When it comes to musky fishing, jerk baits and crankbaits have been the standard, but recently, something new has come along that has fisherman scratching their heads. A new mystery bait made of plastic has been pulling in huge muskies at Eagle Lake, Ontario, but even the most experienced fishermen aren’t sure how to use it. In some cases, it seems like sheer luck, while in others, it seems like there is a definite strategy behind this new type of bait – so what’s the deal?
Before we get to that, let’s demystify this new muskie bait. What we’re talking about here are the large plastic baits that look like a cross between a fish and a lizard, and they’re known by names such as “Big Joe” and “Incredible Lizard.” If you’ve been to the shop here at Andy Myers Lodge, or if you’ve been to any recent fishing shows, you’ve probably seen them. So now that we’re on the same page, how do you use these baits to catch muskies?
To find out, we’ve turned to world-renowned angler and owner of Andy Myers Lodge, Steve Herbeck. Steve has been using plastic baits for quite a few seasons now, and he believes that the main reason they work at Eagle Lake in Ontario is that the fish have simply become conditioned to other types of bait. Additionally, while other baits use synthetic movements to attract fish, plastics offer more natural movements.
To use plastics, Herbeck suggests that you first divide them into three categories, including jigs, lizards and large minnow baits. Larger baits referred to as “Big Joes” are going to be your best bet for catching bigger fish. Most of the time, Big Joes are more beneficial in deep weed beds and around the edges of bars, but they can also be used in deep waters.
To use lizards effectively, they don’t need to be weighted. Due to their own weight and the weight of the hook, they tend to sink more slowly, meaning more time to attract nearby fish. Herbeck notes that there are also hybrid plastics available, and these can be used on shorelines to attract fish such as ciscoes.
There are a variety of techniques to use when casting with plastics, including bottom bouncing, jerk-and-drop, and straight retrieval. While Herbeck prefers the jerk-and-drop retrieval method, other professionals prefer to go with a slower retrieval. When using a slower retrieval, you may want to give a good six seconds or so after the drop before retrieving. While reeling in, a few good tugs on the line can also simulate an escaping creature, leading to more attraction.
In terms of comparing plastics to other baits, Herbeck points out that there are some distinct advantages to using plastics for larger fish, including location. Because larger plastics can be used in deeper waters, they’re more likely to attract larger fish that wouldn’t normally move to more shallow water. In addition, the sound that plastics make in the water is similar to the natural sound a creature might make.
When choosing a rod to go along with the use of plastics, it’s recommended to choose one composed of graphite. These types of rods offer more sensitivity, giving fishermen a better chance at catching muskies and other fish using plastics. Because muskies tend to jerk away once they realize the bait isn’t real, this added sensitivity will help you set the hook easier and faster.
If you’re using larger plastics, such as a Big Joe, you also need to consider outfitting your rod with a high-speed reel that offers a higher gear ratio. This will prevent hooked fish that rush the boat from getting away easily as you’ll be able to react faster. This isn’t as important, however, when using smaller plastics, such as lizards.
Finally, Steve Herbeck reminds fishing enthusiasts that the final chapter has not been written regarding the use of plastics. As plastics are currently a relatively new innovation, new techniques are still being invented each season. Additionally, plastics are not always ideal for every fishing situation, and in some cases, they can be outperformed using other baits.
Regardless of their future, however, Herbeck simply points to his amazing catches using plastics, including a 54-inch musky. If you’d like to learn more about fishing with plastics, or if you’d like to find out more information on how you can be catching record-setting muskies, come on out to Andy Myers Lodge and speak with Steve in person.