A cold start, a warm close and a lot of nothing in between made muskie angling a challenge this summer here in the land of a bunch of muskie lakes. Thanks to the efforts of the MN DNR and contributions by independent organizations like Muskies Inc the opportunities for MN anglers to fish for muskies have never been better.......but getting the bites were tougher for most this season. One of the lessons you should take home from this season is when the weather does not cooperate the most consistent bite will be on the deeper edges and structures rather than shallower. I wrote early this season that when weather conditions are inconsistent ie: cold early in the season fish will seek the stability of the depths were temps remain steady. As the waters warm mid-season there is usually a progression of fish to shallower water....this year not so much as water temps statewide generally remained close to or below 70 degress.... a temperature that signals a rise in activity both in the summer as temps go past it on the way up and ironicly again in the fall as they fall below it on the way down. So what really DID work this year....what can you count on in the years to come with similar weather patterns.
Night fishing and specifically slow rolling large Bucktails over deep cover: Running a SuperModel of deep weed beds after dark was my bread and butter for much of the season. Pre-dawn and after Sunset nothing worked better. Slow rolling in this case involves a retrieve that runs just barely over the weed tops...ticking them once in a while to know you are in the right zone.
Big Rubber in the depths: the lack of a thermocline this summer meant that fish could use almost any depth they chose with good oxygen content everywhere. Normally a great early and late season presentation that slows a bit midsummer Big Rubber baits worked well all season. The ability to run them at any depth is one of the keys to this baits versatility.
Big Minnow baits over deep weed tops: For a while early this fall it seemed like only the biggest baits would move fish....I'm talking about stuff 13-20 inches long and longer. A bear to throw and retrieve they get a fishes attention at times when nothing else will....especially in the fall and around weeds.
Burning the biggest blades......on the rare occasions when the water would heat up and the sun was high and hot the traditional bucktail bite worked....but really putting the heat on supersized baits like the double 13 SuperModels really shinned. Running these lures ultra fast over and around thick weeds paid off for those that could stand....and produce the heat.
Trolling Big Blades at speed: I wrote early this season about a potential open water bite on weighted inline spinners during the warmwater season...well this year that warmwater never happened and neither did that bite....what did happen was a few individuals who trolled big blades at 4-5.5 mph and using up to 8oz of lead to keep the bait down did really well....on the edges. One friend of mine had a highlight reel of photos with a boatload (released) of thirty plus pounders on this pattern.
Maybe next year will be "normal" maybe not. If it repeats this years weather pattern keep these productive techniques in mind for a better chance of getting one of the big girls to come out and play......Hey it's only about 7 months to get ready for next years action !!!!!