The effectiveness of swimbaits and different mushy plastics for muskies isn’t new. Storm Kickin’ Minnows have lengthy been go-to baits for a number of fish days on Indiana’s Barbee Chain. Castaic swimbaits, initially designed for record-class California largemouth bass, have additionally lengthy been ravaged by western tiger muskies. And a bunch of soft-plastic creature baits have been racking up large
numbers of muskies on southern reservoirs and rivers.

Productive swimbaits vary in measurement from 4 to 14 inches and span each possible design. Typical paddletails with their hard-thumping motion dominate the class, however subtler split-tail S-curve swimming baits and dart-spinners all have their place. Including to this array of choices are rigged and unrigged variations, hybrid types with molded laborious heads, and fashions with leaders labored into the baits, and nonetheless others with lift-off hook harnesses.

Having fished numerous muskie places throughout North America, I’ve had the chance to share the water with many progressive anglers. Lengthy hours on the water results in tales of fishing successes and failures, distinctive observations, and theories behind profitable displays. Typically this sharing of muskie ways takes place in distinctive settings.

River Choices

Throughout a current steelhead outing, I shared a stretch of river with multispecies angler Austin Gates, who recounted how his muskie catch charge had gone up dramatically by incorporating swimbaits into his common river routine. The idea was easy—current baits slower and extra vertically to fish in high-percentage spots, whereas utilizing lures that they don’t sometimes see.

Whereas wading in waist-deep water and drifting spawn to trout alongside a present seam, we mentioned the specifics of his methods for river muskies. He fishes muskies all throughout the Midwest, predominantly from shore, on medium to massive rivers. He focuses on key places near dams. These areas focus fish year-round. He appears for pockets beneath rapids and rock cabinets, dramatic present breaks behind artifical buildings resembling retaining partitions and bridge pilings, in addition to slack-water eddies related to wing dams and factors. These areas have distinct edges between sooner and slower water and are sometimes small. This makes exact placement and management of the chosen lure very important all through the retrieve.

Fishing from shore, Austin Gates depends on exact placement of softbaits to focus on muskies.

Gates famous that anglers historically labored these areas rapidly with horizontal-running lures like Bull Dawgs and Cowgirls. Quickly, catch charges for these lures dropped off. Smaller Spring Bull Dawgs and Twinkies quickly turned productive mainstays, till fish turned conditioned to them as properly.

“Guys had been throwing the identical baits day in and day trip with fewer and fewer fish caught,” he mentioned. “Muskies started to comply with an increasing number of typically, as a substitute of consuming lures. Ultimately, it appeared like walleye anglers had been encountering extra muskies than muskie anglers had been. That’s after I began experimenting with 4- to 6-inch Keitech Swing Influence Swimbaits and Kalin’s Sizmic Shads rigged on 1/2- to 2-ounce bullet-head jigs. I can simply change jig sizes to match totally different present circumstances. Pre-rigged swimbaits are another choice after you have mapped out key muskie areas.”

Keitech 6.8″ Swing Influence Fats on 1-ounce Kalin’s Final Swimbait Jig

Each Kalin’s and VMC make strong jigheads with heavy-gauge hooks. Kalin’s Final Swimbait jigs can be found in a variety of sizes and have a considerably stand-up design that pivots properly when encountering rocks for much less snags. In addition they provide an choice of a 5/0 or 8/0 hook on the 1.5-ounce jighead and eight/0 hooks on their 2- to 3-ounce jigs. VMC affords their Spin Jigs within the 1/2- to 1-ounce measurement vary with extra-strong hooks. The underspin blade provides flash to the thumping presentation of the paddletail. Match these jigs with any of your favourite paddletails, splittails, or curlytails for river muskies. The burden of the jig and bulk of the plastic impacts each the autumn charge and motion. In slack-water spots, skip the jighead and rig these baits on an Proprietor Beast Hook with Twistlock for much more stomach rolling and tail-wagging motion, together with a gradual fall charge.

