Covering New Large Lakes to Catch a Monster Musky

Covering New Large Lakes to Catch a Monster Musky

Jodie Paul September 01, 2023

In the Northwoods of Wisconsin, we have the luxury of fishing a hundred lakes that you would consider small.  From 150-300 acre lakes are by no means rare here.  It is because of this that many anglers feel relaxed in taking day trips out alone.  Covering a small lake for muskies can take as little as a single afternoon.  Once you nail down the spots, it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time with, of course, the right lure.  Muskies can still give you a run for your money in a small space, but at least you know where to begin.

So, for those folks in the musky habitat range who must fish more extensive bodies of water on a day-to-day basis, how does one break down large lakes and identify where to start?  If you just have a day trip or a single weekend on a larger body of water, you really want to get your money's worth so to speak.  It doesn’t make sense to randomly just start fishing wherever the mood strikes you.  So here are some helpful hints to break down large bodies of water, so you know where to start before your lures ever hit the water.

Step 1: Local Knowledge

It just makes sense to get someone in on the trip who has local knowledge of where you want to go.  You wouldn’t travel to Indonesia without knowing where you’re staying and what currency you’ll be using.  The same can be said for large bodies of water.  There are three ways to obtain information prior to your trip.  Large bodies of water (containing muskies) usually have a number of working guides.  I highly recommend hooking up with a guide for your first experience.  Pay attention to safely traveled routes and musky structure being fished.  I wouldn’t overly mark your map, but pay attention to your surroundings and the tips given.

An internet sleuth session is also a great way to get tips for large bodies of water.  There are tons of message boards, fish recording apps, and general lake reviews that can point you in the right direction when it comes to tackling big water.  Find all of the bits of info you can and get to work with some map marking.  Lastly, don’t be afraid to call bait shops and local marinas.  These places can be a gold mine for breaking down what is working and where.  All you need is a few helpful hints to get started and the rest you can figure out as you go.

Step 2: Doing your Mapwork Homework

Before launching on any body of water, particularly large lakes, it’s superbly essential to take the time to do the mapwork.  There are a lot of free websites out there that host fairly detailed lake maps.  You might even run into a lake survey or two from a state agency with extra helpful information included.  Take it and any other map tips into consideration and use these to your advantage.

When you are looking at a map to locate muskies, you aren’t just thinking about general weedy bays.  It’s more important to note dramatic changes in depth, marking points, reefs, and bowls.  These places will be important year-round, not just on the “best” days.  You really want to focus energy on areas with access to both shallow and deep water.  Being boxed into a bay is rare for a musky as they change positions throughout the day.  Try looking for highways around the lake with good-looking stopping points that might mark the shallows, but always have access to deeper cooler water.  These areas will be the honey holes on the lake hosting muskies even on the worst days.

Step 3: Overwork Spots & Bring a Friend

On new and giant bodies of water, it’s a great idea to bring a fellow angler to pick apart the structure.  It’s a great idea to have one party cast deep while the other cast shallow, always using different lures and techniques.  This game plan will help you move thoroughly across the lake at a much quicker pace.  If you are working in a place for the first time, try to limit speed fishing.  It’s important to cover structure cast for cast.  Make casts that are 5-6 feet apart at most.  This will prevent you from overlooking a musky that hasn’t seen your lure.  Take the time to pick apart your predetermined areas well and don’t get hung up on spending too much time.  It’s usually the casts you don’t make that might have landed right in front of a monster.

Hopefully, these helpful hints will work in your favor the next time you have limited hours to break down a large body of water.  The most important thing you can do is put in the time to research prior to making your journey.  Don’t dally with disappointment by showing up and launching with no idea where you want to go or where the fish might be.  Musky fishing is disappointing enough on lakes you know like the back of your hand!