Musky America Magazine september 2022 Edition

Musky America Magazine September 2022 Edition Thank you for visiting Musky America Magazine! September brings cooler air and water temperatures. Changes in tactics go hand-in-hand with the change of the season. This issue will cover a range of tactics and information to help you with success on the water as the season trudges onward. Stay Safe, You Can’t Catch Musky From The Grave Each day of the Musky season, anglers experience encounters on the water that can provide insights for all of us Musky anglers. 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 Preserved©*

If you find yourself in need of “short-term” medical care for cuts, abrasions, hooks in the hand, and other Musky fishing maladies, this is a great option. Visit the website at Birchwood Family Medicine | Birchwood Direct Primary Care. There Is No Substitute For A Good Net Man By Craig Sandell © 2009 This story starts on September 10, 2009. That was the first day of the Chippewa Flowage Musky Hunt Tournament. I don’t do tournaments, but this tournament is probably the best organized Musky tournament and the ‘Invitation Only’ registration does serve to keep the tournament a “family affair”…But I digress.

The weather this September was beautiful unless you are fishing for Musky. The Blue Bird skies and very warm days made fishing tough. The first day of the tournament, my fishing partner Rob Meusec and I didn’t see a fish. We were not alone and the expectation for the tournament turned to the next tournament day. On the second day, Rob and I were camped out on our first spot at 5:30am. At 6:00am we started casting the isolated group of islands with a couple of surface baits. About 10 minutes into our slow troll, we had a Musky blow up on my black globe…it did not come back for a second try. About 10 minutes later, in a different section of the island complex, Rob had a Musky swirl at the boat on his creeper. About 20 minutes later, in another section of the island complex, Rob had a follow on the bucktail that he was now offering. We worked this area for another hour without any more action…Long story short, we did not produce a fish for the tournament, but we did have Musky sightings. Over the next week and a half, we revisited that island complex at many different times during the day without a fish in the boat. We need to talk about the patio outside the bar at Indian Trail Resort. In the evening, the patio is a bonding place for Musky anglers. There, you can hear stories of fish caught and lost. As I was sitting on the patio, I noticed an old bucktail without a blade that appeared to be discarded. I had noticed this errant bucktail on a couple of other nights and after I was sure that no one was going to do anything with it, I picked it up and decided to re-shaft it and add a green blade to compliment the thick black hair of the bucktail.

The next day, almost a week and a half after raising fish on our island complex, we pulled up on the spot about 6:30pm. Rob was throwing a surface lure and I decided to toss the “patio bucktail”. About 10 minutes into our casting exercise, a Musky came up behind my lure and aggressively stopped the lure in its tracks. I could see the fish roll on the bucktail about 20 feet from the boat. I could feel the weight of the fish and commented to Rob that it was a bit of a beast. Well, the battle was on and the Musky charged the boat, did a little dance on the surface and then allowed me to lead it toward Rob who was ready with net in hand. As I brought the fish boat side, I could see that the line was wrapped around its gill plate and the line was also in its teeth. Then it happened…the line broke. My heart fell to my feet as I stood there helpless watching the Musky hang boat side with a lure in its mouth but free of the line. About that time, I saw Rob out the corner of my eye as he lunged over the side of the boat with net in hand. He made a couple of swipes with the net and, as luck would have it, his effort resulted in a fish in the net. 42 Inch Musky

As you might suspect, Rob and I were pumped. We were both riding the adrenalin roller coaster and as we worked to free the fish and get a measurement and a couple of pictures, we both shuttered from the experience. With the Musky back in the water and on its way to fight another day, Rob and I sat down in the boat trying to collect ourselves. Neither of us could really grasp what had just happened. When we got back to Indian Trail to register the fish and 'hob nob with our fellow Musky wizards' and it was then taht the adventure took on another twist. It turns out that the patio bucktail had been hanging around for about 5 years. John Dettloff had found it inside a dead Musky and kept it around just because it was unusual. You learn a little bit from every fish you catch and every fish you lose. In this case, there were many lessons. • Once you find a fish, keep on hunting even though it may seem futile. • Don't throw away those battle-weary lures. • There is no substitute for a good net man. 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 down side is that you have to fight the wind when casting as well as deal with the question of boat control. Unfortunately, some times 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

