Fall Muskie fishing is my favorite time of the year. Chasing giants in cold water paired with some of the most extreme conditions can be oh so rewarding.
That being said the fall season is generally the time to put away the fast action reaction type baits and transition to the big slow moving targets. For most that means big hunks of rubber upwards of 1 lb in weight and 20” in length. Or trolling large crankbaits over deep water. That is after all what tends to produce results this time of year, and that is what the Muskie elders have instructed us to do. I too have fallen into this mindset during the cold water period, but something happened this past weekend that reminded me of a few techniques I have had success with and have changed my perspective.
This weekend’s trip started out as most do in the fall. Water temps in the high 40’s and large profile, slow moving baits latched on in hopes of a giant fall Muskie. I found myself fishing with two very old friends, one of which also happens to be a Muskie nut. The other.. Not so much.
Not 10 mins into the trip I moved a BIG fish on my Beaver. She was hot in pursuit, gills flaring fins wriggling.. Looking like a taker only to slowly saunter off at the last second as she approached the boat. Not two casts later she did the exact same thing only to hang directly below the boat giving us a really good look at her before she swam back to the depths. My tried and true methods seemed to be attracting the interest one would expect this time of year and as such I stuck with it and was rewarded later on during the trip.
After moving that fish we decided to give her a rest in hopes that she would eat during our next pass of the area. We moved off and over to a bay adjacent to the deeper water we had been fishing and began working the deep weed line that it offered. My good friend Devin decided to join in the Muskie fun and picked up one of my setups only to latch on an inline bucktail. “I know, I know” he exclaimed. “I’m not going to catch them with this right now, but they are just so much easier to cast”. We all had a good laugh at his honesty, but were happy to see him fishing Muskies alongside us. Not 5 casts in! A very healthy fish came roaring off the weedline and crushed his bait. For some reason, unknown to myself, this fish was whiling to chase down and aggressively strike this “summer season” bait.
I was shocked! And felt a little silly having teased him initially for his bait choice. But as I reflect back to my earlier days of Muskie fishing I can recall catching fish, late in the season, on flashy bucktails and spinnerbaits as well. This was not only an eye opener, but a reminder to myself that we never really have these fish completely figured out. Yes they will regularly eat large slow moving offerings during the fall season. But it is important to impart other techniques, some less conventional, when the fish don’t seem to cooperate. Bucktails on deep weedlines may just be the difference.
This reminded me of another not so typical bait/technique that I have been using of late. During the fall period that is. A Spinnerbait!. I know I know! Not really something I should be throwing in the fall! But as I was reminded earlier, something different can be good! Really good!
My spinnerbait of choice is a Tandem Nutbuster. This bait is produced by a company called Llungen Lures. Llungen Lures L.L.C is a family & veteran owned fishing tackle manufacturing and distribution company based out of Southern Illinois. The company is operated by three partners; Chris & Cari Piha along with longtime friend Matt Gunkel. All three play an integral role in the day to operations and distribution of fine Muskie fishing tackle.
The Tandem Nutbuster is, in my opinion, one of the finest Essox spinnerbaits available on the market today. Its unique Colorado and Willow tandem system add to diversity of this premium bait. Designed for a multitude of applications, it can be fished at slow, medium, or high speed retrieves. It refuses to “roll out” cast after cast. From grinding through cabbage, to dragging through rocks, to bumping through timber. I have yet to find another spinnerbait on the market that is as versatile or effective.
My approach with this bait during the cold water period is often a slow roll, as one would expect. But something I have really started to have success with involves allowing the bait to settle on bottom, and dragging it with a moderate to fast retrieve along the bottom. Grinding through soft bottom creating a good cloud of silt and activity during the process. Not to mention the noise the bait makes from the thumping blades. I came across this technique rather accidentally. I made a long bomb cast only to blow up my reel (professional overrun). While I pulled the birds nest from my spool the bait fluttered to the bottom. Assuming the cast was dead I began to crank the bait in at a good clip. Dragging through the soft bottom, and deflecting off of rocks when I was greeted by a heavy strike! Initially I thought I had hung the bait up on bottom until the headshakes began. This was a Muskie! And a good one at that! Pattern established!! The commotion and banging around on the bottom combined with the rhythmic thumping of the blades had triggered this fish to strike! Who knew! I was fishing the spinnerbaits in a manner that nobody to my knowledge does. Like a crankbait! Like a deep diving crankbait. And the fish react to this very very well!
