November is often not the most kind or comfortable month to fish; precipitation, winds, and cold temperatures affect not only fishermen, but the fish as well. Typically speaking, fishing during the month of November requires “thick skin” and patience - while feeding windows still exist, they are greatly shortened. Anglers having spent any time on open water this late in the calendar year know better than to expect fast and furious action.
Perhaps you find yourself asking, “Then why fish in November at all?!” The answer is simple – the late season gives you one of, if not THE best shot at boating a true giant. The fall feedbag has been worn and top predator fish such as the musky are very likely at their heaviest weight of the year. A glance through the volumes of photos I’ve taken over the years lends proof – make no mistake about it, fall muskies are fat muskies!
Certain patterns emerge at this time of year to effectively and consistently score on trophy muskies. The first of these is the use of live bait, mainly suckers, rigged on quick-strike rigs such as Fuzzy’s Clip-N-Go. “Musky suckers” can range anywhere from 10”-12” all the way to pushing two feet long. Suckers can be used be themselves or in conjunction with casting artificial lures. When wind and weather conditions allow casting of traditional esox offerings such as jerbaits and crankbaits in fall, it’s a deadly tactic to trail a sucker behind the boat, where legal, suspended either a couple of feet down below a large float or allowed to swim freely.
In addition, hanging suckers below the boat at staggered depths either while casting or not, is as close to “money” as it gets for late autumn bruisers. Adjust the depth of the bait to ensure one sucker is within a few feet of the bottom while the other is at mid-depth. Not only will the bait attract action on its own, but also entice muskies that follow an artificial lure into eating the sucker at the boat instead.
Where legal, trolling large crankbaits and jerkbaits is also an effective method to score on big muskies. Trolling gets a bad rap, as many anglers are ignorant to the complexities involved in trolling precisely. I’m not talking about the guy who blindly casts behind the boat having no idea how much line he has out or at what depth his bait(s) are running, cracks a beer, and drives randomly around the lake. Precision trolling is an acquired skill, requiring time, hard work, and even specialized equipment to do it right, but one worth mastering. Trolling allows an angler to place multiple baits at a given depth and keep them there, all the while covering water.
In respect to equipment, I prefer St. Croix rods and Daiwa line counter reels spooled with 50# Berkley Big Game; I prefer the monofilament during cold weather as it holds less water and thus is less likely to freeze to the spool. Top lure choices include Bulldawgs, 10” Jakes, Crisco’s, and other large quality crankbaits or jerkbaits.
Musky season closes the end of November; catch a monster and let it go. I’ll see you on the water…