man holding musky

Find That bite! | 6 Musky Fishing Tips For Hookup Glory

on . Posted in Blog, Fishing

Musky fishing is one of the most challenging forms of freshwater fishing there is. Musky are apex predators with a very low-density population in most cases.

Musky (“muskie”, or “muskellunge” as they are also referred to) are more likely to follow your lure to the boat, inspecting it instead of attempting to eat it.

man holding a large musky

Musky can be difficult to catch, but if you put in the time following some basic tips, you can increase your chances of a big payoff!

There are times when a musky angler could spend days without contacting a musky and possibly weeks between catching them. But, using certain tips and tactics coupled with experience gained on the water, you can drastically increase your catch rates of this elusive predator.

Let’s take a look at some of the most important tactics to catch muskies.

Find the Food, Find the Fish

You cant catch a musky if you aren’t throwing your lures in areas where muskies are present.

Being a good musky angler means that you have great knowledge of the locations and habits of all other species such as panfish, walleyes, pike, and others.

bluegill fish

Locating the panfish (like bluegill) is a great way to determine where muskies might be feeding. (photo credit: Ohio DNR)

You need to know the patterns and movements of prey species to best determine where muskies might be.

A good way to determine where a musky food source might be congregating is to pay attention to panfish anglers. Because panfish anglers will often congregate in areas where panfish are in abundance, this can be a good areas to consider locating musky as well that might be feeding on panfish like crappie, perch and bluegill.


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Using the visible clue of other anglers, you can also then see what structure is in that immediate area on your GPS/sonar unit or map, and start probing the deep water while respecting the space of the other fishermen in the area.




Find the “Spots on the Spot”

It’s important to cover a large amount of area on the water to find actively hunting and feeding muskies, but it is also important to find the small precise locations commonly used by a musky to ambush prey.

While a weed line that ends with a steep drop-off is perfect musky hunting grounds, on many lakes they can be hundreds of yards if not miles long.

Within these long drop-offs or weed lines, there will be spots that consistently hold muskies, and these spots may be several yards in size down to the size of a vehicle.

man holding a large muskie

Musky fishing often requires an angler to cover large amounts of area on the water to locate fish that are actively feeding. How to efficiently do this is key…


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Points, inside and outside corners, sections of the drop-off that are significantly steeper than the rest of the drop-off; these spots will hold musky on a regular basis, because they are perfect ambush points for large predatory fish.

Once you find several of these small precise locations on the overall spot, you can skip fishing countless yards of structure and focus on fishing them with pinpoint precision and purpose.

Other key spots can be mid-lake structure such as humps, ridges, spines, saddles, or even areas in the open water basin.



Figure-8 Discipline

neon sign of number eight

When it comes to tips for musky fishing, it’s hard to think of a number that’s more important than the number 8…

Lack of figure-8 discipline is probably responsible for more lost fish for beginning anglers than anything else.

You need to focus on doing a proper figure-8 at the end of every single cast. Even if the water clarity is incredibly high and you don’t see a musky following your lure, you should still do it every time.

Muskies can follow far below and behind the bait, and you might not see them, or they could have followed up on a previous cast and are lurking beneath the boat, watching your lures approach again and again. Many seasoned musky anglers will attest to catching a musky boat side on a figure-8 while having zero clues that the fish was ever there.



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How to “figure 8” for musky

When you do attempt to figure-8 a musky that is following your lure, you should do it with large sweeping “curves,” and when the bait crosses the center of the invisible 8 you should plunge it deeper in the water, and bring it near the surface on the outside of the curves while increasing your speed.



You can also mix it up by doing big circles instead of figure-8’s and adding pauses or bursts of speed to entice a violent reaction.

Too many times we have witnessed a new musky angler making figure-8s on an active musky that are so small that the musky can’t follow or chase the lure.


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Don’t Leave Fish to Find Fish

Another common mistake of the beginning angler is leaving fish to find fish.

Many beginners, when fishing a large area and contacting fish in the form of missed strikes of follow-ups, but not successfully catching any, will leave the area in search of a fish that will strike.

man holding a musky

Whether you are catching them yet or not, don’t leave an area where you know muskies are to search for them elsewhere.

