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Musky Hunting

By Dave Duwe - November 1, 2007
As the end of the open water season approaches, it's time for one more trip to catch a trophy musky. In the late fall I prefer the one-two punch of a jig and a sucker fished on a quick strike rig.

To start a trophy hunt one of the most important, if not the most important part, is selecting a lake that has a bunch of fish. I prefer deep lakes with points associated with weed flats. My favorite lakes in Wisconsin are Pewaukee and Okauchee lakes in Southeastern Wisconsin. I also have taken a late October trip to Bone Lake in Northwestern Wisconsin every year for the last 15. All three of these lakes have another benefit since you are able to motor troll. This makes sucker fishing much more effective. You can legally use your Minn-kota trolling motor to cover a lot more water.

The locations that I key on are steep break lines with hard sand or rock bottoms, or main lake points. I select locations that are in close proximity to large weed flats. With the cooler waters the muskies will pull out of the shallow weeds and stage on the break lines. I work a water depth of 12-15 ft. As a rule, November is post-turnover, however this year the lakes in Southern Wisconsin have yet to turn over. With post-turnover lakes the water clarity is the best of the year which adds to the fish's ability to attack the sucker from a long distance.

My favorite methods of catching muskies in the fall are, a jig or a quick strike rigged sucker. The jig I like to use is the ESOX Cobra jig from Bait Rigs. I will attach an 8" reaper tail or a plastic lizard. My most productive color is black. I take the jig and make a 20 lb stainless steel leader which is 6-8 inches long with a barrel swivel attached at the end. I use a heavy action 7' bass rod and reel spooled with 17 lb Silver Thread monofilament line. I use a short cast so with the bite, I have enough power for a good hook set. The retrieve is a slow pumping action, raising the jig only 3-4 inches off bottom. You really need to pay attention to your line and jig, since the bite can be extremely subtle. The subtle bite is amazing considering the size of the fish.

"...all suckers are not created equal, so never waste time with a poor swimming bait."
While I am jig fishing, I will also be trolling a few suckers around. Make sure you have at least one rod really close to your jig when it is reeled in. Any "follows" will usually strike the live bait offering. I run a few rods on bobbers to get them further away from the boat. That way you won't spook the fish as much since the water is clear. With the use of bobbers, you can cover all the aspects of the water column. I use small balloons instead of the Styrofoam bobbers. They are adjustable in size and when wet will slip up and down on your line like a slip bobber. Inflate the balloon just big enough to keep the sucker suspended at the desired depth. My quick strike rigs are homemade models with two hooks. They are made so one hook will be in the nose of the sucker and the second hook will be back of the sucker near the dorsal fin. The leader material is 30 lb steelon from Berkley. I use Abu Garcia 6500 C3; these reels have a live bait clicker. The rod I use is a 7' heavy action rod with a light action tip. As a rule, you don't need to run your baits tight to bottom. I have caught fish 5-6 ft down in 20-25 ft of water.

Always get more suckers than you need, all suckers are not created equal, so never waste time with a poor swimming bait. You will increase your percentage of getting bit 10 fold with active bait. "Drift Socks" are not a good option. The size of the suckers can vary from 10-18 inches, the rule of thumb "big bait, big fish" does hold true. One thing every fisherman needs to consider is how may bites you want to get, an extremely large bait will eliminate bites from the 32-36" fish. I use a medium size sucker of 11-12 inches because I prefer the action and a trophy isn't always my real objective.

Happy Hunting!

Author Dave Duwe
Dave Duwe
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over 20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website .
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