Trolling for musky is a productive tactic throughout the
season, but it is in the fall when this method lives up to its reputation:
big musky! As water bodies cool and fish put on the feed bag, trolling
deep-diving crankbaits is an excellent technique for increasing your
chances of landing a trophy. Understanding fall musky behavior, using a
strategy to target deep fish, and having proper equipment are three
critical components to fall fishing success.
FALL MUSKY TRANSITION
First, in large bodies of water from post-spawn to late summer, let us
divide musky into two categories: shallow and deep fish. Granted,
separating musky location into two extremes is a simplification, but it
will help explain the fall transition. Shallow fish inhabit depths to 15
feet, occupying structures like weedy bays and points. The other fish
relate to deep structure, like rocky reefs, and feed on baitfish, such as
cisco, in open water.
Fall trolling is productive because many fish move from shallow, summer
haunts to deeper water. One reason the change occurs is that decaying
vegetation no longer produces oxygen or provides shelter, reducing its
ability to hold forage. This results in fish abandoning shallow, weedy
structure and relating with the breakline, rocky structure and open water
baitfish. Recognizing this change of shallow musky behavior and adjusting
your fishing strategy will increase your fall catch percentage.
Deep-diving crankbaits are perfect for fishing the fall transition.
Trolling crankbaits deep is a different method than running shallow baits
over deep water. The former is this article's focus, although the latter
can be a deadly technique as well. How deep you run your baits will depend
on the structure you are fishing and where you have marked musky or
baitfish. 20 feet is a good start and getting down to 30 feet or more can
be productive over deep water.
The depth your baits will run is influenced by: the design of the bait
itself, the speed of your troll, the amount of line out, and the line's
diameter and resistance. Knowing the bait's running depth when trolling is
critical, particularly when you have marked fish at a particular depth.
Troll baits a few feet above these fish, as musky are more likely to rise
to hit a trolled lure then dive to one.
One way to determine a crankbait's running depth is moving progressively
shallower at your anticipated trolling speed, usually between one to four
miles per hour in the fall. Next, test your lure at boat side, ensuring it
is running properly and adjust if required. Let out line and monitor the
depth while trolling shallower until your crankbait begins to hit bottom.
This method provides the bait's general running depth. If not deep enough
let out more line, increase speed, angle the rod tip higher, or change
baits. Now that you know your bait's depth you can start trolling.
First, identify structure to be covered by surveying a hydrographic map or
exploring the lake with a depth finder. Once trolling, vary your speed and
boat position; an excellent habit is to troll in S-curves. Do not be
afraid to let your baits hit bottom, this produces noise, kicks up silt
and often triggers strikes. Occasionally pumping the rod changes the
lure's action and can also prompt hits. Set your drag light when trolling.
Boat speed usually sets the hook, and tight drags can lead to lost or
broken equipment if you snag bottom or hook into a monster musky.
Heavy action rods from six to seven-and-a-half feet are needed to troll
large baits. Baitcasting reels with large line capacity and a high gear
ratio allows you to quickly land a musky. A reel with a line counter is
good feature and a spool click alarm will alert you when you have a fish.
Spool your reel with 60-to 80-pound-test line, and thin diameter lines,
like super-braids, allow your baits to run their deepest. Terminal tackle
should include a 12 to 24 inch, heavy duty leader with a good quality
swivel and a strong, locking snap. Many tackle shops have leaders'
specific for musky fishing.
are a variety of crankbaits on the market. Choose baits starting at nine
inches, in straight and jointed varieties with natural and hot patterns.
Heavy duty rod holders will reduce arm strain. Ensure you have proper
tools, as well as knowledge, for properly landing and releasing musky.
Finally, dress for cold temperatures and be prepared-an extra pair of
gloves can go a long way!
In October and November when many anglers are storing
their boats, musky anglers are reeling in trophies. Trolling deep-diving
crankbaits is an excellent strategy for targeting deep water fish. So,
instead of putting your boat away try trolling for fall musky. You will
likely be amazed at your results.