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Musky Lures, Dennis’ Dirty Dozen (part 2)

By Dennis Radloff - April 1, 2002
Another month down and only 32 more days until Musky season opens here in SE Wisconsin! My office right now is completely littered with musky lures, rods, reels, and other terminal tackle as I sharpen hooks, change split rings, oil reels, check rods, and of course, pamper my "Dirty Dozen". I have the Dirty Dozen spread out in front of me as I write this article, a shrine if you will, and just looking at these lures is making my heart begin to race with anticipation as I wonder, "Which one will be the first to get bit in 2002?" I think it will be a 6" Slammer, perch pattern, twitched slowly, with a figure-8 boat side conversion for the hook set on a solid 39"er…no…a 49"er…yeah…a 49" musky on a 6" perch pattern Slammer on opening day. (Hey it's my dream all right, I'll end it however I want) I don't care how big it is, it'll be great to be exchanging that first slymmie handshake of the season!

Enough daydreaming, let's get down to business. Last month I profiled 12 musky lures which I referred to as my "Dirty Dozen" simply because these 12 lures produce consistently, and I have the highest level of confidence in them. One thing to keep in mind is this, just because I have confidence in them doesn't mean that you will. Everyone has their favorites, and ultimately, the lures that produce the most are the ones you have in the water the most. You've either heard, or maybe even asked this question, "What's the best musky lure?" and I believe the honest answer is, "which ever lure you throw most, with the greatest degree of accuracy." So as you can see, your "Dirty Dozen" may be 12 lures that are opposite of mine, or they may be the same, or maybe you haven't had much luck with any lure yet, whatever your situation, I can assure you these lures will produce for you. Let's move on as I break these lures down more specifically in regard to favorite colors, sizes, time of season, and structure.

I tend to throw this lure non-stop as the water is cooling, usually mid September through November 30th. However, it's also a good early season lure, especially in the smaller 6" model, which twitches nicely. Throw it over new weed growth, and twitch it slowly. This can also be done with the 9" version and my favorite pattern is perch.

And then sometimes I break all the rules and throw this monster on opening day. While I generally use this one as a main fall lure, I also like it as the "alternative" for early fish. By the second week of open season every musky in the lake is cross-eyed from seeing a million small twitch baits tickled over their nose, what an alternative presentation this one gives. All of a sudden here comes a lure that's 4"-6" bigger than anything they have seen for 2 weeks, sometimes they just can't resist. Again I like the perch pattern, along with sucker and walleye pattern. Same structure as the regular suick.

When the Suick's aren't getting it done, then the Burt's are a great throw back. These lure's have a built in rattle chamber, and give the added feature of noise. Since I'm usually using these as a throw back, I like to switch coloration a little with these and go with fire tiger.

And if you switched form a Suick, to a Burt, and still didn't get that fish to go, then come back and throw the Squirrelly Burt. No, it's not just a good throw back back lure, it's a great starter also. I like using the weighted Burts in both versions to target fish that are hanging off the break, or on the deep break. I'll set the boat in shallow water, cast deep, and chug it down into the strike zone, it's a good stealthy approach for clear water situations, or pressured fish.

When the fish are sticking to the breaks and drop offs, and you can't seem to get them going, the Ernie's are a good lure to throw out there, especially if you can find a school of bait fish. I like to work these back with a jerk bait style retrieve, giving it a stop and go high vibration presentation. This is a lure that must get a figure-8 on every cast. Fire tiger is my best one.

As you can see by now, I'm a big fan of Musky Mania Tackle, and the Jake is one of my favorites. This is a solid open to close lure, which comes in a variety of colors and sizes, 6", 8" & 10". It has an erratic wobble; it also has the rattle chamber, can be twitched, trolled, jerked, or cranked. I like twitching the 6" version early in the season, trolling the break line mid season, and jerking the larger 10" lures through the fall. These lures seem to be most effective when you match the main forage on whatever system you're fishing. They also have a variety of colors in holoform, which add a great level of flash.

These are the best musky crank baits on the market. Bill Schwartz hand paints each one of these out of his shop in Pewaukee. Bill knows the SE Wisconsin musky waters better than the best of them, and he has mastered the art of making a crank bait that muskies will eat over and over again. Another great lure of versatility in regard to twitching, cranking, or trolling. Open to close this lure has an application for any condition no matter what water you're fishing. I like these lures in the natural colors, mainly perch and walleye. I will surely be doing a mid season article on trolling for muskies in which I will be profiling these lures, maybe I can get Bill to contribute some of the masters secrets?

Here is a top water presentation for all occasions, but ultimately slop. Here's where this lure shines above all others. It comes in two variations, one that is pictured in a tandem set of hooks dressed with Mepp's hair. The other is a single hook, dressed with a giant Mister Twister soft plastic making it completely weed less. You can work this over the thickest, nastiest weeds you can find without fouling out your presentation. I like the chartreuse color all around for this one.

Here's a great walk the dog action top water lure. I like throwing this over weed beds, rock bars, and sand bars. It's also a great night time lure, when the dog days are getting long, and the muskies seem to have evaporated from your favorite lake, and the jet ski's have taken over, this can be a great after hours presentation after the lake has settled down. If you haven't spent a night throwing top water lures in the dark at things that go "chomp" then you don't know what you're missing.

When the subtle walk the dog action doesn't seem to be getting them, or when you want to cover water, and do it effectively, the Topraider is a great top water presentation. I like this lure from June through September on the same structure as the Jackpot. Black with an orange or chartreuse blade is the ultimate. Just a reminder, as with all top water lures, ALWAYS wait until you feel the fish pull you when it hits. You'll see and hear all the commotion before you feel it, and the number one mistake people make with top water lures is they pull it away from the fish before the fish has a solid grip on it. When you feel the fish pull you, pull back with all you have and hang on!

Gold blade, chartreuse hair, Pewaukee Lake, any weed bed, any time. Enough said. OR Orange blade, black hair, Okauchee Lake, any weed bed, any time. Now I've said too much.

Silver blade, black hair, any lake, all season. If I could only have two lures for a lifetime this would be one of them. I have taken this lure everywhere and caught muskies on it. SE Wisconsin, Kentucky, Minnesota, NE Wisconsin, Illinois, and Canada. Stained, murky, and clear water. Early, mid, and late season. Deep shallow, and in between. This lure has humiliated more muskies than any other in the arsenal, with the perch pattern Suick running a close second.

There you have it, the Dirty Dozen top to bottom. Even if you don't incorporate all of these lures, at least consider the theory of committing to your top producers, and stop wasting time throwing stuff that doesn't produce. My most productive days have been days that I left the lake with the same lure clipped on the line that I started with.

I hope 2002 brings you at least one of the monsters you spent the afternoon day dreaming about at work this winter! Best to you all and better fishing.

Author Dennis Radloff
Dennis Radloff
Dennis Radloff is the owner and operator of Sterling Guide Service which specializes in Walleye and Musky Fishing. Dennis has helped run and coordinate many of the Youth Tournaments. He is also a PMTT angler, Dave's Turf & Marine/Princecraft Pro Staff, and a Mepp's Field Staffer.
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