When it comes to fall muskies, bigger isn’t always better. These days, that’s because much bigger is much better, at least in the eyes of serious muskie hounds.
Enhanced stocking programs and the acceptance of catch and release has changed the game, with more big muskies available to anglers, in more areas, than at any time in history.
This increased availability of larger muskies has spawned a complementary “growing trend” in tackle for pursuing and catching these giants. Bigger lures. Longer rods. Heavier lines and leaders.
No lure category displays this trend as much as soft plastics, where a manufacturer can greatly expand the length and bulk of a lure without necessarily adding serious tonnage to the bait. Adding a long, writhing, slithering tail to a magnum softbait expands the profile without creating a massive weight overload, creating the illusion of an oversized baitfish while still allowing anglers to cast the lure effectively. Without too much pain and strain. Hour after hour. Day after day.
We’re talking baits that routinely top the 10-inch mark; 12 inches and more is common. Lures like Musky Innovations BullDawgs and Pounders, Chaos Tackle Medussas, Storm WildEye Swim Shads and Kickin’ Minnows, Red October Tubes and the like.
Mega mouthfuls for hungry, tooth-filled, cavernous mouths that can, believe it or not, still swallow them whole and come back for seconds.
That being said, casting—even trolling—lures exceeding 12 inches in length and 4 or 5 ounces (They don’t call ‘em “Pounders” for nothing!) reaches a point of mechanical infeasibility when using traditional muskie rods. The trend is to longer, stouter and stronger rods, again without adding serious weight to tire your arms, back and shoulders even further.
Today’s premier muskie rods—particularly for throwing oversized soft plastics—are generally between 8 ½ to 10 feet, and in some cases, even more! They feature split grip handles for two-handed, bombing casts into the next hemisphere.
Their added leverage not only allows you to fling lures with remarkable efficiency, and to bury the hook with jaw-jarring sweepsets. But also, to work large softbaits with long upward sweeps of the rod, followed by dropping the rod tip to follow the lure’s descent. This enhanced sweeping action allows large soft plastics to achieve their maximum glide and plummet action, and is largely credited with triggering more big fall muskies to bite than ever before.
This makes large softbaits ideal for the cold-water conditions of late fall, when muskies key in on oversized forage fish like suckers, redhorse, cisco/tullibees and such.
Big baits appeal to big fall muskies with big appetites, plain and simple. You can work them slowly, barely crawling them subsurface. Fish weighted baits deeper, usually with sweeping lift-drops. Erratically, with aggressive twitches of the rod tip. Pretty much anyway you like. Or more importantly, whichever way the fall muskies seem to like.
Lakes. Rivers. Reservoirs. Wherever big fish swim. Because where thar be giants, thar be gigantic baits to catch them