity between these two major weather factors. Once again, crank baits, put in a respectable catch record for clear days, given the fact that crank baits are not the lure of choice on the Chippewa Flowage. The table below will provide you some perspective: Clear Haze/Fog Overcast Partly Cloudy Rain Stormy Bucktail 14 43 190 72 26 17 Surface 157 49 214 78 19 25 Crank 45 6 28 14 1 4 Jerk 26 6 43 11 2 9 Live 48 7 42 23 9 3 Totals: 290 111 517 198 57 58
Is there a lure type better suited to a particular weather condition? The numbers in this study don't show any. If anything, the study supports the balanced approach to lure use. Although weather is important to the Musky hunt, it is equally important to be prepared to use a variety of lures for the same weather conditions. Lure selection, based upon the structure being fished, appears to be the approach to take rather than allowing the weather to dictate a particular lure type. Time Of Day Is there a lure type that is more productive at a certain time of day? Based on what we have seen so far in the study information, one would suspect not. Well, numbers are full of little surprises. It turns out that there is one type of lure that is a better performer based upon the time of day. Surface baits are better performers during the evening hours. The fact that surface baits are designed to emulate, in many instances, small animals, coupled with the fact that many of
these small animals find fading light a comfort to their safety, could account for this evening productivity boom in surface baits. Also, consider that most Musky anglers find comfort in using a lure that they can hear when it is pitch black. All of the other lure types spread productivity pretty evenly over the fishing day. Once again, crank baits provided good activity throughout the day & evening. A Quick Summary We have looked at lure selection from a few different angles. We have seen that, with the exception of surface lures in the evening, no lure type enjoys a clear selection advantage. It would appear as though the high percentage approach to lure selection is the approach that puts you in the position to use at least two different lure types for any pass over a particular piece of structure. The selection of lure color depends as much upon the color of the water that you are fishing as the personal preference of the person doing the fishing. In the final analysis, lures are a very personal thing to a Musky angler. We all have lure types and colors in which we have confidence. We all tend to use the lures with which we have had success. This little article has shown that being prepared to use any of the lure types in which you have confidence will give you the best shot at a muskie. There are no sure things when it comes to fishing for Musky, except perhaps, that you'll work hard to raise one and even harder to hook one and get him in the boat.
GOOD SCOUTING & A FLEXIBLE TACKLE ATTACK Will Raise Overlooked Musky By: Craig Sandell, © 2014 Good scouting of the body of water you are fishing upon is essential to being a successful Musky angler. Even if you are sure that you "know" the water you are fishing, it doesn't hurt to take a couple of hours to revisit old spots and refresh your memory. In this article we are going to discuss scouting the "spot-on-a-spot" as well as some tackle tactics for producing fish on such a location. The first step is to identify a likely candidate. You do this by getting a good map of the body of water you are on and taking the time to locate likely fish locations. Once you have a few areas selected, you have to go out and look them over. The island shown here at the left is the island that we will discuss. Notice that the island has shallow weed growth jutting out from two points. An island like this looks pretty good, however, you need to really investigate a piece of structure like this to be sure of its potential. For what characteristics should you be looking? You are looking for saddle areas, shallow shelves, rock piles, gradually deepening water and the presence of a main river channel. Any
