20 Ways to Catch More Muskies in 2020
When you think of the year 2020, it certainly sounds like we're finally entering what previous decades thought of as "the future". Sadly, those who envisioned that 2020 would be filled with casual space travel, flying cars and robot butlers might feel horribly disappointed by my error ridden Roomba and lack of a daily use rocket pack.
Despite our inability to vacation on the moon, there are many mind-boggling advances being made on the water that will not disappoint. From otherworldly advancements in fishing electronics, to lures that seem to defy the very laws of physics, the world of musky fishing has advanced so quickly is such a short time that anglers past might think that centuries had gone by not merely decades. With so many exciting advancements and refinements in the modern day muskyverse, lets narrow down the best modern lures, technology and techniques that will help you catch more muskies in 2020.
# 1 Advanced Imaging
Undoubtedly having a more in-depth image of the muskies' world is a huge advantage. The ability to identify structure and cover types, bait schools, and identify species is an extremely powerful tool, but being able to see suspended muskies on side scan is when things start to get exciting. Suspended muskies can easily be identified as large black silhouettes adjacent to your boat. Things escalate even further under the cover of darkness when an approaching muskie can be seen leveling the field between hunter and prey prior to those after dusk figure eights.
# 2 Replicating Nature
Designing and painting lures is an art-form in which nature is typically emulated but the interpretation can often fall short of the real thing. Trying to "match the hatch" at times can be tricky as most "natural patterns" still have touches of artistic flair that take them ever so slightly bump them out of the realm of believable. Modern advances in 3D imaging and scanning have finally given anglers the edge in matching a muskies natural prey in amazing detail. When muskies get finicky and are less than murderous, try going natural with some these new scanned and printed finishes.
# 3 Hand Made for the Masses
Joe Bucher and JBO products are bringing a handmade favorite back to life with modern technology and a bit of a twist. In previous incarnations, the blades for the Willow Tin Buck were far too difficult to mass produce, forcing each blade to be hand hammered and formed to get that pronounced muskie catching thwump. That thwump came with a price tag because of its handmade hitch. With precise advancement in the configuration of die and stamping tools JBO has been able to replicate the signature sound and feel of that boutique blade but without the boutique price tag. The addition of flash tinsel to the hand tied bucktail skirt only helps to elevate the appeal of this now modern classic back for 2020.
# 4 Get a Grip
Unlike our bass fishing brethren, musky anglers are somewhat slow to adapt, but with the launch of a new series of Musky Mojo rods, we're finally turning the corner in technology.
Advancements in rod blanks, reel seats, and eyes abound but are quickly overshadowed by the addition of Winn grip to the handle. This grip has been common in quality bass rods for quite some time, but this is a new addition to the musky game. Those willing to embrace the change can expect to have better response and control of their rod and experience less hand fatigue and have a better grip when conditions get wet.
# 5 Hold it Hold it Hold it
I am rarely an early adopter of new technology as I find that those that live on the cutting edge often end up bleeding money. With this in mind, I was hesitant to switch to a remote steering trolling motor until somewhat recently; opting to wait out all the early bugs and missteps of introductory models. As expected, time has allowed this groundbreaking tech to work out most of its gremlins and it is now an undeniably convenient tool. The GPS spot lock feature of remote steering motors is untouchable for allowing musky anglers the ability to cast windblown reefs and rocks. If you have not made the switch to a modern trolling motor, 2020 is your year. What was once new tech is now the trusted standard.
# 6 X Marks the Spot : ANGLR Bullseye
As a professional musky fishing guide, I can tell you that my hands are never idle on a musky trip. Usually within an hour of leaving the dock, my boat is a mess, two of three clients have had a bird's nest, and the rear deck is littered with coffee cups, clothing, and lures. The inconvenience of the tightrope walk it takes to mark a fish or something of interest on my main sonar unit has finally been remedied by The ANGLR Bullseye. This unit allows me to accurately mark interesting features without having to brave the client casting gauntlet of forced facial piercings. With the Bullseye clipped to my hat, I can mark cover, structure and muskies without breaking my fishing mojo. A singular click of the Bullseye eliminates the previous hassle of marking spots on my sonar unit.
