Ontario Muskie (Musky) FishingMuskellunge Fishing Tips and Lodges
Tackling Trophy Muskies with Topwaters
Few anglers can question the sheer strength and calculated strikes the majestic musky possesses. Whether the battle is being fought over a jerkbait, a jig or a crankbait, the hook-up is one of the most exhilarating the freshwater fishery has to offer. There is one technique, however, that delivers heart-stopping strikes, requires nerves of steel, and requires the angler to enter into a “cat and mouse” competition. This technique is fishing topwaters for ‘skies, and is a sure-fire way to tangle with these toothy critters when conditions are just right, and the mighty musky is looking upward for his next meal of the day.
Criteria for Topwaters
Topwater fishing for muskies is truly an exiting sport. There are certain times of the year, and conditions, when topwaters come into their own, and these will be your key to successfully getting consistent action on top.
Topwater lures are most effective when water temperatures are above the 58-degree mark. Considering this, early summer right through until fall will be your best bet to throw these lures. Hot stable weather during these times will turn muskies on, eliciting heart-pounding strikes. Cold fronts and unstable weather are poor times to try topwaters as the musky becomes less active and will not chase a “high-riding” bait in order to attack. Water temperatures below the 50 degree mark will have a similar effect, and a change to a slower presentation, be it a jerkbait or jig, will dramatically increase your chances for success.
The transition from summer to fall is also a dynamite time to turn to topwater baits. The drop in water temperature signifies a feeding binge to the ‘ski, and during these times strikes on top can be fast and furious! History has shown that temperature drops between the 68 and 60-degree point are proven first-rate topwater times, and record catches have been consistently caught during this “magical” temperature.
Day to night and night to day transition periods are a high-percentage time to be out on the water throwing topwaters. As the sun slowly sets, or begins to rise, head to areas where you know quality fish are present. If you had fish follow other lures during the mid-day period, and were reluctant to bite, head to these same areas during low light periods with a topwater to tempt a strike.
Night fishing with topwaters is a tried and true winner for a number of reasons. Firstly, the vibrations and commotion a topwater lure creates will draw fish in from afar, concentrating on the easy meal that you are providing. The weedless qualities of topwaters also make them a winner at night as they keep every cast in the strike zone, compared to a crankbait or bucktail that might foul in the weeds.
Mid-day hour muskies can be caught on top when air temperatures are warm and the sky is overcast. This is not to say that you won’t catch muskies during bright sunlight, however, your odds increase as the sun decreases. Fish will be actively searching for food during these optimum weather conditions, and a fast-moving topwater bait will often be the key to triggering these aggressive fish.
Tips and Techniques
There are a wide array of topwater baits on the market designed to catch musky, with not one lure the right one to use in all conditions. By selecting a few baits that generate different sounds, have different actions, and work differently at different speeds, you will discover the subtleties that cause a musky to strike.
There are no steadfast rules on retrieve speeds or preferred noise, but a few suggestions will help you get started on what and how to throw. In calm conditions, a quieter and slower presentation is predominantly preferred. As the winds pick up, so should the loudness of your bait, all the way up to throwing a lure that kicks up the most water and is the loudest, during high-wind conditions. Experiment with retrieve speeds, but stick with one in the slow to medium range.
A tip on triggering muskies on top is to vary your retrieve speed during mid-retrieve. This can take the shape of an exaggerated sweep of the rod, or a speeding up of the lure. If a fish is spotted following your bait, the best course of action is to continue the retrieve at the same speed and action, ending in a figure-8 at the side of the boat.
Topwater fishing for muskies is a technique that can deliver solid results, with the chance of hooking that trophy of a lifetime. Head out this year with a topwater bait in hand, and discover how exciting, and truly productive, this method can be.
By Justin Hoffman