Musky Fishing 101: Top Tips for Catching Musky

With the term “muskie fever” hovering around, you probably know that catching muskies can be an addiction to pro anglers. While they may not get anything profitable from catching and releasing muskies, it’s still considered a challenge that many anglers willingly seek just for the thrill.

Generally known as the biggest members of the pike family, muskies range from 28 to 48 inches in length and usually weigh between 15 to 36 pounds.

Although muskies are generally uncommon, they mostly dwell in large rivers and freshwater lakes in North America. With their large and sturdy bodies, muskies move freely and have no problem eating whatever they want since they have no threats other than humans.

If you’re a newbie, you may think that catching these big fighters is quite a daunting task. Yet, once you know their secrets, you’ll be able to score with ease.

Here, you’ll learn about muskies’ habits, feeding routines, and hiding places. This will help you set up your game to solve the puzzle of finding a muskie, luring it with your bait, and reeling it in without a hitch.

1. The Right Place and Time

Generally, muskies lurk around in the water, searching for food and warm temperature. Hence, they are mostly found around shallow structures, rock outcrops, and low line trees because these areas provide a lot of forage and a good cover for hunting.

If not on top of such structures, look for them at the edges of reefs or near weed beds in shallow waters. Usually, cabbage weeds and pencil reeds, which can be found in 8-15 feet depth, hold many bait fish that lure muskies to them. 

On the contrary, it’s most unlikely to find muskies at a depth of more than 40 feet as they need warm shallow water for spawning. 

For the most part, fall is the best season for muskie fishing since they tend to be in continuous search for food to beef up in preparation for winter. That leaves them exposed to fishermen’s nets.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean you can’t catch those big fighters in summer. In fact, summer brings an excellent opportunity for finding large and small muskies all the same. That’s because smaller muskies prevail in shallower waters since they search for warmer temperatures while bigger ones stay in a relatively deeper range. 

2. Arm Yourself with the Proper Gear

Should you go after muskies, knowing and preparing the right gear is crucial since they have special sizes and unique habits.

In general, opt for an 8 to 9 foot-long rod with heavy or extra heavy action. These allow you to throw and maneuver heavy baits to trick muskies all the way. Associate it with a durable baitcasting reel that can endure a heavy braided line of at least 80-pound test.

Keep in mind that braided lines excel in strength and sensitivity, besides being able to hold strong hooksets.

Moreover, a reel with a gear ratio of 5:1 should offer the needed strength. Sure, you’ll be sacrificing speed with this gear ratio, but having a durable and precise retrieval system matters the most when it comes to reeling muskies. 

Also, fluorocarbon leaders are far better than monofilament ones, given that they’re much denser and give you a better feel of your lure. All in all, picking a 75-100 pound test leader is crucial for it to be able to withstand strenuous muskies’ battles.  

3. Aim for the Best lures

When it comes to lures, there are various options you can choose from:

  • Jerkbaits: This kind of bait works better if you’re not moving around since it mimics an injured or dead baitfish. When you jig them, they move in different directions. Also, some of them are designed with extra weight to keep them in the strike zone longer. 

Examples: Bobbies, Foolers and Triple D baits

  • Soft plastics: Unlike jerkbaits, they act like live baitfish or forage with their versatile multicolored shapes. Plastic baits can be worked in various fashions. If you move them fast, they stand in a shallow depth. However, if you pause and allow them to sink, they can go as deep as you’d like. Examples: Medusa, Bulldawg, and Svartzonker.
  • Crankbaits: These small baits perform well in any depth. Mostly, they work by gliding and bumping against structures, which in turn attracts big muskies.

Examples: Triple Bladed Apaches and Double Showgirls.

  • Bucktails: These are the most popular lures out of the list. With their black and white tails, bucktails mimic the natural fish bait that muskies feed on like whitefish and ciscos.

Examples: Double 9 Blades and Double 10 Blades.

  • Twitch or glide baits: Although these baits are harder to work, they are more effective when you are fishing in topwater.

Examples: 200 S-waver, Perversa, and TanTan.

Note that large plastic baits and crankbaits are preferred if you’re fishing in sharp breaks or areas with rock piles and structures. On the other hand, use glide and twitch baits in shallow waters or weeds where you need flashy and vibrant lures.

Furthermore, keep in mind that muskies don’t always strike because they’re hungry. Sometimes they strike out of anger or as a reflex.

Thus, don’t be fooled into thinking that bigger lures are the only effective ones. They may work well in fall when the fish are in a feeding binge. 

However, in times when the fish aren’t moved by your large baits, try smaller ones. These can provoke muskies and get some action out of them. Besides, they may be looking for smaller meals from time to time, like in spring, when their metabolism is much slower.

4. Use Figure 8 Method

Luring a fish is like playing a mind game, you should know how to predict its next move so you can act in accordance. That’s why pro anglers have come up with the figure 8 technique through studying the way a muskie ambushes its prey. 

Most often, you’ll encounter a muskie catching your bait, and the moment you raise your rod, it swims away with or without your lure. To overcome this problem, you need to fool the grumpy fish into thinking that your bait is real by mimicking the action of a panicking fish.

As you’re reeling your bait, push the button to release a few more feet of the line and set your thumb on the line to act as a break. Then, sweep the rod in a figure eight, that’s about 8-10 feet large.

Make sure to slow down in the bends while holding the rod with both hands and tightening your grip to avoid losing your rod if the fish struggles. If the fish takes the lure, let it run a few feet before engaging the spool and setting the hook.

Once you have this technique under your belt, you’ll undoubtedly trick the lurking giant and land your trophy with ease. 

5. Release without Injuries

As you probably know, anglers have taken it upon themselves to save marine life by releasing the big fish. However, it won’t do any good to set the fish free with a severe injury that hinders its feeding or movements, which will eventually lead to its death. 

To release the muskie safely, first ensure that your hook doesn’t damage it. That can be done by removing the center hook if you’re using a treble one. 

Moreover, it’s highly recommended to go barbless when you fish for muskies because, in most cases, you’ll harm the fish trying to remove the side-angled hooks from their mouths.

Lastly, remember to use pliers when you’re removing the hooks. This is particularly important for the safety of your own hand as well. Also, it’d be better to bring along a pair of jaw spreaders to be able to hold its mouth open while you withdraw the bait in case the fish swallows it deeply. 

Final Thoughts

Even though a muskie is a rare catch, once you get a hold of that giant monster, you’ll want to come back and do it again and again. It’s a challenge that tests your abilities and skills as an angler. However, the key factors for the process are patience and persistence. 

Finally, rest assured that when the glorious moment comes, everything will pay off, and you’ll have a story to tell at dinners about winning a fierce battle against a giant husky fish.