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Monday, March 15, 2010

LAST LIGHT TOPWATER ACTION

This past weekend  Spence Petros put the hammer on some nice muskies with The TopRaider on our weekly musky segment.   This is truly one fantastic way to catch summer muskies.  Here are some of “down and dirty” tips that you need to know specifically about fishing The TopRaider that are sure to make your outings more productive.


On bright sunny days, evenings are the ticket for topwater muskies.  Evening summer muskies are usually cranked up “chasers”; meaning you can go after ‘em with a fast topwater bait that features a prop style tail rotator like the TopRaider.  This is precisely how Spence tagged his musky on this last episode -- at the very end of bright sunny day, just before dark.

Unless the lake, river or flowage you fish is heavily worked with topwater prop baits, you rarely need to fish slow at this time of day. In fact, the only time I slow down for muskies on top is after a particular fish has followed and not struck a speedy surface bait.  Otherwise, I’ve got the “pedal to the metal” -- crankin’ pretty fast with a prop style bait like the TopRaider in order to cover water quickly and efficiently. 


TOPRAIDER TACKLE

Tackle matchups for TopRaider muskies is a simple one. I’d suggest fishing a high speed baitcaster like Abu Garcia’s Revo Toro 60HS. A large capacity, big game series baitcaster with its extra large capacity spool size will really buzz a TopRaider thru the water easily. The big advantage of a high speed version for this style of fishing comes after the strike. Topwater muskies get ignited like a runaway missile after the strike occurs. The high speed reel enables you to keep the line taut no matter what the fish does.

For line, you can’t beat Stren’s 80 lb. test Sonic Braid. A heavy gauge, no stretch, floating braid is always the best choice for topwater lures. You always want to keep that line on the surface so the lure works well.  This also keeps your hookset response instantaneous since no water drag will slow you down or inhibit hookset power.

My favorite TopRaider rod is a St. Croix Legend Tournament Musky Split Grip LTM80MXF "Top & Tail".  It's an 8' long MH power rod with the new split grip design.  The advantages of the extra long rod are many, and there are few disadvantages. Most of all, the 8 foot rod is far superior at the boat. Anyone who has done any amount of musky fishing knows that the figure 8 is a huge part of the technique. So many muskies follow to boatside. Getting even a small fraction of them to hit at boatside is a big plus. Long 8 footers simply do superior figure 8 patterns with your lures at boatside. The figure 8 can be made bigger, and deeper if necessary. Plus, after the fish is hooked, the additional rod length and rod bend is more apt to keep the fish hooked and not tear out the hooks.

Extra long rods also sweep the hookset better from long distances. An extra long cast with a topwater lure is usually a plus. It enables you to cover more water, but also provides added distance for a following musky to commit to the strike. Long casts with shorter rods result in poor hookups. The extra length of the 8 footer helps to set the hook solidly from very long distances. Finally, it also affords the angler the ability to steer the lure through lanes in weeds as well as create more pronounced changes of direction throughout the retrieve. Any change of direction is liable to trigger a follower to strike.


RETRIEVE TRICKS

As far as the actual retrieve cadence goes, a fairly steady pace for muskies with TopRaiders is best most of the time, but I’ve seen the fish respond better at times to a lure that occasionally rips or spurts forward. Always crank a prop style topwater lure extra fast initially in order to get the prop spinning good and to pick the line off the water. Then back off to a medium fast retrieve once the bait’s prop is churning with a strong plopping sound. With lures like the TopRaider, you’ll often notice a perfect speed that creates a loud deep gurgle. This deep gurgle, for some reason, is highly desirable to muskies.

Finish each retrieve with an underwater figure eight, since many muskies follow to boatside.  The strikes are explosive to say the least.  Spence took several muskies this way while we were filming these episodes.

Follows are an inevitable part of topwater fishing and they can be almost as exciting as the strike itself.   The sight of a wake behind your surface bait is sure to give you "weak knees".   If you spot a follow, don’t panic. Just keep crankin’ the TR steady.  A very slight burst of the reel will create a little additional spurt in the tail rotator.  This might be enough to trigger the strike.  If not, watch for that fish to smash the bait at boatside.

Some expert topwater anglers like to keep the surface lure on top during the figure 8 and never submerge it. They make extra large, wide turns on their figure 8’s, but always keep it on top. I can’t argue with this tactic if it works. But, I’ve taken some of my biggest trophies with submerged figure 8’s on a topwater lure.


