Here in Michigan the water temps have hit the mid-40s and the air temp is turning to the 30s, it is about that time of year where the bass become more frustrating than catching a greased up pig. While those greasy pigs can be difficult to catch there are always other swimming critters we can chase if we just simply can’t figure out the bass. Up here we have one of my favorite game fish, Northern Pike, though Muskie and Tiger Muskie may also fall into that category as well.
Most anglers here in the north already have their boats off the water, myself included, and boy am I really starting to regret it! The muskie catches have shot up almost instantly since the 50 degree water temperature hit. It is no doubt that the fall is THE time to chase trophy muskie and it is also no doubt that the jerkbait is king during this time of year as well.
When it comes to selecting the right jerkbait I find it to be completely personal preference though the suspending part of the jerkbait is the true key to unlocking the door to monster muskie. Most anglers like to stick to big ol’ jerks, around 10 inches or so, and if you are looking for a replica worthy fish then I would agree, if you are looking for numbers and getting into the swing of things it’s hard to go wrong a 6″ PK Ridgeline Crankbait. The Ridgeline isn’t exactly a jerkbait but it weighted properly with a three-way rig the thin front and rear profile should help to entice some vicious strikes. Another pretty cool advantage of scaling down is if you are in the mood for walleye or Plain Jane northerns you also have those options as well.
The Ridgeline and your standard jerkbait will usually be fished in the simplest manner, reeling it in slowly then pausing, this will cause the bait to give a small wiggle and a slight lift which is usually when the bite will come. If you are into “walking the dog” you also have the option of using the ol’ faithful classics in a “lift-drop” fashion in allow the bait so slide and glide back and forth. Walking can be a difficult task to master but you will be glad once you take the time out to do it.
Once you have figured out what lure you want to try out the search truly begins. Muskie can be critters of precision, meaning you need to be very specific in your search. The starting box on your checklist should be “look for green”, any kind of green vegetation can help to narrow the search rapidly. Keeping in mind that muskie are cold-water creatures I will often start my search in 15ft of water and cast up into 5ft of water, this will usually allow me to quickly cover a variety of water depths to figure out what the “deal is” for the day. It is important to note that muskie are ambush predators so don’t worry too much about getting stuck since weedlines and edges can be your best friend.
As the season moves on I will usually go in 5ft increments, meaning once the water hits the actual 50 degree mark I will begin my search in 10-20, then 15-25. As with many other ambush predator species if you can find a point that has a progressive weedline you are increasing you chances to figure out a pattern and the pattern is what you are truly after.