The Search Continues: Walleye & Pike in Saskatchewan
Locating fish on new and different types of lakes can be challenging. What works on your usual fishing holes, more times than not, won’t be as productive on unknown lakes. Not all lakes are created equal and this couldn’t be more true than in Saskatchewan. Boasting 68 different species of fish, inhabiting more than 100,000 lakes in Saskatchewan, the differences are as vast as the province itself. My “home” lake is a man made reservoir that was once a river system. It now holds an abundance of walleye, pike and perch. This flooded river channel provides exceptional habitat for these fish as well as their forage.
The southern Saskatchewan lakes I frequent range in depth from 0-60ft with my typical target depths from 6-30ft. More often than not, the middle range of these depths is the sweet spot for the longest period of time through the winter, which is about 12-24ft. Locating fish with extreme differences in structure and depth can be challenging especially on a reservoir lake. Drilling a hole in one spot at 18 feet of water, then taking two steps and drilling another hole and being in 35ft can be a challenge, but also rewarding when these close proximities of depths are available. Typically, when you find yourself in this situation, you have hit the old river channel and this can be a productive spot at certain times of day and year.
Timing is everything
We all know that fish move around, but knowing when and where they will end up, is always a challenge. I spend countless hours before ice up scouting spots, mapping the lake both on my electronics and in my head. So in my opinion, the more information you can collect throughout the year will make all fishing seasons more productive. When scouting late in the fall I’m looking for weed edges that will be decaying as the ice shows up. These edges will be key areas at first ice, for feeding pike and walleye, as these areas are habitat for our target species and their forage.
At this stage you’re going to want to focus on shallow waters of about 6-12ft. If you can find a weed edge near a drop off you hit the jackpot as these fish will feed along the weed edge adjacent to an escape route near the depths. As the season rolls on and the ice thickens, fish will be headed for structure and this is where things can get confusing. Early to mid winter I head for points and breaks, typically near wood or rock structure that I’ve marked on my GPS during open water in the fall. This seems to be where the fish are in ambush mode which will produce some aggressive bites, but not for long.
Feeding patterns change as pike and walleye do what I call “selective eating” as we reach mid to late winter. These fish are now transitioning into a morning and night bite pattern on vast mud flats. During this time, they roam to feed and when they are full, they will head to that deep river channel. I rarely fish the 25+ft depths at this time of year as I find those fish have just finished eating and are not interested in my offerings. I also don’t like to risk barotrauma to the fish at these depths. This can be a frustrating time of year if you’re looking to catch fish all day. If you’re willing to slug it out, the morning and evening bite usually makes the slow mid-day worth your while.
Now, as we get to that time of year when you’re looking at the snow melting off your boat, most anglers have had enough of the ice and well, guess what? I’m just getting fired up! This is the time of year when the fish are putting a serious feed on before the spawn which typically yields my biggest fish of the year.
During “March madness” I move closer to bays and river channels. Theses river channels seem to act like a highway as the fish move up out of the channel to feed as they are headed to staging areas near their spawning locations. During the end of the season I forget the middle depth ranges and position on 6ft shallow and 18-25ft deeper edges. These fish that are deep wont pass up an easy meal during this time of year and the ones that are holding in the shallows are there for one reason, and that’s to eat.
Now the above may apply to my home lake but like I said, not all lakes are created equal. Typically any structure is good structure on most basin or pothole lakes where structure is few and far between. I recommend an app like Navionics if you’re going to head out to a new lake in pursuit of those big fish, or a different species altogether. There is an abundance of information and technology available to us now and if that fails, I will always do it the old fashioned way and talk to people. Most anglers will be happy to divulge information so that you can have a successful day on the ice, and if they don’t, then you probably don’t want their advice anyway.
Knowledge of what fish are feeding on is the key to a successful day on the ice. I try to select lure patters and types based on available forage in the lake and my target species. The utilization of an underwater camera and flasher to determine how the fish are reacting to different lures and baits can be invaluable information, especially when trying new lakes. I have seen fish take off like a rocket as soon as I move a lure and a simple size or color adjustment is all it takes most times. Have you heard guys say “I saw lots of fish but they just wouldn’t bite”? I have, so many times, and I always ask did you change colors or sizes? 90% of the time the answer is no.