In many cases, this is the wrong move, and anglers should stay in the area and fish it in an attempt to trigger one of these active or semi-active fish to strike.

If you do leave, you need to return to the area throughout the day to see if the activity has increased, and especially during moonrise, moonset, majors, minors, and any changes in weather.

 It is not uncommon to have the same musky show themselves to you 4 or 5 times in a short amount of time.



Make a Mental Checklist

When determining where the active fish are located on any given day when you are trying to establish a pattern, you should have a mental checklist of the places you search and meticulously fish them.

A simple way to do this is to fish your shallow spots where you think there are muskies and work your way out from the shallow areas.

man releasing musky near the boat

You need to meticulously fish spots as you work your way out for shallow areas to transition areas and then to deeper water.

Starting at shallower depths, work around weed lines and areas of moderate depth, also known as transition areas from shallow and deep water.

After checking these transition areas, you can search deep spots.

When you do this in combination with the “spot on the spot” tactic, you will eliminate large areas of less productive water and fish with great efficiency.



Change Lures Often

bucktail for musky fishing

Don’t get stuck on one particular lure presentation. Mix things up for those finicky muskies. (photo credit muskyshop.com)

Some anglers will fish a bucktail all day and nothing else, even when they are getting little to no action on that type of lure. Don’t fall into the “one lure rut” because it’s a lure you favor, or because it has caught fish in the past.

Switch lures on occasion and chooses the best ones for the situation and spot you are fishing.



Final Thoughts

The musky fishing community, while it has grown substantially over the last decade, is still incredibly small compared to other species-specific fishing like bass fishing, much of the reason for this is the challenge it represents and the time and dedication involved to catch a single fish.

At the end of the day, there is no substitute for time on the water pursuing these predators, so just get out there and fish!

two men holding two catfish

Hook ’em and Cook ’em! | Best Baits For Catfish

on . Posted in Blog, Fishing

One of the best species out there that can bring an incredible fight, and even a tasty meal, is the catfish. Although often overlooked by the bass fishing space and others, catfishing can be super fun and create lifelong memories.

We will be breaking down the best baits for catfish. So, whether you are a new angler, or just want to learn more about catfish presentations, this is for you.

Knowing what the best options are will put you in a spot for success. Here are the best baits for catfish!

Nightcrawlers

night crawlers for catfish

Night crawlers and worms are affordable and easy to find, making them a great live bait for catfish. (photo credit: DMF Bait)

When it comes to catfish bait, it doesn’t get any more traditional than worms and nightcrawlers. These baits can be super effective in many circumstances.

The first reason why nightcrawlers are a great option for catfishing is that they are easily accessible. Nightcrawlers can be bought at any bait shop and can also often be found at many gas stations that are near fishing locations.

You can even dig them up in the backyard if you want.



So, having affordable and easy access to worms and nightcrawlers is a big reason to use them.

The other reason is that they work, plain and simple.

Nightcrawlers are awesome baits because catfish love munching on them. The scent and action of a nightcrawler is unmatched in the catfishing world.

Chicken Liver

magic bait chicken livers for catfish

Chicken livers for catfishing can be easily found at most grocery stores… and catfish love them! (photo credit: Walmart listing)

One really unique catfish bait is chicken liver.

Chicken livers have a very strong scent that does a great job of enticing bites from big catfish. These can be bought in bait shops and grocery stores, so you shouldn’t struggle too much to find them.

Amongst a sect of catfish anglers, this is the only bait they will use. This is a strategy that anglers fall in love with when they can find some success with it.

The key is keeping the livers cold and fresh for as long as possible. This is easy with a cooler, and as long as you replace the chunks often, you’ll be set up for success.


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Stink Bait

smokey's catfish stink bait

If it stinks to you, chances are, catfish will love it… which is exactly the case with stink bait. (photo credit: Smokey’s Listing)

Catfish find food with their sense of smell. So, when you use something like stink bait, there is a good chance that you can get hooked up with a trophy. Stink bait is usually man-made and can be bought in a bait shop or made yourself.