TOPWATER HOOKSETS

Be careful not to set the hook until the fish actually grabs the lure solidly. One of the biggest mistakes often made while topwater musky fishing is to set the hook as soon as the fish strikes the lure. This rarely works well with muskies and usually results in a missed fish. This is where nerves of steel win the game. Concentrate on maintaining a steady retrieve until you actually feel the rod bend and the weight of the fish on the end of the line. A delayed reaction on the hookset nearly always results in more hookups. Also, try to make all your topwater hooksets with one single sideways sweep. Once your rod is bent, never drop off the pressure and never set twice. Keep hard solid pressure on the fish. This is usually the key to keeping them hooked. If they are running at you on the strike, sweep hard sideways and simultaneously step back a few steps. This is also where the high speed reel comes in handy.


KEEP HOOKS HARPOON SHARP

Finally, always keep the hooks on all your topwater lures extra sharp. Before you even make that first cast, check those hooks for sharpness. Test each hook point on your thumb nail by lightly dragging it downward. It should catch or bite in slightly. If it simply slides off your thumb nail, it is not sharp enough. A few quick strokes with a good quality file is all it takes.
 
Also, you'll notice that all TopRaiders come with a preattached shrink tubing on the rear treble hook.  Without this little add-on, the large rear treble would foul over the rotating tail piece a lot.   The shrink tubing enables you to fish a much larger treble hook on the rear end of the lure without fouling.  This is key.   By the way, it is very easy to replace a bad treble hook or the shrink wrap on this lure.  Simply strip the old tubing away with a pocket knife or razor blade.  Detach the bad hook.    Slide on a new strip of #205 shrink wrap, available at any hardware store, and reattached the hook.   Hit the the shrink wrap briefly with a small flame from a Bic butane lighter to shrink it back onto the hook, split ring, and the front side of the lure's back hook hanger and you are ready to go again.  
 
Don't hesitate to try TopRaiders anytime the big muskies are shallow.  On overcast days, fish 'em all day long.  When it is sunny, you might try it now and then in the right looking spots, but make darn sure you are working it hard near sunset on your favorite hotspots.   Some of the most exciting and heartstopping action is bound to occur at any time.  Nothing beats a topwater strike from a big musky.   Once you've experienced it, you'll  know exactly what I am talking about.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

FIGURE 8 FINE POINTS

Hopefully, you had a chance to catch my TV show this past weekend. Inside the musky segment, I tangle with a titan musky that locked in on my Buchertail Mag Tinsel, followed it all the way in, and then smashed it at boatside. The boatside figure 8 strike, as it was depicted on my show, is truly one of the most incredible spectacles in all of freshwater fishing.

The figure 8 technique is certainly nothing new in the musky world, yet few anglers have truly mastered this incredible technique. When done correctly, it can be super deadly. In fact, at times it seems like every musky in a lake wants to follow the lure and strike at boatside. However, some musky anglers are far better at this technique than others, and they are able to take full advantage of this weird behavioral trait that muskies have for following lures to the boat. Let’s take a closer look at what makes one angler’s figure 8 that much better than the next.

First off, the long rod is far superior for the actual figure 8 technique. How long is “long”? A few years ago, 7 foot rods were the rage. I was a real big fan off a 7 ½ footer for a number of years. While this is still considered a “long rod”, most experienced musky hunters today are going with an 8 footer. I too am one of those converts. My favorite 8 footer is a St. Croix Legend Tournament Musky Split Grip LTM80MXF “Top & Tail”. It’s awesome.

Simply put, the longer the rod, the bigger and deeper the overall figure 8 pattern. Basic geometry comes into play here. Lunker muskies are long (in length). Therefore, they need more room to turn. Short rods, in the 5 ½ to 6 ½ foot range, naturally create a shorter overall figure 8 pattern. This results in a tighter radius which is often difficult for larger muskies to follow. The longer rod simply increases the entire size of the figure 8 substantially including widening the turns. Collectively, this increase in rod length creates a much larger overall figure 8 pattern which makes it far easier for a large musky to effectively follow the lure throughout the entire process. The end result is a presentation that allows the musky a better overall chance to strike the bait.
The long rod is also far superior to a short one after the fish hits.

Short rods are generally stiffer and less forgiving. You are much more apt to overpressure a big fish on a short line with a 6 to 6 ½ foot traditional musky stick than you are with a longer rod of 7 feet or more. In fact, the new 8 foot rods are arguably the best choice overall. This additional length helps to keep a very even pressure on the fish at all times so it can’t break the line, or shake the hook loose. This even pressure also prevents “hole tearing” in the fish’s mouth which results from excessive pressure during battle. This hole tearing leads to lost fish more often than not.

Finally, the long rod keeps better overall control of the fish throughout the fight. You can steer a big one away from the motor, or away from anything else that might create a potential problem. The long rod also enables you to keep a thrashing musky down in the water better. Anytime you can force a big fish to thrash under water, as opposed to above the surface, you are more likely to land that lunker. Keep ‘em down and you’ll land a much higher percentage of ‘em.