The Underwater Seasons Craig Sandell © 2010 During the course of the Musky season, every body of water undergoes changes in its water temperature as well as changes in the oxygen that is dissolved in the water. As the underwater seasons change, the Musky react to those changes driven by their need to eat and their need to breath. The successful Musky angler must tune into these changes. He/she must be prepared to be flexible with regard to lure selection as well as conducting a better evaluation of water and weather conditions. Late season fishing can be marked by drastic weather changes and dramatic changes in the condition of the water. As the water begins to warm after the long winter months and as emergent vegetation adds oxygen to the water, Musky become more active and settle into their seasonal patterns. For the greater part of the Musky season, most bodies of water are locked into the characteristic thermal distribution commonly referred to as the "summer thermal water pattern". The graphic shown here at the left demonstrates this summer thermal pattern. Water at the surface tends to change gradually in water temperature and tends to have higher levels of oxygen than the water layers beneath it. The thermocline is sort of like a buffer area between the warmer surface water and the cooler deeper water. The

cooler deeper water tends to have the lowest level of oxygen during this period of time. Musky tend to populate the upper water levels when they are active and the lower water levels when they are inactive. The hotter the top layer of water, the more likely Musky are to seek a comfortable temperature at greater depths. At these greater depths, they are less likely to be aggressively active. As summer transitions to fall and the water looses its heat to the longer cooler evenings, the temperature difference between the thermal layers of the lake become less distinct. Most of the oxygen is still located in the surface layer of the water and Musky tend to be more active during this time. Typically this time is associated with late August and early September. Temperatures will vary depending upon the geographic location and the depth of the body of water so you should keep a close watch upon the water that you plan to regularly fish. The graphic at the right will provide you some perspective regarding this gradual shift in water temperatures. Relentlessly, the seasons move on toward fall. The nights get cooler robbing the water of heat as the warming effect of the sun diminishes due to its lower position in the sky. The water temperature tends to equalize the temperature between the upper warmer and

more oxygen rich layer and the cooler less oxygen rich lower layer. The thermocline is still in place but as you can see from the graphic at the left the water is on the verge of homogenizing into a uniform temperature distribution. This time is a prime Musky activity window but the window is very short lived. It is very difficult to accurately predict the exact time of this water temperature circumstance. You'll just have to trust to "luck" if you are trying to hit this period on the head. NOTE: One should also remember that, depending on the spring warm up, presummer and Imminent turnover are relatively the same water conditions.Finally, the water succumbs to the persistence of the changing season and "turnover" takes place. The thermocline barrier disappears as the water temperature becomes uniform throughout the body of water. This is typically a very slow period for Musky activity. The blending of the oxygen rich upper water and the oxygen poor lower water causes the overall oxygen level to be less than what the Musky are used to having. The Musky require time to adjust to the new oxygen level as well as to the fact that they are "stuck" with a uniform lower water temperature. As you might suspect, this is not a good time to Musky fish. Every body of water will experience turnover on its own timetable so it is very hard to predict. If you plan to fish late in the season, you must "keep your finger on the pulse" of the body of water that you plan

to fish.The Musky soon acclimate to the changes in the water oxygen levels and the temperature. Around late September or early October the Musky put on their winter feed bag and take advantage of the seasonal movement of forage fish. This is typically the time when you have a better than average chance to tie into a 25 to 45 pound fish. This time of year, however, is not for the "fair weather" Musky angler. You can plan on the weather being wet, cold, snowy and generally miserable.Hopefully, this article has shed some light on the mystery of turnover and its effect upon your chances to have a Musky encounter. As has been said in other articles posted on this website, Musky fishing has a large element of luck associated with any angler success. The best thing you can do is be prepared with as much information as you can muster about the water you are fishing and then trust in the "Musky Spirts" to favor your efforts.

You Don’t Always Need Weeds By Craig Sandell © 2013 As the evening of September 1st, 2005 approached, I got myself ready to hit the water with my good friend John Dettloff. Besides being the owner of Indian Trail Resort, John is, in my opinion, the best Musky guide on the Chippewa Flowage. Early that day, I boated a beefy 39 incher and I had the feeling that luck was with me as I checked the line on my rods, double checked the reel drag and re-sharpened the hooks on the lures that I would be using for the evening excursion on the waters of the Chippewa Flowage. John and I hit the water about 7 pm. After a short boat ride, we set up to attack the inside edge of Church Bar with a bucktail and a surface bait. It is always a learning experience when I fish with John. John’s approach to guiding is characterized by the imparting of copious amounts of information about each spot that is fished and even though I had fished this spot before, John provided me a new perspective on the structure. We fished a couple more spots without any action and the evening twilight was ebbing into darkness. We motored up to an area, the existence of which I knew, but seldom fished. The reason I seldom fished the spot was because I didn’t feel that I knew it well

