Muskie metabolisms are at their highest during the warm-water period of summer. They generally are more aggressive — willing to move farther, faster — to grab a mouthful. Right now is a great time to take an approach that means covering water.
In-line and safety pin spinners are classics for this summertime approach, being efficient, allowing for fast, straight-in retrieves that cover water and trigger fish to strike. Crankbaits with fast retrieves, or trolled, accomplish the same things.
And it’s an exceptional time of year for topwater presentations, as the commotion can attract fish from some distance. Efficient predators have learned through experience that they can use the surface of water as an edge, one that prey can’t go beyond, as an effective trap.
So, there’s the good news — and the bad news. This top-of-the-line predator prefers warmer water and will be most active right now. Yet, there are more options to cover with regard to location and time to be fishing than ever before. It’s all about putting time in, and being as efficient about it as possible.
BREAK IT DOWN
Efficiency starts with identifying your many options and then prioritizing them. Every lake is different in its structural elements. What are they? Suspended muskies are an option that has to be considered. Besides that, what else is there? Weeds, rocks, wood, bulrushes, for example. Listing them or labeling on a map helps, especially when attacking a body of water for the first time.
Now prioritize what you think will be best. The criteria could range from what simply looks best to what you’ve been hearing, possible past experience and hunches. Always try to get as much information as possible from others about what’s been working. Local reports are important, as they may point you to prioritizing to do as those anglers do — or in many cases not as they do.
Generally, you should consider that structures with direct access to deeper water will be most likely to hold larger critters, and that sharper and more irregular breaks are better. Keep in mind that it’s just a map and there are no “set” rules. Prioritizing is an important part of the plan, and yet nothing should be written off. Even if a plan is based merely on hunches, be certain to prioritize those hunches.
The same thing goes for potential presentations. The reason to start with the various lake structures and locations is that doing so directly affects your presentation choices. This exercise is different for everyone, simply because all anglers like different lures; some are far more limited than others in their choices, but all have their favorite muskie baits.
As you begin to build lure arsenals, strive to add to each group equally. Crankbaits, jerkbaits, spinners, topwaters and soft plastics, cover the categories. Lure choice shouldn’t be considered a “summer-only” proposition, either. They aren’t cheap, so as you are adding lures to your arsenal, consider that you want to be able to cover different depths when choosing sizes and actions.
Lure prioritizing, then, needs to correlate to the structures and locations you’ve prioritized. If talking very shallow water and/or thick cover, those lure choices obviously are different when compared to deeper angling options. The exercise is the same though: With the lure options you have, ask yourself what runs well in the depth range you need to cover, and what do you think has the best chance of producing?
Here too, though, it’s important to consider another factor in efficiency, that being hooking and holding percentages. Lures that are less bulky tend also to be better hookers and holders. Spinners, for instance, while they can be extremely large, are still really only wire and hook. Usually the wire is flexible and often jointed on large baits. Flex is good; there is nothing to grip. They tend to hook better and hold better — as compared to a very bulky-bodied lure of plastic, wood or soft plastic with no flex.
Consider this when prioritizing which lures to try: Speed itself can be a trigger. With each structure option, have a list of your prioritized lures. That should change under abnormal weather conditions. Generally, slow-moving, erratic presentations should move up in importance. Most important though, is having the plan.
With a prioritized plan, it’s time to put in the fishing time. When? That’s where getting the most current local info helps. How has the catching been, and when? The standard is starting in the morning and then fishing until dark. In summer, that’s a pretty long period. Muskie fishing is physically demanding, and even for young, super hard cores, 24 hours a day is impossible.
Night-fishing can be exceptional in summer, and after dark often is the best period to be fishing; it seems trophies are easier to fool then. It’s nothing new though, and other folks will be trying it.
At some trophy destinations, the least-fished time of the day in summer may be midday. It has more to do with forage movements and weather than anything, but there is no doubt there are patterns to the times of day when fish are most active.
Like anything, that can and will change, but patterns often remain for a period of weeks. Be on the lookout for time patterning constantly. Based on information about when fish are most active — or not — start with what you feel to be the highest percentage timeframe. The one that the wife or husband allows, of course.
|GOOD PATTERNING TIP|
|Invariably, you’ll fall into the trap of spending too much time on a particular type of structure during the day, and almost always end up completely ignoring other options. A willy-nilly approach makes it very hard to pattern muskies. Here’s a good rule: Try two or three spots of a “type,” such as weeds, rocks etc. If nothing result,s move to the next option. If there’s good action, stay with that type of spot, doing your best to dial in with lures and fine-tune your fishing patterns. – Pete Maina|
Cover water and pay attention to where and when things happen. Even if you enjoy casting as compared to trolling, if areas to be covered are large flats or deepwater areas with nothing specific to concentrate on, troll in order to cover more water efficiently. Finding forage and muskies is the goal. It’s extremely important, and especially so in these large areas, to document exact locations. GPS helps tremendously in these cases, offering the ab
ility to drop waypoints that allow you to return right on top of specific areas. In deepwater zones, mark heavy forage areas; on shallow flats, drop them on any unique structures, including distinctly thicker weed patches. And then, on muskies seen, caught or missed. One predator means that more will be there, that it’s a good feeding area. The fish may not bite right away, but on large areas, knowing these locations is invaluable.
That’s really the key to catching muskies right now. This blueprinting applies to every single body of water or river system you fish. With large waters, be certain to break things down into sections; trying to prioritize too much with regard to location gets confusing and counterproductive beyond any area significantly larger than could be fished in a day. Pay attention to anything to pattern, once fish are encountered: The type of structure, depth, and current edge, wind coming in, and for how long. Other areas with similar characteristics should step up on the priority scale. The same type of adjustments should be made with regard to lures and how they’re used. Pay attention to everything about the action and speed of retrieve. Lean toward the fastest presentations working, as well as the best hooking and holding. Keep in mind though, that yesterday’s pattern means nothing today with regard to lure type. Location is the most gradual factor to change.
Fine-tune the timeframe patterns. If working closely with anglers in another boat, try different timeframes of a 24-hour period. Adjust accordingly, and while night, early morning and evening are more classic times to fish in summer, don’t forget that midday period. These days, sometimes the least amount of direct fishing pressure is occurring during that timeframe. The more waypoints you have where muskies have been spotted or caught, the better. Whatever the time of day, when accelerated levels of activity are noted, it’s time to concentrate on those areas only.
Stick to the prioritized plan until something starts to work; when it stops working, start over! This is a good blueprint for any time of year, really, but it’s most important during the summer.