There are so many choices these days when it comes to lure selection but I have never seen a lure more versatile than the Kamooki Lures Ltd. SmartFish. This is a lure I use extensively in the summer and one of the very few that get moved over to my ice fishing tackle come winter. The variety of color patterns Kamooki offers makes matching the forage base in almost all lakes simple, with my three favorites being Natural Perch, Walleye, and Fire Tiger. The 3 sizes available allow an angler to make small adjustments based on target species and aggressiveness of the fish. On my home lake, walleye can be very finicky and five times out of ten wont touch anything bigger than the 2.5” version, but if I’m on a bigger body of water with a typically more aggressive and bigger class of fish, I will size up to the 3” version (The same goes for pike from 3” to 4” sizes).
When targeting pike, I will exaggerate my color selection to maintain the attention of the fish with something bright or shinny. When vertical jigging the Kamooki Smartfish, a variety of presentation types can be used, and I typically deploy these on the same fish until it strikes.
For pike, I aggressively rip-jig the Smartfish 0-2 ft off bottom with a 1-3ft lift 3-4 times then, I simply pause at or above the fish and wait for a reaction. If this fails to tempt or better yet, trigger a strike, I will then bounce it on bottom a couple of times and slowly “flutter jig” the Smartfish while raising it upwards. This usually re-activates the fish’s attention and will often strike if they didn’t first attempt.
For walleye, I use the same “flutter jig” method with a less aggressive approach starting on bottom and fluttering it as I raise it up 1-2ft, then allowing the Smartfish to fall back to bottom. Another technique is to bottom bounce the Smartfish. The key principal here is in two phases. First, the attracting phase which is a series a bounces on bottom stirs up sand, silt and mud. Second, which involves allowing the bait to settle on bottom, will trigger walleye to attack and devour the easy meal in front of it. The Kamooki Smartfish is perfectly designed for this method with its nose down, tail up design. Let the fish tell you what they want by learning to read your electronics. Making a mental note of how the marks (fish) are reacting or following will keep you in the know throughout the day.
Here’s a tip from Exist To Fish Canada Editor in Chief Jamie Wilson “A triggering phase is this; when a walleye, pike or any fish for that matter, becomes interested, simply reeling the Smartfish away which mimics a fleeing baitfish will more often than not, seal the deal”. He continues “call them in with the vibration and rattles, get them keyed into the presentation, then, trigger a response. Predators such as pike and walleye are programmed to attack when a baitfish swims away in fear. When jigging the Smartfish, you will find that it swims upward with an erratic spiraling action so make sure to always tie on a quality snap swivel to combat line twist”.
Don’t be afraid to try different speeds and levels of aggressiveness when jigging. If a fish comes in to investigate, but doesn’t hit, alter your tactics slightly the next time that you see a follower on the sonar.
When using hard baits or lipless cranks, I rarely attach bait which alters the action and natural presentation of the lure. When forgoing bait, I have encountered fish that followed and were interested in the lure, yet, just wouldn’t commit to the visual cues I’m presenting to them. To remedy this I use Liquid Mayhem on all of my lures. You see, fish are mainly visual feeders, but when visual cues aren’t enough, scent definitely comes into play in my opinion. Matching the scent to the available forage in the lake to will make for a truly natural offering, and thus, prolonged success and consistency. My go-to scents when targeting walleye and pike are Pike/Muskie (Sunfish) and Walleye (Garlic Minnow). Liquid Mayhem sends out a powerful “scent trail” which is enticing due to the fact that amino acids and proteins from real baitfish are present. Due to the cold water in the winter, Liquid Mayhem stays on lures a long, long time. I simply apply a line of it to the belly of any lures or artificial baits and when I feel it has worn off, I just re-apply.