enough to fish it clean. The spot is a large tabletop shelf that comes up out of 25’ of water and tops out at 1-4 feet depending on the water level of the Chippewa Flowage. I told John that I did not usually fish this spot because I didn’t know how to line it up with tree line points of reference. (Because of the large amount of water on the Chippewa Flowage, most knowledgeable flowage fishermen use tree line references to help them line up on the spots…especially those spots that have no visible structure.) I asked John how he lined up this spot and John said that he didn’t have tree line references…"This is the kind of spot that you just know.", John said. I asked John if there were weeds on this shelf and John confided that it was as bald as a baby’s bottom. By this time, darkness had overcome the twilight and we prepared ourselves to fish the moonless water. We donned our headlamps and readied our fishing rods. John put on a globe and I put on a Best American Topper. There was a brisk southwesterly wind and John moved the boat into the wind using the back trolling motor. It was on the second or third cast that I felt my lure abruptly stop …I set the hook and announced to John that I had a fish on. John reeled in his globe and made ready to net the fish when the time was right. The fish hit a good 20 feet from the boat and John’s firm reminders to keep the line tight and the rod tip up echoed in my head as I fought the fish to the boat.

After about 5 minutes, the fish was close enough for us to get a glimpse of him as the light from our headlamps reflected off the body of the fish as it breached the surface. After a couple of trips around the boat, the fish was ready to net. As I led the fish toward John, he dipped the net in the water and then brought up the net to embrace the fish. Both John and I were pumped. After a mutual howl and congratulatory handshake, we set about the business of removing the lure from the fish, measuring the fish and getting a quick photo. The fish measured in at a stout 38 inches. John snapped a quick picture and then the fish was in the water and on its way to brighten the day of a future Musky angler. John and I cleaned out the spot and then finished off the evening on Pete’s Bar without seeing another fish. Tight lines

They’re Everywhere… They’re Everywhere By: Craig Sandell © 2012 The changing color of the trees heralds the impending end of Muskie season and the start of the long wait for next year. I was able to steal a long weekend on the Chippewa Flowage from the 24th to the 28th of September. I had every expectation of seeing a Muskie or two even though the time was short because of the time of year. As we who fish for Muskie know, the Muskie tend to put on the feed bag late in the season just after the water turns over; but it is always a good idea to revisit the mechanics of this phenomena. If you have read my article on Understanding Turnover, you know that turnover is the homogenization of the water into a single temperature up and down the water column. When this happens, the dissolved oxygen is also evenly distributed. What this means to fish movement is not always obvious, so it bears elaboration. As we know from the recent study participated in by my good friends John Dettloff and Scott Allen, Muskie, at least on the Chippewa Flowage, tend to spend most of their time in deep water and, only occasionally move shallow. Once the water turns over, the reason for fish to stay in deep water, assuming it is temperature and/or forage related, disappears. Now, Muskie could be anywhere and probably are solely focused on location

based upon available forage. More so than any other time of the year, forage will dictate the presence of Muskie. With that in mind, and after verifying that the lake had turned over, the hunt for this little 3-day excursion took on a new tactical approach. The location and concentration of the forage fish became extremely important. Combined with the turn-over, was the gradual dropping of the water level on the Chippewa Flowage. This accelerated the mild current that moves the ‘flotsam and jettison’ upon which forage fish feed through the ‘neck down’ areas. It soon became obvious that this was the key to an emerging pattern of Muskie location. Along with John Dettloff, we consulted our maps of the water to determine the likely areas that would be ‘high percentage’ given this fall pattern. On Saturday evening, John and I set off for one of these spots and put our attack plan into action. With a pattern like this, one never knows where the fish are likely to reside on a piece of structure, so the method of area coverage also became very important. Our approach was, given the structure we were fishing, to accomplish multiple drifts of the area in overlapping patterns. We reasoned that this would allow us to cover the area efficiently and fish it clean. Lure selection was another variable to the Muskie equation. We looked at the recent catches and recognized that early evening success was vested in the use of jerk baits. John and I loaded our rods with a Bobbie and Striker, respectively, and began to systematically execute the plan of attack.

