Going Deep: Targeting Fall Muskies on their Fall Turf

Going Deep: Targeting Fall Muskies on their Fall Turf

Jodie Paul October 23, 2023

As the season slips away and we sink deeper into fall, turnover has upended a lot of lakes and some anglers are getting frustrated with minimal musky contacts, but you must hold out hope.  Fall time is the right time to take your musky fishing strategies to a different level, you might say a deeper level.  It’s time to pull muskies up from their cold-water holdouts and get them interested in your cranks, swimbaits, jerkbaits, or even a little boat-side sucker.

Now that temperatures are dropping and air pressure is increasing, muskies begin their fall and winter patterns down deeper to regulate their bodies.  For instance, think of tire pressure in the winter.  After a long summer of 35lbs of pressure in your tires, sometimes the first cold snap changes the pressure and you need to add a little air to sustain your tires for winter.  That sudden change in pressure is also felt by fish as they too have a small “tire” of gas inside.  In order to find some comfort, they typically drop lower to acclimate.

Despite residing lower in the water column, don’t be fooled, muskies are still very actively eating throughout the fall.  So, anglers must get up to speed on these new patterns and create the luck they need by using some tried and true methods.  When it comes to getting the interest of some hunkered-down fall muskies, focus your best efforts on a well-orchestrated pause.

It might sound basic, but summer is over and muskies are getting lazier by the second.  Rather than strike at a well-placed speeding bucktail, muskies are looking for an easier fare.  These muskies are looking for a Thanksgiving feast that won’t break their energy reserves, so give the muskies what they want.  It’s a great time to pull out rubber jerks, deep wobbly cranks, and slow and steady swim baits.  These muskies are desperate for a pause, belly-roll, and lumbering retrieve that they won’t have to work too hard to catch.

Fall muskies want to see those lures really working.  The number of strikes that come on the fall of a jerkbait or pause of deep glider/crank increases exponentially during this part of the year.  Muskies will be waiting on the last edge of a formerly productive structured location.  Don’t look for them in a shallow almost dead weed bed, they are moving out to the far edges of reefs, deep edges, and outer edges to catch the last of the summer baitfish taking up residence there. 

If you can work that lumbering jerkbait with some pauses, drops, and short jerks, you are more than likely to pull one of these big critters up looking for a slow-moving big snack for the day.  And don’t forget to hang a lively sucker off the side of the boat within reach of a slowly ascending musky.  Don’t put your sucker a foot down and expect it to be retrieved.  Drop it down so that it hangs in the line of sight for an approaching deep fish.  This will certainly increase your hook-up ratio if you give muskies the perfect opportunity.

Remember as muskies slink into their deeper water holding patterns for fall, this is a great opportunity to add some technique and slow down your presentations.  Just because they’re not waiting for your buzzing blades, doesn’t mean they’re not going to eat.  These guys are just looking for the right opportunity to strike, so we have to give them an easy (and many times bigger) target.