two of these structural characteristics can be an indicator of good Musky potential. NOTE: The vegetation you see in the picture above is no longer there due to high water and tuff winters. In this case, this structural piece has all of these characteristics and is, therefore, deserving of some close attention and regular stops during any Musky outing. The redrawn topographic representation of this island tells it all. There is more to this island than one might think. There is an extensive weed bed between the small island and the larger adjacent island. The extended shelf that tops out at 3 feet is surrounded by gradually deepening water. There is a main river channel on either side of this extended shelf acting as a "superhighway" for Musky in transit. How should this piece of structure be fished? This island is a prime candidate for a flexible tackle approach aimed at hunting for those fish that are not typically hunted. The approach is one of high percentage and versatility. You need to have four rods. Each rod is set-up with a different type of lure. You may elect to use different line weights and reels with different retrieve ratios. The four lure types are bucktail, surface bait, crank bait running at 4 to 10 feet and a crank bait running 8 to 15 feet...a glide or jerk bait should also be considered. The area between the two land structures has weeds and a depth of about 3-5 feet. Weeds are also close into all visible shorelines. A surface bait and/or a bucktail are the bait of choice in these areas. The sunken bar in
front of the small island tops out at about 3 to 5 feet from the surface. The bar is a rock and gravel bar and is usually void of weeds. A bucktail is the lure of choice when in close proximity to the bar. The drop-off ranges from the 3 to 5 feet at the top of the bar to 30 to 35 feet as you get more into the original river channel. As you work out from the bar, the lure of choice becomes a crank bait. Depending upon the depth, you would use the 4 to 10 feet deep running crank bait or the 8 to 15 feet running crank bait. Reels with different retrieve ratios will be helpful with this crank bait approach. Keep in mind that there are a good number of stumps at the 20 foot depth all along the contour of the bar. It is very likely that bait fish are suspended at the lower depths among the stumps. It is also likely that Mr. Musky is lurking around down there also. Two people could probably fish this area really well in about 20 minutes using natural drift and trolling motor positioning. Most articles like this one do not tell you where this piece of structure is located so you have no way to actually test out the scouting and tackle approach that has been discussed. This, however, is the Internet and the business of Musky America is to provide information that you can actually use, unlike some other websites trying to sell magazines or a guide's brand of lure. For those of you who fish the Chippewa Flowage, this island is Willow Island. It is on the East side of the Chippewa Flowage adjacent to Church Bar. This piece of structure has produced many respectable Musky catches over the years and is the location where at least two 55+ inch fish have been seen. If you are fishing the Chippewa Flowage, make sure that you visit this spot.
WHERE DO THE MUSKY GO? Craig Sandell © 2013 During the course of the Muskie season, the weather can be your Muskie fishing partner or your enemy. Previous Musky seasons have shown us that when the weather does not cooperate the Muskie fishing will go into the toilet. Aside from rapid swings in barometric pressure, a rapidly moving cold front has probably the greatest effect upon Muskie activity. It doesn't take much of a cold front to turn Muskie off. Actually, a cold front is a double sided sword. As the cold front approaches and the weather becomes unstable, Muskie tend to put the feed bag on. If the weather is coupled with favorable moon conditions, the lucky Muskie angler can really tap into some great fishing. However, once the cold front comes through, things tend to change. The colder weather tends to put a stop to the insect hatches that bring forage fish into the shallows. As the forage fish move into deeper water, the Muskie will either follow the food or take up ambush positions in weedy cover waiting for the return of an
easy meal. The Muskie depicted in RED represent their positions prior to the cold front while the BLUE Muskie are shown in their likely positions after the cold front comes through and the wind shifts to a Northwesterly flow. Don't be discouraged…. there are some things you can do to better your chances during this slack period. There are NO guarantees but you can try: • Fish hard from late afternoon to early evening when the water temperature is highest! • Cast your lures as close to cover as you can…You need to trigger these fish! • Fish 5 to 10 feet deeper than normal to overcome those Blue Bird Skies! • Frequent your most productive Muskie spots; Don't explore! • Use Slightly smaller lures and/or slow your presentation! In Muskie fishing there are no sure things, however, if you use your knowledge of the water that you are fishing and combine it with knowing where Muskie are likely to be; you have a better chance at success.
