Fall is a magical time of year for musky fisherman. Decreasing water temperatures will start having these fish putting on the feedbag for the winter months, which allows us, as fishermen, more consistent opportunities for success. When I go out fishing/guiding for musky this time of year, the lure selection for me is also extremely easy. Here, I’ll share some bait classifications that I’ve had great success with in years past for the fall season.
1. Big bladed bucktails: these baits in various sizes and blade types have always been a staple, but this is the time of year where a large bucktail has historically taken some rather nice sized fish. Switching out the blades to a larger size, while somewhat tedious to retrieve without the right reel, is a great method to entice larger fish to follow. Some of my favorites include the Buchertail 800 Magnum, single/ double bladed cowgirls, and the Musky Safari Jackhammers.
2. Big crankbaits: It can be intimidating to throw large 8-10” crankbaits, but it’s one of the most effective techniques for catching muskies this time of year. Some crankbaits will run better than others, based on the line/leader combination, so it’s worth experimenting to get an individual bait dialed in correctly. Some of my favorites include the Grandma 9” Shallow Runner and the Crane 208.
3. Big Rubber baits: While heavy and tricky to fish with, a classic fall musky tactic is to use big rubber baits to try and find fish in tough conditions, like a cold front. Shallow versions of the Bulldog or October Tube fished on a slow pull-and-pause retrieve can induce takes when nothing else seems to work.
When it comes to colors this time of year, it’s more or less dependent on water clarity. With that said, it’s very hard to beat some combination of fire-tiger, black and orange, or even pink with any of the bait choices listed above.
The common thread between all of these baits is the size. I’ve personally done better on larger baits this time of year than any other point in the season, and it’s been a great tactic to get especially larger fish in a body of water to follow and commit.
If you do venture out this fall, please make sure that you have the appropriate tackle and landing gear necessary to handle and release these fish safely. We are very fortunate to have the musky fisheries in Western NC that are available to us, but it all comes down to releasing fish properly to ensure their survival.
Ethan Hollifield is a member of a conservation organization called 2% For Conservation and a guide for Southern Appalachian Anglers.