Field and Stream - - THE MIXED-BAG CHEAT SHEET - —M.M.

Vir­tu­ally ev­ery school of fish­ing will pound the word struc­ture into your head. Fish love struc­ture. This is thought to be es­pe­cially true for the muskel­lunge. Any muskie an­gler knows that the fish love to hunt in the cab­bage. But one of the most over­looked, and highly ef­fec­tive, pat­terns for catch­ing fall muskies is tar­get­ing them in open wa­ter. Some muskies will spend their en­tire lives in the basin, never ven­tur­ing into the shal­lows, and these fish tend to be true giants. The key fac­tor is, of course, food. Where a wide va­ri­ety of bait­fish in­clud­ing her­ring, shad, crap­pies, perch, cis­coes, and white­fish are schooled up in open wa­ter al­most any time of the year, you’ll find muskies by find­ing the bait.

Go­ing af­ter open-wa­ter muskies is best done with baits that can pen­e­trate deeper into the wa­ter col­umn. It’s hard to beat a large hunk of rub­ber like a Musky In­no­va­tions Pounder Bull­dawg or Chaos Tackle Me­dussa. These heavy lures are meant to be thrown on 80- to 100-pound braided line and XXH rods. You’ll also want to use a qual­ity, 135-pound flu­oro muskie leader.

Find­ing bait schools shouldn’t be dif­fi­cult with qual­ity elec­tron­ics. (A side scan­ner can go a long way but isn’t en­tirely nec­es­sary.) Fo­cus on ar­eas that have lower wa­ter temps in the warmer months and higher wa­ter temps in the cooler months. A sus­tained steady breeze can also push food par­ti­cles and bait to the down­wind side of the lake. Pro­ceed to cast over and through these bait schools. Be per­sis­tent and be pa­tient. This is, af­ter all, muskie fish­ing.

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