The Quest For A Personal Best By Craig Sandell © 2014 As Musky anglers, we are members of a unique company of anglers. There is no doubt that we are obsessed with Musky fishing…We would have to be. We spend long hours and make significant money investments, all in pursuit of a fish that is hard to find and harder to catch. Musky fishing is the only sport I know where it is OK to fail…In fact, failure is expected. So what are we chasing when we are on the water? Is it fame or fortune or the admiration of the opposite sex? What is it that motivates us to do what we do? There are probably as many answers to this question as there are Musky anglers, but I believe that, in the final analysis, it is the quest for a personal best that motivates us. The exhilaration that comes with a Musky catch is the same whether the fish is 36 inches, 46 inches or 56 inches. The moment when the fish is safely in the net evokes a feeling that you don’t see when you watch a fishing show where anglers are fishing for bass. When we are in the throes of the culmination of a successful hunt, there is nothing else like it. In the past, many fine Musky anglers have managed to tie into some fish of memorable proportion, but the exhilaration at the time of their catch was no greater than that which each of us experiences at the time of our catches. It is only when we are not on the water that we get our obsession hijacked. Somehow Musky catches that
happened 50 or 60 years ago get renewed attention and many of us lose sight of what is really important…OUR personal best. History in any sport is somewhat important, but Musky angling history means very little to the angler who is pounding water for 10 to 12 hours a day. With purveyors of artificial controversy seemingly crawling out from under every rock, it is easy to become caught up in the heat of the artificial moment and forget that we are doing this not for fortune or glory but for the satisfaction that comes from the quest for a personal best. We will not find that by rehashing the events of the past. As next Musky season approaches…keep your eye on the quest for that personal best. Tight Lines
Why Aren’t We Catching World Record Musky? By Craig Sandell © 2023 Musky fishing is an enjoyable sporting endeavor, not to mention obsession. Like you, I am looking forward to the excitement of being on the water with the potential for a great Musky excursion; that is a feeling that all Musky anglers share. What could possibly throw a wet blanket over that anticipation? Well, for the past few years, we Musky anglers have been assaulted with articles and so called "analysis" that have sought to de-bunk the existing Musky World Records as recognized by the only two established and credible record keeping organizations. When you remove all of the personal attacks and "chest pounding" by Pete Maina and Larry Ramsell from what should have been an adult discussion about the issue, the basic argument put forward by them and fringe organizations can be distilled down to this: Since we are not catching World Record Class Musky today…The catches of the past must have all been fake…(That is a foolish pronouncement of absolutism!).
I present for your consideration the following observations; Musky fishing back in the late 1940’s has little or no relationship to the Musky fishing that we do today. Back then Musky fishing pressure was non-existent when compared to the fishing pressure of today. Back then boats were powered by motors with limited horsepower…today we see everything from 50 to 220 horsepower. Back then guiding meant that someone would be on the oars quietly working a spot until someone caught a fish and then the person who caught the fish would assume the oars while his boat mates tried their hand at raising and catching a Musky…Today we use comparatively noisy electric trolling motors. Back then, due to the lack of pressure and a quieter fishing approach, Musky patterns were less likely to be disturbed…Not so today. Back then natural strains of Musky inhabited Musky waters…Today, thanks to short sighted fishery policy in Wisconsin, fish with the potential for world record size have been bred out of the population. Add to these factors, the fact that most every fish caught was kept until around 1969 when catch and release began to take hold. Given all of this, it should not be a surprise that Muskies of world class size are not prominent among today’s Musky catches.
Forward thinking DNR’s, like that in Minnesota, have worked hard to re-establish the larger strain of Musky in the waters of the state and the results of that effort are increasingly evident each Musky season. As can be seen from the table below of average Musky growth, good fishery management is a long term investment that requires a long term commitment. Average Length (inches) of Muskellunge by Age and Sex Age (years) Immature Male Female 1 12 - - 2 17 - - 3 24 - - 4 26 - - 5 - 29 30 6 - 31 33 7 - 32 35 8 - 34 37 9 - 35 39 10 - 36 42 11 - 37 45 The table demonstrates that it takes 11 years on average for a fish to get to 45 inches. The table lists 763 actual catches and indicates that at 45 inches a Musky is likely to be between 23 and 26 pounds.
Inches from left to right – Pounds from top to bottom. 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 6 6 7 19 9 1 8 9 13 10 1 9 8 16 9 2 10 19 20 3 11 1 22 26 8 12 1 30 17 9 1 13 1 3 7 25 13 2 14 1 1 2 17 16 6 6 15 1 4 23 19 7 4 1 16 1 6 16 16 3 17 1 9 22 14 2 18 1 25 22 9 19 1 3 18 12 4 20 1 6 24 11 1 21 1 7 11 22 3 5 8 1 1 23 6 12 4 3 24 2 3 5 25 4 3 1 1 26 1 6 3 2 27 1 2 1 28 1 1 1 29 2 1 30 1 2 2 32 1 1 33 1 34 2 2 35 1 1 38 1 39 1 40 1
There is no published data regarding the length to weight relationship for Musky older than 11 years, however the average growth per year is about 1 inch per year. That would appear to indicate that a 60+ inch musky would likely be around 25-29 years old. When you consider that predation, disease, forage base and catch related death are all factors that affect whether a Musky will live 29 years, it is not hard to conclude, by anyone without a personal agenda like Pete Maina and Larry Ramsell, that only a small number of Musky will ever attain world class size. The larger the body of water the less likely it is that an angler will tie into a world class Musky, assuming that one actually exists in that body of water, little less being able to successfully land a fish of that size. Given all of the aforementioned, it is no surprise that a world class size Musky is as elusive as winning big in Las Vegas. Pete Maina and Larry Ramsell, in their print articles and books, are obsessed with the events surrounding the exploits and successes of days long past that have nothing to do with YOUR success on the water. They appear to be more interested in selling their literary tripe and "picking your pocket" than giving you meaningful information that will translate to your success TODAY. In my opinion, we Musky anglers of today are better served by concentrating on doing the things that will make us better Musky anglers. Having the right tackle and competent tactics will go a long way toward achieving success on the water. Forget about World Records…chase your personal best...enjoy your time on the water. Tight Lines!
