Early Season Fishing

by Gary Bartlett

Gary Bartlett is a Coast Guard Captain and guides on the Lake of the Woods from the Northwest Angle of Minnesota for muskies.

The waters of Lake of the Woods (LOW) were no different from waters anywhere in the northern states.  The open water season started with late ice out conditions followed by much rain and cool temperatures.  This affected the muskie spawn.  I saw muskies spawning in May and still spawning in July.  These conditions brought new challenges to us fishermen.  Different areas of the Northwest Angle of LOW produced varying muskie responses to baits, if any at all.  Some areas that have been successful during the first few weeks of the season held few fish, while other areas held some fish.

For the most part the basic baits again caught fish once you located them.
My early season choices consisted of Lilly Tails™, Sneaky Pete’s™, and Grinders™.  Remember the fish will be in the weeds and bays for the first few weeks of the muskie season in Canada.

This is how I attack and fish the weeds; commonly referred to as slop.

The Lilly Tail™ is an awesome bait that works very well over the weed tops.  This bait is designed and best used as a bulging bucktail.  Move the bait fast until it starts to bulge then slowly slow the speed of the retrieve keeping it bulging.

When I cover the lower portion of the weed beds I will use a Grinder™.  This year I have been using the 2 ounce, as it settles and stays down in the cabbage better then the lighter versions.  The heavier Grinder™ also allows you to move the bait faster which enables you to cover more area in a shorter amount of time.  When using the Grinder™ remember to point your rod directly at the bait.  With a little bit of practice you will be able to retrieve the bait without weed foul-ups.  Since I am talking about slop fishing I will mention that if a bait has weeds on it – do not give up.  Muskies will hit a weed clogged bait.

The top producing bait for this year was the Sneaky Pete™. This bucktail is reversed tied which makes casting it effortless as the hair will not have the wind resistance like a regular bucktail.  A fast to very fast retrieve is what produces.  You can bulge, burn, or slow retrieve the Sneaky Pete™.  Bulging and burning over weed tops are the key presentations for me this time of year.   My congratulation here goes to Jim J.  Who in his third time muskie fishing used the Sneaky Pete™ to catch a 45” and a 47” on opening day.  I was using the Sneaky Pete™ and getting most of the follows in the boat so I took the bait off my line and snapped it onto Jim’s and the rest is history.

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