The actual technique of figure 8ing starts with a good transition from retrieve into the actual figure 8. An aggressive following musky is usually locked-on to your lure and the movement. If that lure movement is suddenly interrupted or stopped, the fish is likely to lose that intensity and bolt off. However, a steady, even uninterrupted movement transitioning into a big figure 8 is apt to keep the fish locked-on.

If you’ve successfully kept the fish’s interest into the actual figure 8, then the next step of the process begins. Now, put all your effort into making this as easy as possible for the fish to follow, overtake and eat your lure. Use every bit of the rod length to create a LARGE figure 8 with wide ROUND turns. Don’t do anything abrupt. Make it easy for this fish to take the lure. However, keep a close eye on lure speed. A big drop in speed might decrease the fish’s desire to chase. If anything, speed it up a bit. Especially when pulling the lure into the turn of “the 8”.

Also, try to actually read the mood of the individual fish as you go thru the figure 8 process. If you are observant, you will see what the fish likes the most. It might be a sudden burst of speed. Sometimes plummeting your rod tip deeper in the water creates more desire from the fish. Try a number of things. By the way, speaking of rod tips in the water – generally a rod tip in the water with a deeper “8” is more effective than a shallow “8”. Novice anglers are often shy about dipping that rod tip into the water on “the 8”, but I can assure you this does not spook a musky. In fact, I think it might even excite them more. My theory here is the fish simply looks at the rod tip as a stick, a weed or something else that is non-threatening. When a musky is hot on your bait, it doesn’t seem to even be aware of the rod tip in front of the lure. It is so locked-on the bait that nothing else matters.

A final trick I’ve employed successfully with the Mag Tinsel recently is to pull extra hard and deep on the figure 8 turns, and then lift the lure up shallower as it goes into the “straight away” while I look for the following musky. If I see the fish closing on the lure, I immediately back off on the speed just a tad so the musky literally overtakes it. More often than not, the big fish will suddenly open its mouth and engulf the lure when you do this.

The figure 8 is one of the most unique techniques in all of sport angling. Once you master it, you will catch a lot more muskies and enjoy a level of success in the sport of musky fishing that few experience. Take the time to master the art of the figure 8 and you’ll soon discover it is one deadly way to trigger strikes from big toothy fish.

Friday, February 26, 2010

TOPRAIDER TERRIFIC!


This past weekend, Spence Petros and I had a blast catching muskies on topwater. No doubt, it is the most explosive and exciting way to catch muskies by far. When it comes to musky TV shows, nothing is as good as a topwater strike. While a lot of really good topwater lures are available today, and they all catch their share of muskies, nothing compares to the TopRaider for overall performance, durability and reliability. It is simply the best musky surface bait made. Period. I am sure Spence Petros would completely agree with this claim. That’s why hundreds of musky anglers across North America register big musky catches on this lure year after year. It’s simply that good.

Tackle matchups for TopRaider muskies is a simple one. I’d suggest fishing a high speed baitcaster like Abu Garcia’s Revo Toro 60HS. A large capacity, big game series baitcaster with its extra large capacity spool size will really buzz a TopRaider thru the water easily. The big advantage of a high speed version for this style of fishing comes after the strike. Topwater muskies get ignited like a runaway missile after the strike occurs. The high speed reel enables you to keep the line taut no matter what the fish does.

A low stretch heavy weight floating braid is always the best choice for topwater lures. My personal favorite is Stren’s Sonic Braid in 80 # test. You always want to keep that line on the surface so the lure works well, and your hookset response is instantaneous. A floating super braid in the larger pound tests insures that the line is on the surface so it will instantly explode up and off the water on the hookset.

My favorite TopRaider rod is a St. Croix Legend Tournament Musky Split Grip “Top & Tail” LTM80MXF. The advantages of the extra long rod are many, and there are few disadvantages. Most of all, the 8 foot rod is far superior at the boat. Anyone who has done any amount of musky fishing knows that the figure 8 is a huge part of the technique. So many muskies follow to boatside. Getting even a small fraction of them to hit at boatside is a big plus. Long 8 footers simply do superior figure 8 patterns with your lures at boatside. The figure 8 can be made bigger, and deeper if necessary. Plus, after the fish is hooked, the additional rod length and rod bend is more apt to keep the fish hooked and not tear out the hooks.

Extra long rods also sweep the hookset better from long distances. An extra long cast with a topwater lure is usually a plus. It enables you to cover more water, but also provides added distance for a following musky to commit to the strike. Long casts with shorter rods result in poor hookups. The extra length of the 8 footer helps to set the hook solidly from very long distances. Finally, it also affords the angler the ability to steer the lure through lanes in weeds as well as create more pronounced changes of direction throughout the retrieve. Any change of direction is liable to trigger a follower to strike.