A Formula For Success By Craig Sandell©2016 Most Musky anglers are obsessed with getting that "edge" that will translate into their "personal best" Musky. To that end, we consume as much information as we can about the Musky habitat, Musky ecology, Musky lures, Musky tactics as well as the rods, reels and electronics. We consume so much information that it is inevitable that some of it gets lost as we battle water, weather and equipment. This June I was fortunate enough to be able to apply enough of this Musky information and catch my personal best. It was 10:30 in the morning under bluebird sky; a major feeding window. The wind was out of the East at about 12MPH with the water temperature in the upper 60s which, according to the books, should have Musky haunting the shallows adjacent to weed beds waiting of the wind to scare up some forage. I was fishing an isolated island that was surrounded by weed beds on all four sides with depths ranging from 3 feet to 12 feet. I used the wind for a natural drift down one side and an assist from my trolling motor for a controlled drift against the wind. The first pass yielded no action. Everything we read says that a single pass is likely to overlook an active fish, so I did another complete pass around the island without action.
I remembered the article advice to fish an area clean and the advice to "Listen To What The Water Is Telling You". The wind had me moving fast enough to warrant another pass around the island with concentration on the shallower weed areas. I cast my Surf Master toward the shallow weed bed taking care to bulge it. As I retrieved it, I felt a bump…It could have bed a weed tick or a Musky nip. On the second cast, I got my reward…a 46½ Musky. The Musky hit in about 3 feet of water so it had no place to go but up. After his first jump. I could see that he was hooked very well so the task was now to control the fish and lead it to my waiting net man. About 10 minutes went by and the fish was in the bag. Unfortunately, once in the net it became apparent that the fish was hooked in the fleshy part of the mouth. It took a combination of a hook cutter, mouth spreader and the fish-pic to finally free the fish. I had my net man take a quick picture after a bump-board measurement and then the job of making sure that the fish was recovered enough to for a clean release. Once the fish was on its way, I had the time to re-organize the boat and replay the catch and the battle in my mind. It was a great adventure and one made even better because I applied what I knew to the formula for success. Tight Lines
Everything Went Wrong By Craig Sandell © 2008 It was September 1st, 2005 and the beginning of my fall trip to the Chippewa Flowage. After opening my trailer and getting the boat in the water the night before, I was ready to hit the water and cast my lot on the water along with the other Musky anglers who haunt the trailer court at Indian Trail Resort (the trailer court is commonly referred to as "The Hill" for obvious reasons.) The advantage of being a semi-local is that one gets the odd bit of information about fish patterns, effective baits and the places where fish have been seen. It’s kind of like being in a Musky club…but not really. I slept in and greeted the day about 7:30 am. I went over to R & R Bayview to renew old friendships and enjoy a FREE Bloody Mary with breakfast. By the time I got back to Indian Trail Resort, the wind had picked up and was blowing out of the West at about 25 miles per hour. By all of the conventional wisdom, Musky are more likely than not to be on the move when the wind is up…the downside is that you have to fight the wind when casting as well as deal with the question of boat control. Unfortunately, sometimes we find ourselves spending more time engaging boat control in a heavy wind than actually fishing.
