Learning Muskies from Walleye and Bass Guys


I’m a musky guy. I used to guide guests for walleye and pike in the Minaki region years ago. That was fun. But now, I’m not only a musky guy but a musky snob. Muskies put money in my bank account, food on my table and beer in my fridge. I’m proud to be a musky snob.

I don’t dislike bass or walleye. They’re cool fish. But they’re not muskies. No bass or walleye alive can create the magic and excitement of a giant musky. Mother Nature knows this to be true too. That’s why muskies eat bass and walleye. Because they’re superior.

Every year I fish with a lot of different people. Some are rookies to the sport of fishing. Some have never seen, let alone caught, a musky. Some guests are accomplished anglers, and in some cases, really good musky hunters. And sometimes, I share my boat with bass guys and walleye fanatics. Some of them are really, really good too.

I’m the first to admit that hard core musky guys can learn a lot about how to catch more and bigger muskies from really good bass, walleye and multi-species anglers. Here are some examples.

When it comes to maximizing today’s electronics, walleye guys rule. They use maximum capability of whatever electronics they have on board. Down scan, side scan and lots of other scans I know nothing about help them read water, find fish and catch fish. In my experience, the average musky guy uses less than 10 percent of the capabilities of their sonar systems. This is silly when we think about it. Electronics are a fantastic tool. And we don’t use them enough. It’s like having a very expensive Swiss Army knife and only using one blade. Bass guys, and especially smallmouth specialists are also tech savvy. They have to be. Smallmouth in big water like Lake Ontario can be hard to locate. Fishing blind is not an option.

We’ve all heard about the importance of boat control no matter what species we’re targeting. In comparison to bass guys and walleye guys, musky guys suck at boat control. We often fish with the wind at our back when we’re working a flat or weed line. Being pushed by the wind saves battery power and is quieter but there are major disadvantages, ones that can cost us a fish. When wind propelled, we sometimes get a only a split second to trigger a follower with a figure eight or big circle before the boat blows over the fish. Sometimes this doesn’t matter. Often, it does. Our hooksets are compromised too when a strong breeze is moving us towards a fish. Bass guys and walleye guys always cast into the wind. We can learn a lot about effective boat control from bass and walleye guys.

If your favourite musky waters have heavy current you can learn even more about boat control from smallmouth guys. The St. Lawrence River is a tremendous smallmouth fishery. It has heavy current. Good smallmouth anglers are masters at fishing in heavy current using a controlled drift. They simply read the current and use their bow mount to course correct. They do this really, really well. On other big water, smallmouth guys use drift socks to fish effectively. Drift socks, or sea anchors are fantastic tools. When’s the last time you saw a musky boat using a drift sock in high winds?

Watch two bass anglers at work. Compare their approach to two musky guys. In their shiny, sparkly Ranger, both bass guys are on the front deck, side by side. That means they’re both fishing new water. In the musky boat, guys fish American style with one at the front and one at the back. If you’re the guy at the back, you’re fishing used water. This is OK if you’re a really good musky guy. Lots of fish are caught by the guy at the back but only if that guy is good.

Bass and walleye guys know a lot about sound and how “bad” sounds alert fish to danger. Musky guys know this too but pay far less attention to it than bass guys. If a bass boat is in really shallow water, say eight feet or less, all electronics are off. Science shows that sonar emits an underwater “ping”. Pressured fish can identify “ping” with previous bad experiences. Like getting caught. Our muskies aren’t as pressured as US muskies. We don’t have 6 musky boats on one spot. But our muskies are experiencing what Gord Pyzer calls “educated pressure”. More musky chasers are getting very good at catching fish. Equipment and baits are better. There’s more information about seasonal patterns, techniques and fish behaviour than ever before. Turn off you electronics when you’re in shallow water. You’ll catch more fish. You can see the bottom anyway!

The last point is important. Sometimes, the difference in catching muskies and not catching them is precision and versatility. Casts have to be perfect. Finesse tactics have to be used. Attention to weather changes have to be recognized as soon as they occur. A wide array of different types of baits have to be fished with skill. If moving baits aren’t working, bass and walleye guys go to slow vertical presentations. Bass and walleye guys can switch from a jerk bait to a top-water to a jig and fish them all really well. Many musky guys are one, two or three trick ponies. They’re blade masters. Or glide bait experts. Or a top-water whiz. But give them a Red October tube or deep diving crankbait and they’re lack of experience and confidence is apparent.

I’ll always love muskies more than any other fish that swims. Because muskies rock. And are superior. I will always be a musky snob. But I’ll always know that I (and you) can learn from bass, walleye and multi-species guys even while we’re quietly laughing at their wimpy drop-shot rods, little flipping jigs and 4 inch crankbaits.

John M. Anderson
We produce BIG fish!!

be good, do good, live well

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