Here is the skinny.. Make your long bomb cast, count the bait down (approx 2’ per second). Once the bait has made contact with the bottom begin your retrieve ensuring that the bait remains in contact with the bottom with the rod tip down pointing towards the water. It will feel like you are dragging it. And in essence you are. Most of my strikes occur when the bait deflects off of something. A rock, or a piece of timber. Or when I rip it free from a clump of weeds. This is far from conventional. But different can be good! Really good!
During your next fall outing try fishing your big spinnerbaits along the bottom like you would a deep diving crankbait. The results speak for themselves!
ALL OF THE FISH IMAGES IN THIS ARTICLE WERE CAUGHT AND RELEASED IN THE KAWARTHAS NORTHUMBERLAND REGION OF ONTARIO! COME SEE FOR YOURSELF!
Chris Huskilson with a nice opening day Muskie taken on the Beaver
Muskie fishing is not for the faint of heart. It is not generally a numbers game and requires A LOTof time on the water to develop the knowledge and grit that it takes to wrangle these monsters with consistency. This is not something that is easily explained or described. I can still remember the first Muskie I ever caught! I was 12 years old. And although the fish was not big, the pure adrenaline rush and sense of accomplishment that I experienced during and after the battle changed me forever. They are such a majestic and unique predator. Fooling them takes skill. And putting them in the net takes talent.
Ryan Douglas Delahunt with a gorgeous fall monster taken on a Beaver. photo taken by Aaron Jolicoeur.
Today’s Muskie angler is far better equipped that yester years. The rods, reels, line and tackle options are endless. Not to mention new and productive techniques that have continually bettered our odds of success. We now handle and release the fish in a much safer manner as well. Respecting the resource through knowledge and in turn these beautiful monsters continue to thrive.
Over the years I have witnessed the development and success of many fantastic fish catching baits. Some of which were more of a novelty item than they were productive. It pains me to give this one away.. But I have come across a very unique bait that has once again changed my Muskie fishing world. And I am certain that the Muskie community as a whole will feel the same once they see and experience this thing in action.
During November 2015 I came across a very unique looking product that at first glance may be brushed off by some as a novelty item. Not something that would really put fish in the boat, but perhaps something that would look good hanging up in the trophy room. Well.. I am here to tell you that this bait is a BIG TIME producer. The Company is called Beaver’s Baits. And yes you guessed it. They make a Beaver imitation type lure that drives the Essox crazy!!
Beaver’s Baitsis a small business situated in Big Lake Minnesota. Owned and operated by a gentleman named Brian Boyum. Each bait is individually hand crafted by Brian and his team. And as such each is quite unique.
Brian took notice of a trend in the Muskie tackle market. That being most of the available baits resembled fish.. There were NOT many, if any at all, that represented an actual animal. Brian is a firm believer that Muskie and pike, mainly the larger ones, have at one point in their life, eaten muskrats, mink, squirrels ducks or any small animal that enters the water. They are after all opportunistic feeders.
photo courtesy of Sam Ecker
Photo courtesy of Sam Ecker
After some contemplation, He thought of a way to recreate the life like appearance of an animal swimming in the water.Once he had the bait completed he had to name it and since his nick name has been Beaver his whole life, he decided to name it after himself and that is how the Baby Beaver was born.
The Baby Beaver is a new unique musky bait that has exploded on the scene catching many muskies in all regions. It is a blend of deer hair, rubber paddle tail, and a solid head with a screw in weight insert option to give you better depth control. The Baby Beaver is 12″ in length and weighs 3.5 oz of pure musky catching attitude. The bait is constructed of plastic with .051 wire molded into each segmented body piece. Each segment is hand tied with deer hair and connected together with split rings. The rubber tail is molded onto the hook and is attached to the bait with a split ring making it replaceable.
Sam Ecker. Owner/Operator of Figure Ate Guide Service with a beautiful Beaver Muskie
In my opinion, based on my experiences with the bait, it can and does catch fish at any point during the season. The angler imparts the action to the bait, and it’s buoyancy is controlled by the weight system allowing me to fish it fast, slow, or somewhere in between. It has the same appeal and fishability of a flashy bucktail, a large soft plastic bait, a Muskie fly, and a jerkbait all in one. I make it do what I need it to do in each given situation as the fish require. It truly is an all in one weapon.
Ryan Douglas Delahunt with a THICK Beaver Muskie. Photo taken by Aaron Jolicoeur.
Here is the kicker for me. Not only can this bait be fished in several different manners from fast to slow and in between, but it is an absolute game changer when it comes to fish commitment in the figure 8. For myself personally that is. I have never seen anything trigger fish like this bait does. I have had several instances where a fish was lazily following 8-10’ back of the bait. Low and slow. Not really interested. But as soon as I start my figure 8 most seem to immediately engaged and eat. The fish really like these things! Don’t tell anyone 🙂
Author: Chris Huskilson
ALL OF THE FISH IMAGES IN THIS ARTICLE WERE CAUGHT AND RELEASED IN THE KAWARTHA’S NORTHUMBERLAND REGION OF ONTARIO. COME SEE FOR YOURSELF!!