As far as the actual retrieve cadence goes, I do like a fairly steady pace for muskies, but I’ve seen the fish respond better at times to a lure that occasionally rips or spurts forward. Always crank a prop style topwater lure extra fast initially in order to get the prop spinning good and to pick the line off the water. Then back off to a medium fast retrieve once the bait’s prop is churning with a strong plopping sound. With lures like the TopRaider, you’ll often notice a perfect speed that creates a loud deep gurgle. This deep gurgle, for some reason, is highly desirable to muskies.

Finish each retrieve with an underwater figure eight, since many muskies follow to boatside. A few may even take the lure on the figure 8; particularly in rough wavy conditions. If you spot a follow, don’t panic. Just keep crankin’ steady. Try to maintain a constant even cadence with the lure at all times. Some expert topwater anglers like to keep the lure on the surface and never submerge it on the figure 8. They make extra large, wide turns on their figure 8’s, but always keep it on top. I can’t argue with this tactic if it works. But, I’ve taken some of my biggest trophies with submerged figure 8’s on a topwater lure. Try both and see what works best for you.

Be careful not to set the hook until the fish actually grabs the lure solidly. One of the biggest mistakes often made while topwater musky fishing is to set the hook as soon as the fish strikes the lure. This rarely works well with muskies and usually results in a missed fish. This is where nerves of steel win the game. Concentrate on maintaining a steady retrieve until you actually feel the rod bend and the weight of the fish on the end of the line. A delayed reaction on the hookset nearly always results in more hookups. Also, try to make all your topwater hooksets with one single sideways sweep. The natural tendency is to lift up on the rod, but you’ll hook way more fish with a sideways sweep that keeps the overall pressure low to the water.

Once your rod is bent, never drop off the pressure and never set twice. Keep hard solid pressure on the fish. If your rod tip is up, sweep it down and to the side as soon as you can. This is usually the key to keeping them hooked. If they are running at you on the strike, try stepping back a few steps on the hookset. This is also where the high speed reel comes in handy.

Finally, always keep the hooks on all your topwater lures extra sharp. You’ll notice that Spence and I made a big point about that on this recent TV segment. Sharp hooks are essential on any musky lure, but arguably even moreso on topwater plugs. Before you even make that first cast, check those hooks for sharpness. Test each hook point on your thumb nail by lightly dragging it downward. It should catch or bite in slightly. If the hook point slides off your thumb nail, it is not sharp enough. A few quick strokes with a good quality file is all it takes to keep your TopRaider is tip-top running shape. Take the extra time to sharpen your TopRaider hooks before fishing a really good spot might make the difference between a missed opportunity and a well hooked lunker.


click here to watch on-line episode

Friday, February 19, 2010

THE BUCHER BURN!

If you watched my TV show this past weekend, you no doubt saw Spence Petros and me wuppin’ up on the muskies with a high speed, run & gun spinner technique we nicknamed “The Bucher Burn”. A somewhat dead day of fishing suddenly turned on in the late afternoon with some very hot musky action. Some of it was due probably to an overall movement of muskies, but some of it was also due to our retrieve technique. Here’s the scoop.

The main lure involved in this technique is, of course, my own big in-line tinsel spinner – The Buchertail Mag Tinsel. This lure features a big 9 to 10 inch flashy profile and sports two giant # 10 fluted blades. It’s a bear to throw and a bear to crank. That’s why you need the right tackle and technique. The tackle: 80 # test Stren Sonic Braid (green), a St. Croix Legend Tournament Musky LTM80MXF, and this terrific new baitcasting reel Abu Garcia Revo Toro Winch 60, and you are set to “burn”.

Summer muskies really turn on to a super fast retrieve speed with these lures. The entire concept rests on maintaining a high riding, close-to-the-surface presentation with a strong visual (eye on the spinner) at all times. This takes some physical effort as well as concentration. It also requires specialized tackle including a low- geared baitcaster and long rod. A synchronized reel engagement that is timed precisely with the splash entry of the lure is the first trick. This is followed by an immediate “burn” (retrieving extra fast) while lifting the rod tip upwards simultaneously. The combination makes a big spinner bulge water right away and run ultra shallow.

About ten cranks into the retrieve, lower the rod tip to a point where there is no rod tension on the line at all. I call this “zero rod drag”. Zero rod drag eliminates much of the wrist, hand, and arm fatigue associated with retrieving this lure for hours on end.   Master this technique and you will last a lot longer.

Back off on the speed a bit more at mid retrieve and initiate periodic quick-bursts of the reel. This keeps a following fish guessing and triggers them to strike. In fact, jumping the speed with these quick-bursts seems to trigger a lot of mid-retrieve strikes that might not otherwise occur.

