We were in the middle of the classic mid-afternoon summer lull, something every musky hunter has experienced. The wind was gone and so were the clouds. The sun was beaming and despite having applied sunscreen for the second time, I could feel it burning my skin. The temperature and humidity were both extremely high and the muskies seemed to be non-existent for the last couple hours. We returned to a couple locations we had seen muskies earlier in the morning to use them as a barometer to determine if we had been fishing spots that weren’t holding muskies, or if indeed they just weren’t moving. On our third spot where we had either seen or caught a musky earlier, I switched to a smaller bladed bucktail and decided to just start reeling as fast as possible. I vividly remember making an exta-long cast, lowering my rod tip towards the water and cranking fast. I jokingly yelled to Tom, it was time to “shock the world”. Seconds later the rod was almost ripped out of my hand, as I experienced a ferocious strike from a musky. Tom and I just couldn’t stop laughing in the moment from what just transpired, and that made landing the 45 incher a little more difficult than normal. Ultimately, we landed and released the musky.
We gathered our composure and decided to test our new theory that super-speed was needed to trigger strikes in the heat. Over the next couple hours we boated two more muskies and had follows from a handful of other muskies. When we went in for dinner we couldn’t believe how that speed change seemed to turn everything around and how the muskies came alive. To this day, we often turn to shock the world, and are still amazed how it can spark a strike. Simply, use a high-speed reel such as a Shimano Tranx 400 spooled fully with 80-100 pound test PowerPro, point your rod tip at the lure and crank fast!
The above example was not a one-time experience as speed has produced on numerous occasions. There’s no question the one theme to keep in mind when fishing muskies during summer is that you need to rely on speed to trigger strikes. Slower speeds tend to produce more follows, but speed makes them bite. Speed applies to not only in-line spinners, but jerkbaits and minnowbaits as well.
When your fishing partner is burning a bucktail you need to be able to fish a lure that can compliment that speed. Afterall, if you are fishing fast in the front, the boat tends to move faster as well. So, it’s difficult to follow-up with a slow moving presentation. A perfect second bait choice is a side-to-side glider-style jerkbait. Rather than fish the lure slowly, try using several fast jerks and cranking quickly between them to really get the lure moving fast and erratic. It’s often exactly what it takes to trigger a speed-strike in summer. Just make sure to once or twice during each cast pause the lure for an extra second or two. That way when a musky engages your lure and is in hot pursuit, that two-second pause, followed by the lure exploding away from the musky often triggers a strike.
Another summer lure I use a lot is a 9” ShallowRaider. I love fishing big minnowbaits in summer as their size and profile make it easy to create a lot of commotion. During summer I try and make a lot of cover collisions with this bait and use a lot of speed as well. My go-to retrieve at this time is a hard rip/pause retrieve. I typically move the rod about 18 inches with each rip and quickly pick up the slack. I am keeping the bait moving forward, and accelerating it with each rod rip. If it bounces off a rock, that just seems to make the overall retrieve even better. With these large profile lures, it’s easy to get the attention of a musky. The fast and erratic retrieve gets them to bite. I don’t want a musky to follow, I prefer they either hit it or get out of the way. If a musky was spotted earlier in the day on a spinner, this is a great lure to use the second-time through the spot.
Summer days are long and there’s lots of spots to fish, if you are getting lots of follows, or if the muskies seemed to disappear, try cranking up the speed and get the muskies attention. You might convert those followers to strikers!