Kinkaid Muskie Road Trip

I try to find a way to plan a major fishing trip in early October each year, before I go up a tree for 8 to 10 weeks. This year’s trip was to Lake Kinkaid near Murphysboro, Ill., and the targeted species was muskie.

The names of my fishing team for this trip will be used several times in the following paragraphs. Randy Mathews and J.D. Stevenson are a couple of my great friends from church. We all attend Lakeside Christian Church just south of Springfield, Ill. These two jumped at my suggestion that we head south for muskies. Neither had ever fished specifically for muskies, nor had ever caught one. So, this trip is billed as an “adventure,” with some fishing involved.

I checked on the status of the Kinkaid muskies with a call to another friend of mine, Colby Simms. Colby is the top muskie guide on Kinkaid. He told me the muskie action had just begun to pick up with decreasing water temps. He thought our timing would be good. Most everything I know about Kinkaid and muskie fishing came from Simms.

So we had a cabin reserved just a few hundred yards from the marina. Randy would bring his boat, J.D. would drive and I would serve as guide. We packed up on a Friday evening and made the easy 2.5-hour drive south to Kinkaid. We unpacked and were in bed by 10:00 pm.

Up early the next morning, we drove to the launch ramp at the marina, only to find it full of boats, trailers and trucks. Unbeknownst to us, a 4-team high school bass tournament was taking place that morning. I encouraged our group to get launched quickly before the official launch of the tournament. I knew where we needed to be, and I wanted to get there first.

The reason this is the time of year to chase muskies at Kinkaid is because the cooling waters of autumn drive the shad up into the shallow water of the incoming creeks. This concentrates the muskies up into these creeks, feeding on the shad. It is the best time to find these alpha predators gathering in smaller locations.

As we began our quest for muskies, I had both Randy and J.D. throwing big topwater lures. These baits are designed to make a ton of commotion on the surface to attract feeding muskies. I would start with a big Colby Simms spinnerbait, just to have something different for the fish to look at.

We were in a perfect spot as the sun rose on Saturday morning. We could see some really big muskies coming to the surface. There were good fish all around us, and we were encouraged.

The first encounter came to J.D. As he was retrieving his big wooden topwater lure with propellers on both ends, a big muskie took a swipe at it just as J.D. pulled the bait out of the water. The massive fish made a huge wake and splash, but it came up just short of the hooks.

We were all excited, but J.D. was pumped. This close encounter gave all of us newfound vigor, and made the next hour pass quickly. It was then my turn. Around 8:30, I got to yell my two favorite words at Kinkaid: “Fish on!”

I got hit—hard! As muskies usually do, this fish had followed my spinnerbait to within 8 feet of the boat. He hit me, and I set the hook hard. I then set it hard a second time. That’s when he rolled and made his first run. He was a really good one. He was one I wanted to touch.

Randy got the net ready as the drag on my Piscifun Chaos reel gave up line. The stiff Grandt custom muskie rod bent as I turned the big fish back toward the boat. It saw the net and ran again. Once again, I fought the fish to the boat’s edge.

This time, I got the fish’s head up and led it into the net, jumping and twisting. Just as Randy got the whole fish in the net, something broke, and it came off. The clip that secures the steel leader to the lure failed. It bent straight out. But the 45-inch muskie was in the net, but good. All the twisting and fighting and biting the net caused me to spend over 10 minutes getting it free for some quick photos. I then revived and released it unharmed.

The next morning, Randy had a pass at his lure right at the boat, and he screamed like a schoolgirl. I had another hit within a foot of the boat, and the fish bit through my trailer hook.

I must say, the fishing was fun, but it did not compare to the fun and fellowship the three of us shared that weekend. God is Good!

Many thanks go out to Colby Simms, Piscifun and Jim Grandt. Also to my wife Nancy, for the amazing venison chili she sent with us. Last but not least, thanks to J.D. and Randy, the Gasmasters.