The angling opportunities available year round are simply astounding. The fall is a special time of year, however, and the scenery is simply breathtaking. With so many fishing destinations with over 350 lakes and rivers to choose from, here are my Top 5 Fall MUST fish locations.
Put your canoe or aluminum boat in Eels Creek off Northeys Bay Road and head north to the High Falls. The scenery is breathtaking and the fishing is top notch as well! Bring your Muskie tackle because this stretch is chalk full of fish! Inline bucktail spinners and 6-8” crank baits imitating the cyprinid forage throughout the river will provide great success for anglers of all levels.
This little hideaway is tucked between Lower Buckhorn Lake and Stoney Lake. The beautiful rocky forested shorelines to please the victors eye. An often overlooked stretch of theTrent-Severn Waterwaythat is absolutely loaded with Bass, Muskie, Walleye, Crappie and several other panfish species. Bring your arsenal because this little beauty has trophy fish in all of the above mentioned species. Put your boat in at the launch directly across from theBurleigh Falls Innand joy the beautiful scenery this lake has to offer while catching your next Kawartha Legend.
Launch your boat in Kinmount and make your way up the river. If you have a small boat or canoe, walk it down below the dam in Kinmount and make your way down stream. Be prepared to portage a few narrow sections of the river along the way, but all the effort is well worth it. Not only is the scenery absolutely majestic but several fish species reside within the river and are seemingly always whiling to bite! Walleye, Large and Smallmouth Bass as well as Muskies abound, in high numbers and really great sizes! Your arms will be sore from reeling in fish!
Launch your boat at the public launch directly adjacent toViamede Resortat the end of Mount Julian Viamede Road and let the adventure begin. Known as one of the most prestigious lakes in the region, Stoney offers some of the most picturesque landscape in the world! Not only is it an absolute pleasure to view but the lake also boasts a very healthy fishery! The Bass, Walleye and Muskie populations are VERY good! Chris just recently fished a tournament event on the lake and over the course of the three days, Chris and his tournament partner landed over 300 Smallmouth Bass!
Launch your boat at the end of Mile of Memories Lane. Be sure to keep an eye open for wildlife on the way in as there are often deer grazing in the fields or wild turkey running about. This hidden gem of a lake is absolutely loaded with good sized Pike and the occasional monster Muskie. The bass fishing, both largemouth and smallmouth, is phenomenal. And did I mention the Walleye population is just ridiculous? Located near Havelock, Ontario with travel times into town being 15-25 minutes on average. Travel time to the Greater Toronto Area is within 2 hours making this lake a very popular spot for those escaping the city for vacation rentals even during the off season! The size of Belmont Lake is 1872 acres with a maximum depth of 51 feet and mean depth of 20 feet. Belmont Lake is part of the Crowe River system, the Crowe (Deer River) enters the lake at the north from Cordova Lake, the North River enters from Round Lake and then exits as the Crowe River to the east heading into Crowe Lake. Just a beautiful little lake that offers some of the best fishing in the region! Shhhh… don’t tell anyone! For a great stop after a day of fishing, take a trip up to the north end of the lake and visitBelmont Lake Brewery. They’re a small craft brewery open on weekends. And always boat and drive responsibly!
I have been targeting Muskies for as long as I can remember. During the early years my typical approach was not much different from many other anglers today. I placed a great deal of emphasis on speed and flash to catch the majority of my fish. Bucktails,spinnerbaits and hard jerk baits. Very common in our Muskie tackle world, and they undoubtedly produce results on a regular basis. What else do you need, right?
I am a born and raised Kawartha’s Northumberland region native. I target just about everything that swims in this area, and in doing so, I have come across a few techniques and baits that were not intended to be used for certain species, but are extremely effective in catching them. I love to catch Smallmouth Bass. They are, in my opinion one of the most powerful freshwater fish on the planet. While targeting Smallies, I spend a good portion of my time dragging baits on the bottom. In a lot of instances the bait of choice is a tube. While a Tube has been a very effective bait for many of us while targeting Smallmouth, I catch an alarming amount of Muskies fishing them in this manner as well! So many, that it became quite clear to me that this was an approach that was not only unique, in that most were not catching Muskies this way, but extremely effective in producing numbers and quality fish!