The evening shadows announced the setting of the sun as we made our 3rd drift of the area. As John and I discussed the events of the day and the ‘general meaning of life’ (the way most Muskie anglers do when fishing methodically), a Muskie came up behind my Striker and timidly embraced the rear treble hook in his mouth. To be honest, I wasn’t even aware of him until I executed the next Jerk of my lure. The Muskie swirled on the water, and feeling the hook began to run in an attempt to free himself. I was busy fighting the fish and only got a glimpse of the fish’s head and neck area; however, John saw the whole animal and, recognizing that it was in the 25 pound class, encouraged me to go to free spool and thumb the line. About that time, this beast rose by the side of the boat, turned his head away from the boat and straightened the treble hook. Surely, I was disappointed that this fine Muskie won the fight, but the action did confirm the soundness of the attack plan. We set up another drift and began to work the area again. This was the 4th drift of the area and about three quarters of the way through, John’s Bobbie was struck by a small Muskie. Recognizing that it was undersized, John shook the rod and executed a "fish friendly" release. That was the end of our adventure for that evening. We did another couple of drifts to no avail. On Sunday, I got a late start on the water. It was already past sunset when I arrived on our spot for the evening. Once again, lure selection was an important part of the Muskie equation. Even though the water had turned over, surface lures were still effective after sunset. I loaded my rod with a creeper and began a drifting pattern over a shallow shelf area. On our first drift, a Muskie swirl up behind the lure, reinforcing my confidence in the attack plan. I finished up the first drift and set up for our second

drift. This drift did not yield anything, however, still confident in the approach and in the area, I set up for the third drift. Just as transitioning from 6 feet onto a 3-foot stump shelf, my creeper abruptly stopped plopping its way through the water as the result of an aggressive clobbering from a Muskie. I pulled back on the rod to set the hook and began to reel in to keep a tight line. As the fish came close to the boat, it was illuminated by my head lamp and I could see that it was a very respectable fish. He tugged at the line in an attempt to shake the hook, but without success. I lead him around the front of the boat and finally positioned him toward the waiting net. Bit-aBing, Bit-a Bang, Bit-a-Boom, he was in the net and the growl of success vibrated the vocal chords of a very excited angler. The work was accomplished to free the Muskie from the lure. Muskie in hand, it measured out at 38 inches. A picture or two and the Muskie was back in the 61-degree water and on his way. I did a couple more drifts of the area, but the adventure was over for the evening. I returned to Indian Trail Resort to register the fish and institute a ritual celebration of buying the bar a round of root beer Schopps. This was, for me, my last Muskie adventure on the Chippewa Flowage for the season. It was certainly a pleasure to share it with friends and confirm a few new variables to the equation that is Muskie fishing. No matter how much you fish for Muskie, there is always something more to learn.

Patience…An Alternative to the ‘Run & Gun’ By Craig Sandell © 2007 I have noticed over the years that female Musky anglers seem to hook up more regularly than their male counterparts when they are in control of the selection of the fishing spot and the time spent on that spot. As a general observation, women tend to be more patient than men and don’t fall victim to the "Run & Gun" approach that would have one fluttering from spot to spot like a hummingbird collecting nectar. Ever since the 2001 Musky season, after being chastised by John Dettloff for not spending enough time fishing spots clean, I have adopted a more "relaxed" approach to covering the water…an approach that has paid off over the years. So it was with this mindset that my fishing partner Rob Meusec and I took to the waters of the Chippewa Flowage on an overcast September day in 2006. We had been having success with fish over the past week fishing traditional spots like Risberg’s Bar and Church Bar, to mention a couple, so we had good confidence that fish were in an active pattern. The light Southwestern wind had a mild chop on the water and the air temperature was in the mid 60’s…it was just a great day to be on the water. For those of you who fish the Chippewa Flowage regularly, you have probably noticed that there are very large expanses of water that have high Musky potential…so it is not uncommon to fish for a good hour or two covering one of these potential Musky producing spots. Rob and I chose a large expanse of water with good Musky potential and, with the wind somewhat at our backs, we began to

cover the area. As you can see from the graphic below, the water that we chose had a good combination of shallow water with stumps and weeds. It also had deeper water close by with sloping drop offs. We changed lures as we progressed from shallow to deep to shallow being aware of what lure the other was using. Experienced Musky anglers will usually try to mix the lure approach to increase the possibility of a hook up. After about an hour of beating the water, we came up to the water surrounding an isolated island. We hadn’t seen a fish but we were not put off by that…we had confidence on the spot and in ourselves. Rob put on a Bucktail and I put on a topper. We began to cover the water, moving toward the island with Rob fishing deep and me fishing somewhat shallow. It is easy to be lulled into a ‘casting trance’ when you have been pounding the water for over an hour…you find yourself going through the motions in an almost relaxed state…that is usually when the strike happens.