I took a look at my fishing diary under ‘productive areas for windy days’ and found a spot that had yielded a 42" and a 38" fish on a bucktail. The area had a large expanse of open water with an adjacent shoreline of reeds and rocks. I set off on the hunt about 8:45 am and by 9:00 I was casting a black bucktail with a green blade, searching for the fish that history dictated was likely to be there. The wind was howling at 25 – 30 mph and I decided to do a wind drift over the large expanse of water that preceded the approach to the shoreline of reeds and rocks. I had my front trolling motor down, but I was only using it to make minor corrections to the wind drift. As I reached a 12’ trench that emptied onto the large sloping flat of the shoreline, I was going to motor the boat back around and do another drift. I was still pretty far from the shoreline, so the rocky shoreline posed no real threat…I decided to make a few more casts toward the shoreline. This would have my bucktail being cast up on the shoreline shelf and retrieved over the 12’ trench. On the second cast toward the shoreline, the bucktail stopped and I set the hook. The fish hit about 25 feet from the boat and, as is typical with most bucktail fish in deep water, it stayed down as I tried to coax it to the boat with a tight line.
The wind was howling and relentlessly pushing my 18’ tri-hull toward the rocky shore but I didn’t have time to worry about that…I had a fish on the line. I could feel the fish thrashing below the surface as I steadily took advantage of every opportunity to bring it closer to the boat. Finally, the fish’s head and shoulders broke the surface. I gasped as I saw a lot of head and shoulder beef and thought to myself, "This is a big fish." As the rest of the body came to the surface, I could see that the fish wasn’t the beast that I originally thought it to be…it was just a beefy Chippewa Flowage fish about 40 inches long. It was then that everything started to get ugly. The surface light caused the fish to make a run and strip some line off the reel…he relaxed, and then made another run, but this time no line was coming off the reel. I tried to adjust the star drag to lessen the tension but about that time a white cap slapped the side of the boat causing me to lurch forward…when that happened, the line went slack just long enough to loop back on the reel and wrap itself around the star drag and reel handle. Well, here I was with a green fish and no way to give it line or reel in line. I was forced to follow the fish around the boat as I tried to extricate the tangle of line from the drag and reel handle…I was sure that the fish was going to get off. Now the wind was still pushing the boat toward the rock populated shoreline and I could now hear the splash of the white caps as they crashed against the rocks. By some unknown set of circumstances, I was able to free the line and I was back in the fight…that is until I realized that the back treble hook of the bucktail was hung up on the shaft of the
front trolling motor…I was now sure that this fish was going to be history. I looked at the fish "making love" to the trolling motor and a feeling of helplessness rose in my soul. About that time another white cap slapped the boat and the rolling action freed the fish from the trolling motor…I was back in the fight again. After a couple more attempts to escape, and a few more feet closer to the shoreline, the fish was ready to be netted. I reached down with one hand to grab the net while keeping my rod high and line tight with the other hand when the rolling motion of the boat caused another rod in the boat to bounce, and its reel became tangled in the bag of the net. Upon seeing this, my heart sank into what I can only describe as despair. After all of the ups and downs of this battle, I was going to lose this fish to a freak net tangle. I had to attend to the net, but I also had to keep fighting the fish and during all of this the wind kept driving me closer to the rocks of the shoreline. After what seemed like 10 minutes, (it was really only a couple) the net was free and at the ready as I guided the nose of the fish into the bag…The fish was in the net, but there was no time to relax or celebrate. The rocks were dangerously close, and I still had to get the lure out of the fish’s face, get the fish from the net, measure it, snap a photo, and then release it. As I leaned over the side of the boat, I could see the faint outline of rocks under the surface. The lure came free from the fish, but the fish had the net embrangled in his mouth and teeth. I had no choice but to lift the fish and net out of the water and bring the fish in the boat (something that I don’t like to do because it really stresses the fish). I got the net out of the fish’s mouth after receiving a tooth puncture or two and measured it at 39 inches. I could now hear the spring on my ‘all terrain’ trolling motor groaning as the wind pushed me onto the rocky shallows…no
time for a photo…the fish had to be released NOW…so over the side it went. The stress of the fight and the landing meant that the revival of the fish was going to take a bit longer. I held it upright and tried to move water over its gills to revive it…the spray of the waves hitting the rocks was splashing me in the face…the trolling motor spring was groaning and during all of this, I had to raise the boat motor to fend off prop damage from the rocks. Finally, after what seemed like forever, the fish swam lazily off leaving me to deal with a howling wind and a boat in peril. I managed to use a paddle to get me enough slack to raise the front trolling motor. That done, I set about trying to turn this 18’ slab sided boat against the wind to get enough water under me to allow me to redeploy the front trolling motor and power me off the shoreline. Adrenalin is a wonderful thing, and it was pure adrenalin that gave me the manpower to do what I had to do to put some distance between myself and the perilous shoreline. Once I was out in deep water, I had my first chance to savor the adventure of the catch and reflect on how lucky I had been to catch this fish and avoid damage to my boat…I powered back to Indian Trail Resort, registered my fish, had a beer and went up to my trailer for a well-deserved rest. Tight Lines
