Musky fishing tips and tactics cover the basics only. Having the basics is a foundation to refine skills as you grow. Besides, fishermen without the basic struggle to learn new skills or gain bad habits. This leads to frustration and failure. A strong grasp of the basics prevents an angler from going down the wrong path.
The first step is knowing the muskies’ behavior. How do they act throughout the year? What influences the behavior? Does weather and moon cycles affect a musky? What types of cover or structure do muskies prefer? Which baits are effective and what time of the year to use a bait. These are a few questions, musky fishermen need to have an answer to be successful.
Muskies are large predators as a result they do feed all year. Sometimes of the year they feed more often. During the winter they feed less. Understanding when muskies feed is the key to success. This is when anglers catch the most muskies. A lot of anglers use the moon rise or set and phases. Along with the weather and sunrise or sunset to help find the right time. It sounds a little confusing if not used to the method.
The Moon Influences
Musky fishing tips need to cover the effects the moon has on the fish. Musky are influenced by the moon in some ways. The times where the sunset and moon-rise are close together. Chances for a larger fish increase over other times. The full moon and new moon also add to an increased chance for a big musky. A few days before and several after the full moon see an increased catch rate of mostly bigger fish.
So the answer is yes the moon affects a musky. Tracking how the moon affects a musky means keeping a log. You need to record the days and times a musky follows or strikes. Then compare the time and day to the sun and moon sets or rises. Check if it was near the full moon or new moon. The moon phases for your area can be found on this website. Do not base fishing strictly on the moon since many times a musky will be active.
The mornings and evenings are prime times for fishing also. On days where there is some cloud cover or wind making the water choppy go fishing. The day or two before storms is another good time to try your luck. Weather makes all fish change their behavior. Muskies feed more on the day before severe weather comes. Although the weather and moon help at times be ready to fish hard. Since a musky takes time to find and get it to strike.
Musky are in the waters with what they need. The musky seeks waters with cover, structure, and a food source. It has to have all three items. Learn the waters you plan on fishing by checking maps. Then spend time on the water checking the food source and cover. Weeds tend to draw muskies into the areas. If no weeds are present look for steep banks and drop-offs with gravel and rocks. Predatory fish seek ambush points.
Muskies hide to ambush once they are 3-4 years of age. Muskies opt for weeds if present. The inside corners and pockets in the edges of weeds produce fish. Work the areas from the shallows to where the weeds stop. If fishing with a friend each angler using different lures helps. This will pin down what bait is working best. Work the area thoroughly then move on to the next spot. Areas lacking weeds still hold musky. Points above and below where tributaries enter are good in the spring and fall.
These are common places on rivers and lakes to find fish. Muskies gather at streams before the spawn. Also, along the shore look for larger rocks. The rocks often extend into the water providing the ambush points. Submerged humps and islands offer the same features as tributaries. Anywhere the land creates a point needs checking out. In other words, to catch a musky think like one. Check out this website for a few facts. It has some information on prey, spawning, and habitat.
Musky fishing tips on tackle depend on many factors. The most important is quality equipment. Losing a fish after hours of casting due to inferior tackle is frustrating. Each part of the set-up is critical. The rod, reel, and line all work together. One weak link is all a musky needs to get away. This includes lures and hooks. Since hooks that are dull or weak lose the most fish.
Musky Rods and Reels
The rod needs enough backbone to set the hook and handle the lure’s weight. Do not pick a rod too light or too heavy. Since it will lack the desired performance. Choose the power based on the lures you use. Buck-tails weigh 3/4 to 3 ounces and medium-heavy rod performs best. The large jerk-baits and plastics weigh 2 ounces to a pound, sometimes more. A heavy or extra-heavy rod is a must with these lures. A 7 1/2 to a 9-foot rod is best. The days of rods looking like pool cues are long over.
The reel sees thousands of casts plus the pressure of reeling in the lures. This places a lot of pressure on the bearings. Good reels have top-quality bearing and cheap reels do not. Plan on two hundred dollars or more if you need a reel. Cheaper reels will work a short time but won’t last. The line capacity needs to be in the 160-200+ yard range. A drag of 18 pounds or higher is needed also. In other words, have the right tool for the job.
Lines and Leaders
The main line is braid; nothing else will do the job. The line faces as much stress as the reel. The weight of the lure multiplies during the cast. You are swinging it back and then launching the lure forward. A line too weak or cheap will break. Use line 50 to 80-pound test strength. Lighter lures a 50-pound line is okay. If throwing anything over 3 ounces get an 80-pound line on the setup.
Anglers need tips on leaders for musky fishing also. Leaders come in wire or Fluorocarbon. Wire leaders made from titanium or stainless steel are common. Use the wire leader with lures with potential for bite-offs. If the lure can be swallowed or tends to get head hit. Soft plastics and lures around 5 inches fall into this group. Larger lures use a Fluorocarbon leader. Since the Fluorocarbon leaders tend to be invisible underwater. A fish cannot see the leader.
Musky Fishing Tips for Beginners
- Muskies follow baits for long distances compared to other fish. Use long casts.
