We all know that catching a muskie is a tough task to handle. Extreme preparation, quality equipment, and time on the water help to put that fish of a lifetime in your boat. When it seems that everyone is looking for an advantage, there is one excellent trick that will help you this season.
Finding the fish before spending hours upon hours of casting only makes sense right? Absolutely! Thousands of fisherman cast thousands of baits that never cross a muskie's strike zone. It might simply be that there aren't any fish in the area. All the preparation put in before hitting the water amounts to nothing, and they go home feeling whipped again.
Every time I'm on a lake for the first time, my first plan of attack is to eliminate dead water. This may sound pretty difficult, but it doesn't have to be. The first time I unload my boat on a new lake, I simply leave the muskie sticks in the rod locker, and the baits in storage. After studying a lake map prior to hitting the water, I have a good idea of where I want to start. I strap on my favorite pair of polarized glasses, and head to the front of the boat. I stare into the water, while my partner drives the boat, following my hand signals left and right. The entire time I gather information in my head and on the GPS below my feet. I make notes of the weed growth, thick or thin, and what brand of weed is growing where. Points and turns are a bonus, and almost always find a mark on my GPS.
The next thing I look for is bottom content and how it changes. You may find rocks, gravel, sand or even mud. All of this can be good at certain times, and knowing where the changes are makes you smarter for the future. Remember to make notes of what you are seeing. As a rule of thumb, there is nothing too shallow to search. Many times this means turning the big motor off, and cranking the trolling motor on high. Regardless, muskies will use all of these places throughout the year. Knowing the layout of the bottom will prepare you for the future.
During this process, you will be amazed at what you will learn. You are very likely to see the baitfish that the muskies are feeding on, and nine times out of ten, you will actually see the muskies you plan to catch. If you have the will power to pass that fish and keep going, you will find more and more. Each time I see a muskie, I look at her immediate surroundings. If she's sitting on small rocks instead of big boulders, then I know to concentrate my search on small rocks. If it's an inside turn or a pocket in the weeds, then I will seek out more of the same. Regardless of the structure that you find the fish relating to, you are certain to see a pattern. This pattern can show itself in a few minutes, or several hours, but you will learn more in that time period than several days of casting your arms off.
These patterns change throughout the season. I typically do this on a weekly basis on a lake that I am not familiar with. Keeping detailed notes in your head or on paper will give you the upper hand on what to expect for particular lakes during particular times of the year. Depending upon weather and climate for each season, you will likely be within a week or two of that exact pattern each year. Good notes are a must!
And there is a bonus for all of your hard work! Once you find that spot, it never goes away. If a muskie is using a particular area, it is because it is a good ambush point to feed. Even better is the fact that if it looks good to one muskie, it looks good to them all! This means that you can put that spot on your "milk run" for years and you will likely be able to catch several from it. If you ever wondered how the pro's are always catching so many fish, this is a large reason for it.
This approach works on a lake you have never fished, or a lake you fish often. If you think you know it all about your favorite lake, then you know nothing. Taking a little time away from chuckin' the big baits will reveal an underwater world that will put more fish in your boat. Remember, the key is to fish smarter and not harder. Once you've found the fish, then you can concentrate on those areas during key feeding times. It's going to make you a better fisherman. I guarantee it!
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