One-two Punch for Fall Muskies


One of my favorite television shoots is when I get to fish with my good friend John Mich in northern Wisconsin in fall. I always know the season is starting to wind down, but it’s also a reminder that it’s “real” muskie season and we are in the heart of the fall. The leaves are either falling or mostly gone and the water temperatures are dropping. We are typically fishing live bait and artificials in tandem. It seems that every time we fish together, the bite is either heavy on the live bait or heavy on the artificials. One of my most memorable experiences was when John caught a beautiful 50-incher on a sucker. We were checking rods moments after releasing a 46-incher. It’s crazy, but really symbolic of how fast and furious—but short-lived—the muskie bite can be on any fall day.


I don’t want to get into fishing live bait. On many fall days, it can be extremely effective. If you are allowed to run multiple lines, I am a big fan of always trailing some meat while casting. However, here are my two favorite lures to utilize in fall when fishing live bait—they make a perfect tandem. Even if you aren’t into live bait fishing, you should seriously consider fishing these two lures to score on big fall muskies.


Muskies on jerkbaits


When fishing waters 10 feet and shallower in fall, I always have a rod rigged with a glider jerkbait. This lure is absolutely incredible for pulling muskies from cover and triggering them to strike. The key is to not overwork these lures in the fall. Just impart a series of taps or short twitches with the rod tip. Also, make sure to not get too methodical in the retrieve. You are trying to achieve that classic side-to-side movement of the lure, but you need to break up the cadence to trigger strikes. So, I’ll make sure and pause the bait one or two times each retrieve and give it an extra couple seconds to fall.


I really like the Phantom Softail, because, on controlled slack line, it shimmies and looks alive. Plus, the tail is always moving. So, it’s a prime opportunity for a muskie to react to the pause and strike the lure. At boatside, I typically pause the lure about 10 to 15 feet from the boat to see if a muskie is behind it and if the fish will bite on the pause, then I figure 8 the lure at boatside. As long as the tail is moving on the Phantom Softail, you have a shot at catching a muskie at boatside. My favorite colors for these gliders in fall are generally natural such as white, sucker or walleye patterns, but in some dark waters orange or chartreuse really shine.


Muskie Fishing Deep-down Bull Dawgs


My other go-to lure in fall, for waters 10 feet and much deeper, is the Magnum or Pounder Bull Dawg. Typically, when I am fishing deeper weed edges or breaklines in clearer water lakes, depths of 15 to 25 feet are much more common. This is where the Bull Dawg really shines. You can get the large soft plastic—which essentially is a large jig with a tail—closer to the deep cover or breakline and get a muskie to react.

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Remember to break up the cadence. Toss in a few shorter twitches or a couple hard rips. There’s really no wrong way to fish the Bull Dawg in fall. Just keep in mind, it’s fall. Fish slower and generally a little deeper, than you might in midsummer. Finish off with a big figure 8 at boatside and hesitate the lure at the outside of the turns to make the Bull Dawg pause and sink before continuing out of the turn. That subtle move often triggers followers to bite at boatside. There are lots of Bull Dawg colors, but you really want to keep it simple. Make sure you have one that’s primarily black, another that’s primarily gold, and a third that’s primarily white. With those three, you can’t go wrong.


Actually, this fall, if you are fishing a glider jerkbait and a Bull Dawg, whether you are trailing live suckers or not, you really can’t go wrong. These lures have proven themselves in my boat to work throughout the years, everywhere across the muskie range, when the water temperatures drop and the big fall muskies start putting on the feed bag. Fall muskie fishing is never easy, but if you keep your presentations simple, and spend more time fishing than running between spots this fall, you might catch your personal best.



If you want to learn even more about muskie fishing, be sure to check out Musky Hunter magazine or Also, watch “The Musky Hunter” television show—pure muskie fishing from the comfort of your own home at