#7 Get to the Point
The importance of hook sharpening can never be overstated when it comes to musky fishing.
Nothing stings quite like missing a musky because you're dull, pun intended. There are many hook sharpeners are on the market, but none are dialed in for musky hooks like the Joe Bucher Outdoors premium hook file. With a sharpening surface that is intended to be used on larger hooks this file can take the frustration and guess work out of getting your hooks on point.
#8 Dance a Jig
Vertical jigging for muskies has only recently become a mainstream tactic but early adopters can attest to the effectiveness of this presentation style. Getting vertical for muskies is in theory as simple as jigging for walleyes or perch though it definitely requires some beefed-up tackle.
Vertical jigs like the Hell Hound are made of hard plastic and can take the abuse of repeated strikes. When the bite starts to slow during midday or cold fronts, get yourself positioned over some break-lines and start dancing a jig.
#9 Suspended Animation
Designing suspending musky lures is tricky business and getting the weight balanced perfectly on such a large lure can be a struggle. The Suspending Depth Raider is the bar at which all other suspending lures are measured. Meticulously designed and weighted, this lure can suspend indefinitely, enticing strikes from even the most negative or neutral muskies. The recipe for these lures is dialed in and consistent due to an advanced weighting design process. A deadly addition to your musky fishing arsenal.
#10 Tick Tick Tick Knocking on the Door
With the price of your average musky lure being around thirty dollars, the thought of intentionally jamming them into rocks is an uncomfortable proposition. So, when the bite is slow and muskies are holding tight to structure, ticking and clicking can be just what the doctor ordered. Ticking and clicking is easily accomplished by casting deep running crank baits over shallow structure and forcing the lure to make continued contact with rocks and wood. Paying attention to the way the lure feels against the cover can help prevent snags. With a little practice, dialing in on ticking and clicking is the best way to take the bait to the fish and forcing reactionary strikes.
# 11 Eagle Eye
Sonar, maps, and imaging are absolutely amazing, but they just don't give you the entire picture of vegetation and reef structures. While filming for a television show recently the advantage of an aerial view became abundantly clear. With the aid of an aerial drone, the layout, edges, and pockets of weed beds where easily seen allowing for the construction of a concise plan of attack, aimed at the most likely muskie haunts. Reefs where easily seen in a clear top down manner and exploiting the high points were made much easier. Finding this birds eye view doesn't take a big TV budget as drones have flooded the market and come in every price range. The information they can provide in real time about the current layout of vegetation can't be found from any other source.
#12 Not Your Grandpas Suick
Suick Thrillers are one of the earliest muskie fishing baits and little about their design or natural cedar wood construction has changed. This traditional construction has an endearing quality that gives each wooden bait its own personality. This personality has made the learning curve for using Suicks somewhat steeper than other musky lures, putting it out of reach for the uninitiated. Suick however has finally leveled the playing field by releasing the Suick HI Impact. This plastic version of this fabled musky catcher eliminates the need to fine tune each lure and finally makes a Suick Thriller a bait that is ready to go straight out of the package.
#13 Something Sounds Fishy
Livingston Lures with EBS Sound Technology are pioneering new ways of generating strikes.
Each lure emits bait fish sounds that have been expertly recorded via hydrophone. Not only does the lure look and act the part it now sounds it. On the water testing has proven its effectiveness and can be just the push that a less than ravenous musky may need to seal the deal.
#14 Deeper with Dipsy
Downsizing for muskies during cold fronts is nothing new but getting downsized baits to the deeper water can be quite challenging. This age-old conundrum of getting small baits deep is easily solved with the aid of a Dipsy Diver. Small musky lures like the JB Rattler can easily be trolled down to 10, 15 and even 20 feet without the need for extreme amounts of line out. The use of a Dipsy allows for maximum boat control while getting these mini musky catchers down where they need to be.
