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Musky Fishing With Live Bait
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Musky fishing in Wisconsin

Musky fishing in Wisconsin

This article was writen by a Wisconsin fishing guide. I thought it had some good fishing tips for fishing Musky.
Fishing With Live Bait For Muskies in Wisconsin
I've used this technique for musky as well as pike, bass and walleye in the spring.
Everyone knows that sucker fishing for musky can be explosive in the fall, but how many of you are fishing with live bait in the spring?
Let's face it, no matter which way you slice it, the musky remains a difficult species to capture, as anyone who's spent any amount of time pursuing this elusive fish can attest to. Don't get me wrong, musky fishing can be one of the most exciting aspects of angling you will ever experience or it can be like watching paint dry. One of the most consistent patterns I've found over the years that's helped make my musky experience a more enjoyable one is the use of live bait in the spring. When most musky anglers think of fishing with live bait, the crisp fall air and visual spectacle of changing leaves usually comes to mind, but if you're only running suckers in October and November you may be missing your opportunity at one of the biggest fish in the lake.
Spring
In Southern Wisconsin where I guide, opening day is the first Saturday in May and anglers can usually expect to be greeted with water temps in the low-high 50s. Contrary to popular belief, the muskies are extremely active at this time and readily accessible in shallow water. Early in the season I prefer to target shallow, stained water lakes that have a tendency to warm up faster, which in turn will accelerate weed growth as well as the muskies metabolism. Not to say that the deep clear lakes won't produce early on, its just that I've had much better luck fishing with live bait on stained lakes in the spring.
In the spring I prefer to use suckers in the 8-10" range rigged on custom Quick Strike rigs. A quick strike rig allows you to set the hook as soon as the musky grabs the sucker and is swimming away from you (unlike the old days when you'd wait 45 minutes for the musky to swallow the sucker, gut hooking the fish, that if released would later die). Almost all musky anglers these days are using some sort of quick strike rig so you shouldn't have a problem finding one to suit your needs.
Many of the rigs you find will utilize either a medium-large snout hook with 1 or 2 treble hooks, or will be a rubber band style rig. The latter rig requires you to thread a small rubber band through the sucker's nostril with a bait needle. The RB is then attached to the leader clasp as well as 1-2 rigs, which will vary in length. The snout hook style rigs never appealed to me because I've always found the front hook to be too large, so last spring I decided to start tying my own snout hook rigs. The problem I've had in the past with the rubber band rigs is that the space in between the suckers mouth and nostril acts like a lip on a crankbait, promoting the sucker to dive and roll at higher speeds (.75-1.0 mph) mph). Since the snout hook rig is attached directly through the lip it allows you to pull the sucker through the water at a much higher rate of speed and presents the bait more naturally at any speed.
To tie up your own rig, start with a 16-24" piece of 94 LB seven strand leader material. First, crimp a #1-3 treble hook on one end. Next, slide on a sleeve and than a #7 octopus. Determine how far you want the snout hook from the treble hook and then crimp it in place so the snout hook won't move upon hookset. For a 10-12" sucker I will generally leave 6-8" in between the snout hook and treble hook. Next I slide on another sleeve and than ½-2ozs of bullet weights. Crimp the weights about 6-8" from the snout hook. Now you can either crimp on a 100 LB+ ball bearing swivel and be done, or add some sort of spinner to the rig and then the barrel swivel. The barrel swivel is what you tie your line to, so make sure the ones you buy have the metal loops on either end.This past fall I experimented with the same type of rig except I used 120lb flourocarbon. Instead of crimping the flouro I tied it with a "UNI knot" 3 wraps will due the trick. Since the flouro is a lot thicker than 7-strand the octopus hooks are too small. I substitute the octupus hook with a small 1/0 treble hook and snip off 2 of the shanks. The treble hook has a larger hole to accommodate the flouro. I use the same type of sleeves to crimp the snout hook in place, but if you squeeze it to tight it will comprise the flouro... The eyelet on the snipped treble is larger than the sleeve so I usually put a bead in between the crimp and hook to prevent any failures upon hookset. You can also squeeze the eyelet on the small treble so it won't slip through the sleeve if you don't have any beads available.
