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Bigger, Better, Deeper

Bigger, Better, Deeper

The most valuable fishing lessons are the ones you learn early on without any help.



The most valuable fishing lessons — at least the ones that stick with you for life — are the ones you learn early, without any help.  As a kid, I grew up fishing a small gem of a lake in the Haliburton Highlands of central Ontario. It was shallow, full of lush cabbage weeds and the muskies topped out around the 46 to 48-inch mark. Beautiful fish to be certain — especially to an impressionable kid — but not quite the world records I read and dreamed about in legendary waters like the St. Lawrence River, Georgian Bay, Lake Nipissing and Lac Seul. So, I did what most muskie anglers do when they fish similar small and moderate size lakes. I pitched modest size baits and lures.

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It was a winning strategy, too, as I caught my fair share of fish. One time, forty-four muskies over a ten-day period. But the biggest critters in the lake seemed to elude me until the light finally switched on. My small home lake, you see, also had an excellent population of walleyes, and when I was catching them, I’d often spot big muskies in hot pursuit. That started me wondering why the biggest fish always showed up when I was walleye fishing? I decided I needed to add much bigger muskie baits to my tackle box.

Understand what I am saying? The biggest fish in this little lake always seemed to follow the 14-, 15- and 16-inch walleyes that I was catching. Rarely are my 6-, 8- and 10-inch lures.  

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Now, fast forward and come full circle to today, where I live on Lake of the Woods, one of the renowned muskie waters of my dreams. That early lesson has not been forgotten. As a matter of fact, it has been reinforced in several ways.

Specifically, I now throw the biggest and noisiest baits on the deepest structures in the lake.  Especially — but not exclusively — when I am pitching and tossing surface lures.  Just last week, for example, my grandson Liam and I enjoyed a spectacular day on the water, when I raised a muskie of epic proportions. An over 40-pound Goliath, no question about it. Unfortunately, she didn’t bite and only half-heartedly trailed behind my lure when I swung it into a figure eight at the side of the boat. But the fact of the matter is that I never would have raised the behemoth in the first place —  nor discovered where she was hiding — if I hadn’t enticed her out of her lair with super big bait.  

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Even more to the point is the fact that I am certain the big toothy critter had no intention, whatsoever, of eating my lure.  But muskies have an astonishing streak of curiosity that, when combined with summer home range protection, makes it unable for them to resist checking out what is making the commotion.  So, I rely on large surface lures like the Handlebarz High Roller, Water Wolf Buzz Blade, MKT Prop Bait and Fish Whistle Magician to coerce big fish into exposing themselves.

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Ditto, when I am fishing the edge of a 15- to 25-foot deep muskie structure and almost any time the bite is turned off.  My go-to lure is often an 11-ounce Bondy Magnum or 11.6-ounce Royal Orba King Daddy. I may ultimately catch King Kong on a much smaller lure, but I first discovered where it was hiding thanks to the big bait.

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Like I said, the most valuable fishing lessons are the ones you learn early without anyone else’s help.

Good fishing in Ontario this season.

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