#15 Beaver Anyone?
Musky fishing is steeped in tradition and the nuts and bolts of the sport has changed very little over the years. So, it is rare that a truly new style of lure is introduced but the folks at Beavers Baits are looking to shake things up. These funky and obliviously hairy baits have been around for a couple years now and it looks like they are here to stay as their muskie catching abilities can't be denied. The Beaver Bait is a great addition to your musky lure and lore collection as it is a great presentation on pressured fish that are looking for something a little different.
I am 100% guilty of fiddling with baits nonstop, always looking to get that perfect action or running depth. Modifications can be made to musky lures in many ways, but the easiest mod can be re-weighting your baits with self-adhesive lead dots and strips. At times the difference between a multi-muskie day is the rate at which a bait rises to the surface or wobbles down to vegetation, so playing with ways to augment this performance is worth the extra effort. Grab some lead stick-ons and start dialing in your presentations for the 2020 muskie season.
#17 Go North this Summer
Musky fishing in Canada is a rite of passage for anyone that considers themselves a serious musky angler, and the Canadian Shield Lakes, Lake of the Woods, Eagle and Lac Seul are the places to go. If you have been dreaming of going to Canada to pursue muskies 2020 is the year.
With the help of decades of conservation and catch and release, Canadian muskie populations are thriving. Modern mapping technology now has taken some of the danger out of navigating these glacial rock ridden bodies of water. Lodges like Crow Rock Lodge on Lake of the Woods offer not only a wonderful muskie fishing location, but also provide Chef prepared breakfast, lunch and dinners for hungry anglers. Legendary anglers like Joe Bucher have taken the mystery out pursuing these Canada giants with numerous TV episodes featuring the skills and techniques that you need to succeed.
#18 Go South this Winter
Many musky anglers believe that when the season closes in Wisconsin and Minnesota, the fat lady has sung. While many fight the winter blues, a few soldier on and get geared up for Southern encore. Tennessee offers a fantastic musky fishery and opportunities during the winter months to snag your dream lunker. As a guide on these Southern waters, I can assure trepidatious anglers that January and February have been some of my most absolutely explosive months. During these times of year, female muskies are putting on egg weight ahead of the impending spawn. While we may not have the numbers here in the South, we definitely have the size as we rarely encounter muskies that are below trophy class. Musky fishing in Tennessee is one of the final frontiers in our sport as it is the most southern edge of the muskies' habitat range.
#19 Crank It Up
With the popularity of big blades and rubber baits in musky fishing, crankbaits have seemingly become an afterthought for the majority of musky anglers. But there should be zero doubt in their continued effectiveness. Crankbaits have always been a staple for mega muskies and with the fanatical usage of big rubber and other high-end baits, savvy anglers are once again turning to crankbaits to put muskies in the net on heavily pressured waterways. As with all things fishing, anglers are susceptible to fads and trends making 2020 the year to get cranking for trophy muskies.
#20 Keep it Real
Here we are in the year 2020 and for the first time in human history, we have the entirety of the world's knowledge in the palm of our hands. It's undeniable the effect that technology, social media, YouTube and other forms of online interactivity have had on all facets of life. While the advantages of modern technology greatly outweigh the negative, it should be noted that the immediacy of our modern world can have side effects. While flipping through photos and watching an endless stream of videos can be entertaining, I encourage you to ask yourself what have you learned about fishing from looking at these forms of media in the past year?
What tactics and techniques did you learn or was it just mere entertainment with little to know on the water value?
With this question in mind I encourage each and every one of you to spend more time in 2020 on resources like Anglr and Musky 360 that are focused on helping you acquire new and useful skills; the skills that will actually help you catch more muskies. The skills a musky angler can learn from reading and doing detail-oriented research are the most valuable tools they will ever obtain. So make 2020 the year you focus on resources that are truly data focused, so the next time you hit the water you know you are bringing with you those newly acquired concepts and methods to help you become a more successful angler.
Professional Musky Guide / State Record Angler