Don’t Be Afraid Of Muskies

Muskies are fish of 10,000 casts and are found in large bodies of water in Northwestern Ontario.

I received a noteworthy message from a reader the other day, who is planning a muskie fishing trip to Ontario next season. That is certainly not surprising, given that the province offers the finest fishing in the world for the big toothy critters.  Fabled waters like the St. Lawrence River, Kawartha Lakes, Ottawa River, Lake Nipissing, French River, Georgian Bay, Lac Seul, Eagle Lake and Lake of the Woods lie atop every muskie angler’s dream list.

What was worthy of mention, though, is that the reader’s wife also wanted to catch her first muskie, and they were worried about the heavyweight gear, monstrous lures and physically demanding techniques associated with catching the fish of ten thousand casts.  As a result of this anxiety, the folks sent me a list of large but easy-to-cast bass-style lures and asked if I thought they were big enough to entice the mother-of-all-muskies.

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Dispel the myth that you need superhuman strength and Herculean tackle to catch muskies in Ontario.

In truth, I replied that I thought they were approaching the problem from the wrong perspective. Instead of trying to unearth large bass baits that might entice muskies, they would benefit more from choosing from among a cadre of already-proven muskie lures.

For example, the Rapala Super Shad Rap is the best small bait that catches big fish that I’ve ever seen.  My grandson Liam, who is over six feet tall and works out at the gym, routinely puts down his nightmarish nine-foot long, extra-extra-heavy muskie rods adorned with mega monstrous baits and catches some of the biggest fish of the season on tiny, by comparison, Super Shad Rap.  


Several years ago, I enjoyed the company of the vice president of the second-largest chapter of Muskies Inc. in the United States. We raised a couple of fish, but as the day wore on the action was slow and pedestrian.  That is when he asked me what I thought he should try presenting next.  I gave him a Super Shad Rap and on his third or fourth cast, he hooked his biggest muskie ever — the long-time hoped-for fish of a lifetime.

Ditto, for casting single-bladed bucktails like the original Mepps Muskie Killer.  For years — long before the giant double-bladed #10 and #12 models took centre stage —  the Muskie Killer was our “go-to” spinner.  Even today, especially early in the season when I want to burn and bulge a bucktail, I will tie on one because I can cast it so far and reel it so quickly and effortlessly.  It looks petite, compared to today’s mammoth mommas, but it catches muskies as well as it did in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Maybe even better.

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Last but not least, just like the trend toward ever bigger bucktails, muskie-size tube jigs have become obese measuring 12-, 14-, even 16 inches or longer.  But, a lightly weighted seven-inch Water Wolf Gator tube is a deadly muskie lure.  Possibly even better today than in the past, because the fish haven’t been conditioned to it like its bigger brothers and sisters.

Benefiting from this smaller-baits-that-fish-big concept is the fact that it is not a prerequisite to wear yourself out casting superhuman muskie rods and reels that resemble the winch on the front of a snowplow.  13 Fishing, for example, makes an eight-foot-long Omen Black Gen3 rod that is specifically designed to cast modest size muskie baits that weigh between one and three ounces.  Teamed it up with a Concept A3 or even lighter A2 reel and you’re set up to catch the biggest fish that swim. 

A huge advantage of fishing with smaller proven muskie lures is that they’re the perfect size also to attract big bonus northern pike.

I have a friend who jokingly refers to muskie fishing as, brute strength and ignorance.  But it is not about demon resistance and rawness.  Quite the opposite.  Carefully select a few smaller proven lures that fish big, and present them with modest rods and reels, and you’ll keep pace — maybe even whip — the Arnold Schwarzeneggers with their physically punishing Herculean tackle. 

About Gord Pyzer

Gord Pyzer is the fishing editor of Outdoor Canada magazine and field editor of In-Fisherman magazine. He is the co-host of the Real Fishing Radio Show and host of Fish Talk With The Doc.

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