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Suckers For Fall Muskies

By Dennis Radloff - October 1, 2003
Fall is here folks, and there's no better time of year than now to be on the water chasing muskies around. While throwing your traditional jerk baits at these marvelous predators is very effective during this time of the year, it's also the prime time of the season to be rigging some live bait.

Muskies are on the move, coming shallow again seeking anything they can sink their teeth into responding to natures call for a long winters nap. No I'm not saying they will go into a deep sleep once the lakes freeze over, but they will slow down with the colder water, explaining the feeding binge they will indulge themselves in over the next 2 months. Before I get into discussing the how and why of using live bait, let me emphasize one thing right now. I'm not just talking muskies in general here folks, I'm talking about some of the true giants of your waters who may spend the entire season either deep or suspended, the giants you will only see this fall! The reason you are going to see some of these giants are simple. Nature is moving the diner table onto the shallow flats. This is also the time of the year that ciscoes will be spawning in the shallow weed flats, so your giants will be close behind to ravage the easy pickings!

While there are a variety of live bait rigs on the market, along with many home made versions, the only system I recommend is the "quick strike" rig. This system gets its name by the manner in which you use it. It's designed so that as soon as your giant grabs the sucker, you set the hooks. This way you have a clean hook set on the fishes mouth, instead of letting the fish swallow the sucker with a single hook, and then releasing the fish with a hook, and maybe up to 2 feet of wire in its stomach. Musky Hunter magazine did a complete study on single hook sucker rigs last year, and every fish died that was caught and released on single hook sucker rigs.

The best quick strike rig I have found is the Pete Maina brand. It's a 2-hook system, with a rubber band through the nose. You clip onto the rubber band, and then insert one hook of each treble on each side of the sucker just under the skin. These rigs pull free from the sucker very easily, yet stay in the sucker without limiting its ability to swim and maintain a natural presentation. Other rigs will work, but some of them are more cumbersome, and limit the suckers movement, or are just flat out are too visible.

Once I have the sucker rigged and ready to go to work, I will place that rod in a rod holder with the bail open, and the "clicker" or "line out alarm" on. This way when your giant grabs your offering, it can swim off freely without any resistance, and the WHAM!!! Close the bail and set the hooks as soon as you can, oh,oh,oh,oh,oh!

Here's my favorite combination. I'll put a caster at each end of the boat, with the front one throwing a Suick, and the rear throwing a 10" Jake. We'll work the boat along the outside weed edge, and I'll have at least three sucker rods in the water. One rod will be on the same side of the boat we're casting out of, about 3 feet down under a bobber. This rod located in the middle of the boat will pick up many of your follows that come in casting, and they'll grab the sucker on the way out. The second one is also in the middle of the boat, but over the backside, without a bobber and right down at the bottom of the break, this one will get the fish hanging deeper that you may not be getting to come in from the weeds. And the third one I will trail out behind the boat 20 - 30 feet, under a bobber at about 3-4 feet deep, this one will pick up late follows or reluctant fish.

One more important tip when using live bait is keeping your presentation clean. Suckers don't like having their 'arses hanging out in the open, and will often try to hide in the weeds, so it's important that you check your suckers frequently so be sure they are clean and free of weeds.

Well, I hope you're ready to get out there now and stick a giant, I know I am. Be safe, have fun, stay warm, and please CPR that giant, it'll be even bigger next year.

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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