Early-season Game Plan for Leech Lake Muskies

There are many types of anglers in the world. And if you’re young or old, a weekend warrior or the hardcore professional, fishing truly is a sport for all. However, there is a breed of anglers who do distinguish themselves from others and chase a beast of mythic proportions: muskie hunters. Some call them obsessive, some some call them dedicated. But no matter the label, their passion is tough to match.

Leech Lake sits close to the heart of Minnesota, in Cass County. Walker is one of its main hubs and often serves as a base camp for fishermen. At a whopping 112,000 acres of shoreline, and with its massive weed flats, rock piles, and other prime structure for toothy critters to thrive in, Leech can be intimidating to many muskie hunters. Intimidating as this body of water may be, it’s considered one of the top muskie lakes in the state and has a strong history.

The Minnesota muskie opener typically is sometime around the first week of June. When choosing early- season muskie locations on Leech, there are a few factors to consider. During this time of year muskellunge will be done spawning and begin to use the newly emerging cover of weeds, bulrushes, timber and docks to recuperate and ambush food. In spring and early summer, baitfish of all shapes and sizes are plentiful and use the warmer shallow water to spawn and eat. When these fish are shallow, the predators will be close by, waiting for an easy meal. These post-spawn muskies are rebuilding their energy stocks and boosting their metabolism. Finding a combination of these two ingredients will usually put your lure in front of some that are interested in food.

Leech Lake offers many bays and warm-water locations that will have the correct ingredients of both baitfish and new weed growth. To narrow down some choices, fish the windy areas that have the correct elements. Have confidence in your lures, and be sure to change colors and retrieval speeds because spring muskies can be selective. Changing your fishing style can also help you determine a pattern that these fish are showing interest in.

When fishing Leech in May, an angler uses a wide variety of baits. My go-to baits include smaller bucktails such as the Bigtooth Tackle “Mini Juice Bucktail” in Honey Badger, side-to-side glide baits like the 6-inch Phantom or the large version of the Rapala X-Rap. I like these because they are easy to cast far distances and you can fish these at all speeds.

Varying your retrieval speed with any lure can really help you determine what fish want. Some days the trick might be to “burn” a Bigtooth Juice Bucktail over some newly emerging cover, while other days the fish might be in the mood for the slow “walk-the-dog” style of the Phantom or Rapala X-Rap.

Steamboat Bay has fish starting their seasonal migrations out to summer locations, and they can be hungry here. Finding the emerging cabbage beds is a key factor to the location of a muskie. Normally located in 4 to 10 feet, these weed beds here offer bait, cover and perfect ambush points. I like to fish the inside weedlines by making long fan-casts toward the shore, out toward the deeper water and parallel with the weedlines. Once an inside weedline has been thoroughly covered, I’ll turn the boat and fish the outside or deeper weedline in the same fashion. This method allows you to really work the whole weed bed, as your lure will come in from all different angles.

A second great early-season area is the vast beds of pencil reeds. Perch, shiner minnows, carp, suckers and other fish all use the beds for various reasons, but Leech muskies use them for cover and feeding locations. When the reeds are spread out and you can fish a traditional lure through them, the Bigtooth Mini Juice is a great option. Look for pockets or gaps, and, if muskies are there, they’ll usually be holding on the insides of the gaps or on the outside points of these pockets. I like to fish the reed beds very thoroughly and then switch over to a Bigtooth Straight Wire Mini Spinnerbait and attack the heart of the bed.

Walleye guys know Leech Lake has always been known as a “wind-driven lake,” and the same holds true for her muskies as well. I’m not saying that you can’t have an amazing day in calm weather here, but a nice wind will open up more spots for you to focus your muskie hunt on. Walleye anglers in spring will be fishing the main-lake points that have the most wind blowing in such as Pine Point, Star, Little Hardwoods, Big Hardwoods, Oak, and Duck points. When the wind hits these spots it turns them into a buffet for hungry predators. Casting or trolling can be great methods on these areas because they are large areas. I like to have two different baits and fan-casted them all over depths of 3 to 10 feet of water. Good options are bucktails, Bull Dawgs and crankbaits in natural baitfish colors, while some days the brighter, off-colors will work.

Leech offers such an incredible opportunity for muskie anglers to fish tons of world-class muskie water and have a good chance at catching a true giant, Remember, the deadly duo of cover and baitfish and then formulating a good game plan, will give you a successful day and increase your chances of smelling like a muskie at the end of the day.