We asked Kevin Pischke with Lay in a Line Guide Service (1) What is something you do off the water to help catch more fish? and (2) When your on the water and not contacting muskies what is 1 change you'll make. Below you'll the answers to these questions.
If you’re not contacting fish on the water what’s the one adjustment you make?
Where are the fish in relationship to the area / structure you are fishing? If it’s a spot that regularly holds and produces fish I’ll change my boat position before I do anything else. Has something like wind, current, sun, clouds, bait location or boat traffic caused them to change their position? Do I need to work the deepest edge off of a weed bed because high blue skis have pushed them deep? Do I need to cast parallel to a weed edge or rock bar because a wind driven current has them positioned in a different direction nosed into the current? Do I need to get up tight in the weeds or on a bar because heavy boat pressure has pushed fish into the areas? Maybe it’s as simple as the fish have seen baits being retrieved in the same manner all day and by working it deep to shallow versus shallow to deep is the simple change that will initiate a strike.
What is something you do off the water to help you succeed
Maintain and organize fishing records.
I keep detailed records of my fishing and on my off time I will compile that data to track day to day fishing and also trends and results drawn out over a season. This can also be taken a step further to compare trends over several seasons. This helps you fine tune your fishing efforts to specific weather, season, and regional patterns. A good example would be tracking a change in fish behavior for a season with slow warming water temperatures that inhibited weed growth on a body of water that fish are heavily weed related because of a lack of other types of structure. A simpler day to day example of records would be how a certain direction wind affects the fish on a specific body of water.
We asked Phil Schweik with Hooksetters Guide Service (1) What is something you do off the water to help catch more fish? and (2) When your on the water and not contacting muskies what is 1 change you'll make. Below you'll the answers to these questions.
#1 I work with several other tournament anglers and the guides that are on our Hooksetters staff and we share information as to what is working and what is not working to help each other become more successful when we are on the water. We share information as to what lures or baits are working, locations where we are catching fish, water temperature, current flow rate, water level, and other different conditions that are pertinent to us catching fish. I also read a lot. 😄
#2. My first adjustment if I am not catching fish is changing locations . I'm a firm believer in the fact that the fish are always biting somewhere, you just have to find them. Secondly would be changing my presentation
We asked Gregg Thomas with Battle The Beast Guide Service (1) What is something you do off the water to help catch more fish? and (2) When your on the water and not contacting muskies what is 1 change you'll make. Below you'll the answers to these questions.
(1) Off the water preparation can be very important. Making lure alterations can be key to putting more fish in the boat. Adding weight, taking weight out, reshafting spinners or even repairing broken lips all needs to completed off the water. I mess with my baits a lot and after hours is the time for me to do that. One thing that I do is add insert weights to my crankbaits and jerkbaits. By adding weights to lures it is a way to get a certain action deeper where the fish haven’t seen it before. An example would be adding weights to twitch baits. Normally these lures only go down 2 to 4 feet by adding weight you can get these lures to depths in areas where this type of action my not have been seen before.
(2) If I am not contacting fish there are number of things to try. The one go to for me is changing depths. With the electrics that are available now fishing deeper and shallower water is even easier. Depending on conditions making depth adjustments can be the key to boating more fish. If you are experiencing a heat wave or long periods of high pressure moving the boat out and fishing a cast length off the structure may pay off. If the area that you are fishing is a known “Good Area” and no fish are moving then moving off can be key. If it is a strong cold front or low light situation. Going shallower can be good. A sudden drop in water temperature either from a cold front or shade created by sun angle will trigger shallow water migrations. Both of these migrations are something to consider when on the water.
We asked Northern Wisconsin Guide Jeff Van Remortel with WDH Guide Service (1) What is something you do off the water to help catch more fish? and (2) When your on the water and not contacting muskies what is 1 change you'll make. You'll answers to these questions below.
1) With the exception of time spent with family/friends, it is rare for me to be off the water for any significant amount of time during the season. When I do find myself with an afternoon or day off the water, I may spend time on gear or boat/trailer maintaince. Keeping reels spooled and leaders and split rings fresh is something I try to as the issues arise, but from time to time, I do accumulate a "to-do" list.
2) When I am on the water, it is rare that I do not have a good understanding of the structure I am fishing or other key pieces of structure available in the system. That is part of the home work that should be done ahead of time before attempting to catch fish. Having this information at your disposal allows for a fluid change from one type of structure to another as conditions change on the water. The hardest decisions come when you are fishing in good or above average conditions and you have confidence in you bait and spot selection but are failing to produce results. When I know I am presenting to fish and switching baits or techniques does not produce action, I will often switch lakes. A seasoned angler will have that "gut feeling" conditions are good to get bit, but in some cases those good conditions may not be good for the type of water you are on. The reason for this are numerous and there is often no one root cause. The easy solution is to cut your losses and change water/lake type before the next feeding window opens.
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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Stick to your Guns:
Musky fishing has been for the most part turned into a strafing run. A carpet Bombing. Precision and meticulousness has fallen to the wayside through a motif of burning...and all too often crashing because of it. "Covering water" doesn't necessarily mean covering a two dimensional expanse of water. 90 percent of the fish, as they say, are in 10 percent of the water. So, that being said, once you isolate the ten percent, why waste time performing the same routine over the same layer of water?
The real art of musky fishing comes in knowing the nature of the animal, what it utilizes as habitat and how it moved about its board, and carefully dissecting this ecosystem with different variations of depth, speed, size, action, and color. No matter where you fish, the Muskies are always either shallow, deep, or somewhere in between, and in accordance to that, either active, neutral, or inactive. These levels change periodically and almost constantly in an increase and decrease of "frequency" daily, and to be successful, you must synchronize with this aspect of nature imposed upon this particular animal, the muskellunge. No structure situation I've ever personally encountered can be covered in under an hour to any comprehensive degree. Take your time. Most musky anglers I fish with both fish an area far too quickly, and their presentations themselves usually lean far too heavily on the rapid side of the spectrum. Hastiness will not only leave your coverage sloppy, but cost you some of the greatest fish of your life, and lead to misnomers of information to use in the future. This is the single most evident reason why anglers have a tendency to get pigeon-holed into a handful of tactics on given bodies of water. Don't fear to cycle through drastic variations of depth speed and size control on the same structure situation. The evidence of being almost tedious in covering a structure was most evident when two clients of mine landed a 52"x25" musky on Melton Hill reservoir after we had staked out an area I know to be an almost year round musky habitat and covered it for at least 60 minutes over a 60 yard stretch with everything from a 12" crank to a 3" bass jig. Richard and Travis Storch were rewarded in entertaining my adamancy on our last pass with the fish of many people's lifetimes on a TRO Ice Cold Perch Shallow Invader retrieved moderately slowly over a channel break. If we had played hop scotch from spot to spot on a "milk run", we might have been on plane when this fish or another of equal size became just active enough to move up to the break and trigger. Have faith in your arsenal of knowledge and your ability to implement the right tool at the right time.
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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