Goin' Fast for Muskies "When things seem slow"
One thing that many years of guiding and professional tournaments have taught me is there can be many different observations of what one might describe as SLOW muskie fishing. Almost always when I might define things as slow one of my fellow guides, lodge guest or tournament rivals come off the water with completely different results, boosting how hot the muskie fishing was. Success revolves around patterns, exposing those patterns and recognizing them as one separates those of us that consistently contact fish or often leave the water disappointed when conditions seem tough. When cold fronts, high skies, pressure or other negative conditions set in quickly and muskies seemingly disappear, breaking the speed limit just may be your ticket for more skies…
After lengthy days of painful shoulders, backs and forearms my clients and I have called this speed presentation "Power Fishing" which is no more than a simple numbers game, how many casts you can make into potentially productive water? Speed Reeling is the key strategy in your success. It's all about covering a gigantic amount of water to find an aggressive fish, your lures speed causing a muskies natural reaction. Power fishing not only means increasing your lures speed but at times your boats speed as well. A big part of power fishing is to cover large areas quickly; at times I turn up my Motor Guide to get all 109 lbs of trust to keep up with my lures speedy retrieve. You'll find that Go' In Fast has no limitations, this method can be productive during most all seasons, conditions and most importantly it will work anywhere in the muskie range. Let me share with you a few instances that will give you some kind of idea how this method has produced muskies for my clients and I over the past few years during those periods that we've found the muskie action to be extremely slow.
One of my first eye openers to the success of speedy lures was during an unusually wintry Kentucky December cold front a few years back. A thirty five degree drop in air temps stunted our surface temperature. My clients Steve and Randy Hurt successfully landed 2 quality muskies burning Pacemakers back to the boat over 43 degree water, after a day and half of other unproductive presentations. Over the next week five more muskies landed in my Frabill net while power fishing Pacemakers and Low-Ryders. At that point I realized more than any other time before that you can throw away all the rules when chasing cold front shocked muskies.
Angler pressure is another condition where power fishing can often pay off. Highly pressured muskies can often be fooled by the burst of a quick presentation. A great example of this is during Kentucky's Cave Run Lake's popular early rattle bait season, at this time Cave Run's coves and flats attract hundreds of muskie anglers from all over the muskie range. This is when Cave Run muskie pressure is at its highest. Many local guides like Gregg Thomas, Scott Salchli and I have added to our arsenal high speed reels for our clients. I have found some awesome results in the quick smooth retrieve of Okuma's VS, this swift presentation really takes a toll on your equipment and with proper care these reels can really take the beating. Go' In Fast makes just enough difference when our muskies are under extreme pressure.
Another awesome quality about this speed method it is not limited to a certain lure group. Don't just twitch your jerkbait-rip it thru the strike zone. Instead of "walking" a Jackpot, Seducer or Jailbait, make it run with faster jerks of your rod tip. Witnessing this type action has lead me to believe a fast moving lure must trigger a natural predatory instinct in muskies. I use 80 Lb Power Pro rather than 65 lb at this time, primarily because the heavier line gives me better lure action at high speeds. At the same time, its lack of stretch allows me to rip the bait thru heavy vegetation easily. Two of my favorite power fishing tools are the Manta and Hellhound, both having awesome hook ups but maybe their best feature is the way they locate fish under high speeds. For me moving them over long main lake points rapidly has brought my most success. I begin in deeper water and work my way shallow, even into a foot of water. There are always muskies in shallow water and most found there are very aggressive.
The Manta is one of the easiest glide baits to get moving quickly which is a must needed in the shallowest of water. I'll have clients toss this all day; the choice is simple when they are moving good numbers of fish and my confidence knows that sooner or later we're going to put one in the face of an angry of hungry muskie. In early October under high skies and extremely hot temperatures Power Fishing produced several nice fish for my longtime guide clients father and son team Lou and Jamie Freidman, all burning Hang Ten Mantas back to the boat. After working the bait at all speeds we found that only the extremely speedy retrieve would produce fish during that week. It's truly a reaction strikes that frequently produces big muskies. Often it can turn into a battle of willpower because mentally it's hard to persuade yourself to keep casting and reeling that hard hour after hour searching for one or two strikes.
