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  • Writer's pictureSteven Paul

Pre-Spawn Muskies

Updated: Apr 20

Pre-Spawn Musky Tactics


While Wisconsin, Minnesota and Canada maintain a closed season for muskies many states are wide open for musky angling year-round. My home state of Tennessee defiantly falls into this category and is an excellent option if you’re looking to tangle with a giant pre-spawn musky. While the musky action in the South is relatively good year-round the weeks leading up to the spawn can be explosive. But keep in mind targeting genuinely mammoth muskies during this time frame constitutes a trade off between size and action. But if you are a true trophy hunter the grind can pay off in larger-than-life ways. Let’s look at some general parameters to get dialed in on pre spawn muskies.

If you want to score a pre spawn giant you need to first know where and when the spawn will take place. Muskies tend to move towards and stage on the outskirts of the spawning areas for some duration before the spawn actually takes place. Keep in mind muskies typically spawn in very shallow areas over old vegetation, sand or mud flats. Think of shallow areas that would be weed beds in the summer. Generally, the most productive areas are shallow and receive more sun light and are subsequently warmer.

Once you have a general idea regarding where muskies on a body of water spawn the question of timing comes into play. The rule of thumb for water temps and musky spawning is generally 55 degrees, but keep in mind this can vary wildly. Geographical location, photo-period, water clarity and frontal movements can all dramatically influence when the musky spawn will take place. Each and everybody of water will vary. Knowing when the spawn will take place is a matter of compiling your own on the water observations.

While I wish I could pinpoint the where and when of the musky spawn for you in a more exacting manner it is simply impossible. However, if you set a keen eye on the context clues of any given body of water the puzzle of the musky spawn will quickly unravel. With this in mind lets move to the tactical elements of targeting giant pre-spawn muskies.

While the musky spawn takes place in the shallows it should be noted trophy class fish spend the majority of their time deep. Keep in mind deep is a relative term and should be applied judiciously to any given lake or river. With this is mind the first way to dial in on a giant pre-spawn musky is to identify the spawning areas but just as importantly identify the nearest deep water. This might be a sheer drop off, a deeper hole or some structural element mere feet or even hundreds of yards away. Regardless of the distance or composition of the deeper water adjacent to a spawning area big muskies will be there in the weeks and days leading up to the spawn.

It should be noted that the presence of large forage is not a prerequisite. Muskies that are on the verge of spawning are generally in maintenance mode from a caloric standpoint so large forage like walleyes and suckers may not be on the menu. The presence of small forage such as sunfish, crappie or chubs seems more imperative than the afore mentioned heavier prey. The shift from larger prey to snacks happens seemingly three to four weeks before the spawn from my observations.

With this shift in prey size taking place each year many anglers quickly jump to smaller presentations which is a great option if you are looking for action. But as mentioned before if size is on your mind action shouldn’t be a consideration in this scenario. The reason for this gap in action and size is the prey size conundrum, an eight-inch crappie is a mere snack to a fifty-inch muskie where it might be too much for lesser sized muskies during this unique pre-spawn window. With this in mind I tend to use lures that would be considered mid-sized during the majority of the year. Eight-to-ten-inch presentations seem to generate the best results.


While water depths and temperatures will dictate running depth and speed of your presentations, I would recommend your focus be on erratic action with a short advance. Lures such as glide baits and rubber presentations are spot on and should be used as erratically as possible. In this pre-spawn scenario, I am always looking for lures that do as much as possible while moving forward as little as possible as these pre-spawn giants are generally lethargic.

Extended hang time and lures with great dead stick action are the key for generating strikes.

While the where, when and what lure to use are all dictated by the specific body of water that you are fishing one thing seems universal and that is casting saturation. Pre-spawn muskies are in maintenance mode and will use as little energy as possible. Once you have found where these pre-spawn monster are located it becomes a matter of landing a cast just mere feet from one. Don’t hesitate to cast to the same areas repeatedly throughout the day.

While each body of water will vary greatly keep in mind that this is best time to get a lure in front of the biggest fish each year. Do your homework on where muskies spawn followed by locating deeper staging areas. Couple this with lure selection that fits with conditions and depths and you are closer than ever to netting a true monster musky.


Steven Paul


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