Musky season is in full swing and hopefully you’ve been having a successful year. When we put out a newsletter we try to give you something to help you become a better musky angler. In this issue we asked six musky guides 2 questions.
- What is something you do off the water to have success on the water?
- If your not contacting fish what is one adjustment you make?
With six guides you can bet we got a few different answers. If you visit the blog section of our website we will put the whole response from some of the guides we talked with. The six guides were Steve Genson with Genson’s Fish Hunts, Phil Schweik with Hooksetters Guide Service, Kevin Pischke with Lay in a Line Service, Gregg Thomas with Battle The Beast Guide Service, Jeff Van Remortel with WDH Guide Service, and Pete Rich with Pete Rich Guide Service.
When asked “What is something you do off the water to have success on the water” many of them agreed that making sure your tackle is organized, including keeping hooks sharp was a top priority. Gregg Thomas said that he spends lots of time playing with weighting of baits when he’s not in the boat. Adding weight to crankbaits and jerkbaits can help get baits deeper to fish that haven’t seen them before. Captain Kevin Pischke likes to keep detailed catch logs and use them to help develop patterns over the course of the season. Kevin said if you keep good records you can go one step further and compare fish location based on seasons where you’ve seen similar weather develop. Phil Schweik spends a good amount of time reading in addition to talking with a network of guys about water temperature, current flow, and water level so when he hits the water he has a well thought out plan. Based on the information we gathered from these guys they all made it seem that time spent preparing for a musky hunt off the water can definitely influence their success.
So now the question that most people want to know, “When your not contacting fish what is one adjustment you make”? Pete Rich said that if he’s on a good bite that suddenly isn’t producing he will make a move in if he had been fishing open water and will make some trolling passes closer to open water if he’d been casting shoreline structure. His thought is that the muskies won’t abandon the area they’ve been in overnight. Those fish will just slide in or out based on conditions. Steve Genson will take a 2-fold approach. His first change is lure style. If he’s been throwing blades and not seeing fish, he would then make a change to a top water bait or glide bait. Once he contacts a fish it’s now a matter of what TRO custom color will trigger those fish. Gregg Thomas has a similar approach to Pete when working a “Good Area”. Making a depth change is his first move. If Gregg runs into a heat wave or prolonged periods of high pressure he will move a cast length off structure. If a cold front blows in or shade is created by the sun, Gregg will move shallower to take advantage of the drop in water temperature. Guide Jeff Van Remortel will take change to a whole new level. Jeff runs his guide business in Northern WI and moving to different water or lake type that might be “on” is well within reason. When Phil Schweik is on the water he knows the fish are biting somewhere, so his first move is to change locations and “run and gun” until he finds active fish. His second move is to change up presentation type and either slow down or speed up depending on what he had been previously doing. Kevin Pischke makes a similar change to Gregg and Pete and usually analyzes boat position. If he’s working a spot he knows has produced he will slide in or out first. Sometimes he will also flip and throw shallow to deep to retrieve baits in a manner they haven’t seen recently.
Clearly we’ve seen some similarities and differences among the 6 guides. Hopefully you’ve read something you can do when you’re on and off the water to help put more muskies in the net this late summer/fall period. Good Luck with the chase.
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The arrival of autumn sees with it a definite impending switch in musky location and behavior. As leaves first hint at changing color here in the Northwoods and the nights find a nip in the air, water temperatures dip below 70 degrees and the pre-turnover period begins. This time of year offers the musky angler the potential for dynamic outings as large numbers of fish frequent the shallows up until turnover, and are often feeding aggressively. Whether weeds, wood or rock, shallow cover, in as often as only a few feet of water, should garner the bulk of the esox hunter’s focus.
Pre-turnover is an excellent time for surface lures, one of my favorite and most productive offerings during early fall. Baits such as Lake X Lures Fat Bastard, Cannonball Jr., and Cannonball are sure bets and should be worked just a tad slower than during the steamy summer months. As a general rule the more surface disturbance due to wind, boat traffic, etc., the larger the lure I choose. Whereas I typically work baits relatively fast during summer, I prefer to retrieve surface lures in autumn just fast enough to get the lure to make a distinct popping sound; this of course varies from bait to bait so experimentation is key to finding the preferred speed for the muskies on a given day. In addition to Lake X Lures, I have also had excellent success on the Sennett Tackle Pacemaker and Rough Runner.
Not to be outdone by their overly buoyant counterparts, bucktails are also effective presentations during the pre-turnover period. Large double-bladed models offer not only greater lift at slower speeds, but produce a distinct big fish calling thump throughout the entire retrieve. I again experiment with size and let the fish show me what they prefer. There are many great choices on the market, with the Mepps Double Blade Musky Marabou (#7 blades), Musky Mahem Jr. Cowgirl (#8 blades), Toothy’s Tackle Tickler (#9 blades) and the Mepps H210 (#10 blades) being amongst my personal favorites. Regardless of which model I am throwing, I always incorporate the use of a plastic trailer to add additional flash and vibration thus ultimately elicit strikes from potentially non-committal ‘skies.
Although often overlooked in early fall for shallow holding fish, jerkbaits and crankbaits are also productive options. Musky Innovations Shallow Invaders and Mag Shallow Invaders will produce fish on a straight retrieve or when worked as a jerkbait as well as the Drifter Tackle Vexer, a lure specifically designed to excel as a twitchbait. A key triggering mechanism, especially with crankbaits, is to make occasional contact with whichever structural element you’re fishing.
Anyone who has been around musky fishing knows the potency of jerkbaits in autumn, and this includes the pre-turnover period. Shallow Mag and Pounder versions of the Musky Innovations Bulldawg produce giant fish each year during this window. Esox Research’s Hell Hound and Squirrely Hell Hound are glide baits that when worked in an erratic manner can produce strikes from fish that might otherwise only follow. The new Dyin’ Dawg has been a terrific producer for my boat all summer and I expect it to continue to do so this fall as well.
The pre-turnover period doesn’t last forever, so grab a few Plano boxes of the aforementioned lures and head out to your local honey hole to explore the shallow bite – there’s a great chance you’ll start your autumn off with a BIG bang! I’ll see you on the water… Joel DeBoer - Wisconsin Angling Adventures