When targeting walleye and pike through the ice I keep my tackle simple. I have two small tackle organizers that fit in my pockets. One, I have filled with various tungsten and standard jigs up to ¼ oz in various colors. In Saskatchewan we are not able to use live minnows so my jigs are tipped with frozen minnows, night crawlers, or mealworms. I utilize these offerings as a dead stick presentation not far from the hole that I’m working with a lipless crank, hard baits or jigging spoons which serves as an option to target a second “bonus” species such as perch. If the fish aren’t apt to hit the aggressively worked hardbaits, they will almost always take the easy meal nearby. My second tackle organizer is loaded with Kamooki Smartfish in various sizes and colors, some Jigging Raps, and various styles of jigging spoons in a variety of colors. “One little trick” says Jamie “when it comes to Jigging Raps, you can replace the split ring with a Mustad “Fastach Clip” which gives you the ability to remove the treble, thread a minnow head onto the shank, and quickly re-attach the hook. You can thank Gord Pyzer for that one”.
As last ice approaches I will put the “ice palace” away and move around freely with the portable hut, punching holes along flats as I follow fish into pre-spawn areas. This is the most exciting time of the year which, as I mentioned earlier, often produces my biggest fish of the year. The run and gun approach at this time of year is a must as fish are moving over a variety of depths as they migrate into the pre-spawn staging areas. Also, as the season progresses to this late ice period, more aggressive presentations become increasingly effective. “Longer days” Jamie explains “along with raising water temps, will fire up a fish’s metabolism which lends to faster more erratic retrieves. Triggering a feeding response in ravenous pike and walleye is job one”.
For light panfish jigs and spoons, a 28-30” ultra-light combo spooled with 4lb braid coupled with a light 4-6lb fluorocarbon leader works. For the 2.5” Kamooki Smartfish a medium/light-medium action combo paired with 6lb braid, coupled with a 6-8lb fluorocarbon leader will suffice. For 4” 1/2oz Smartfish, a 30-32” medium heavy combo paired with 10lb braid coupled with a 10-12lb fluorocarbon leader is the deal. Jamie explains “A stiff fluorocarbon leader is important when jigging the Smartfish. As with all lipless crankbaits, you have to minimize the occurrence of the hooks getting caught up in the line”. And again, always tie in a quality snap swivel.
Well, there you have it. As they say “it ain’t over ‘till it’s over” so get out there and put these tactics to good use. Fish behave differently from man-made reservoirs to natural lakes so get to know these bodies of water and hit them with a well thought out game plan. The biggest bites of the season await so stay safe and have fun!
Ice fishing has progressed substantially from what it was when I first started to what it is today. Growing up sitting on a 5-gallon pail in the blistering cold blindly waiting for a fish to strike and the opportunity to pull it through a hole in the frozen lake. Now today as I’m comfortably sitting on a couch in a t shirt watching the hockey game on TV at the same time pulling fish through a seemingly similar hole in the ice but from the comfort of my permanent ice house.
Ice house, ice shack, hut, shanty, or permanent house just like the many names for these structures on the hard water there are many types. From scrap wood thrown together to form a floor, four walls and a roof to luxury camper style houses on wheels that lower onto the ice. Whatever size, shape, or style they are designed to keep you out of the elements, warm, comfortable, easy set up and moved onto the lake and remain until spring arrives and the ice starts to melt. A permanent shack is a great option when you don’t want to spend your whole day punching hundreds of holes and setting up multiple times while battling the elements.
With the introduction of pop up shelters and “run and gun” style of ice fishing vs sit and wait there has been much debate over levels of success with these two styles. While my pop up shelter gets a workout throughout the ice fishing season I can’t argue my success and comfort when fishing in my permanent ice shack. Sometimes it’s not about the number of fish caught but the memories made with family and friends in the ice shack. Using a few simple techniques, you can catch just as many fish in a permanent shack as drilling hundreds of holes and covering the entire lake with more time fishing and less time drilling and setting up. Here are a few tactics I use to put more fish on the ice.
I utilize early season ice that won’t hold my permanent ice house to deploy my pop up and the run and gun style to scout for hot spots and figure out patterns. These hot spots and intel gained during this time set me up for success when the ice is thick enough for the permanent ice house to make its way onto the ice. Once I have established and GPS marked things like structure, drop offs, depth and number and size of fish caught in these areas as well as time of day it’s time to determine where to drop my permanent ice house.
