Wally Robins is the Musky Guru. Despite the passage of much time in his life Wally has maintained his musky hunting eccentricity and energy and fishes harder than just about all the young bucks who come to hunt in my boat. It’s called passion.
I am grateful that Wally has offered to share some of his many decades of experience here at the Musky Factory blog page. Read, learn, catch.
Five Tips for Fall Fatties
It’s fall, and if you love muskies, it’s your favourite time of the year. No more sweltering heat, spectacular shoreline colours and only the odd jet skier. “Odd” means clinically insane, just to be clear.
And the fish are fat. They’ve been feeding all summer. The big females are lugging around large quantities of eggs which adds to their portly girth and weight. All you’ve got to do is catch them. To help with that, here are five fundamentals that should put a 50 or two in your net before ice-up.
1. Fish the Science
The science is simple. Muskies are fish. Fish are cold blooded. That means that their body temperature is exactly the same as their environment which is mighty chilly in the fall. All of this means that the metabolism of a musky is much, much slower than it was during the heat of the summer. That’s all the science you need to know but it is THE single most important piece of knowledge you need to absorb to succeed consistently in the fall.
2. S-l-o-w down
Re-read Number 1. Then, slow down everything. Whether you’re chucking blades, jerk baits, BullDawgs or cranks, slow your retrieve speed. You’re chasing fish that aren’t interested in expending a lot of energy to catch their dinner. Make things super easy for them. Same with trolling speed. Cut back on the throttle. Yes, some guys will still drag baits at 5 or 6 mph but I guarantee you’ll catch as many or more fish by dialing back the speedometer to 2 or 3 mph. Speed slays muskies in the summer. But, it kills success in the fall.
Slowing down also applies to how you work your spots. Spend time fishing them very thoroughly. The lazy big girls of fall need extra convincing before they commit to eating. Make repeated casts to key ambush spots like inside and outside turns on a weed line or an isolated rock pile. Instead of fishing 15 spots during a day, pick 5 or 6. Even if you have a dry net day, you’ll save lots of money on fuel!!
There’s one other critical area where reduced speed is key, your boat side finishes. During the summer months I always do a minimum of two large circles at the end of every cast. From mid-October on, I do four. And they’re slower. Why? Because follows tend to be deeper and slower. I don’t want to be lifting my bait out of the water at the end of my second big circle and have a giant show up looking for dinner.
3. Do a break dance
No, not that kind. You’d look stupid. Probe break lines with precision. A common feature of late season musky fishing is that big fish relate to breaks. Access to deep water becomes critical to being successful.
“Deep” doesn’t mean 30 or 40 feet. It’s a relative term. A large flat consisting of six foot depths that drops into 12 feet of water is a significant break. Do the math. The “deep” water is twice the depth of the flat. Muskies love to sit on these types of break lines. Spend time there, a lot of time. You’ll catch fish.
4. Go vertical
In November, more than 75 percent of muskies I catch are caught fishing vertically. Why? Because most of the time, muskies are belly-to-the-bottom. Why? Because the easiest-to-capture prey like bullheads, walleye, perch and suckers are also on the bed of the system. A well presented jig like a Red October or Water Wolf’s Gator Tube is often THE answer. Why? Because it’s a slow, methodical, vulnerable replica of musky forage fished where the forage (and the muskies!) are. In deeper water, like 20 plus feet, I really encourage you to try a Shadzilla V. This vertical jigging bait is manufactured here in Canada by Water Wolf Lures. I haven’t caught a 40 pound musky yet. When I do, I’m betting it will be on a big soft plastic fished vertically in November, probably a Shadzilla V.
A cautionary note – fishing vertically with some sort of jig is a lousy way to cover water. Use this tactic only if you know where fish live in the fall. Otherwise, stick to better search tools like giant glide baits, weighted Suicks, Shadzillas and BullDawgs. But fish them slowly.
5. Stay warm
Late season musky fishing is tough on the body, especially your hands, feet and head. Dress for the conditions and build in contingencies. One pair of gloves isn’t going to get you through a wet day. Four or five pairs will. Learn how to layer garments appropriately. Experts in the art of dressing for the cold are ice anglers. Talk to one. You’ll learn a lot.
If you’re toasty warm in zero degree temperatures with the always present cold wind, you’ll only have to concentrate on your casts, retrieves, boat positioning, boat speed and the myriad other factors that separate the wannabes from the successful musky anglers. That’s more than enough to keep you in the game. And, if you’re not in it, you’ll lose.
John M. Anderson
We produce BIG fish!!
be good, do good, live well
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