During this period there were really no options on the market that offered a Muskie sized version of my bass tubes. Or at least I was unable to locate any manufacturers producing them. In the spring of 2011 I discovered Water Wolf Lures, an Ontario based business specializing in Muskie sized soft plastic baits. While browsing their website I found exactly what I had been looking for. A Muskie sized soft plastic tube. Ranging in sizes from 5-13”!! Needless to say I placed an order immediately as I knew the potential they had in the waters I fished.
I catch a great deal of my “Tube fish” in or adjacent to current. Water Wolf Lures also manufactures all of the necessary rigging for their baits including the perfect tube jig head for these bad boys. When fishing bottom, like I would for smallmouth, I target the same areas and bottom type when targeting Muskies with these larger profile tubes. Hard bottom is key. Hard bottom in or adjacent to current, paired with a weed line edge and deep water nearby = Muskies. Big Muskies. I will fan cast these upstream and hop them back along the bottom, much like I would power fishing a tube for smallmouth. If the fish are not right in the current, I will cast to the current edges and do the exact same thing. The results are outstanding! Not entirely unexpected however! These baits produce fish in numbers and quality, and why wouldn’t they!? Very few baits are as versatile as a tube. I can fish it fast or slow. I can hop it or slowly drag it on the bottom. I can swim it back to the boat or vertically jig it. The applications are quite literally endless. And in my opinion, this is a bait that can be fished all year round.
When fishing bottom, I Like to rig a 5-9” tube. Rigged with a tube jig head. This is the exact replica to what I use when targeting smallies. Only much, much larger! The nose of the bait is extra thick to withstand the constant pounding along the bottom. I have had great results with this rig and use it regularly. In fact it is a mainstay in my arsenal all season long. This is a much underutilized approach, and something that really produces well for me. Especially in highly pressured waters with current.
Tubes are an extremely versatile bait. Not only can they be fished on the bottom and produce exceptional results, but they can be fished in the mid to upper range of the water column as well! Anyone that flips tubes for Largemouth Bass knows the effectiveness of a lightly weighted or unweighted tube offering on those fish. Well let me tell you, the same applies to Big Tubes for Big Muskies.
I first tried this approach shortly after discovering Water Wolf Lures, and ordered a handful to give them a try. Needless to say I was a little shocked at just how effective the baits/technique really was!
I like a really big profile bait and the 11″ to 13″ Magnum Gator Tubes set up with a light casting rig are the ticket. I simply cast the bait out, and work it back to the boat much like I would a suspending jerkbait. This technique is an absolute staple in my arsenal and dominant during the colder water periods. Late fall right through until close (mid Dec). I can catch fish on these all year round but really hammer them once the water is in the 60’s and below. The bait is very buoyant and that extra hang time between jerks is a big trigger for these fish to commit. And not only do they commit, they commit several times if necessary. I have had several instances where a fish would strike, I would set the hooks and endure several violent head shakes only to have the fish throw the bait, and within a few seconds come right back and eat it again!!! I am convinced that the softness of these baits has been the reason for this. The fish eat them like nothing else I have ever used. There is rarely any hesitation and they eat with intent. Some of my biggest fish have been taken on these baits, if your not using big tubes for Muskies you are simply missing out on some of the most exciting fishing of your life. The products are available and the technique is simple yet extremely effective.
Give it a try! You won’t be disappointed ! Big Tubes=Big Muskie
ALL FISH IMAGES IN THIS ARTICLE WERE CAUGHT AND RELEASED IN THE KAWARTHA’S NORTHUMBERLAND REGION OF ONTARIO. COME SEE FOR YOURSELF!!
Here we are, at the height of the fall transition when temperatures drop, nights are longer and lakes begin to turn over. This is truly the time of year you can run into some really large smallmouth, but where do you look and what do you throw at them?
Smallmouth can be fickle and very elusive during the fall. Some anglers use the old cliché to describe the search for these bronze bass as finding “a needle in a haystack”. Smallmouth will often travel in larger and often, tighter schools during this change in season which makes them more difficult to locate. But once located, what you find will inject a shot of adrenaline into your veins for sure.
One major change in smallmouth behavior during the fall is that they often become less dependent on crustaceans (crayfish) and are more apt to key in on baitfish. Depending where you are located, baitfish such as shad or shiners (or whatever the main forage is in your neck of the woods is) will school up and begin some sort of migration to stage upon potential spawning grounds, wintering spots and so on. Once this takes place smallmouth will in turn school up, thus stalking said baitfish. Something to note is that although baitfish are inevitably at their largest in size, they can still be easily digested which works out because as water temperatures drop rapidly, the metabolism of bass will slow down.