The key attribute to stink bait is the smell, as the name implies. It is infused with natural scents that will grab a catfish’s attention. Although it is not an enjoyable smell to humans, it does a really good job in the water.

Stink bait is pretty affordable and reliable. And, because you can just go pick some up at the store, the convenience is there. If you want to get creative and save money in the long run, you can learn to make your own at home.




Bluegill

bluegill fish

Bluegill can be a great live bait option for catching catfish, as long as it’s legal to use them in your area. Be sure to check your local fish and game regulations. (photo credit: Ohio DNR)

Although live bait is not a preferable catfishing method in many cases as it is with bass, bluegill can and do get eaten by catfish. Especially with blue cats and large channel cats, they will eat bluegill, as long as it is affixed the correct way.

In some areas, hanging trotlines is legal and very popular. Trotlines are fixtures of rope or line that have hooks and bait on them. So, it is a way to passively fish.



Where it is legal, bluegill are fantastic bait options as they will still be alive and can be a good snack for a hungry catfish.

If you cannot use trotlines, bluegill can still be a good option. The key is to either hook them through the mouth or right behind the back fin to let them move around in a natural way. This keeps the presentation as real as it gets.




Shad

shad

Whether live or frozen, shad can be used for bait to catch catfish. (photo credit: Game and Fish Magazine)

Shad and minnows are two baits that can bring some huge bites. Whether they be alive or frozen, shad can be an especially interesting bait. Especially with big catfish in big water bodies, shad can be a majority of that fish’s diet. The key to using shad is targeting an area where they are found naturally.

If you can find an area where shad are naturally swimming around, this is an obvious choice for bait. If you want a more lively approach, you may be able to buy live shad. But, if buying live shad is not an option, you can buy packaged or frozen shad at bait shops.




spencer hardin holding big flathead catfish

Patience when catfishing can pay off BIG time!

Tips for catfishing

  1. Take your bait selection seriously

All of the above bait options can yield some great results on the water. So, you should really take your selection seriously. This means “matching the hatch” and doing research about specific waterways. (by “matching the hatch”. we mean using baits that resemble what the fish in the area are already naturally feeding on), When you can zero in on baits that are native to the fish’s body of water and time of year, the bites will increase.



  1. Bring more than enough bait

A popular way to catch catfish is sitting out all night and trying your luck. If you are going to play the waiting game and fish for longer periods of time, you should bring extra bait. The more bait the better. The thing you want is to get into a mess of fish and not have enough bait to keep catching them! Better to bring too much than too little.



  1. Patience is a virtue

Unlike other freshwater fishing, casting and being active with the approach is not always the best way to fish for catfish. Try casting your rig and waiting for a bite to happen rather than constantly moving around and recasting. The more patient you can be, the better. This increases the chances of you catching a monster.




Closing Thoughts

Fishing for catfish can be a great way to feel the power of a big cat. And, although some anglers look down on catfish, they are tons of fun to catch, put up a great fight and can taste really good.

So, give these bait options a shot. Each one excels in certain situations, so toying and experimenting with your presentation is part of the fun. Good luck, and happy catfishing!

Smallmouth vs. Largemouth Bass: More than just mouth size!

on . Posted in Blog, Fishing

We will be laying out everything you need to know about smallmouth and largemouth so you can differentiate between the two. We’ll cover physical distinctions, feeding patterns, popular habitats, and more!

Physical Distinctions between smallmouth bass and largemouth bass

Whether you’ve already caught one of these fish and are wondering how to tell which one it is,, or you’re just trying to learn the difference between the two so you can target one or the other, there are some obvious signs you should know to look for.

Largemouth Bass Attributes

largemouth bass profile
Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Larger mouth that has an upper jaw extending past the eyes
  • The bigger largemouth will be larger than a big smallmouth
  • There is a break between the dorsal fins
  • Spotted horizontal line that is usually black or of a dark contrast to the green body

Smallmouth Bass Attributes

smallmouth bass profile
Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Smaller mouth that does not open as wide
  • Different colorations that focus on more browns and greens
  • Even a very big smallmouth will be much smaller than big largemouth
  • Vertical lines that are more subtle against the body’s coloration


Knowing these characteristics of both fish will help you learn about the species and know exactly what you are targeting. Although these attributes might be hard to view in the water from shore or a boat, the biggest thing you can look for is that lateral line made of black horizontal patterns on largemouth. This is the most clear sign you have a largemouth near you.