The grand finale is a very aggressive figure 8 that involves a final speed burst to the boat continuing into that first figure 8 turn. The first turn (of the figure 8) should be as wide as possible. In fact, it should actually be a large outward circle. As soon as the turn is complete, the lure should be pulled up a bit shallower out in front of you so you can spot the follower (musky). If the fish is still following, back off on the speed abruptly allowing the bait to actually fall back into the fish’s face. Quite often, the strike occurs right at this moment. If not, repeat the process with a vigorous hard pull into the next turn of the figure 8. This seems to excite a big musky the more you do it.

BURNING HOT SPOT!

Muskies inhabit a wide range of areas depending upon the type of water you are fishing. One of the best patterns I’ve locked onto the past few years is “rocks, wind & waves”. I’m basically referring to rock studded points and islands (with points) that had some wind and wave action pounding into them. Shallow submerged rock reefs are also good; particularly the ones with a hazard buoy on them. This is a staple pattern on the lakes I fish during the summertime. However, steady winds and wave action are key. Any time a wind blows for a few days from the same direction, it really set muskies up on predictable rocky spots.

Most of these rocky areas are easy to recognize and decipher at first glance. Flat rock surfaces might hold a fish or two but are not nearly as consistent as broken rock areas. If the spot has projections and pronounce points with broken rock, it is even better. Add wind blowing into this spot with nice wave action and it will probably hold a musky. Once you’ve caught a fish or two of a spot, keep it in memory. It is likely to produce time after time when the conditions are right.

Once in a while a pattern is so good that it simply has to be written about, talked about, and dialed-in for future reference. This whole aspect of burning “big blades” over shallow, wind-swept rocky areas in during the heat of midsummer is sizzling hot right now. If you haven’t tried “big blades” for summer muskies, you might want to consider it on our next trip. It’s hot. Burning hot!



Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wind, Waves, & Musky Location

If you caught my TV show this past weekend, you noticed Spence Petros and me discussing wind direction and its subsequent wave action – and how to predict probable musky location via this information. It’s a fairly simple formula, and here’s basically how it works: Wind and wave action creates current. Wind induced current pushes volumes of water in one direction or another depending upon the specific wind direction at any given period of time. The result of this wind induced current are waves. The stronger the wind, the larger the waves . Of course, this is also why some shorelines are calm while others contain wild white caps.

A boat flows in a specific direction due the wind. Fishermen commonly call this a “drift”, due to two forces: 1) wind, and 2) water current. It is the wind that initiates the water current on inland lakes without a major river inflow or outflow. This wind induced current has a strong influence on fish movement and location, too.

Wind induced current (waves) moves water around structure differently depending upon its direction and velocity. Predator gamefish as well as baitfish are completely reactionary to current no matter how much or how little there is. As soon as there is current of any kind, fish like to turn and face into that current. If they are a dominant predator like the musky, they usually like to move up current along a structure until they come to the upper most front edge of the structure—where the wave action is first touching the actual spot. Some like to call this the “upwind edge” of structure. A dominant active musky will most certainly want to be in this spot. The dominant fish simply wants to be first. The more ideal the conditions, the more often various muskies suddenly appear in the same precise upwind spot.

So, what happens if the wind suddenly switches? In a nutshell, the hotspot suddenly goes completely dead. It no longer has current flow to that precise spot to attract a dominant predator fish. This same dominant fish might still hang out in the same locale, but more often it seeks out a new ambush site in accordance with the new wave pattern and its subsequent current. This seems particularly true of rock oriented muskies. They are really wind sensitive. They follow wind direction around like a compass. Always be very aware of this when you are on a good rock pattern with muskies. Wind direction and subsequent wave action usually plays a big role in musky location on rocks.

Weed related muskies react similarly to wind direction and wave action depending upon the spot. I have seen muskies suddenly turn on along the upwind side of a thick wall of weeds that was dead a few hours earlier. Usually, when the wind pounds steadily into one portion of a weed bed, whether it is in a bay, off a point, or any other type of weedy topography, a dominant active musky is apt to be positioned on the very tip of the upper most edge of it. This is also true of most other big gamefish species such as northern pike, walleyes and bass. They all basically relate to wind induced current the same way. When there’s more than one musky working a large weed bed, don’t be surprised to find the most dominant fish on the best looking spot, but lesser sized ones nearby on secondary points in the weeds or a very unique large clump of thicker weeds near an upwind edge.

However, don’t neglect to check the lee side of a weedbed; especially when it is situated off of a productive saddle between a point and an island. In real strong winds, I have seen the lee side of a thick weed saddle, or the “backside as Spence likes to call it, out produce the front side containing all the wind induced current and strong waves. Sometimes you discover a particular area on a weedbed is simply the best spot no matter what the wind is. Many spots we fish contain a specific pinpoint spot-on-the-spot that is a far better producer than the rest of the area. This may be due to better cover options, deeper water nearby or something else that you simply can’t see from the surface. This spot-on-the-spot phenomena overriding wind direction is more predominant on weedy spots than on rocks. But weed related muskies still do work this upwind pattern with a good deal of predictability so I would always check it first.