Bulldawgs can be very productive at this time when power fished over steep drops and over thick weeds ripped very quickly. Speed and direction change is what generates reaction strikes, which means first off increasing your lures rate of fall. To do this you increase the weight, this is when I prefer the magnum Bulldawg over its smaller cousin. It not only gets down deeper more swiftly but falls fast during the hesitation between rips and each pull gives another directional change. I believe this can be key under most situations when throwing the dawgs, most strikes seem to come as it falls which is the factor that makes a bulldawg strikes harder to detect. So remember that your concentration should be in full swing as speed will make this detection more difficult. Good friend and very successful Bulldawg fisherman from the Northwoods Ed Lamb best piece of advice to me is to keep your eye your line, deeper dawgs strikes can be very tricky.
Another effective tool for power fishing is a spinnerbaits, I prefer a 2 oz over a 1 oz, this heavier weight makes for longer casts and speeder more turbulent retrieves. Grim Reaper's or CJ's spinnerbaits are my choices because I believe these lures simply push more water. I speed reel these spinnerbaits just under the surface but close to structure. When you reel a spinnerbait really fast, like we are doing, it's easy to over fish it and cause them to roll. But using the heavier two ounce lures and then matching the blades really helps. Speedy retrieves like this seem to work in both dingy and clear water. I believe a finesse type presentation brings the feeding strikes power fishing brings the aggressive reaction strikes. I'll make parallel cast but never slowing down. It's simple parallel casting to shore or structure keeps those spooked fish tighter to cover. I prefer cranks, jerks and glides in clearer water most of the time, but in dirty water I like the spinnerbait approach. Even a plan simple quick retrieve will locate fish on those days that action seems to be very slow.
Frequently, I can see fish on my Lowrance hanging just off points or deep structure but even live bait won't seem to make them move. Many times when we have seen this taking place, my clients and snap on a deep diver like a Depth Raider or Triple "D" and speed reel it as fast as we can. Part of the key to this particular situation seems to be making sure your crankbait moves quickly and very sporadic as it falls into deeper water. This also has proven true when finding schools of baitfish in open water, naturally often the muskies will be near by.
Not only casters find success while they speed things up when action seems slow, high speed trolling which is nothing new to most of the readers of Musky Hunter. High speed trolling is just another form of power fishing; many times an increase in speed has made the difference. Many slower days when 3 to 4 mph couldn't attacked a strike an increase in speed can be what it takes to turn a slow day into a very productive one. A good case in point was while pre-fishing for the Pomme De Terre PMTT event this past year my tournament partner Laura Morrison and I increased our trolling speed as we struggled, moving our lure faster gave us our first legal fish and left us with plenty of confidence for the upcoming event. That weekend, Go' in Fast placed us in the tournaments top ten and a spot in the Ranger Boats World Championship when most competitors where struggling.
Speed regardless of its presentation can be effective under all types of situations and conditions use it as just another alternative when things seem to be a little slow. Remember to keep in mind that there is always a successful pattern, with that knowing there are always many other options, next time try some speedy lures for those sluggish muskies.
Tony Grant has been chasing muskies for nearly 20 years. As his career started on Kentucky’s Cave Run Lake he has now expanded his guiding to the waters of Wisconsin and Minnesota during the southern muskies dangerously hot summer water temps. In 2005 Tony teamed up with Gregg Thomas to form Musky Road Rules, a series of “Cabin Fever Clinics” and Schools with “On the Water Workshops” across the mid west muskie range. Visit Tony’s sites www.kymuskie.com www.muskiesupnorth.com
www.tonygrantoutdoors.com and www.muskyroadrules.com