Playing a Hunch Sometimes It's All You Have By: Craig Sandell © 2010 As Muskie anglers, we spend long hours studying our quarry and almost as much time learning the body of water upon which we plan to ply our Muskie angling trade. So, it is always a logic defeating surprise when we catch a Muskie just playing a hunch. This is exactly what happened to myself and my good friend Rob Meusec on a June afternoon on the Chippewa Flowage. Rob and I had been fishing in a local tournament without being able to put a fish in the boat despite good action during the day and a half tournament. We returned to Indian Trail Resort from the awards ceremony around 3 pm feeling ‘fished out’ and ready for a little nap. The whole day had been overcast with a threatening storm looming on the horizon. As we sat around the table in my trailer, we had that blank stare in our eyes that Muskie anglers get from too much time on the water. I looked out the window and observed a hint of a break in the overcast even though the air was still heavy with the moisture of an impending rain. I looked at Rob, who was beginning to nod off, and I was struck with a feeling that almost demanded that I hit the water regardless of the fatigue from the tournament experience.
I told Rob that it was time to fish, to which Rob gave a groan but raised himself from his chair and together, we walked down to our tri-hull. As I started the 25 hp motor and motored out of my boat slip, I had no clue as to where to fish…I was just following a hunch that this was a good time to fish. There is so much good water around Indian Trail Resort, that it is only a short scoot on the water to a place where fish are likely to be holding. When I got to Pine Island, my eye was attracted to the expanse of water known as the Church Bar…a conglomerate of rolling subsurface structure and weeds. I motored the boat toward Church Bar and set up a controlled drift on a subsurface hump near deep water. The hump topped out at about 4 feet from 22 feet of water with stumps, clutter and scattered weeds. I set up to take full advantage of the transition from deep to shallow water without any conscious consideration…it just felt right. I put on a bucktail, black with a green blade, and Rob armed his rod with a rainbow Bobbie bait. We started to work the area over as I controlled our drift in widening circles around the subsurface hump. I was explaining to Rob the type of water we were on and how I was working the boat and I told him that he could really cast in any direction and always be casting over productive water. We were about 20 casts into the drift when I heard Rob gasp as a result of the excitement that comes with a Muskie strike at the boat. As I turned toward Rob, the water was exploding with a thrashing fish trying to throw the Bobbie bait that was hooked in his upper jaw and across the fleshy area on the side of his face. Rob was talking his way through the battle reminding himself to keep his line tight, loosen his drag and try to keep the fish from
coming out of the water. By this time, I had my bucktail reeled in and, with net in hand, I was waiting for a direction from Rob to net the fish that was consuming all of Rob’s attention. The fish was nice sized and chunky, so it pretty much went anywhere it wanted. Rob attempted to position the fish for a net job. After about 7 minutes of being dragged around the boat, the fish was lined up for a net scoop. Keeping my eye on the fish, I dipped the net low in the water and as Rob brought the fish over the net, I raised the net around the fish and the fish was ‘in the bag’. There is always a huge sense of relief when you have a fish in the net after an exhilarating battle. Rob and I congratulated each other on a fine catch, and we proceeded to work on the fish. Keeping the net in the water to keep the fish in his element, Rob cut the hooks with his compound bolt cutter. The hooks had come out of the fish but were now embrangled in the net due to some thrashing. With the hooks neutralized, it was now safe for Rob to put his hand in the net and get a quick measurement and a photo or two. The fish measured 39 inches and, because of the body bulk, was probably close to 18 pounds. Pictures taken, Rob placed the fish in the water and began the process of release. The fish was a little tired, but he wasn’t out of the water for very long so after about 3 or 4 minutes this fish was on its way. The whole adventure took 40 minutes from dock to release and consumed only about 20 casts. We all know that this doesn’t always happen…typically, we spend long hours searching the water for an active fish. This little adventure does bring to the fore the importance of following a feeling. Not every hunch will
pan out, but if you deny the feeling, you could be missing out on a real adventure. Tight Lines
Post Tournament Blues By: Rob Meusec © 2010 You' re tired. You' re sunburn. Your body aches. Your brain is fried. You just finished a two-day marathon tournament, and you didn't boat one musky. What did I do wrong? I fished the same water as the winners, the same presentations and in some cases, the same bait! I just can't figure it out! Sound familiar? You're not alone. I've been through this countless times. Not necessarily getting skunked each time, but not in the money or even placing in the tournament. My advice to you is Don't Quit Fishing! Let me explain. Recently, my good friend Craig Sandell and I fished a local tournament on the Chippewa Flowage. As we were motoring back to his trailer, the question of self-confidence loomed over my head. When we got to his trailer, I kicked off my boots and laid on the couch and then we began licking our wounds. I thought we were better musky fishermen. We knew the water, had a pattern going and had a perfect plan. What went wrong? During pre-fishing, we raised four good fish and actually boated a couple of others. We had a pattern down and we were pumped. Skunked is what we got. I was a broken man; beaten, upset, burned out and actually ready to go home.