I’ll bet you’re wondering now, what happens when there’s no wind. Well, common sense pretty much explains the answer. If wind velocity creates wind induced current and subsequent wave action, which in turn, triggers a reaction from fish, no wind does just the opposite. In other words, when there is no wind, there is no reaction from the fish. There is no pattern. Musky location simply becomes far less predictable. With no current along a specific rock structure, for example, there’s no reason why a musky must position itself on one particular spot. Nothing is drawing a fish to one specific spot, so they are free to roam and feed where ever they want to. Again, there simply is no pattern when there’s no wind.

Summarily, if you are observant, you can often predict with some degree of certainty where an active musky is most apt to be on any given spot simply by looking at how waves slap into it. This is never a total slam dunk guarantee, but it actually works with amazing regularity. I learned this trick long ago as a teenage bass fisherman and later as a full time walleye guide, and it still serves me well today as a musky hunter. Always check out a good looking area thoroughly; especially if it has produced fish for you in the past. However, when rocks are the dominant substrate, it’s almost a guarantee that the active musky will be on the upwind side of the structure. Try predicting a musky’s location on your next outing by closely reading the wind direction and wave action. Wind direction dictates fish positioning on structure. It’s a simple fact.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mag Tinsel Magic!

My TV show has recently featured a lot of musky segments with “big blades” which are a nickname for the new giant twin-blade # 10 in-line spinners adorned with lots of flashy tinsel such as the new Buchertail Mag Tinsel. While these lures are likely to work in a wide variety of conditions, nothing turns on big shallow summer muskies quite like these giant gyrators. Here’s just a sampling of what I have discovered.

Summer muskies really turn on to a super fast retrieve speed with these lures. The entire concept rests on maintaining a high riding, close-to-the-surface presentation with a strong visual (eye on the spinner) at all times. This takes some physical effort as well as concentration. It also requires specialized tackle including a low- geared baitcaster and long rod. My personal favorite outfit for what my friends have come to call the “Bucher Burn” is a Abu Garcia Revo 60 Winch (reel) matched with a St. Croix Legend Tournament Split Grip Musky Rod 8’ MH.

A synchronized reel engagement that is timed precisely with the splash entry of the lure is the first trick. This is followed by an immediate “burn” (retrieving extra fast) while lifting the rod tip upwards simultaneously. The combination makes a big spinner bulge water right away and run ultra shallow.

About ten cranks into the retrieve, lower the rod tip to a point where there is no rod tension on the line at all. I call this “zero rod drag”. Zero rod drag eliminates much of the wrist, hand, and arm fatigue associated with retrieving this lure for hours on end.  Learn to do this, and you will eliminate a lot of the fatigue associated with using these lures. 

Back off on the speed a bit more at mid retrieve and initiate periodic quick-bursts of the reel. This keeps a following fish guessing and triggers them to strike. In fact, jumping the speed with these quick-bursts seems to trigger a lot of mid-retrieve strikes that might not otherwise occur.

The grand finale is a very aggressive figure 8 that involves a final speed burst to the boat continuing into that first figure 8 turn. The first turn (of the figure 8) should be as wide as possible. In fact, it should actually be a large outward circle. As soon as the turn is complete, the lure should be pulled up a bit shallower out in front of you so you can spot the follower (musky). If the fish is still following, back off on the speed abruptly allowing the bait to actually fall back into the fish’s face. Quite often, the strike occurs right at this moment. If not, repeat the process with a vigorous hard pull into the next turn of the figure 8. This seems to excite a big musky the more you do it.

The Buchertail Mag Tinsel is definitely one of the best shallow water musky lures I've used in a long time. Any of these "big blades" are sure to drain you physically, but matching up with the right rod & reel is essential. Make the investment in a Winch 60 Abu Garcia Revo and this task is surely a lot easier. Also, don't forget to initiate "zero rod drag" whenever possible. This also helps take the pressure off the hands and wrist a great deal.    The toll "big blades" take on you physically is all worth it when a big one hits.  It's funny how much less you hurt at the end of the day when you've scored on a big one anyway!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Depth Raiding!


Depth Raiding!

There were many reasons for the design of the original DepthRaider, but none as simple as wanting to get a lure down to that special depth zone few conventional musky lures reach. This depth zone is not necessarily that deep. It’s just a tad deeper than the rest of the lures go. To be specific, the 7 to 12 foot range is virtually untouched. Anything deeper than this is completely untapped. Most conventional musky anglers still don’t even attempt to run a bait thru this zone.