Although not necessary the use of electronics can greatly increase your level of success when fishing in a permanent ice house. Being able to see the structure, slope, and direction fish are moving on my Marcum Recon 5+ underwater camera and see how the fish are moving and reacting on my Marcum LX7 can determine whether I stay put and wait or move. I typically move my ice house 10-20 times a season to stay on the fish or in pursuit of higher numbers or bigger fish but not without doing some homework and most of the time it’s a slight adjustment closer to structure, deeper or shallower determined by what I’m seeing on my electronics.
I typically target Walleye, perch and pike on a reservoir lake with old river channels, rock and wood structure, and vast mud/sand flats. More times than not and like most lakes there is a prime-time bite and you must wait it out in between roaming fish mid-day. Now you could go run and gun when fishing slows down after prime time but If you’re like me and you put in your time sitting on a 5-gallon pail and now enjoy being warm and comfortable while enjoying the sport of ice fishing there are some options to increase your success.
When the bite slows down I typically do two things. One is switch up my lures and techniques. When the fish traffic slows, I tie on something that will attract them. Maybe they have moved off the mud flat to the nearby river channel and are not far away. For this some of my favorites are the Kamooki Lures Smartfish it has an extremely loud rattle and action that can call fish in for miles. Another one is the Matzuo Ikari Shad perfect for vertical jigging with a loud rattle, vibrations and bright patterns that the walleye can’t resist investigating. Now typically these will call them in and when investigating if they don’t attack the lure they will take the easy meal of the simple minnow and jig head on my nearby deadstick. Another secret weapon I use is scent. Using an attractant on your lures such as Liquid Mayhem can bring in nearby fish and get them to stay longer and hit harder. Second I typically try to position my permanent shack where I can utilize many different options and techniques throughout the day. Positioning near structure that holds fish or on the mud flat close to the river channel where mid-day the walleye move to. I can now throw out a tip up to cover more ice but still watch the flag from the comfort of my couch and not miss the 3rd period of the hockey game. I prefer to battle fish with a rod rather than hand over had so my go to tip up is the I Fish Pro tip up. This is also an option I use at night paired with an LED light that activates when the flag is tripped that I can see out of the window of my shack.
You don’t have to spend your whole day drilling holes to catch fish and you don’t have to sacrifice comfort for catching fish. Utilize a few of these tactics in your permanent ice house and I guarantee you will put more fish on the ice this winter and have more fun doing it.
Now that the colder weather seems to be settling in for the winter, I can’t help but recall the questions I had when I first began ice fishing. TheKawarthas Northumberlandregion is an ice angler’s paradise! So many species! So little time it seems. The frozen lakes provide an exciting and affordable way to get into the sport of ice fishing. Not only is it a great avenue for new anglers to explore, it truly is a terrific opportunity to spend time with family and friends during the winter months.
Ice fishing can appear intimidating to a new comer. My best advice is to never go alone. Be sure to go with someone that is knowledgeable when it comes to ice safety and exercise caution at all times. With a few key factors in mind you are in for a great experience.
Dressing for the elements is one of the most important parts of an enjoyable ice fishing trip. I always tend to overdress. That has never left me feeling cold which would take away from the experience dramatically. I recommend a thermal flotation suit. Not only are they very warm, but in the event that you were to go through the ice you have flotation to your benefit but this is certainly not a necessity. A good pair of thermal wind proof pants and a warm jacket will suffice.
I will generally wear a balaclava to cover my head, face and neck while in transit to and from the area we are fishing. I like this for two reasons. I am completely covered and warm when I need to be, and I can lift it up and fold it to fit my head only once inside a hut. A good pair of boots is critical. The ice is cold and your feet will be on it the entire time. I have a pair of slip-on ice cleats that I like to put on my boots as well, for traction purposes. I wear a pair of ice picks on a string around my neck as well. These will allow me to pull myself up and out of the water if I happened to go through. Match all of that up with a decent pair of gloves and you are ready to enjoy some time on the ice!
This is a big one. As I mentioned previously, go with someone that knows the area and practices an understanding and respect for ice safety. There are many factors that come in to play when it comes to ice thickness. During the first few trips of the season a “spud” is a great tool. Pounding the ice with one of these every few feet on your way out will give you a fair indication of thickness. Drilling a hole at the shoreline is also a good preliminary test of ice thickness.