As I was bringing my topper toward the boat, I saw the green sided flash of a Musky coming up from under the lure. I had just enough time to tell Rob that I had one raised, when, with about 3 feet of line out, the Musky assailed the lure with a violent thump. To my mind, there is no more exciting aspect of Musky angling than a boat side hit. It is even more memorable when you get the opportunity to see the event unfold. The fish came out of the water as it tried to shake the Owner® treble but he didn’t have a chance of doing that. I could see that it was hooked well and it was up to me to keep the line tight and avoid the mistakes that sometimes come with the adrenalin surge of a Musky battle. Another leap and a run or two and this Musky was ready for the net. Rob scooped the Musky up into the Beckman fin saver net and the water battle was over. I got my compound bolt cutters out and cut the treble hooks to remove the potential threat of angler damage. With the Musky free from the lure, it rested calmly in the flattened bag that remained in the water, allowing the fish to pass water

over its gills naturally and "catch its breath".With camera and ruler at the ready, this dandy 43inch Musky was taken from the net. A couple of photos later, it was back in the water. I kept it upright with my hand on the tail as the gentle release motion passed water over its gills. After a few minutes, I could feel its tail tense and undulate in the side-to-side motion indicative of a healthy swim off. There were congratulations all around as we cleaned up the boat and made ready to move onto another Musky haunt. It was a well spent hour and a half resulting in a nice fish and an increase in confidence in the application of patience. Tight Lines

The RIGHT Time…The RIGHT Place By Craig Sandell © 2014 Weather is, by far, one of the most important factors to consider when you are on the hunt for Musky. Another important factor is history…I don’t mean what you learned in school but the history on the water you fish regularly. Keeping some kind of log or record of when fish were caught, the lure used, and the prevailing weather at the time can be an invaluable tool to success on the water. This July day started out as a blue bird day with very mild wind from the South. I got out on the water early and hit a steep solid wall of granite drop off hoping to find a fish suspended in 16 feet of water. The hot water temperature, 77°, made this approach as good a plan as any and I had observed a nice sized fish the day before haunting the area. A glide bait was the lure of choice. I fished the spot for 40 minutes without results. A short motor trip and I was at my next spot…a point area adjacent to one of the flowage’s natural lakes. I fished the weeds hugging the drop off of the point as it plunged into deeper water using a bucktail that I bulged over the top of the weeds and back over deeper water. The spot looked great and the wind was perfect to fish the spot clean but, no one was home. The morning was heating up and I needed a breakfast break…I motored back to the trailer and hopped in the car for breakfast at the Village Kitchen in Radison. (The food is good…the price is right and the people who run the place are the best.)

During my breakfast break, the wind had decided to get ugly…the mild wind transformed into a 15 mph blow. I took a look at the water and decided that it would be prudent to take a break and wait for the wind to settle down. After a couple of hours, it became apparent that the wind was here to stay…in deed, it had bumped up to about 20 mph with gusts of 25 mph. I took out my log and looked for some history on fish caught with 20+ mph wind under blue bird skies and elevated water temperature. It didn’t take long to find a spot or two that would fit the weather, so I meandered my way down to the Indian Trail Resort bar and had a beer and a chat with the afternoon bar patrons. I then pushed off from the dock and headed out on the water that had become belligerent with 35 foot rollers and white caps. I pounded my way across the open expanse of water as I motored toward one of the spots from my Musky log. When I arrived, the wind was coming from the Southwest. In high wind, you have two choices…you can set up for a wind drift or two or three or you can face your boat into the wind using a bow mount trolling motor and cast with the wind over your target area. This day I chose the second approach, positioning my boat into the wind and using the wind to give me long casts over a stump hump that was submerged under 9 feet of water. I moved the boat into the wind to the deep-water channel edge and then let the wind scoot me over the target area. Note: Boat control is a combination of using the wind, varying trolling motor speed and casting accuracy…it isn’t easy but it

