As long as people have been chasing Muskies, they have been using a bucktail as a search bait to find active fish. But what makes these baits so great for this application? How can you improve your odds of Muskies reacting to your bucktails? That is exactly what we are covering in this weeks blog!
First off, what does a bucktail look like to a Muskie? Let's face it, there isn't a fish swimming in fresh water that has hair and a blade! However, the bucktail can take on many different forms to a Muskie. Something we call "Matching the Hatch". That's a term used to describe matching whatever bait fish the Muskie is chasing in a particular body of water. Color patterns that match a bluegill, perch, walleye, carp, bass, shad or really anything that swims, is "food" to a muskie!
With all that hair and flash fiber pulsating under the water during the retrieve, a Muskie can see a resemblance to its favorite food! But, not only can a bucktail resemble a particular species but it can also mimic a small pod or school of shad or fingerlings swimming in a tight formation. 90% of the time a bucktail is whizzing past a Muskie and it catches a glimpse of color and will instinctively react to it.
So, with that being said, speed also helps trigger fish to attack or show themselves on a bucktail. We can cover a tremendous amount of water "burning" a bucktail. Meaning we are retrieving it at a high rate of speed to induce what we call a "œreaction". This concept works best in warmer water when Muskies are most active. The term "Speed Kills" holds true here. Let's set the scene here. Nice weed flat with the weed edge coming out to the first main break line. CLASSIC Muskie structure...we position the boat to cover part of the flat as well as covering the weed edge and the break line. When that bucktail comes zooming over a Muskies head at a high rate of speed they will either jump and snap at the bait or they will follow it back to the boat as if they are chasing it out of the area they are patrolling. Regardless of the outcome, we now know the Muskies are staging on this type of structure and if they didn't eat a bucktail we can rest the area and come back with one angler throwing a bucktail to see if the Muskie will react and if not we can have a second angler throwing a jerkbait or twichbait or if the conditions are right, a topwater, to get that fish we raised earlier to eat!
On top of using a bucktail to imitate a Muskies food, there is another reason bucktails can be so effective. Pure curiosity of the Muskie! Bright colors and at times big blades can cause a Muskie to attack or follow a bait. So many times on the water, when the usual doesn't produce, I've switch to a bright and gaudy color pattern and have produced action. As much credit as we give these fish for having a high intelligence, we can trigger that "Kill" factor in them by changing it up color wise. In the worst case scenario, we will at least get a follow from a fish as we can, at times, see a bewildered look on their faces as if they are saying "What the heck is that thing???"
Now we've just talked about how bucktails excel in warm water and moving at a high rate of speed but let's talk about how bucktails can be used effectively in the cooler water temps of Spring and Fall!
I will try to not get too "wordy" with this section but there is a TON of info to be covered here! There is no closed season here in Illinois nor is there a closed season in Indiana or Kentucky. As water temps start to rise and we enter the pre-spawn period, a small bucktail, such as the Muskie Attacker Frenchie is a great choice to cover water and find active fish. I have found at this time of year a small compact presentation gets the most action. Also we have to play around with retrieve speeds as "Burning" is not really the preferred retrieve. We tend to us a steady to a slower retrieve this time of year. I will also say this time of year produces the most follows for me instead of strikes. However we are using this bait as a tool to find fish that we can come back to and catch with a different presentation.
Now, here is where we get a little funky! In Illinois in a pre-spawn period that small Frenchie is in the water. However when we fish Indiana and Kentucky waters, where the main forage base is Shad...and I mean BIG shad, we have to match the hatch. It may not be uncommon to throw the Muskie Attacker Cable model or even the Two Hook model to get a reaction from a Muskie. Again speed is not the best choice and a steady to slower retrieve will get the most results.
Post spawn and season openers in WI and MN can see great results on the Frenchie size as well as even the Cable model. Depending on water temp, this is when we can start to also increase the speed of our retrieve but it will require some investigation on your part to find the speed they will react to. Again...IN and KY can still at times be better suited for a larger presentation as we continue to "Match the Hatch."
Summer can be a free for all when it comes to size. All three sizes in the Muskie Attacker line up have their place this time of year. The cable and two hook sizes scooted along can produce some AWESOME action. However, the Frenchie shines during cold front conditions or if a lake has been heavily pressured. Downsizing under these conditions will pay off huge!
Lastly, the start of the Fall bite, my favorite time of year, is when Muskies start stocking up heavily on food to get them through the forthcoming Winter. Muskie in lakes will feed enough under the ice to just sustain life. This time of year we switch over to our bigger baits like the Muskie Attacker Two Hook model. Muskies will eat bigger meals this time of year as they don't want to expend a lot of energy on smaller meals.
Now, I did just say Lake Muskies will only eat under the ice just enough to sustain life. We have had GREAT success with River Muskies all Winter long, as these fish are always in current and always burning off food so they need to eat more regularly. Unfortunately, this is the one time of year that a bucktail will not be very useful as our crankbaits, twitchbaits and jerkbaits take over for Winter River Muskies.
Hey thanks for reading this weeks blog everybody. We tried to put quite a bit of info into a small space for you this week. If there is any questions, comments or if you can think of a blog topic you'd like us to cover, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck and tight lines!