Fall Monster Mania
by Norb Wallock
There’s more than one monster in hiding, waiting to pounce on you and yours, and do it with slashing teeth, and reckless abandon, if you’re lucky.
There’s probably no better time to get in touch with monster pike or musky, of trophy proportions, than right now.
Good pike and musky water gets hammered, day after day, cast after cast, and the fish become extremely pressured and conditioned to certain lures and baits. But come fall, many anglers seem to find other things to do, and the level of fishing pressure is greatly reduced. Now you can get on your favorite spot, without having to take a number, and actually get a chance to present a lure, or bait, to fish that haven’t been bothered in days, or maybe even weeks.
Successful anglers know that being on good water, with little or no pressure, can make fantastic fishing, and play right into your hands.
Another factor that should help motivate you to get that boat out of storage at least one more time this fall, is a pike need to feed. While the cooler water temperatures of fall can slow down a fish’s metabolism, it doesn’t stop them; Especially when it comes to pike and musky. In fact, you can expect them to feed actively right through ice up.
Finding the monsters of fall is not all that difficult, but you shouldn’t expect to find them hanging around the same spots you fished earlier in the season. Most of the early to late summer action centers around weeds, weeds, and more weeds. Weeds can still be one of the keys, but they better be green, and they better be near a break into deep water.
By late summer and into the fall, weed beds start to lay down and die. Dead or dying weeds quickly lose there fish attracting appeal, and can become void of life, as decaying weeds actually produce a noxious gas. The first weeds to go seem to be the ones growing from a soft bottom flat, while the last stands of healthy vegetation can be found near hard bottom breaks.
Although green healthy weeds may still hold fish, hard bottom structures like rocky reefs, bars, underwater points and breaks, become much more productive, come fall. Some of the best fall structures, will be in close proximity to good summer holding areas, and will become more and more consistent as the summer holding weed beds begin to lay over and die.
As that happens, the action surrounding hard bottom structure can really heat up, and can be the place to be, late in the season.
Catching late season monsters isn’t all that different than what was previously required, in that you better keep a lure coming and going. Lure selection should include bigger jerk baits, like the Suick, Big Jake, and Eddy Bait.
Try to hold the boat a short cast away from the structure you intend to fish, and cast the bait on top, and work it back all the way to the boat. A mistake anglers will often make, is to give up on the retrieve, only to see the result of a missed opportunity, close to the boat.
To help capitalize on short strikers, and fish that follow but won’t come across, you can maximize your efforts by setting a live trap. The trap is set by combining a cast and retrieve presentation, with a dead rod, hooked to big honking sucker. By slowly trolling a live sucker, while at the same time casting lures to potential fish holding structure, you can more than double your chances of tying into that fish of a lifetime.
Quite often, muskies and pike will follow a bait, and follow it right to the boat. By keeping the bait in the water, and giving them the classic figure eight, you can occasionally turn a follow into a real battle.
However, most of the time you can figure eight your tail off, and never get the right response. By setting a trap, you can greatly increase your odds of hooking up, and having some real fun.
The trap starts by hooking up a monster sucker, the biggest you can find. A two pound sucker is a load and a half, but bigger baits can definitely mean bigger fish. By rigging the bait with a Quick Strike Musky Rig, however, you can virtually eliminate the negative effects of using live bait.
Live bait is often associated with deeply hooked fish, that may or may not survive after being released. Single hook rigs are at the root of the problem, as anglers will often wait, before setting the hook, until they feel a fish has fully taken the bait. If they set too soon, they’ll miss the fish and come up empty.
The Quick Strike Rig, utilizes a multiple hook harness, that allows you to set immediately, and keeps the hooks where they belong, in the mouth and not in the stomach.
The Quick Strike Rig comes with a steel leader, connected to two trebles, one of which should be hooked directly under the dorsal fin, and the other in front of the tail. This method will allow the bait to swim naturally, and keep it in top shape.
Instead of dragging the bait behind the boat, under a bobber, you’ll do better by keeping it on a straight line. By keeping the bait close, you’ll have more control, and you won’t have to worry about getting your line fowled up in the motor. It also gives you the ability to quickly set the hook.
So if you’re busy casting a bait, how do you know when the live bait has been hit? Easy, if you use a reel that has a strike indicator.
A good example is the Abu Garcia 5500, as it has a clicker, that will sound off as it starts to pay out line. It also allows you to adjust the amount of force needed to set off the alarm, which can keep an active bait from getting you unnecessarily excited.
The double trouble method is an efficient, highly productive method that can be the ticket to fish you’ve only dreamed about. In states like Minnesota, where only one line is allowed, you may have to make a choice between the lure or the bait. A better option would be working the fish with an accomplice, and taking turns casting and holding.
Whatever the case, the time is now, and you may not want to let this last chance get away.