Do I Need A Hut?
A hut is definitely not a requirement! Especially on those milder days of winter. They do have some serious advantages however. Not only are you sheltered from the elements, you are quite warm inside the comfort of a hut. I generally have a little propane heater with me and often find myself sitting inside without a jacket, toque or gloves. The huts are often built in to a collapsible sled that can be used to transport all of your gear back and forth. The overhead canopy that it provides shields the hole you are fishing from glare, and allows you to see into the water. And that is a lot of fun when fishing shallow and clear waters. Watching the fish eat your offering is a site to behold. I find the hut to also be a great opportunity to talk and discuss presentations with the person next to you. Improving both individuals’ odds for success while adding to the comradery of the experience.
What Gear Is Required?
I think the best aspect of ice fishing is that it is fairly inexpensive to get started and just about everything you will need can be found at your local sporting good or fishing store.
A medium heavy action rod and reel combo spooled with 8 to 10lb fishing line is quite literally the only setup you need to target just about everything that swims in the Kawarthas Northumberland region. A handful of great start up bait recommendations include something loud and rattling, something flashy, and something small and subtle:
You will of course need a validOntario Outdoors Cardwithyour fishing license. This is often something that is forgotten given the time of year we are generally out on the ice. I recommend a Sport license if you plan on keeping your catch.
An auger is required to drill your holes. Several options are out there and accessible. Manual and power. I would recommend a manual auger with either an 8 or 10 inch diameter. They really do drill through the ice quite easily and are inexpensive for a beginner. Auger blades are VERY sharp. Handle with extreme care.
Catch Some Fish!
Now that you are all setup, holes drilled and baits tied on. Experiment with different depths of the water column that you are fishing. A beginner will not likely have a depth finder or flasher of sorts. So use your baits to determine how deep you are fishing. Present them on the bottom, just below the ice, and in the middle of the water column until you make contact with fish.
Fishing for me is about the experiences. The relationships and comradery that develops. Don’t get me wrong! The fish are a big part of that, and catching them is a blast. But the time spent in the outdoors with family and close friends are what keeps me coming back for more. The Kawarthas Northumberland region of Ontario is my home. And I plan to continue making fishing memories here in her 350 lakes and rivers for many years to come. Come and see for yourself!
Unseasonably warm weather in the Kawarthas this fall has really opened up opportunities for the “not so hardcore” angler to take advantage of some of the best fishing of the season without having to brave the elements. This time of year typically requires the angler to wear the thermal gear. Not the case so far! There is plenty of open water fishing still to be had and all species are biting exceptionally well in preparation for winter.
The region offers a multitude of angling opportunities and species to target. An often overlooked or underrated fishery present is that of the black Crappie. Not only are they present in the region in high numbers, but also in trophy size! A fish of 15” isnotuncommon, especially this time of the year. Not to mention they are considered one of the best eating fish available. While they are not as tightly grouped in schools during the fall as they are during the spring spawning season, once located they are not difficult to entice.
There are a few essentials that you’ll need to get started. A lake map or mapping device that includes the bottom contours of the lake that you will be fishing. This is imperative as we are looking for staging areas that these fish will hold to. Specifically we are looking for the first major “basin” adjacent to the spawning grounds. Nine times out of ten the bottom type will be a soft mud. All of the baitfish in the area will migrate to this bottom type in search of food and as such the Crappie follow suit. The Basin will be much deeper water in comparison to surrounding waters. Often 20 feet or more in depth.
Once you have located this area, a depth/fish finder is required. I will simply idle over the basin in a zig-zag pattern until I start marking fish on my graph, making note of the position within the water column they are holding as often times they will be suspended at a specific depth.
Now that we have located some fish, it is time to discuss bait and tackle options. I prefer a 7’ ultra-light action spinning rod paired with a small 1000 sized spinning reel spooled with 5lb braided line. My preference is to use a braided line for its sensitivity, especially when fishing for light biting deep fish. I tie a 3 lb fluorocarbon leader to my braided line, in various lengths depending on the technique used as this has increased my success considerably given the fluorocarbons transparency.