Gates explains how swimbaits can enhance your muskie catch charges when fishing fast-flowing rivers. “Very similar to trout, river muskies don’t need to struggle present, and maintain in predictable places the place they’ll each relaxation and ambush prey,” he says. “The benefit of working swimbaits in swimming pools and pockets is that your bait is of their face longer. These pockets near the dam maintain fish more often than not. By feeling the underside with a swimbait presentation, you’ve confidence the place your bait is all through the retrieve. This lets you fish slower and extra methodically.

“Retrieving conventional horizontal-running lures strikes the lure too rapidly over the fish. With the present pushing these baits downstream all through the retrieve, muskies have little time to react. Even when the lure sparks their curiosity, they typically merely comply with to shore and on the first flip right into a figure-8 they both commit or flip away. With swimbaits, most strikes are strong takes halfway into the retrieve. There are few noncommittal follows.”

Swimbait choice is dependent upon water circumstances. In clear water, baits with extra flash or an erratic motion produce properly. Take into account lures such because the Hyperlastics Dartspin Professional 7. This 7-inch soft-plastic stickbait has a #4 willowleaf blade trailer that provides flash with each twitch, dart, and alter in course. Rigged Texposed on a beefy, belly-weighted 7/0 EWG hook, the Dartspin additionally runs snag-free by each weeds and wooden, which is important when drifting small rivers the place muskies routinely maintain tight to submerged wooden. Hardbaits with swinging treble hooks don’t carry out properly in settings the place you may solely get one probability to make an ideal solid to work a bait round, over, or by cowl.

North of the Border

North of the border, information Danny Herbeck leans closely on swimbaits to catch fish as quickly because the muskie season opens, whether or not on Lake of the Woods or smaller surrounding lakes. “One in all my early-season favorites is the Savage Gear 10-inch 3D Burbot Ribbontail,” he says. “The lure has sufficient bulk to make its presence identified, however with a comparatively modest weight of three ounces, it has a slower fall charge than different large rubber lures. I like to make use of it as a sight-fishing bait. Throw it on sandflats the place muskies are sunning themselves and watch them get it. As a ribbontail bait, the 3D Burbot has unimaginable tail motion even with the slightest motion of the bait.”

He fishes the 3D Burbot like a creature bait with loads of backside contact between pulls. The particles that it kicks up because it is available in contact with the underside will get the eye of every thing within the space. In open-water settings, he makes use of a reel-and-stop retrieve to permit larger glide time and watches his line for hits on the autumn. He additionally makes use of this lure repeatedly as a throwback choice when muskies flip away boatside from a bucktail or topwater. The lifelike motion of sentimental plastics typically scores when hardbaits fail.

Throughout summer season, Herbeck additionally favors reasonable swimbaits that may be labored as wakebaits excessive over the tops of cabbage beds. In pressured waters, the lifelike finishes and actions of line-through baits could make a distinction. In contrast to most topwaters, line-through baits could be fished up and down within the water column all through the retrieve, or made to fall again into the face of following fish on the pause. Prerigged leaders and pull-off hook harnesses on swimbaits such because the Savage Gear 4D Professional Line Via Trout and Perch assist to attenuate injury to the lures and likewise eradicate leverage that fish achieve when leaping or swinging their heads violently throughout the struggle.

For these on the lookout for this similar benefit whereas fishing deep rockbars, ledges, and suspended faculties of shad or ciscoes, the household of Spooltek baits are extremely efficient. These hybrid swimbaits have a hard-molded head with reflective finishes and an assortment of sentimental plastic tails. Tail picks embrace customary or slender paddletails, in addition to vast curlytails.

Spooltek’s most unusual characteristic is their built-in deployable stainless-steel chief that permits the hook to detach from the top of the lure after a fish is hooked. The hooks are designed to carry tarpon, in order that they’re a lot stout. In the meantime, the soft-plastic tail portion is replaceable if broken; nonetheless, for the reason that hook pulls free from the lure throughout the battle, the tails usually survive a number of fish. This fashion of lure additionally works for reservoir muskies the place they key on faculties of shad, in addition to in swift river and spillway settings the place a compact and fast-sinking bait is desired to keep up depth management all through the retrieve.

