When it comes to musky fishing, many guys have their “go-to” baits. Most times, these are baits they throw all summer, and that’s not to say they won’t work. Still, when it comes to early-season musky fishing, it is best to start thinking about baitfish rather than what is considered standard in the musky world.
Consider Baitfish for Musky Fishing
When the season opens many times, water temps are still cooler, and in some rare cases, fish are still spawning; when temps are below 60 degrees, most fish in inland lakes are shallow, typically 2-6 feet, and when I say fish, I mean, suckers, carp, bass, panfish, and all other baitfish. Shallow is where the warmest water will be and where the start of good weed growth will begin, and because that’s where the baitfish are, that is also where the muskies will roam.
Find Primary Forage of Musky
Now depending on the weather leading up to opening weekend or if you are fishing a large body of water with Cisco or Whitefish in it, muskies will often push out and roam the basin, still targeting these baitfish right after spawning. Suppose the water has warmed enough shallow and crappies or perch are already done spawning. In that case, they too will push out and then roam basins as well, so again, like any time of the year, if you want to catch muskies consistently, you need to know where the primary forage for them is, that is what can make spring musky fishing difficult because depending on weather and water temps they can be in as little as 2 feet of water, or roaming out in 30+ feet of water.
Select Appropriate Setup for Musky Fishing
When targeting early-season muskies, I prefer throwing smaller baits and “power fishing,” quickly hitting shallow water bays and shorelines and covering water. You hear it all the time early in the year, the musky guys are having a hard time moving fish, and at the ramp, you hear bass fishermen complaining about how they sometimes had multiple muskies bite off their favorite swim jigs. So when it comes to baits, I like to think small, many times I will be throwing 5-6 inch swimbaits, small cranks, and smaller single-bladed #8 bucktails; for the most part, it’s slightly oversized bass tackle; I still like throwing a longer rod just for the ease of figure lighting and enticing a bite boat side, I prefer the Della Bay 10ft MH rod for this time of year, I pair that with a Piscifun Alijoz in a 5.9:1 gear ratio, this time of year you want a moderate retrieve. It’s definitely not a time for burning baits back to the boat, and that 5.9:1 gear ratio is the perfect fit.
To be successful in musky fishing, you can not always fish memories. You have to constantly think about where the bait is and what the water temps are and form a game plan before you get to the lake, and more importantly, do not be afraid to change that plan once on the water. Hopefully, these tips will help put a few more muskies in the bag this spring and remember, if you can find the bait, you will find the muskies.