It is important to remember that Crappies feed “up”, meaning they eat bait that is in front of, or directly above them. That being said, a presentation of your bait of choice should be above the fish marked on your fish finder. Due to the feeding nature of this fish, bites feel different from your typically rattling panfish strike. In most cases you will feel the fish bump slack into your line. Don’t wait to feel the weight of the fish when this happens. Remember, it has pushed your bait upwards, by the time you feel the weight of the fish they will have often spit it back out, so set the hook right away!
When selecting the appropriate bait I tend to lean towards slightly larger than what would be considered normal panfish-sized offerings. Keep in mind that we are at the tail end of the open water season and all of this year’s baitfish are fully grown in size.
There are several effective techniques to be utilized when targeting crappie during late fall. My personal preference is a vertical presentation. Instead of casting and retrieving, I will sit directly above the fish I am targeting and drop my offering down to them. My top three choices are all baitfish imitations and include;
A 2 1/4-inch soft plastic paired with a 1/16 oz jig head. I will drop this bait down to the fish and gently twitch the offering about 12 inches above them.
A small spoon. I keep colors simple. Gold or silver usually does the trick. I will drop this down to the fish and give it slight snaps of the wrists to make it flutter directly above them.
One of my absolute favorites is a drop shot rig paired with a 1/4-ounce weight and small soft plastic bait. I love this rig because I can set the tag end weight depth according to the depth I am marking fish, ensuring I am presenting the bait slightly above the fish. I drop this down and quiver it ever so slightly to entice a lot of bites!
Late Fall Crappie fishing is a lot of fun and there are several terrific lakes within the region that should be on your list to visit. My top three lakes for the best Crappie fishing are:
Be sure to add these to you list of “must fish” locations for fall Crappies this year. Your next trophy “Slab” awaits!
Huskie Muskie Leaders is wholly owned by Bill Fuller, and is located in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
As a member of Muskies Canada, Bill is a firm believer of catch and release. The way we handle muskies and the equipment we use are important in ensuring live releases. As a result, He had come to realize that good strong leaders are as essential as a good landing net and the proper tools for releasing a fish once caught. We pay good money for our lures and do not leave them on an underwater obstruction, or heaven forbid in the mouth of a Muskie, because the weak link was a leader.
About ten years ago He was unable to find any quality leaders in the Ottawa area. As a result He began researching and experimenting with different materials and leader building methods. Most of the really good information He found was on various salt water sites, written by those who were fishing for game much larger than muskies His general conclusion was, that if these materials and building methods could stand up to battles with some of the largest fish to be found in the sea, they would stand up to the rigors of fighting and landing muskies.
Bill started with trolling leaders using hard mono but after He discovered the ANDE fluorocarbon, He never went back. He learned that crimping, done properly, was every bit as strong as knots if not stronger, but more importantly, it would provide strong loops more consistently than knots, especially with this thickness of fluorocarbon material. He also learned the importance of loop protectors and how they really reduce the strain on loops. From there He expanded his building to single strand stainless steel. Over a period of several years, of building, testing, giving leaders away to friends for second opinions and receiving lots of good advice in return, some of them convinced him to make them available commercially.
The methods and materials that go into Huskie Muskie Leaders are not unique. They have been adapted from a variety of sources and in turn my designs have been copied by others.
Bill and Exist to Fish Canada believe is that Huskie Muskie Leaders have incorporated the best of materials with a melding of the best methodologies to produce the most Muskie friendly leaders on the market today. We invite you to visit or contact one of his dealers to see for yourself to see how good they really are.
Whenever you get two or more Muskie addicts together, you will get two or more opinions about anything to do with our sport. The use of leaders is no exception. We have knots vs crimps, stainless steel vs titanium, snaps vs split rings and on and on and on. The intent of this page is to provide a basic primer on leaders, their use, and the materials used to make them. The contents are based on extensive research, the experience of those who have been using Huskie Muskie Leaders for a number of years now.
