Are you tough enough???
Offbeat Canadian Workouts
Ever wake up, look out the window and wonder why you born to love musky fishing? Was it a blessing or a curse? Fishing has been more than good the past several days. The stable weather gave way to an approaching front and big fish were hot, moving good, and eating baits. you’ve been born, died , and gone to heaven all at the same time.
In life, all good things usually come to an end. Beset with a high-pressure system setting in following the front, bluebird sky’s, colder northerly swinging to easterly winds, and dropping water temps….ugh!! Let’s compound the problem by putting you on a clear water lake for the potential of a huge fatty. Your heart sinks lower and a defeatist attitude starts creeping in as you realize the best part of your trip is probably over. You’re thinking and muttering that if God himself was a musky fisherman he’d have to dip into his horn of plenty and probably consult the Holy Ghost besides to pull this one off and boat a fish.
Been there, done it. More than I care to remember.
Sometimes it just is going to be really tough fishing or it just ain’t gonna happen and true success becomes relative. While I never forget the biggest fish we have boated some of the most satisfying days have been under the very most demanding conditions and a fish, any fish regardless of size boated or a big fish located we caught later.
There are many standard tactics for tough conditions that many musky fishermen view as gospel and right so, but here are a few off base thoughts that might help you out next time.
Guerrilla tactics for tough muskies
When confronted with tough conditions and a seemingly shut down fishery, resist the temptation to run and gun. Instead go to the areas and spots that consistently hold fish or spots you located fish previously and work them hard, picking them apart piece by piece, bit by bit several times of the day. Under these conditions I would rather meticulously fish 5 or 6 spots 3 to 4 times a day, knowing that if any kind of change occurs (even one I was not aware of or could sense) I would be near a big fish ,ending up trying for the biggest, most aggressive fish at dusk or any noticeable or predictable change rather than hitting 20 spots trying to possibly find a musky and wondering where the best place to be is.
These are very much like tournament tactics. Pay attention to even the slightest hint of any kind of a change occurring. Admittedly, when fish are on the move I pay little attention to the moon or solunar tables …unless an extremely large fish are in the mix figuring I’m on or very near a good fish on every spot I’ve picked. But fishing in tough conditions is one situation I pay special attention to the moon periods, the sets and rises definitely can make a difference to the point of being the only short movement periods of the day.
High pressure and stalled fronts will usually make the fish one of several things, tuck in and bury into the closest and thickest weed cover, and /or break off the edges. Typically, they will lay on the bottom or suspend deeper at between 18-30’ depending upon the severity of the front, lake type, and time of the year. I have found these deeper fish to be particularly frustrating and prefer to concentrate on the weed fish and those moving back up on top of the structure as the weather changes more favorable or sun warms things back up. I’ll still try for those deeper fish with the occasional cast out of the back of the boat just to make I’m not missing anything.
On structure with deeper water access, one angler should make periodic casts away from the structure with a Dawg, Big Joe, Medusa, or a Ripp’n Dawg. When fish are moving well these baits are no better than everything else but under the toughest conditions, when you can’t seem to get anything going, the rubber baits are at their best. They have a big silhouette, can be counted down and worked deeper if needed, and have the ability to be manipulated with the kind of action that will move fish when nothing else will. If there’s a shallow structure that’s been holding fish consistently and there’s a 12- 28’ hump nearby (within several hundred yds preferably within 75 or so and/or connected in some way you’d better hit to keep ‘em honest. If there is deep hump connected by a ridge or trough to a shallow structure that has been holding fish but today you can’t find them, there is hardly a surer bet the muskies will be in the trough or on the deeper structure. Another alternative is to make several trolling runs on and off structure before moving.
In the weeds find the thickest clumps and patches within the bed and use presentations that can be fished deep in the pockets, or try bumping, tearing, ripping weeds as much as possible. Last year I did well on a watermelon colored, 8’s long narrow spoon with a long plastic trailer, fluttered, dropped and teased through the heavy weeds. It was amazingly weed free and the best part was it triggered fish and was easy to throw all day. With spinner baits, jerk baits, or top waters, use super lines and fairly stiff rods so you can feel and snap the weeds immediately when you feel it during the retrieve…that’s when the strike will come. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen follows from the biggest fish of the day behind a lure fouled with weeds under post frontal, cold front conditions. The tearing and resulting chaos woke them up and caused them to follow but had the bait been ripped and the weeds exploded off there could well have been picture taking going on instead of stories of a huge follow.
I firmly believe that under tougher conditions big fish are much more sensitive and wary and prefer a stealthy approach if possible and especially if it’s a well-known spot. If possible I like to start my approach well away from the structure and drift in using the trolling mtr only when necessary. This allows you to check for suspended fish on the way in and to make several very long casts and retrieves to the sweet spots up shallower before you get to tight.
Another interesting thing I’ve noticed is that if you pull a fish off the structure and it doesn’t hit don’t always expect it to go right back under these conditions. Rather, fish for here at least the first time back, off structure where you last have seen her before trying where she came from. Lots of times they are still in your boat. If you use your trolling motor use at the lowest speed and steady as you can. Fish seem way less spooked by the duller thump of a gas motor than the high pitched whine of an electric especially going on and off at higher speeds.
I know many guys who say muskies are dumber than a box of rocks but I’ve messed with fish I swear were a higher form of life and even ended up catching some of them, so think what you will but I guarantee it will cost you some fish especially under tougher conditions.