Chasers vs. Ambushers


How do you catch muskies when they don’t follow?

The follow is obviously something that most muskie anglers are very familiar with. Even when muskies don’t appear to be in a striking mood, the mere sight of a follow gets the blood pumping, the knees knocking and the excitement building. Yet, more often than not, we end up dealing with muskies that don’t follow at all. What causes a lack of follows is debatable. A variety of factors including water clarity, weather conditions and fishing pressure might all come into play.


The key, in this instance, is to recognize a lack of chasing and then change to a more appropriate lure presentation accordingly. A completely different set of rules comes into play when hunting muskies in this mood. For one, you simply have to slow down. It is wise to slow down your lure presentation, as well as the amount of water you cover. Instead of a high-speed, run-and-gun casting approach, the key to success often depends upon picking a handful of key locations that you know hold a fish or two, then work lures over these areas with more precision and specialized techniques.


Catching chasers


That’s why it’s initially important to identify the difference between chasers and ambushers. Chasers can be dealt with using a fast, straight retrieve, high-riding lure and a trolling motor set on high. Ambushers are usually hugging tight to cover or at least hovering in a less-aggressive manner. Choosing lures that are erratic, run closer to bottom or near the fish and a slower setting on your trolling motor is now recommended.


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How you approach fishing a spot, and the lures you choose to fish with is critical to success. Slowing down your boat is the first order of business once you decide on a target area. The next step is to open your tackle box and get out your favorite jerkbait-style lures. Jerkbaits are generally the key to catching ambush muskies. If you are an experienced jerkbait fisherman, you are now in the driver’s seat. If not, this is a key time to learn. In fact, it is critical to success. These are the conditions where jerkbaits shine. Dedicate some time to mastering a handful of these baits, and you’re bound to be rewarded with a well-earned strike.


Luring in ambushers


I am a particular fan of up-and-down-style jerkbaits for ambush muskies… particularly when they hug tight to any form of cover. Pulling a jerkbait aggressively with a hard thrust of your rod plunges the lure downward towards cover where an ambush muskie is bound to be staging. A subsequent pause allows the lure to rise up out of the cover before the action is repeated. This is an age-old technique that has accounted for boatloads of muskies over time.


Utilizing a minnow bait for this jerkbait technique is one of my personal favorite twists on this traditional tactic. Of course, bass anglers have done this for decades. I will vary the size of the minnow bait I use according to the mood of the muskies and other conditions at the present time. I will leave you with one final tip: Experiment with changing out hook sizes in order to increase or decrease the lure buoyancy. Quite often, a little extra hang time is vital when muskies are really off the bite.