January 25, 2016
A stroll down the aisles of any muskie-minded deal with store price its salt stirs the senses with a legion of lures constructed for the king of the Esox clan. But inside this choice, one of many supple muskie softbaits reigns supreme for upping your odds of successâ€”Muskie Improvements’ Bull Dawg.
Mainly a soft-plastic physique balanced on a stout jig-head, the Dawg could also be quick on shine, and unassuming in comparison with cranks, jerkbaits, or hair. However within the hearts of contemporary muskie hounds, it is second to none for producing large fish all through a lot of the seasonâ€”particularly for these anglers who know the nuances of constructing these baits carry out.
“It is my number-one casting bait by far,” says veteran big-water information Bret Alexander. On Lake Michigan’s Inexperienced Bay and Sturgeon Bay, Alexander connects purchasers to mammoth muskies topping the 50-inch mark every season, some pushing previous 55 with overweight bellies swelling past 30 inches.
“June, July, and August are peak Bull Dawg months,” he says. “I can not provide you with a scientific cause; that is simply after they produce probably the most muskies.” This timeframe coincides with Alexander’s deal with forage-rich near-shore vegetation, “particularly the deep edges of weedbeds,” he provides. “The best situation is the place a wholesome patch of submergent vegetation akin to cabbage or coontail runs alongside a slowly tapering backside from 5 to 7 ft of water out to 12 to fifteen ft. In an ideal world, the grass ought to prime out a few foot beneath the floor.”
Together with his boat positioned over deeper water, Alexander strikes parallel to the weededge, lobbing lengthy casts inshore at a 45-degree angle to the financial institution. “The bait ought to land in about 5 ft of water, and lower a barely crosswise arc throughout the mattress because it strikes towards the deep edge,” he says.
Though not as animated as some muskie baits, a Bull Dawg could be taught a couple of tips. “Experimentation is vital,” says Alexander. “I typically begin burning the bait again as quickly because it lands. At different occasions, it is higher to let it fall a foot or two, then start reeling.”
Retrieves range as nicely. Sluggish and principally regular, quick and jerky, mixtures of every, the entire aboveâ€”and all the things in betweenâ€”have their place in Alexander’s playlist. “Generally I fish it like a jerkbait, different occasions I make slight changes by reeling quicker or slower,” he says. “Muskies not often favor a static retrieve.
“One of many largest tips to working a Bull Dawg is switching rod tip angles,” he provides. “I typically begin a retrieve with the tip pointed downward in entrance of me, then shift it to my proper, then left. These motions impart directional adjustments to the bait and set off strikes. Whenever you’re utilizing the switch-up strategy, 90 p.c of your hits come if you change rod angles.”
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Alexander additionally advises to by no means hit a possible candy spot solely as soon as. “Whereas it is not productive to beat a spot to loss of life, you need to all the time make a few casts over a first-rate space, working the bait at completely different depths, with completely different retrieves,” he says. “Attempt the primary one with the lure working excessive and regular, then make one other deeper, for a high-low strategy.” If these casts fail to hookup, Alexander strikes on. “Hold shifting and preserve making an attempt,” he encourages. “You are in search of energetic fish, so do not stay in a single place too lengthy.”
The nuts and bolts of Alexander’s presentation are simple: stout rod, 80- to 100-pound Berkley FireLine mainline, 60- to 80-pound fluorocarbon chief. Bait choice, which hinges on situations, is one other matter. “Darkish days name for darkish baits, and sunny days imply vivid baits,” he says. “I do know that flies within the face of some people’ standard knowledge, however that is how we roll.” It is price noting that the Nice Lakes muskie meccas Alexander favors are gin clear, with visibilities within the 20-foot vary.
One other muskie sage who sings the praises of a well-placed Bull Dawg is thought extra for his exploits within the panfish and walleye arenas. Minnesota Northwoods information and In-Fisherman Contributor Brian “Bro” Brosdahl places purchasers on pansies and ‘eyes year-round, however his coronary heart is rarely removed from the adrenaline rush of getting an enormous muskie explode on his bait at boatside. “I used to information for muskies and fish for them alone earlier than and after information journeys. However consistently restocking my boat with gear for various species received previous, so I narrowed my guiding focus considerably,” he explains.
However as soon as bitten, all the time a muskie fanatic. For Brosdahl, which means a lifelong affinity for Dawg exhibits. “Lots of the muskies on the lakes I fishâ€”Leech, Cass, Winnie, Plantagenetâ€”are recycled, that means they have been caught earlier than,” he says. “That interprets into lots of follows from cautious fish. However slow-moving chunks of sentimental plastic like Bull Dawgs are much less alarming to gun-shy muskies, so that they produce extra strikes.”
Such softbaits additionally shine for mimicking most popular forage species, Bro contends. “These pulsating, soft-plastic blobs are useless ringers for soft-rayed baitfish like suckers, ciscoes, whitefish, shiners, and bullheads,” he says. Sure, bullheads. “Recover from the spines,” he chides. “When an enormous, toothy predator crushes a bullhead and swallows it head-first, the spines are non-factors.” Certainly, in additional southern muskie lakes, bullheads are frequent meals gadgets within the fertile weedbeds large muskies prowl.
Whereas Alexander and lots of different specialists make use of erratic retrieves, Bro believes a refined strategy could be equally rewarding. “I like a non-jerky motion as a result of there’s one thing a few huge, soft-plastic bait slipping seamlessly by way of the water that journeys jaded muskies’ triggers,” he says.
Particularly in heavy weedbeds, the fixed gyrations are a muskie magnet, he notes. “Some individuals prefer to jerk and glide their softbaits, however I like to drag them alongside slowly. The thumping, paddling locomotions get muskies’ consideration. Even when the bait is hidden from view by weedgrowth, its vibrations alert predators to its presence.”
After all there are different tips on this Dawg’s repertoire. The addition of a Bull Dozer or different related in-line spinner blade on the nostril provides thump and flashâ€”a boon in stained water and at evening. And the mid-body blade of a HELI Dawg presents a novel feel and look, which works nicely on a straight retrieve or when helicoptered (therefore the identify) into weed pockets.
Certainly, a Dawg-style softbait’s attraction and makes use of are restricted solely by creativeness. To not knock flashier displays, however this unassuming mass of jelly-like polymers is tough to beat for a lot of the Summer season Interval, when the fish of our goals are oh, so shut, however typically frustratingly elusive.