It’s been said that if you do not like the weather in Wisconsin (or the upper Midwest for that matter), you need only wait a minute. While certainly an exaggeration, albeit a small one, any outdoorsman from our region might disagree after surviving the long and arduous past winter that is finally becoming but a memory after having dragged on and on and on…
For the fraternity of musky anglers, a cold late spring resulting from such a long winter makes the endeavor of catching muskies that much more challenging. This doesn’t mean muskies become impossible to catch; rather, anglers need to think a bit outside the box a bit to cash in on esox action.
Summer has finally grabbed a stranglehold in our region and conditions have begun to parallel more to the norm making fishing patterns, especially for muskies, much more predictable. So what were the keys to consistently producing big toothy critters?
One of the major keys to Frabillizing muskies in late May and early June of 2013 was to down size. Down-sizing when musky fishing begins with rod and reel choice.
When selecting a rod, look at models rated for over-sized bass lures to medium sized musky baits, lures typically 1/2-2 ½ oz. in size. The “Downsizer” St. Croix Legend Tournament is a perfect rod for this manner of fishing as it is rated for lures ¾-2 ½ oz., and is specifically designed for smaller bucktails, twitch baits, crankbaits, and jigs. Paired with an Abu Garcia Revo Toro 50 spooled with 65 pound test Sufix 832 (which has an equivalent diameter to 17 pound test monofilament), this outfit will cater perfectly to down-sizing for muskies.
Lure selection needn’t be complicated. Small bucktails truly come into their own for cool spring musky fishing, and arguably two of the hottest baits on the scene this year are both manufactured by Antigo, Wisconsin’s very own Mepps. Mepp’s Double Blade Aglia with its dual #5 blades creates additional flash and a noticeably different vibration while maintaining a smaller compact size perfect for less aggressive fish. The Mepps Aglia Tandem, again with a #5 blade, features a slighter larger profile yet still weighs less than 1 ounce.
While silver/white and silver/black have been hot colors for clear water fishing applications, orange/black and firetiger colors have been very productive in darker water such as those found in the Wisconsin River system.
Swim baits are another excellent option for muskies and have again proven their productivity in recent weeks. A 6” or 9” Mister Twister Sassy Shad rigged flat side up on a Mustad Power Lock Plus Swimbait hook can produce strikes when nothing else will; try a silver flake/black back in clear water or a chartreuse flake in stained water – chances are you’ll get bit! The key to producing strikes when using swimbaits is to manipulate rises and falls of the lure via the reel handle itself. The more erratic the retrieve, especially when incorporating pauses to allow the Sassy Shad to flutter and glide downward, the better the chance of eliciting a strike.
Smaller glidebaits and crankbaits also excel for early season muskies. The 4” Phantom Softail can not only be worked erratically, but slowly and methodically, allowing the seasoned musky veteran to incorporate a variety of triggers for lethargic muskies. For the crankbait fisherman, Musky Mania Tackle’s 6” Jake is the perfect twitching lure for shallow springtime muskies; for anglers needing to fish a bit deeper, the 6” Li’l Ernie, also from Musky Mania Tackle, will get the job done.
As I have stressed time and again, it is imperative to not only catch and release muskies, but properly catch and release them!
A variety of tools including hook-outs, jaw spreaders, long-nosed pliers, and hook cutters need to be readily accessible on each and every musky outing. A quality net of appropriate size and designed specifically for handling large quarry such as a musky need also be on board. Frabill’s Conservation Series and “Big Kahuna” Power Catch nets are invaluable tools for not only effectively landing, but successfully releasing our toothy friends.
Don’t let a cold spring stop you from enjoying a little slime time ever again!
I’ll see you on the water.
Joel DeBoer is a Professional Musky Guide, Author, Internet Personality, Outdoor Educator, and Tournament Angler. He can be reached through his website at: http://www.wisconsinanglingadventures.com. Joel will be sharing hunting, fishing, and other outdoor-related information through the perspective of one of North-Central Wisconsin's most successful and accomplished guides.