The fog that had surrounded us was starting to burn off as the first rays of morning sunlight were starting to filter through the trees. It was to be our last pass through the weed bed and I instructed one of my clients to cast into a heavy patch of cabbage that held a respectable size muskie. The Muskie Candy had barely gone ten feet when it disappeared into the jaws of a fat, 45-inch muskie.
Quick photos, followed by a quick release, and the proud feeling of knowing that our strategy had paid off were our only rewards. We stayed with our game plan for the rest of the day.
The tally for the day’s end was three muskies boated, 45", 43 1/2" and a 40" – plus two respectable bonus pike, a 38" and a fat 42".
Over the years there has been a lot of controversy, speculations, and theories on the subject of how much time is long enough to fish a particular area before it is time to move on. Many of the experts of old lived by the philosophy of run and gun. Make a few casts to strategic spots on a piece of structure and move on. This run and gun scenario was fine for years back when there was only a handful of muskie hunters, however, it might not be the best strategy for today.
The majority of muskies that were caught using this technique were very aggressive and were already on the prowl for a meal. The odds of catching a muskie back then were much greater considering the minimal pressure there was even 10 years ago. There is up to five times the amount of muskie fisherman today as compared to a decade ago.
To stay on top of the action, I learned that I had to adapt my techniques and approach to establish a consistent pattern that would be productive on any given lake. As a muskie guide, I am expected to put my clients on fish consistently. And one method that has been very productive over the years is over-staying our welcome on the structure we are fishing.
ADAPTATING A GAME PLAN
When working an area, whether it is weeds, rocks, timber or flats, I always have a game plan set up in advance for how to approach and fish the area. I always start my approach with my Crestliner Fish Hawk at the end or tip of the structure that is closest to the main body of water, such as a weed bed or rock pile that is at the mouth of a bay. Position your boat so that your first set of casts falls short of the weed bed by at least twenty-five feet.
Fishing with two to three people in the boat will help you establish a pattern. The person in the front of the boat will fan cast to the weed bed using a bucktail, the party in the middle will cast to the bed also, but with a different lure such as a jerk bait, while the person in the back of the boat will cast parallel to the weed bed with a deep diving crank bait for any muskies that may be suspended off in deeper water.
The majority of muskie fishermen will pack up and leave after their initial pass, but this is where the action is just beginning. After your first pass, return to your starting point, only this time position your boat so that your next pass will bring your lures in contact with the outside edge of the weed bed.
Concentrate your efforts on every point, pocket, and inside turn of the weed bed. Remember, a cast to a pocket as you pass by may not produce a hit or follow. But a cast to the same pocket retrieved from a different angle as you pass by may have explosive results.
TAKE ANOTHER PASS
After you have completed your second pass covering the same weed bed it is time to move on, right? Wrong! If the weed bed is deep enough, I will start a third pass. This time I will position my Fish Hawk at the edge of the weed bed and cast into the weeds. There is an old myth that states "when the pressure is on; muskies will leave a weed bed for the sanctuary of deeper water." Nothing could be further from the truth.
Over three-quarters of pressured muskies will seek sanctuary in the heaviest patches deep in the jungle of the weed bed.
When fishing the weed bed focus your casts to every pocket, chutes, and heavy patches of weeds. The pockets are perfect for muskies to lay off to the side and ambush prey that may come in. The chutes offer the muskie a place to sun themselves in peace, and also to ambush prey.
The heaviest patches of weeds inside the weed bed are the spot on the spot. The majority of time this location will generally hold the larger muskie in the area.
If the weed bed is large enough, I will make a fourth pass. When using this scenario for muskie fishing, keep in mind that your boat position for each new pass should start off in the exact location where you last cast to with your previous pass. This ensures that you are not covering the same area twice.
When casting into the weeds it is imperative to have razor sharp hooks. This enables you to easily rip free from the numerous weeds you will encounter. As long as the roots are not ripped out, a weed will continue to grow with out any problems.
When making a pass, keep your boat moving just fast enough and at a steady pace so that you are not casting to the same spot. For example, a pocket that is roughly four feet big on the edge of a weed bed will not get more than three to four casts to it.
I may land two casts in it while my partner fishing with a different lure will add two more to it, and then move on.
This technique of over-staying your welcome will help to improve your odds greatly.
The three muskies we boated in one day at the beginning of this article were caught using this technique. We also were fishing behind muskie fishermen who were fishing the same weed bed in a chapter challenge. We waited till they had their turn, then we moved in.
This technique also works great when fishing in a sunken timber field. I suggest using top water and spinner baits to eliminate hang ups and snags.
There have been many multiple fish days in my boat using this technique. The key is to be patient and fish the structure thoroughly and efficiently, fan cast to any and all likely spots. Taking the extra time to work the structure the way it should be will help you put more fish in the boat and on film.
Remember to practice catch-and-release!
Steve Scepaniak operates Predator Guide Service and has guided for muskies on Mille Lacs Lake for the past 25 years. He can be contacted at 320-253-7535, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.predatorguideservice.com.