First of all, is there one leader that will do it all? Not really. That said, some people do get away with it and for those that are using only one or two rod and reel combinations, it simply isn’t convenient to be constantly changing leaders and compromises need to be reached. For example, the Huskie Muskie fluorocarbon casting leader can be use for jerkbaits but is not as good as a single strand stainless steel leader. Where possible, and if your equipment allows, application specific leaders should be used to get the most out of your lures.
There are several reasons we use leaders. Perhaps the major reason is to prevent line from being cut by a Muskie’s teeth or by underwater obstructions such as rocks. Although the tensile strength of modern fishing line may be as high as the leader material we are be using, it is not very abrasion resistant and under strain can easily be cut by an edge that is even moderately sharp. Therefore we need something between the line and the lure where all the abuse is going to be absorbed. Leaders are made of materials that are much more abrasion resistant than line and will stand up to more contact with sharp objects.
The second reason for using leaders is to present the lure in the most natural way possible. This is especially true with the use of fluorocarbon leaders. The refraction index of fluorocarbon is virtually the same as water making it almost invisible under water. Therefore it separates the lure from line and makes it appear to be swimming free. The clearer the water, the more important this factor is.
The third reason is specific to the use of guide type jerk baits and walk-the-dog type top-waters. In this application the leader pushes the line away from the bait to prevent fouling. The resistance of the leader through the water will also tend to make it move in the opposite direction of the movement of the lure so that on the next jerk, the lure will move back across in its zig-zag path back to the boat. Although this is possible with a more flexible leader, the stiff single strand leader will exaggerate the action.
The last, and one of the most important reasons, deals primarily with trolling. Shortly after a muskie strikes and before the rod is out of the holder, muskies in their initial effort to free themselves, will often roll in the line. If you are using one of the newer spectra fibre braided lines, wire line or even a long wire leader, this rolling action can cause serious cuts to the body of the Muskie. To prevent this from happening, a thicker, softer, high tensile strength hard monofilament or fluorocarbon leader should be used. For this reason, my fluorocarbon leaders are constructed with a heavier 150 pound strength and corresponding thickness.
If you are just starting out or have been fishing for muskies and Northern Pike as well as taking a trip down south or live on oceanic waters where leaders are mandatory for the fish you are pursuing I highly recommend Huskie Musky Leaders. For years there is always one discussion that arises when talking to fellow anglers and that is choices in leaders and what do you use.
Huskie Musky Leaders
Fluorocarbon and steel
Huskie Muskie stainless steel jerk bait leaders are constructed of Malin stainless wire, an industry leader. The leader material is purchased directly from the factory, precut, unlike many other brands where the material is purchased in coils and then subjected to addition weakening stresses in the process of trying to straighten it out.
the new glide bait leader, which is essentially the jerk bait leader with out the swivel and snap. We still use the same wire and shrink wrap the wraps to reduce weed fouling. To use the glide bait leader, tie the line directly to end of the leader and attach the lure using a split ring. For safety, do not use the same split ring for all of your glide baits. The attaching and removal processes will weaken the split ring. Instead, attach a separate split ring to each lure.
These leaders feature 180 lb Single Strand Malin Stainless Steel Wire, #5 Stringease Stay-lok Snap, and 143 lb ball bearing swivel.
We also take the time to shrink wrap the wire wraps to reduce weed fouling. The snap is also shrink wrapped to ensure alignment of the snap and leader which is essential for the proper side to side action of glide type jerk baits walk the dog top waters.
Huskie Musky Leaders is a local to Ontario Company based in the Ottawa area that focuses solely on making leaders. Meticulously hand assembled and crimped using the highest grade components, these leaders are at the top of the industry and come highly recommended. Heading to Pro Tackle here in Belleville Ontario, in search for my first Muskie set up years ago I discovered Huskie Muskie Leaders which were highly recommend by store owner and avid Muskie fisherman and guide Stacy Ash. After experiencing multiple attacks and seeing the durability of Bill Fuller’s Huskie Musky Leaders I have never looked back.