gives you a better chance to "hover" cast an area with potential for a Musky. After a frustrating 15 minutes setting up the boat and dealing with some wind induced backlashes, I finally got into the casting groove…casting my bucktail over the target area and using a slow to moderate retrieve. It was another 20 minutes or so into covering the area when I saw the green flash of the side of a Musky as it stalked my lure. He came up from about 8 feet of water to attack my lure in about 3 feet as it was being retrieved. As I kept my retrieve steady, I saw the Musky’s white underside as he snapped the lure up in its gapping mouth…the fight was on. As is the case in many Musky hits, all I had to do was apply firm resistance as the fish set the hook on himself…he immediately went down, taking line off my reel. This was a good tussle and as the Musky breached the surface, he rocketed out of the water and performed a dolphin flip as he reentered his brown stained watery home. We ‘argued’ with each other for a few more minutes until I was able to manipulate him into the net that I had waiting for him. With the fish in the bag, it was time to free him from the lure, take a measurement, snap a photo and then set him free. The way this Musky was hooked demanded that I use my compound bolt cutter to cut the tips of the treble hooks to allow me to free the fish and protect myself as I reached in to take the fish from the net that I kept in the water to minimize the time that the Musky was separated from its oxygen supply.

This chunky Musky measured out at 37 inches and, from the body bulk, was probably around 14 pounds. I snapped a photo of the fish and then set about setting him free. Into the water he went as I supported him upright. I moved him rhythmically back and forth in the water trying to flush water over his gills to revive him. A few minutes later his tail muscles began to tense…A light tap on the head with my finger tips and a squeeze of the tail and he was on his way. I looked over the bottom of the boat that was littered with the aftermath of the battle. He had destroyed my Bucktail and my leader during the battle so I was going to have to re-shaft the lure and make myself a new leader but that is all part of Musky fishing. I motored back to Indian Trail Resort to register my catch, have a beer and a bump and then re-tool my tackle…Another adventure in my pocket and another entry in my Musky log. Tight Lines

THE CRANKBAIT BASICS By David Christian © 2000 Crankbaits are those lures with the larger diving lips that produce a wide wobble as they are retrieved and usually are considered to be deep running baits. We have all used them at one time or another. The crankbait is a Muskie hunters' most versatile lure; it can be worked just under the surface or to depths of 15'+. The shallow running crankbait must be moved along at a quick pace to maintain its depth. These lures are a dynamite presentation to use when the muskellunge is active and feeding shallow. But what about the neutral fish? The deep diving crankbait can be used in many different situations; it can be worked slow, fast or at medium retrieval speeds. You can stop the buoyant crankbait and it will rise and back away from most obstructions easily. The crankbait can be a solid, straight model or can be a jointed lure. The straight or one-piece version will work through the timber and around other obstacles easier, while the jointed model will give an illusion of faster speeds and provide a clicking sound at the union. Most large crankbaits contain some type of rattle chamber to attract curious fish and will be constructed of hard plastic. The crankbait is more than just a lure to cast and retrieve back to the boat. It is a tool, especially to the Muskie hunter. The crankbait should be used as a tool to locate and probe the waters for hidden structure such as timber, humps, bars, rock and deep weeds. Hopefully with the techniques you learn here,

crankbaits will become another tool in your quest for the denizen of the deep. BANGIN' THE WOOD These big-lipped baits are great for bangin' timber and crawling through the limbs and trees of timbered lakes. The most common crankbait used in this situation is buoyant, it will float up and backwards, away from obstructions, which will allow you to continue your retrieve through the timbered area. Bumping into the timber is a great tactic for lazy or neutral muskies. Cast your lure to the opposite side of the obstruction. As the lure nears the tree limbs you will feel some resistance. This is created by the lure as it tries to dive deep, while the line, which is over the limb, pulls the lure upward. At contact with the limb, you will feel the lure stop for a split second, this is not the time to set the hook. Let the lip of the lure work for you. It will crawl over the limb while pushing the hooks up and away from the obstruction. The triggering effect happens when the lure makes contact with an obstruction, causing an abnormal effect on its typical running pattern. As the lure leaves the contact point it will turn to the left or right, maybe even a semicircle, causing it to dive or turn erratically away from the cover. This imitation of a fleeing baitfish can attract a muskies attention by the contact with structure and the creation of an erratic action. As the crankbait clears the timber, an elusive musky will dart out and attack with their infamous speed and fury. Sometimes they will bring the lure towards you, so keep a "feel" out for slack line. This slack line is usually very easy to detect due the heavy pull of most crankbaits. When slack occurs don’t take a chance, reel up fast and set the hook hard!