As turnover arrives, as a substitute of heading for rock factors and quick-breaking shorelines, Herbeck appears shallow for any remaining lush inexperienced weeds. Right here he finds baitfish and muskies desirous to devour small, nontraditional lures. Final fall he received the Nestor Falls Musky Cup match on Lake of the Woods with this sample. Think about using baits just like the 7-inch Savage Gear 3D Line Via Shad for this strategy. These lures have sufficient heft to make them simple to solid, however with no inside harness or hook shaft making a inflexible backbone to them, they transfer in a pure vogue to idiot fish in clear, shallow water. Their gradual sink charge makes them a pure for any shallow-water setting.

“By shallow water, I imply stuff as skinny as 3 to 4 ft deep the place pencil reeds begin to develop,” he says. “The fish could be method up on the within weededge. Twitch the lure and get it to roll on its aspect like a dying baitfish. The identical lures work wherever muskies are consuming smaller prey resembling shad, bluegills, and perch on closely pressured waters.”

On Inexperienced Bay

On Inexperienced Bay, Captain Kevin Pischke’s job is to tempt a perpetually cussed inhabitants of trophy-class muskies into biting. Pischke: “Swimbaits are robust to beat for pressured fish. Baits like Muskie Improvements Swimmin’ Dawgs and Westin ShadTeez have related profiles however they’ve totally different actions and excel in several settings. Swimmin’ Dawgs have a slower motion and work higher on the Bay in calm circumstances. Sadly, that doesn’t occur typically, and in tough circumstances, the sooner motion of the ShadTeez is extra interesting. Rigged on a 20- to 25-gram head, the 22-cm ShadTeez has one stomach roll for every two rotations of the tail. This provides off two distinctive vibration patterns for muskies to key on.”

Muskie Improvements Swimmin’ Dawg

He suggests counting down these baits for a number of seconds previous to utilizing a gradual, regular retrieve to maintain them a number of ft down. Including a 2- or 3-ounce in-line weight above the chief delivers much more depth and motion. When the bait will get inside 25 ft of the boat, he drops his rod tip and provides the lure a pointy pop. This fast change in course and pace helps set off strikes from following fish, previous to them probably getting spooked by the boat.

Swimbaits additionally produce properly when trolled. “When shad begin to faculty up in late summer season and fall, one favourite approach is to troll a 35-cm HypoTeez Inline bait,” Pischke says. “For added attraction, I connect a #9 Indiana blade above the chief (very similar to a Muskie Improvements Bull Dozer Blade). This lure has a lift-off hook harness, which lets you customise hook placement. By inserting the trailing treble hook far again towards the tail, you get a pleasant S-swimming motion.” When trolling depths of 6 to 10 ft, swap to hybrid fashions such because the Ricky the Roach Hybrid, with laborious molded diving lips constructed into the lures.

“Having fished with a number of of the European and Scandinavian designers of swimbaits, they work these baits a lot slower and extra methodically than most North American muskie anglers,” he says. “Hold this in thoughts if you tie on a Percy the Perch or Tommy the Trout bait. When you reel it again rapidly with a high-speed reel, it’s going to blow out. Rely it down and decelerate the tempo.” In addition they transfer by the water with much less resistance than different muskie lures. This implies much less bodily succesful anglers stay extra engaged and might fish longer.

Westin Percy The Perch

There are nearly limitless choices for utilizing swimbaits and different softbaits. Gradual-sinking fashions with their vast swimming actions are good for post-cold-front circumstances, whereas smaller lifelike fashions typically reign supreme for closely pressured fish. Swimbaits rigged on jigheads are versatile, too. The supply of interchangeable screw-in heads and lift-off hook harnesses makes customizing choices simple.

*In-Fisherman Area Editor Steve Ryan is a world-traveled angler who additionally focuses on multispecies fishing throughout North America.

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