Speed up for Summer Muskies

Speed is the king in summer. As the water gets warmer, you have to consider how fast you are going. This includes both casting and trolling. When casting in summer, it is easy to get lulled into fishing slow-moving jerkbaits and soft plastics, as they often will produce that lazy follow. This can be good because it lets you determine where a big one lives, and you can go back and catch it later in the evening or when there is some type of weather change. However, if you are looking to catch one in the heat of the day, during mid-summer, you might want to consider adding a little speed.

Summer is bucktail time and for good reason, these fast-moving lures can trigger strikes. Yes, there are times when a mid-speed or slower retrieve works best, but when you want to trigger a strike, try picking up the speed and burning the retrieve. Cowgirls certainly rule in summer, but also try fishing the Junior models or even the traditional Showgirl. Ideally, the lure is running a foot or less from the surface and is “smoking” through the water.

This is where the Shimano Tranx remains supreme. This reel was designed for fishing large-bladed bucktails such as the Cowgirl. I use the PG model for most applications, but when fishing Junior model Cowgirls or Showgirls with #8 blades, I use the HG model to get maximum speed on the bucktail. Fill the reel up with 100-pound-test PowerPro and crank away. If you find your bucktail is breaking the surface, try adding a little weight using a rubber core or bell sinker.

The advantage of the speed is that it can trigger a reaction strike by a muskie, or it will at least get a fish to follow. If you get a muskie to follow the fast-moving bucktail, it will not be swimming slowly. So, you have an advantage at boatside. If you burn into a figure 8 pattern at boatside, you can often trigger one of these fast-moving fish to strike. This quick change of direction after the fish has followed a burned bucktail, followed by hanging the lure for a split-second in a turn, often will provoke a strike.

Sometimes casting isn’t the preferred option, because the lure speed can’t be maintained or sometimes the area is just too large to cast effectively. You really have to consider the fact that sometimes it doesn’t make sense to have to cast an area for a couple of hours to cover it effectively. You could do the same thing in 30 minutes trolling. So, on big spots or when I think the fish may be scattered, roaming, and/or need some speed to trigger a strike, I’ll speed troll plugs in the propwash.

Lures such as Wileys, Pikies and other shallow-running, jointed plugs that can retain speeds of 5 miles per hour on short lines are a must. Both straight and jointed models work. Now, how short? Generally, I am not running a lure longer than 25 feet at this time and depending on the cover, I may run lines three to 10 feet from the rod tip. In fact, if you keep the lines short and point them in the water behind the back of the transom, you can take advantage of the boat and propwash pushing down the weeds slightly and run baits right over the weed tops. You’ll still have to clean the baits, but you can get through more easily than you think. The key is running the baits short and fast!

When working weed edges, you can let out a little more line, but again, you don’t need to put out too much line. Speed and the erratic action of the lure moving at high speeds will trigger strikes. The fish will react to these lures and either hit them or get out of the way. Keep your drag tight and be ready, because when a muskie hits, it is incredible.

One last word on this speed-trolling situation is that I can’t even begin to count the times where I couldn’t buy a strike trolling at 4 mph, but when I kicked up the speed to 5 to 6 mph, it seemed like the lake came alive.

The dog days of summer can be tough. Not only on your body from the hot sun, but on your confidence as you try to determine a way to get the muskies to bite when it seems like they don’t want to even look at a bait. When things get tough, try kicking up the speed. Whether you are a caster, troller or both, pick up the speed and see what happens. After all, if nothing is happening you have nothing to lose.

Jim Saric caught this muskie burning an ‘extra heavy’ bucktail on a hot summer day.