CRANKIN' TIPS Close to the end of every retrieve is a point when the crankbait will make a sudden turn upward. This happens as the lure gets close to the boat. With practice you will be able to feel this point of maximum depth and know when the upward turn is taking place. This is the point during your retrieve that you must pay close attention to, "the trigger turn". You can easily notice this turn because the line becomes more vertical. This initial turn upward gives an illusion of prey fleeing for its' life and will generate some tremendous strikes from a following muskie. When the lure comes close to the boat you should be able to see or feel it. At this point start your figure eight and allow the lure to follow behind the rod tip one to three feet, depending on depth. This tactic for Muskies is often overlooked. At least thirty percent of strikes occur at boat side upon execution of the figure eight. The proper figure eight starts with a smooth transition into the initial turn, keeping your lure at a steady speed while going into the second and third turns. A slow, curious muskie will follow your bait to the boat and this direction change can entice a strike from cautious fish. If the lure happens to get hung up in the timber, and it will, slowly give slack line or some light "jiggles" to work it free. Let it float to the surface and continue the normal retrieve. Always pay attention to a surfacing bait. The quick swirls are exciting. If you can't get the hooks free, DO NOT continue to jerk and pull! You will only drive the hooks deeper into the soft timber. Don't make it harder than it has to be to get your lure free, go to the snag and use a lure knocker. Timber is not the place to let Muskies run and tire out. You have to use a lot of pressure when getting fish to the boat and away

from timber. Playing her down close to the boat is tough, but she will definitely win the battle if you let her get into the trees. Fresh line with good steel leaders and sharp hooks are a must when crankin' through the timber. The continuous contact with timber causes abrasions, weakens line, and dulls the hooks quickly. Don't take a chance with the fish of a lifetime, keep em' sharp and retie often. Combining these crankbait tactics on timbered lakes have proven themselves time and time again, producing many muskellunge under neutral or not so perfect conditions. I'm sure they will work for you as well!

Are All Bucktails Created Equal? By: John Myhre © 2011 There have been many times when I have heard anglers say, "Bucktails are all the same. When they're after spinners any bucktail will produce as well as another." While it is true that there are times when muskies are so active, they'll hit almost anything, these occasions are actually few and far between. The rest of the time little differences in a bucktail's components, make a big difference in how many muskies you interest in them! Blade type and color are often the basis for selecting which bucktail to use. However, several other things should influence your choice, as well. Bucktail style, size, weight, amount of hair, and hook placement should also be considered. Any one of these seemingly insignificant details can sometimes make all the difference in how many muskies you boat. Here is a little story about how I came to learn the importance of one item, hook placement, when fishing shallow weed cover. Shortly after opening day a few years back, I was fishing just out side a major spawning area on one of my favorite early season lakes. The new weed growth on this spot was well developed already with some clumps being surprisingly thick. This prompted me to choose a light weight bucktail with a large

Colorado blade. This combination works exceptionally well over shallow weed tops. The light weight along with the extra lift created by the big blade make it run high. My second cast to the edge of a thick weed patch drew a good solid strike. I immediately set the hooks hard only to have the Musky react by violently thrashing its head from side to side above the water. It took the Musky less than a second to free itself by throwing the hooks. Quickly my partner switched to the same style of bucktail and we continued fishing the same weed bed. Just a few casts later a good size Musky struck his bucktail from the side. Instantly he set the hooks only to have the Musky do the same thing my fish had done only minutes earlier. We missed two more fish later that same morning. Admittedly, we were both getting pretty disgusted with the situation. Determined to figure out why we were missing all these fish, I began to analyze and experiment. The muskies did not seem to be chasing the lures, but instead they appeared to be striking from fixed ambush points as the bucktail went past them. I reasoned that because of the limited visibility in the heavy weeds these "ambush feeders" were striking at the bright colored blade, which was the most visible part of the bucktail to them. I also felt the single treble hooks on these lures were out of position for a solid hookset, and a good head shake could easily dislodge them. A quick check of my bucktail box revealed enough spare parts to add a second hook to these bucktails just behind the blade. This proved to be just the ticket. Three nice muskies all hooked solidly on that front hook. proved my point. A huge increase from zero to 100 percent success resulted.

