Run and Gun Your Way Through Canada
Conditions were warm and muggy and I could feel my glasses fogging up as I fired my cast toward shore, trying to land my lure between two shallow boulders. I heard the splash and continued to retrieve my bucktail and peek through my fogged-up lenses to get a glimpse at my bait running about 10 inches below the surface. Midway through my retrieve my glasses cleared and suddenly a shadow appeared, and my bucktail was gone. I set the hook and the battle ensued. Moments later we were posing for a quick picture and the giant was released to fight again another day. It was a classic Canadian musky experience: shallow-water bucktail fishing.
I am fortunate to get a chance to fish all across Canada and see a lot of different water and utilize many techniques. However, if you are planning on fishing in Canada this summer, I want to let you in on a little secret. If you want to catch more muskies simply fish more bucktails! Day in and day out when you are fishing shallow cover, there just isn’t a more productive tool than a bucktail. Yes, there are times when other lures may catch more, but even during those times, it seems you can still get a strike on a bucktail.
When fishing many Canadian waters you are casting shallow weeds and rocks, fishing bays, points, shorelines and reefs. If you want to encounter more muskies, move the bait through these areas quickly and utilize fast-moving lures. Again, the bucktail is the king of this situation. The truth is if there are muskies in shallow water, if you cover enough water, even on the tough days, you can find one that will bite. On the days when the muskies are active, fishing a bucktail fast and covering water quickly will put you in front of more muskies each day and in the end, you will catch more muskies. It really is that simple.
Well, I may have oversimplified this a bit, but consider using this approach when fishing Canadian waters. When fishing spots keep your trolling motor running. I keep my MotorGuide Xi5 on “constant on” to keep moving along a shoreline, around an island, bay or reef. Just keep casting bucktails over shallow cover and don’t pause unless you catch a musky, have a musky follow, or simply see a spot that looks so good it deserves a couple of extra casts. Otherwise, keep moving. This is the “RUN” in the run-and-gun approach.
Pay attention to where the muskies are showing themselves. Are they around islands, points, shorelines, bays or humps? Wherever you find them, fish in more similar spots. Likewise, are the fish holding around weeds or rocks? Whatever the cover just fish more of it. It’s pattern fishing at its simplest and best.
While casting you need to be shooting bucktails. My Canadian bucktail arsenal is pretty straightforward and consists of three lures. A Musky Frenzy 10/10, is ALWAYS the lure I’ll start with from the front of the boat; a Musky Frenzy IC9 or 8/9 are also always in play. These three lures give you the ammunition to fire away at muskies that are using shallow cover. If you have several anglers in the boat have them cast one of the above-mentioned bucktails to add variety. It’s amazing how a particular bucktail may get hot for a few hours. The day can go from 10/10s to IC9s to 8/9s and back again! Then, there are some days they only want one type of bucktail and it’s okay on those days to have several anglers fishing the same lure. After all, if you are moving quickly and spacing your casts, everyone will fish clean water and get opportunities.
Of course, you can’t discuss musky lures without covering colour. Confidence is king when it comes to bucktail colour. You simply can’t go wrong with a black bucktail with either nickel or black blades. You’ll also want to have one with gold blades and maybe a brown or gold skirt, one with a white skirt, a bucktail with orange blades, and a real high-visibility chartreuse colour. My point is to have a few that range from super dark to super bright and you will be good to go in a variety of water and light conditions.
Now that’s the "gun" in run and gun. To fish these lures you are going to need a good rod and reel combo and my Shimano SKIXX 9’6” extra heavy rod teamed with a Tranx 400 gets it done. I can cast far, retrieve fast, not fatigue, and execute a large figure 8 at the boatside. This rod and reel combination simply makes casting large bucktails all day long, much easier.
It amazes me how even on post-frontal days when we are using other lures and always having one bucktail in the water, sometime during the day a musky will chase a bucktail and eat on figure 8. Plus, when comparing notes with other musky anglers, it’s surprising how those that stick to fishing bucktails tend to do almost as well on the tough days and dominate on the good days.
My point is that although we may want to experiment with all of the lures in our tackle box if you want to catch more muskies in Canada, move through spots and fish a bucktail quickly. You’ll rapidly develop a pattern, fish more spots than others in a day, and put your lure in front of more aggressive muskies. It’s a simple formula, but one that works. Don’t fight it—run and gun your way to more Canadian muskies this season.