- Do a figure eight or similar action at the end of the retrieve. A musky hits at the boat or shore most of the time.
- Use good sunglasses to watch for follows.
- Sharpen the hooks on lures frequently. Dull hooks lose fish. A sharp hook will stick to your fingernail when hung on it.
- Use 3X to 4X hooks, standard wire sizes straighten out with muskies.
- Have an experienced musky angler help with getting started. It is a tough sport. An experienced angler will help reduce the learning curve.
Although there are many lures to choose from for musky. Let’s keep it simple and look at lures with good track records of catching fish. There are lures that catch fish in the spring, summer, or fall. The size of the lure is seasonal also. In the springtime a smaller lure is used. The summer opens up the choices adding in faster lures with the bigger ones. Plus topwater and trolling lures have their place in the tackle bucket.
The most important is the lure quality. Strong sharp hooks are a must since dull or weak hooks account for most missed muskies. Lower priced lures have inferior hooks so change them to a better grade. The hooks, split rings, and pliers are available online or from some tackle shops. Do not miss a fish over 5-6 dollars worth of hooks and split rings. Buy a small bolt cutter also. There are times the hooks need cut to remove the lure. Another reason to buy hooks and split rings.
The leading baits in soft plastics are Bull Dawgs and Medussas. These baits come in many sizes. The 6-12 inch models are common and used more than any other size. A micro Dawg is available in the 4-inch size for early springtime fishing. The weights start at 3/4 of an ounce and go up to 8 ounces. Colors offered include perch, sucker, and cisco patterns along with a few solid colors. The black or white colors fit in well with the prey patterns.
Using these types of lures is easy. If it comes back wet with the hooks not tangled together or with the leader you are using it right. There is no wrong way. Cast the lure out and retrieve using twitches, jerks, pauses while retrieving. It is a versatile lure as far as retrieving goes. They can be jigged but it increases the chance of snags. Losing a 20-30 dollars lure hurts so use caution jigging.
Bucktails and Spinnerbaits
When you feel the need for speed lures with spinner blades is the cure. A popular lure in the summer to cover water. They come in a lot of sizes and blade options. A number 6 blade to double 10s is common. The larger blades create more flash and a thicker blade causes more “thump”. Wire size affects vibration also. A thinner wire makes a higher faster vibration than thicker wire. Changing blade, wire, and body sizes do make a difference at times. So have a few of each type.
In open water or sparse weeds, inline spinners shine. Thicker cover go with a spinnerbait since they hang up less. The single point hook does not grab weeds like a treble. Bladed lures cast poorly so having an 8 1/2 to 9-foot rod helps a lot. The lure needs to go out far with the faster retrieve. A lure needs to be in the water to catch fish. Short casts limit the amount of time and result in fewer fish.
Crankbaits and Jerk Baits
Crankbaits are often trolled for muskies. Using speeds of 5- 8 mph is the best range. At times going faster is an option. A musky can hit 30 mph so a fast lure is no problem for them. Trolling takes skill, the lure needs to be at the right depth. It also must run near cover and structure so learn the features of the body of water. Good electronics help with trolling by finding the right areas.
Mention jerk baits to a musky angler and a Suick or Jake comes to mind. These are basic lures easy to use in slower presentations. A jerk bait mimics injured prey. The flat-sided jakes have the option for faster retrieves. They can be kept moving whereas a suick is a slower lure. The rip and pause motion causes the lure to go down and let it rise slowly. Using jerk baits for musky is akin to smallmouth fishing. The techniques are the same.
Top Water Lures
The rush of a musky hitting a topwater lure can’t be overstated. The strike sounds like an explosion when a fish 30 inches or longer slams the lure. Topwater lures account for many musky lures for this reason. Plus they do catch a lot of fish. The choices range from sticks with hooks to duck replicas. A few use a steady retrieve but many use the “walk the dog technique”. The lure zigs and zags on the surface of the water. A glide action is between the zigging and zagging. Few anglers develop the skill, but it is effective for a slower presentation on topwater.
Whopper plopper style lures or Jitterbugs are the easy reel them in lures. The lure creates action and noise alerting musky to its presence. Cast it out and reel at various speeds. Change up the tempo to find the magic speed for a musky. Sometimes letting them rest helps entice a wary fish so add pauses if needed.
Suick and Heddon along with others make walking lures. This includes the Weagle, flap-tails, and Zara Spooks. The angler imparts the action with these lures. Using a twitching motion like jerk baits for bass to make the zig-zag motion. The key is leaving slack in the line between twitches. A lot of slack is not needed but enough so the lure is not dragged straight. The method will take some time to develop. Anglers need to practice the technique to master the skill.
Musky Fishing Tips Summary
The article is intended for novice or beginner anglers to musky fishing. Experienced anglers know this information. That is why they are recommended to less experienced anglers. Hopefully the information helps with catching more muskies. The more you fish and hone the skills the better your chances become. So just keep casting for the fish and be patient. Musky fishing is a different mindset. You are looking for a trophy size fish not numbers. Musky Fishing Tips and Tactics is the property of Ask the Fisherman.