Page 18

These ARE the Good Old Days of

FISHING LEGEND HAS IT THAT MUSKIES ARE THE FISH OF 10,000 CASTS, AND THAT SPENDING ENORMOUS AMOUNTS OF TIME ON THE WATER IS THE KEY TO CATCHING THEM.

Perhaps back in the day…but no way today! While patience is indeed a virtue, knowledge is the real key to muskie fishing success. Because once you understand your quarry, you can present the right lures, in the right places, under the right conditions to generate a response. Even muskies! Muskie Mystique vs. Modern Mechanics Like any other fish species, muskies have their own quirks, habits and instincts.Their tendencies to ride high in the water, and to follow lures to the boat, both taunt and haunt anglers, leaving the false impression that muskies are smarter and wilier than the average fish. In reality, it’s simply what they do when they’re not locked into full in feeding mode, or when your presentation isn’t quite right for the conditions. As such, it drives most anglers bonkers, and understandably so. Get things right, however, and even muskies throw caution to the winds, pouncing upon lures with wild abandon. Smashing strikes, slashing runs and high-flying acrobatics convert high-efficiency casting or trolling tactics into heartpounding excitement. Establishing a Milk Route Most experienced anglers would agree that finding muskies is the first step toward catching them, which seems remarkably obvious yet is subtly profound. Because if the first step is locating them, the second is relocating them over and again, in an attempt to be there at the right time and place when the magic happens.

18 T h e s e

A typical muskie day on the water involves lots of casting or trolling, interspersed with brief flurries where you spot fish that follow your lures or rise to your baits. Even if fish don’t strike on the first sighting — which is oh-so common — you’ve found them and can enter a waypoint on your GPS to mark their location.This also stores the potential location of other muskies which may happen to gravitate to the same area, drawn by some productive combination of depth, cover and forage. Even the biggest fish are seldom loners; several more of equally magnificent proportions my be lurking nearby. So you fish likely areas: points, bay mouths, humps, rock reefs, large weed flats or other prominent structures with high likelihoods of attracting muskies, at least some of the time. Sighting fish allows you to begin formulating a pattern as to the depth, type of structure and form of cover they’re using. Something as simple as realizing that fish are currently relating to rocks vs. weeds — or vice versa — eliminates a lot of unproductive water, and allows you to focus your efforts in areas fish are actually using. While large structures tend to attract numbers of fish it is remarkable how small, key features on those structures — like large boulders, turns along the deep outside weedline, the crests of humps, certain reed clumps, or other distinguishable areas — repeatedly hold the most active fish.Time and again, you can return to these key spots and literally expect someone to be home.They may not always be in a biting mood — much of the time, muskies may simply follow lures to the boat and then turn away at the last moment — but at least you know they’re around and that knowledge breeds confidence and draws you back for a return engagement. Establishing a milk route of key spots allows you to jump from spot to spot, fire a few casts to the highest-percentage

ARE the Good Old Days of Muskie Fishing

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