The most important and probably least understood aspect of sucker fishing with QS rigs is when and how to set the hook. As a general rule of thumb, I don't wait any longer than 1 minute after the musky grabs the sucker to set the hook- Longer than a minute and your running the risk of gut hooking the fish. Now, after a musky grabs your sucker, immediately reel in any other lines and get ready to chase the fish down if it makes a long run. Ideally, you want to be within 10 feet of the musky before you set the hook. Applying a small amount of pressure to the line followed by immediate slack will usually get the fish swimming in the opposite direction. Once the musky is swimming away from you, load up the rod tip and snap (not pull) the rod as hard as you can in an upward motion. Even the slightest amount of slack in the line will give a musky the chance to throw the hooks, so keep your rod tip low and don't stop reeling until the fish is in the net. It takes time too.
In the spring I generally run 2 suckers back on large slip bobbers and 1 sucker right next to the boat. The boatside sucker is set 1-3 feet under the surface and plays a vital role in picking up fish that swim directly under the boat. It will also help to convert any skittish musky that follow-up and don't hit your lure on the figure 8. The 2 bobber suckers are set just above the shallowest weed tops and placed 15 and 30 feet behind the boat. As a general rule of thumb, I don't set the suckers any closer than 2 feet from the bobber.
Shallow weed/sand flats that gradually drop off into deep water, weedy bays and even expansive areas of pencil reeds will hold a majority of the fish early on. Locating above average water temps, a dark or silt bottom, newly emerging weeds and concentrations of baitfish within these spots will usually mean the difference between success and failure. Early in the season I like to start fishing in 3-5 FOW (feet of water) and gradually move deeper as the shallower weeds develop and become unfishable. Moving your boat in wide "S" patterns with the trolling motor over the top of newly emerging weeds, rather than along the edge will greatly improve your odds of hooking up. If you're fishing bigger lakes in the spring and would like to narrow down your perimeter slightly, wind blown shorelines with newly emerging weeds are a great place to start and where you will often find the warmer temps in the lake, not to mention feeding muskies.
Of course, not every musky in the lake will be utilizing shallow water at this time. On sunny days when there's little to no wind, some of the fish will actually suspend shallow over deep water, 1-2 cast lengths off the first drop-off to soak up the warmth of the sun. Deep water adjacent to any shallow bays/flats that are holding concentrations of baitfish are excellent places to start looking for suspended fish. Even if there aren't any baitfish present over deep water, that doesn't mean that there won't be fish there. I wouldn't exactly say that this pattern is underutilized, but most often anglers are fishing their suckers/lures to deep when in fact most of the fish will be suspended less than 5 feet down. In this scenario I'll set one bobber-sucker 5 feet down and the other no deeper than 10 feet down, 20 and 40 feet behind the boat. Since most of your artificial presentations will be shallow, the boatside sucker remains 1-5 feet down. Again, moving the boat in wide "S" patterns will help you to cover more water and contact a greater number of fish.
By early-mid June the weeds are almost fully developed on the stained lakes in my area and most of the fish will be hanging on the edge in 10-12 FOW. This is when the traditional approach to weedline fishing will usually be your best option, and also when most anglers hang up there sucker rods. Although I generally catch more fish on artificial lures at this time, I still continue to also fish with suckers until water temps reach a consistent 70 degrees, or they start going belly up. By the beginning of July a majority of the musky will have moved out over open water to feed on suspended baitfish, which, for me, signifies the start of summer.
Early May can be one of the most frustrating times to pursue musky, but I guarantee that if you implement the use of live bait into your routine this spring you will catch more and bigger fish no matter where you fish!
Ben Kueng's Guide Service
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Ben_Kueng
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