Whether an angler casts or trolls a crankbait like the DepthRaider over a spot strictly depends upon the situation at hand. Casting works best over depths of less than 12 feet and bottom topographies that contain a lot of trashy cover such as weeds or wood. Trolling excels in most deep water applications including bouncing clean, hard bottom areas and straining open water for suspended fish. I suggest you take the time to understand the limitations and applications of both casting and trolling crankbaits, and then make it your goal to master both techniques.

The specific technique of bottom bouncing, both in a casting and trolling application, is truly one of the best ways to improve your angling skills and learn the water more intimately. The knowledge you’ll obtain from even one single day of serious bottom bouncing is sure to pay big dividends down the road. It’s a tactic I learned at a very young age, back in the late 1960’s while following the teachings of Buck Perry, and it continues to serve me well decades later.

Bottom bouncing a crankbait places a high degree of emphasis on making the lure collide with something. It matters little whether this “something” is weeds, wood, rocks, gravel, sand, or silt until fish contact is made. Once a fish is caught off a specific type of cover or bottom substrate, more emphasis should then be placed on making your crankbait collide with that cover or bottom type as much as possible. No other big gamefish style crankbait comes close to holding up to the constant collision with rocks and other submerged debris quite like the original DepthRaider series. That’s what this bait was made to do. Here’s a few more things you need to know.


Crankin’ Tackle Matchups

My favorite tackle setup for DepthRaiding includes an extra long 7 ½ to 8 ½ foot medium heavy action baitcaster like St. Croix’s Legend Tournament Musky matched with a low-geared baitcaster like the Abu Garcia Revo Toro Winch 60 and a responsive low-stretch line such as Stren Sonic Braid of varying diameters depending upon how deep I need the crankbait to run. For shallow weed lines and stained lakes, I prefer 80 # braid. It keeps the “DR” tracking the 5 to 8 foot range. When the water is clear and more depth is needed, a reel loaded with thinner gauge 50 or 65 # is a better choice.

I like the longer rod for bombing baits a long distance, which can be a key part of this technique when you need to reach greater depth. The long rod also helps me keep big fish hooked on crankbaits that hit from long distances or great depths. But most of all, I like the longer rod for this style of fishing because it substantially lowers the pivot point from which your retrieve begins. In other words, your rod tip will be at a much lower position with a longer rod than with a short one. This adds more running depth to the lure. It also aids in performing good figure 8s with the lure at boatside. Once mastered, you might catch better than 50% of your fish this way – on the figure 8 – right at boatside.


Casting The DR

First, make a long cast in a specific direction noting where the lure lands so you can adjust your cast placement on the next pitch. Next, point your rod tip low and begin cranking hard in order to drive the lure quickly toward the bottom. Once the lure hits bottom, immediately back off on the retrieve speed. The ideal speed here is one that allows the lure to continue to tick bottom, but under a slower controlled speed. If no bottom contact is made, keep the speed “hot” – fast.

The slower controlled speed, once bottom contact is made, usually results in far less hangups than a faster one. Excessive high speed bottom bouncing tends to jam a lure in rock crevices or under logs and brush. It doesn’t allow the lure a chance to back itself out of any snag up before it’s driven hopelessly head-on into a snag. Too much speed on a bottom bouncing crankbait has the same effect as an automobile that’s driven too fast on a narrow winding road with heavily wooded surroundings. There’s simply no room for error and not enough recovery time. Understanding what “controlled speed” is a fundamental basic to good crankin’ form.

This doesn’t necessarily mean “slow”, as much as it means “controlled”. The right speed enables the angler to control the bump & rise action of the lure better as it careens off of various obstructions. Far less crevice jamming occurs as a result. This slightly slower bottom bouncing approach usually triggers more fish, as well. Perhaps excessive speeds here are simply unnecessary as a triggering mechanism when the lure is bouncing and ticking bottom. In any case, the fish definitely has more time to check the bait out when it’s traveling slowly.

However, if no bottom contact or cover collision is made, keep the speed “hot”. This means fast. A “hot” retrieve will maintain good lure depth and strain clean, open water quickly. I don’t believe it is productive, in most cases, to drop off on retrieve speed with a free running bait. The only time you should consider a drop in speed is once the lure collides with cover or bottom.


Study The “Vibe”

Always concentrate on crankbait vibration. The best crankbait fishermen I know constantly study the “vibe” of their lure as it is retrieved. A DepthRaider has a very distinct vibe, in this respect. Any time it feels like the lure has lost its “vibe”, it probably has collected a few “clinger” weeds, leaves, sticks, or some other bottom debris around the diving lip area. Simply let the bait float up a bit with a touch of slack line followed by a sharp rip forward on the rod tip. Usually this action cleans the bait and returns that true vibe.