To an experienced Musky angler, a bucktail is a lot more than just a spinner. It's an exacting skill. Here are a few personal tips on some of the many variables in the art of bucktail fishing. BUCKTAIL RUNNING DEPTH Picking the right bucktail to run at a desired depth is also a science. There can be a big difference in running depths from one style to another. Sure, you can fish almost any bucktail spinner shallow or deep and anywhere in between, but there are differences that allow one to perform better in a particular situation. Some of the main factors governing running depth are blade style, blade size, weight, and balance, and your retrieve speed. The amount of drag and lift that a blade creates has a big effect on the running depth of a bucktail. Round wide blades like the "Colorado", or traditional "fluted" create the most lift hence are better adapted to shallow situations. Long narrow blades like a "Willow" are better suited to running deeper. They create far less drag and lift. The "Indiana" and ever popular French blade falls in about the middle making it a good choice for mid depth presentations. Also remember that blade style and thickness determine the sound a bucktail makes as well. Round wide blades tend to produce more noise as do thicker blades. WEIGHT AND BALANCE Obviously a heavier bucktail would naturally run a little deeper just as one with less weight would surely run closer to the

surface. But you also have to consider things like lure balance and castability. A buck-tail that is weighted too "nose heavy" tends to flip over and foul its rear hook on the leader during the cast. At the same time, excess weight in the tail end often makes for a bucktail in which the blade doesn't "start" easily. A very light bucktail may be very easy to bulge over shallow weeds, but the lack of weight can make it almost impossible to cast on a windy day. Quick changes in bucktail weighting can be accomplished in several ways. If you are going to disassemble the lure and reassemble it on a new wire shaft you can use different size egg sinkers, beads, and lure bodies to make weight changes. However, quick and easy changes can be made by attaching clip-on style bell sinkers to the rear wire loop or by simply wrapping on an appropriate amount of solid core lead solder. COLOR AND VISIBILITY There are still a few Musky fishermen who believe that any color bucktail is fine just as long as it is black. The fact is, that if you are not occasionally trying several colors, you are probably missing out on some Musky action at certain times. Over the last few years many Musky anglers have had tremendous success with really bright flashy colors, especially in stained water and under low light conditions. I think there are two main reasons why brighter colors are effective at times. First and most obvious is lure visibility. A Musky cannot strike what it cannot see, and these brighter colors are often more visible to them. The second

reason being simply that it's something different from the usual array of lures the muskies have seen. Bucktails are now available in almost any color one can imagine. And if you can't find what you want, or just plain desire to experiment, there are blades, bucktail hair, plastic trailers, and prism tapes available in a multitude of colors and patterns. Above all don't be afraid to try some really wild color combinations. You might come up with something really hot. TEASERS AND TRAILERS Many of the old time Musky anglers always used a pork rind strip behind their lures to entice Musky strikes. Now we not only still have pork strips but soft plastic worms and twister tail grubs in almost any color imaginable. And best of all, adding one of these as a "teaser" really does provoke a strike when all else seems to fail. There are several ways to hang a teaser from the back of your bucktail, and here's a couple of things to remember. Teasers should hang parallel to the hook shank to avoid unnecessary line twist. Don't let a "teaser" hang more than an inch or so back behind the hook either. Otherwise, you'll probably experience a lot of short strikes.

HOOK 'EM! Now that I have discussed things that will attract a Musky and get it to strike, the focus shifts to getting hooks into that Musky a higher percentage of the time. I have already sighted an example of the importance in hook placement on a bucktail and how adding an additional hook can help at times. Here are a couple more suggestions that will up your odds of getting a higher hooking percentage. Most of us have all too often felt a "bump" caused by a Musky nipping at the lure. Trimming the bucktail hairs so very little hair sticks out behind the hook really helps to hook those "nippers". Still another thing that increases hooking is bending the hook points slightly outward. This not only effectively increases hook size, but also helps them stick much quicker. Of course, sharpening the hooks before each use is paramount. TOOLS AND PARTS Modifying bucktails can range from minor addons to total lure break down and re-assembly. Yet even major projects are not all that difficult, requiring only a couple of tools: one good pair of wire cutters and a pair of round noise wire bending pliers. You can easily put together an inexpensive tacklebox kit that will allow you to quickly attempt almost any bucktail modification. In this kit you should include, a few lengths of .045 to .052 bucktail wire (8 to 12" long), an assortment of blades, hooks, beads, egg sinkers, clevises, and prism tape. There are also other small

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