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Written by TV Ontario   
Sunday, 01 September 1996
Article Index
Fish-On! - 12 - Muskellunge
The Fish - Size, Shape and Color
The Fish - Muskie vs Pike
The Fish - Predator and Prey
Habitat - Distribution
The Fish - Lake Environments
Habitat - River Environments
Seasonal Changes - Life Cycle
Seasonal Changes - Movements
Equipment - Trolling
Equipment - Casting
Technique - Reading the Water
Technique - Reading Water - Eutrophic
Technique - Reading Water - Mesotrophic
Technique - Reading Water - Rivers
Technique - Trolling
Technique - Casting
Special Treatment for a Special Fish




One of the positive aspects about trolling is that you don't need really expensive equipment. A short five-and-a-half- or six-foot trolling rod with plenty of backbone is all that's required. You don't need the sensitivity of graphite in a muskie trolling rod so a medium-quality fiberglass rod will do. Any quality trolling reel with a good drag system is just fine. I use a six-foot Zebco Costera boat rod and a Penn 209 trolling reel.

Lines and leaders There is always a lot of controversy when muskie fishermen discuss what kind of line should be used. Some feel that monofilament is superior because it is less visible while others believe that the low-stretch qualities of Dacron result in superior hook set. Regardless of your preference, make sure you buy premium-grade line. Line test is also often debated, but for trolling I prefer line in the 30- to 45-pound-test class. Some people remark that such heavy lines are not sporting, however, I prefer to use them because it allows me to horse smaller fish quickly to the boat in order to release them in the best possible condition. A muskie caught on light line and played until exhausted stands little chance of survival.

When fishing muskies I always use leader and I always make my own. here are several quality leader materials available. Many anglers use plastic-coated braided wire and attach snaps and swivels by crimping metal sleeves over the leader material. I prefer single strand stainless steel wire and simply fasten the snaps and swivels by twisting the wire. When making leaders for trolling, I make them three to five feet long because long leaders prevent wear and tear on my line when I happen to bounce my lures off rocky structures. I usually use leaders testing from 50 to 80 pounds. If the leader gets a kink or gets twisted I cut off the snap and swivel to reuse. Whatever you do, don't go cheap on your terminal tackle. It could cost you the fish of a lifetime.


Big lures catch big fish! One of the prime advantages of trolling is that it makes the presentation of big lures simple. There are dozens of lures in hundreds of colors available commercially. At one time or another they will all catch fish. Most lures are designed to run at a specific depth so you should get a small variety of lures to cover various depths.

There are basically two kinds of lures that will cover most of your rolling needs: bucktails and plugs. Equally as effective cast or trolled, bucktails are probably the most popular of muskie baits. They usually consist of some type of wire shaft with a large spinner and one or more treble hooks covered with bucktail.

There are basically two styles of bucktails: the straight shaft like the Mepps Musky Killer or Marathon Big Slim, and the safety pin style (much like a spinnerbait) like the Lindy Tandem or Fudally Stump Hawg. Other than shape, the main difference is that the safety pin style is slightly more weedless and usually runs a little shallower. Bucktail baits are excellent trolling baits during the warm summer months, especially when trolling eutrophic lakes or weedy sections of meso lakes.

More muskies have been caught on black bucktails than on any other lure. That's probably because more fishermen use them than any other lure. But there could be another reason -- color. Black does seem to work well. I like black bucktails with silver or fluorescent orange blades and yellow bucktails with silver or chartreuse blades. Even though color is often more important to the fishermen than the fish, find a color you have confidence in and you will catch fish with it.

Although bucktails are good trolling baits, most anglers use plugs when trolling. They are usually plastic or wooden lures that are supposed to imitate baitfish. Some of the most popular plugs are Swim Whiz, Believers, Ciscoe Kids, Bagley Bang-O-Bs, Lindy Giant Shads, Leviathans, and the old stand-by, Pikie Minnows, if you can find them. When it comes to size, buy the largest available as most manufacturers don't make a lure that's too large for a muskie. Many of the top muskie anglers I know are using homemade lures that are twice the size of the commercially made lures and are catching lots of fish on them.

When choosing colors, blacks, whites, red/white combinations, and blue/silver combinations work well in deep clear waters where ciscoes are the primary forage. Perch and sucker imitations, yellows, greens, and blacks all work well in waters where walleye are the prime forage. In extremely dark waters, plugs with fluorescent orange or chartreuse bellies seem very effective. Once again don't get too concerned with color; fish a color in which you have confidence.

Rod holders

One other piece of equipment I recommend when trolling is a rod holder. There are several commercially made rod holders available. When using heavy trolling equipment and large lures, rod holders take the strain off your arm and shoulders. While you lose the opportunity to feel the strike, the use of rod holders means the forward motion of the boat will set the hook. In four years of using rod holders I have not lost a single fish while trolling. While I may have been lucky in several instances, I know that rod holders greatly improve my trolling efficiency.

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