Now, obviously this seasonal change brings cold nights, which cools the haunts indicative of smallmouth bass so mornings will become a less productive time to chase them. As the sun heats up the high water columns along main breaklines, mid-depth sections of points and steep shoreline banks, you should gear up and get out there. If the body of water you are on is calm enough, look for busting/dimpling baitfish on the surface in these areas. You’re not always going to be able to spot them visually on the surface, which is when electronics are of utmost importance so pay close attention to your graph along with a GPS unit to better pinpoint the prime locations. Look for large, dark bait balls and pay even closer attention to larger arcs lurking below. One thing you may notice is a large dark school that forms a huge arc, visually similar to that of a single gamefish. This could be a school of bait mixed in with you guessed it, many big hungry smallmouth.
A good rule of thumb would be to search out smallmouth during the mid-day period on south/east facing spots with hard substrate such as rocks, gravel and sand, and lush green cover such as milfoil as these areas will be the first to heat up which will attract baitfish. At days end, I’ll move to north/west facing, shallow rocky points and banks adjacent to deep water as these areas will be the last to heat up and will hold warm water and baitfish. These spots will offer smallmouth the opportunity to feed heavily in close proximity to deep water. Poppers are the order of the day here. Erratic, walk the dog presentations mimic baitfish evading hungry bass and sunfish perfectly (and it is ridiculously fun watching surface explosions).
When it comes to mimicking baitfish, there are a few lure types you should never leave home without. During these daytime patterns discussed here I always lean on spinnerbaits when it comes to searching out, and triggering smallmouth. In clear water I will cycle through my collection of 1/2oz-5/8oz double willow spinnerbaits in natural colors such as gold/silver blades with a more subtle skirt color. In stained water I experiment with hammered finished colorado/willow blade combinations along with brighter more gaudy skirt colors such as chartreuse, charteuse/white or just white. The bright colors, along with the thump of the fatter blades will be more easily seen and felt by smallmouth. For this, I prefer a 6’6”-7’ heavy action spinnerbait specific baitcasting rod coupled with a 6.1-1 to 7.1-1 reel spooled with 17lb fluorocarbon line. Why such a fast 7.1-1 ratio you ask? In the fall I burn spinnerbaits frantically which triggers the most aggressive strikes of the entire season. And as these schools are hard to locate, covering as much water is the wise choice.
Thump is good, topwater action too but another fantastic presentation right now is the mighty and often forgotten lipless crankbait. The tight wobble coupled with the rattles and smart color selection can truly turn the mood from somber to ecstatic in a heartbeat. For this I count on the Kamooki Smartfish and Smartcraw which have a unique spiraling action in open water and the innate ability to stand on its nose like a floating worm or shaky head rig. These baits lend themselves to the fall hunt as versatility is the order of the day.
Next, I always have a selection of jerkbaits, especially when water temps drop below 58 degrees. Keep in mind that this is a visual presentation that is dependent on clear water so if the water is murky, I definitely stick with the thumping blades of a spinnerbait or the rattles of a lipless crankbait. Size and color selection will be determined by the forage base in the area you are located. I like a white, gold/black or black/silver body to mimic the predominate baitfish in my area, but a firetiger mimicking a perch in stained water, or a black/orange body will get it done. I usually lean towards suspending jerkbaits because long pauses, as the bait hangs helplessly in the balance, becomes the most visually tempting stimuli for cold water smallies.
Lake Fork Trophy Lures Magic Shad
I also like to compliment hard jerkbaits with a more subtle version such as a soft plastic, fluke style bait. For me, a 4-5” white/baitfish colored “Magic Shad” by Lake Fork Trophy Lures can’t be beat for finicky smallmouth. I like spinning rods for both applications. Braided line paired with fluorocarbon leaders for both with the only difference being longer leaders for hard jerkbaits (and a looser drag as well) allowing for more stretch/give which prevents treble hooks from being torn out. A new feather I’ve put in my cap is the use of a scent trail for neutral or negatively responding bass.
I always count on the Garlic Minnow scent by Liquid Mayhem when the visual sense of a smallmouth can’t solely be counted on.
Okay, I’m excited. Let’s turn off our computers and get on the hunt for these big bronze beasts. Just remember, finding smallmouth in the fall can be tough. Attention to detail, hard work and persistence can pay serious dividends. See you out there!
Jamie Wilson- Lead Writer/Editor Exist To Fish Canada
ALL FISH IMAGES IN THIS ARTICLE WERE CAUGHT AND RELEASED IN THE KAWARTHA’S NORTHUMBERLAND REGION OF ONTARIO! COME SEE FOR YOURSELF!