Rating (10 being highest )
All of Huskie Muskies fluorocarbon leaders are made from 150 lb ANDE Fluorocarbon Leader Material. Although not well branded as a freshwater line, ANDE is well known in the saltwater community, has always stood up under every conceivable fishing condition and situation and holds over 1,300 IGFA World Records. Many of these records represent outstanding catches throughout the history of IGFA. All Fluorocarbons are not equal. ANDE is 100% Fluorocarbon with all the properties you expect from Fluorocarbon Leader material, strong abrasion resistance, low stretch, doesn’t absorb water, sinks quickly and is totally invisible under water.
Fluorocarbon leaders are constructed to provide a loop which is the strongest in the industry. For this thickness of fluorocarbon, experience has shown that crimps provide the strongest connection. Single crimps are used on the casting leaders and doubles on the trolling leaders. We start by melting the end of the fluorocarbon to form a ball which in itself makes it nearly impossible to pull the leader end though the crimp even before the crimp is squeezed. A plastic coated steel spring loop protector is used to prevent the snap or swivel from chaffing against the fluorocarbon in the loop, thereby greatly increasing the life of the leader. Concern has been expressed by some that the colored loop protector might turn off a Muskie but this has certainly not been a problem, if anything the loop protectors mimic the small bait fish that are being chased by a larger fish represented by the lure.
Another area of concern that needs to be dispelled is the use of crimps. No doubt you have all heard various Muskie enthusiasts say “I don’t trust crimps”. They have all probably had an experience with a poorly crimped leader or more commonly, used a leader that was too thin for crimping and where a knot would be superior. Personally, I would not use a crimp on any fluorocarbon material under 130 pound test. Huskie Muskie leaders are all made with 150 pound test and the crimps provide a superior connection than a knot. Crimped leaders are the leaders of choice for salt water applications for fish species that are quite a bit bigger and fight harder than muskies. Enough said.
Unweighted Trolling Leaders
Unweighted Trolling Leaders come in two lengths, the standard 3 foot and the 6 foot St Lawrence Special. Both feature the Ande Fluorocarbon Material, #6 Stringease Stay-lok Snap, 175 lb ball bearing swivel, Coil Spring Loop Protectors and are double crimped for added strength. Many of our customers report being able to get an entire season from one leader if care is taken to change out the snap when it shows signs of weakness.
Casting Leaders combine the strength and durability of the fluorocarbon with enough flexibility to be used for casting bucktails and spinner baits, yet is stiff enough for walking the dog with jerk baits and top waters. This is the best leader for throwing those heavy Bull Dawgs. A great dual purpose leader which feature 1 foot of Ande Fluorocarbon Material, #5 Stringease Stay-lok Snap, 143 lb ball bearing swivel, and Coil Spring Loop Protectors. Recently, some of our dealers have requested lengths of 14 and 18 inches. Special orders of this nature are never turned down.
Having confidence and not worrying about your terminal tackle is one of the key factors in being successful while in pursuit of these toothy critters. Nothing hurts an angler more than losing a fish of a life time due to terminal tackle failing. Huskie Musky leaders come in a variety of selections such as Fluorocarbon and stainless steel in different lengths for different applications.
Ease of Use(1-5)
Quality of Action (1-5)
Rating (10 being highest )
The fluorocarbon material used is 150lb ANDE a salt water grade material that is tough as hell and made to take the abuse of larger teeth barring fish. Husky Musky Leaders cater to their customers by providing a 3ft and 6ft fluorocarbon leader for trolling purposes paired with a 175lb barrel swivel and a heavy duty #6 Stringease Stay Loc snap suitable for all sizes of trolling baits which come in handy during the fall season. The casting version of this leader comes in a 12 inch version and can also be found in the 14-18 inch length if desired and come equipped with a 143lb barrel swivel and #5 Stay Loc snap. The stainless steel jerk bait leaders feature 180lb single strain main stainless steel wire paired with a #5 Stringease stay loc snap and a 143lb ball bearing swivel ideal for your walk the dog surface baits and all other jerk baits.
Range of sizes (1-5)
Rating (10 being highest )
(Huskie Musky Leaders) Collective Final Rating
Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = MUST HAVE
These leaders helps enhance the action of your lure and adding confidence to the angler while fishing for toothy critters. As the fall fishing is underway I highly recommend these leaders to all anglers who pursue Muskie, Northern Pike and all fish where a bite guard is needed.
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!