The sharp rip, used to clean debris from the bait, also provides a great fish triggering opportunity. In fact, you’ll find that the majority of your strikes occur either when the lure is ticking bottom or when you’re ripping it to clean. A good number of strikes also seem to occur just as the DepthRaider clears bouncing bottom, and starts traveling over a deeper section of open water. Very few strikes occur when the lure is freely traveling over open water unless you are doing nothing but open water trolling for suspended fish.


Trolling DepthRaiders Is An Art Form


Trolling DepthRaiders along deep breaks is an art form as well as a science. It should never be confused with open water board trolling. The later is easy. Bottom bounce trolling is precise and demanding. It is truly one of the top techniques in all of fishing because it is so effective at covering depths as well as teaching the angler about the lake’s topography.

Few other methods can rival motor trolling with DepthRaiders. It’s the best way I know to cover lots of deep water quickly and efficiently. Plainly put, if you want to really learn water as well as fish at depths beneath the level of the norm, then take the time to master bottom bounce trolling. It’s a truly awesome technique and it finds the big fish not catchable with a casting technique. When big fish are below the casting range, 12 feet and deeper, trolling DepthRaiders is the way to go.

While your favorite casting outfit will suffice as a trolling setup, The ultimate rod & reel matchup for bottom bounce trolling is an extra long rod of at least 8 feet in length, coupled with a metered line-counter reel like the Abu Garcia LC6500 series. Line distance from rod tip to crankbait can greatly influence running depth. With a metered line-counter reel you can easily make adjustments on your reel to hit precise depths. As you feed line out in 5 to 10 foot increments, watch your rod tip respond. As soon as the crankbait starts to tick bottom note the number on your line-counter. Anytime a fish hits make it a priority to look first at the LC #. This makes it easy to get that lure right back to precisely the right depth again.

Anyone who’s spent anytime trolling like this knows it takes a great deal of concentration. You not only need to worry about precision boat control, but you also need to be in constant study of your lure. While trolling open water admittedly can be monotonous, bottom bouncing is never boring. It simply takes too much concentration and effort. Working the boat correctly is only one part of the equation. Making sure your lure is performing properly at all times is yet another. This is precision trolling in every sense. A fish catching system that began with the legendary Buck Perry, yet is only practiced by a select few today. If you truly want to learn more about the underwater topography in your favorite lakes, plus catch more big fish from deep water, take the time to master deep bottom bouncing. It’s one deadly way to catch some of the biggest fish that swim in any lake, river or reservoir system.

Friday, January 15, 2010



HOMEWORK = RESULTS

I still see hundreds of anglers spend precious vacation time fishing on waters that truthfully have almost no big fish potential. More often than not, these anglers have some traditional connection to such lesser waters from past family experiences. Or they like the accommodations and the vacation area so much that they forego the lake’s trophy potential in favor of other factors. I can understand these reasons, but it still amazes me how many of these same anglers then are disappointed with their results.

I’m not suggesting that these lakes aren’t productive for muskies. However, being “productive” in terms of numbers and action, is a far cry from being “productive” in terms of bigger trophy class fish. Not all lakes are created equal. While your favorite lake might indeed produce tremendous numbers of muskies each season, if it doesn’t kick out 48 to 50 inch class fish with regularity, then it is safe to say that those fish simply do not exist in any kind of fishable numbers on that lake. Period.

A few hours spent on the internet is apt to reveal all kinds of information about your target lake that would have taken months or even years to accumulate in the past. Furthermore, you might even be able to correspond with other anglers about this lake or even get on some kind of a blog or topnotch website like Lake-Link.com where constant information flows to you about your favorite trophy waters.

Modern GPS integrated with sonar now makes it relatively simple for any newcomer to get onto far reaching hotspots within no time. It also makes it far easier than it was 20 years ago to get around safely on very large remote lakes with lots of hazardous obstacles such as submerged rock reefs. Heck, today’s angler even has a detailed topo map on his GPS screen that constantly corresponds with his exact boat position tracking the precise travel route. Many of the best spots already have a GPS waypoint marked. Even if it isn't marked, once you find a hotspot, a simple push of a button locks in a precise waypoint along with the route you took to get there. Wow. Wish I had that 20 years ago.

The plan of doing some homework before you hit the water is still just as valid today as it was 25 years ago. Except now information is far more readily available, and technology has made it far easier to find these hotspots. From musky specific internet sites to Musky Hunter Magazine, and even specialized musky sport shows – today’s musky angler has everything he/she needs to plan a trip and get the necessary gear needed. The old adage of "the harder you work, the luckier you get" is never more true than in the world of the musky hunter. In fact, it could be reworded to say "the more homework you do, the more fish you will catch".