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Feeding Patterns

Knowing how any fish tends to feed will put you one step closer to getting that bite of a lifetime. This way, you can cater presentations that best resemble what they eat naturally. The old saying “match the hatch” could not be more true. This means to craft presentations and lures that best match what the natural food source is.

Best Lures for Largemouth

buzzbait topwater bass lure

Photo Credit: Drew Pierce

Some of the best lures for largemouth include jigs, swimbaits, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits. All of these have certain action components that may work for both largemouth and smallmouth, but lean toward the former a touch more. You can also take a more finessed approach and use soft plastics to provide a really accurate presentation.




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Best Lures for Smallmouth

popper lure for bass

Photo Credit: Drew Pierce

Smallmouth can be quite aggressive and offer a great fight, so there are a few presentations we recommend for them. Examples include tubes, craws, jerkbaits, poppers, and crankbaits. Many of these are reactionary and better represent what smallmouth eat naturally.



There is a fair bit of crossover in baits between these two subspecies of bass, but there are specifications to make in order to yield the best results possible.

Also keep in mind the habitats in which the fish reside. If you are in super clear water, apt for more natural or blue/green colors. If the water is like chocolate milk, you will want blacks and blues to provide a good contrast. So, a big part of lure selection and reading feeding patterns revolves around your surroundings and situations.



Habitats

Knowing where to find largemouth and smallmouth is super important no matter which one you are targeting. This way, you can specify your presentation to target a certain fish in a certain spot.

Largemouth Habitats

largemouth bass near wood structure

Weed beds, brush piles, grass and trees are all favorite structures of largemouth bass. (Photo Credit: Kansas State University)

When it comes to largemouth, it is all about cover and structure. The more structure, the better.

Because largemouth tend not to browse out in the open water for extended periods of time, they can be found latched onto structures such as brush piles, trees, grass, and weed beds.

Targeting these areas and the areas around them is key to sniffing out those finicky bites. Use ledges and drop offs around structure to your advantage as this is where baitfish and other food sources naturally roam.



Smallmouth Habitats

smallmouth bass near wood structure

Smallmouth bass will search for food around thick brush, but love current and will often stay in areas of breaks in that current. (Photo Credit: Oxbow lake Association)

Like largemouth bass, smallmouth will also attach themselves to cover, but the way in which they do and the circumstances around it do change slightly. Rather than sitting in that thick brush, they will hunt around it and sit in eddies and areas with unique water features.

Another key to look for is running water. Smallmouth especially love current and will often sit in breaks of that current. This is because flowing water is a constant food source. So, if you can tap into that source with your lure, you are in for some great bites.



Best Times of Day to Fish

man fishing at dusk dawn

Dawn and dusk are good times to chase both species of bass, but pay attention to fronts that are moving in as well. (Photo Credit: The Oklahoman)

Fishing is a sport that absolutely can take place all day long. However, the bite will probably not be hot that entire time. This all depends on the weather conditions and time of day you are fishing.

Whether it be for smallmouth, largemouth, or anything that will bite your line, it is important to have a strategy for fishing at certain ideal times.



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For both of these fish, the dusk and dawn times are when the bites really heat up. In the summer, these are cooler times, so bass will be more active. When they move around more, they are more apt to feed.

Also, read the weather and plan your fishing trip based on that information. If you know a front is moving in at night, that evening can be very active because of pressure changes. So, using the forecast to your advantage is a good idea for both smallmouth and largemouth.



Closing Thoughts

Both of these types of bass are super fun to catch, so no matter what you target, or have access to targeting, you are in for a treat. The key to being successful with either one is knowing what you are targeting and how to maximize your hookups.

Use the tips above to differentiate between smallmouth and largemouth. When you have an educated, specified game plan, you can increase your bites and chances of catching a monster! Good luck, happy fishing, and we hope you put a hook N1!