Then Craig said," put your boots back on, we're going fishing." I thought he was nuts! After a grueling couple of days on the water and totally defeated, he wants to go fishing, I sincerely questioned his sanity! I reluctantly put my boots back on and headed for his boat. He said, "I've got a HUNCH." We got into his boat and motored about 5 minutes, if that, to this spot that had a submerged bar with a series of weedy fingers poking out. I had very little strength left and clipped on a jerkbait that I could work with out too much pain. Craig said " cast anywhere, this is all good water." I thought to myself...I've heard that same phrase for the last three days. Well, three casts later a good fish came torpedoing out of the water and grabbed my bait at boatside and threw water everywhere. I wasn't tired anymore. The fish bulldogged into the weeds, but I was able to keep his head up and get him boatside. I was pumped and so was Craig. After a flawless net job and several pictures, the beast went on her way. A 39 inch HUNCH fish saved the day and my confidence. There was no money involved, no place in the tournament, no notoriety, but I caught a musky. Isn't that what's it’s all about? If I would have gone home like I planned (a beaten man) this memory would not exist. The point is - fish until your boat is on the trailer, don't give up and don't give in. Hopefully your boat partner will be as insane as mine was. He's a keeper!
Hangin' Jerk Baits... It's S - L - O - W Good ! By John Myhre © 2011 Most of the time when fishing for Muskies our lure speed ranges from moderate to fast. Yet slower presentations are often more effective, especially in the fall. But most lures simply won't function well at slow speeds. A slow presentation will sometimes produce fish in the cold waters of late fall when nothing else seems to work. How slow is "slow"? I mean so slow it would drive the normal "run and gun" fisherman crazy. A slow lure retrieve has produced some big Muskies for me when all else fails. But. . . let me get a bit more specific. BIG JERKBAITS = BIG FISH Jerkbaits, specifically, can produce big fish action in the fall. But many popular jerkbaits are too buoyant and therefore need to be retrieved too quickly. Less buoyant models that "hang" during the pause between jerks are usually much more effective. The very best jerkbait will rise very slowly after being jerked down to depth.
You can slow down the rise of these buoyant baits by either adding lead weight or soaking them in water. When adding weight to your lures, take into consideration the fact that they often take on water as you fish them and will get heavier. This natural water logging decreases the overall buoyancy and rise of the bait. Baits should be weighted so they rise slowly in a slightly nose down attitude. Usually, if you drill a hole just in front or back of the front hook hanger and add the weight, your modification will be successful. Some anglers simply pound in or glue a large egg sinker into the drilled hole. Others pour melted lead into the spot. When melting lead, heat it just to its melting temperature, and no more. Drip the lead slowly but evenly into the hole. This prevents wood burning. When the hole is filled with molten lead, lightly tap it just as it hardens with the round end of a ball peen hammer. This compresses the lead in the drilled hole so it won't fall out. It also makes for a nice looking modification, when finished. Hangin' jerkbaits is a presentation that requires more concentration. You will often detect a strike by line movement or might even see a surface boil as a Musky takes the bait before you even feel it. keep your hooks extra sharp to insure hookups at these slow retrieves. Start your retrieve by making 3 or 4 pulls to get the bait down as deep as it will go. Then, depending on how fast the bait rises, give a long pause as the bait rises. Before the bait breaks the surface, jerk it back down again with a series of 3 or 4 jerks. Some jerkbaits respond better and dive deeper with a series of short soft pulls rather than sharp
jerks, so experiment to get the best action and deepest dive. A Musky will almost always strike as the bait nears the surface on the rise. You won't cover a lot of water with this presentation, so use it in high percentage areas where a big fish's location is fairly certain. Areas like inside turns or the tips of bars with steep breaks into deep water are typically good high percentage areas especially if there are schools of baitfish present. Also, try hangin' jerkbait over areas where you have seen a big fish or have consistently seen Muskies. Don't be afraid to throw jerkbait over deeper water just outside these areas, too. I have occasionally caught some nice Muskies over 20 to 30 feet of water just outside these high percentage areas. Try hangin' jerkbaits this fall. It just might catch a really big Musky.
Twitch, Jerk and Glide By Al Denninger © 2006 Fall Muskie fishing and jerkbaits go hand in hand, but what style jerkbait to use and when to use it? Make no mistake about it, jerkbaits can and do produce well all season long. When the Fall comes round, they can really get hot. Every tackle company seems to have one, Bobbie, Eddie, Teddie, Mikey…if you don’t have one named after you, hang in there…I am sure it won’t be long in coming. With all of the different jerkbaits to pick from, just what do you look for before laying down your hard earned money? Twitch Baits Most have lips, like hard Lexan or metal, such as the Slammer Crane or Hi-Finn Sidewinder. You can use these baits two ways. Crank it in with a steady retrieve or use it in a pull/rest method. This seems to work the best in September, when water temperatures are still in the 60° range. Using rapid pulls or jerks in quick succession all the way back to the boat is the best producing tactic for early fall Musky. As October rolls around, try slowing the bait speed way down. I pull the bait down with a medium speed jerk, then I let the bait float up and break the surface. Then a pull down again makes a
distinctive slap/gurgle that simulates a dying bait fish on the surface. Jerk Baits The name jerkbait really covers all three styles of these baits, but when you break them down, a jerkbait is a pull bait with a metal tail you can adjust to change the action and set the depth to which it dives. A Bobbie, Fooler, and Suick are just three examples of a jerkbaits. I prefer using these type baits when the water temperature is in the upper 50° range and higher, as they usually need to be worked faster for the best action. Glide Baits These style baits have no adjustments. The action you get out of this bait is supplied by the angler himself. All glide style baits are not equal. Take two of the same baits that are new from the rack, and one might work excellently, while the other may be a $15.00 piece of firewood. The density of the wood and its relationship to how the bait is assembled determine how a glide bait will perform in the water. The one thing I want out of a glide bait is when I pull or snap that bait, I want it to glide left, right, left, right. If I cannot get that action out of my bait, it is chalked off as a loss. No sense using a bait that does not give you the action that triggers fish. If you have a glide style bait that is not performing with the correct action, try snapping your wrist fast with a little slack in the line. This is sometimes all that is needed to obtain the gliding sided to side action so deadly on Musky and Northerns.
Being the proud owner of a bait that does not work can be used to your advantage…try drilling and re-weighting the lure… you have nothing to lose. In tampering with the original design, you may now come up with a bait that runs deeper and gives you the desired action. Another trick is to add a large heavy duty split ring to the eye of your bait. It not only gives the lure more action, it also helps keep the fish from getting leverage and popping open your snap swivel. Some fishermen like a leader attached to each bait. This ensures that no snap can open during a battle with a big fish… you must, however, check the leader regularly to be sure that it is in good condition. The Eddie Bait comes this way from the factory and is among the best glide baits on the market. Another is the Striker, a different looking bait than most jerk baits, but big fish love them. One bait that I have trouble placing in a style category is the Banana Bait. It is not a glide bait, but it can be twitched or jerked with equal success. It is among the hottest jerkbait to come out in the past few years. The award for the easiest glide bait to use has got to be the Manta. It produces a seductive darting motion with just a slight rod tip action that catches fish throughout the season. Matching Tackle Rod choice when using any of the three style jerkbaits should be one 6 to 6½ feet in length. The smaller and lighter baits can be used with your bucktail rod, but when tossing the bigger and heavier chunks of wood or plastic, a medium to heavy action rod is needed.