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Fall for Ontario Muskies

A beautiful muskie caught in Ontario. • Credit: Gord Pyzer

The sun is setting earlier in the afternoon these days. Water temperatures are plummeting and the leaves are changing colours. The smell of wood smoke and burning leaves is also permeating the crisp, fresh air.

It can mean only one thing. Fall has finally arrived and with it, the chance to catch the muskie of your dreams in one of Ontario's magnificent muskie palaces.

No matter how good the muskie fishing is in Ontario the rest of the year, and trust me, it is better than anywhere else in the world, autumn is still "the best of the best".


The peak period avid muskie anglers wait for from, well, one autumn to the next.

And, while most big toothy critter chasers automatically start trolling in the fall, I prefer to cast, at least, until the water temperature drops another five to ten degrees or until Halloween, whichever comes first.

I particularly like casting for muskies in the early fall period because you can better adapt and adjust the speed of your retrieve, based on daily water and weather conditions.

And, when you spot a giant fish trailing behind your bait, you can get into the perfect position to figure-eight it into biting alongside the boat.

Talk about a rush

But there is another reason I so enjoy casting big baits for big toothy critters at this time of the year. It's because Ontario muskie fishing guru and guide, Jon Bondy showed me the deadly "splashdown" technique last autumn.

Jon Bondy with a gorgeous Ontario fall muskie Jon Bondy with a gorgeous Ontario fall muskie. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

To be honest, I didn't think you could teach this old dog many new tricks, but fortunately, Jon wasn't buying into that philosophy. As a result, the “splashdown” technique now ranks among the most revolutionary muskie methods I've ever seen.

And it works from Lake St. Clair and the Ottawa River in the southern part of the province, to the French River and Lake Nipissing in the Near North, right across to Eagle Lake, Wabigoon, Lac Seul and Lake of the Woods in Northwestern Ontario's far-flung Sunset Country.

Like so many other things associated with muskie fishing, the procedure is also incongruous, paradoxical and contradictory.

I say that because when it comes to the splash-down method of muskie fishing, you want to make as much noise as humanly possible. Not unnatural clamours, mind you, like dropping a tackle box or heavy anchor on the bottom of a metal boat floor, but rather natural, attracting sounds like a fat, fleeing baitfish scurrying across the surface of the lake, or a wounded whitefish or ciscoe, imitating Nureyev in Swan Lake, not that I've ever been to a ballet.

Indeed, the first time I fished with Jon and watched him fling his heavy, seven-ounce, signature series Bondy Bait into the air, I was bowled over. I mean, it appeared as though he was trying to get as much height to his cast as distance.

Ontario muskie guide Jon Bondy with a beautiful muskie Ontario muskie guide Jon Bondy with a beautiful muskie caught on one of his signature series Bondy Baits. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

And when the lure crashed back down, I fully expected to hear a phantom voice shout out: "Houston, we have splashdown".

There was water flying everywhere upon impact

"That is the whole point," Bondy chuckled, as I watched him, wide-eyed, from the back of the boat, "Muskies aren't afraid of anything. So when they hear a bait hit the surface, it doesn't spook them like it might a bass, walleye or trout. Instead, they think it is dead, dying or struggling fish. A meal. It raises their curiosity and attracts them to your lure."

Of course, he is right, which is why, these days, I never throw strikes when I pitching big bait for muskies. Instead, I play slow pitch, lobbing my lure as high up into the air as possible, so that when it lands, it sounds like someone driving a Volkswagen off a high cliff.

I especially like splashing down lures this way when I fish structures -- underwater points, bars, shoals and reefs that border deep water. The other place I've found the technique excels is along deep weed lines where the fish hear the noise and come rushing out of the jungle to investigate.

Gord Pyzer with a typical Ontario muskie caught in southern Ontario Gord Pyzer with a typical Ontario muskie caught in southern Ontario. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

And while you can splash down just about any big, hard or soft plastic muskie bait, my two favourites are Storm's 9-inch Wildeye Swim Shad and Jon's original Bondy Bait.

Simply cast the lure out, as high and as far as you can, and let it splashdown. Upon entry, either let the lure fall all the way to the bottom or count it down to the depth you want to fish. Then, when it reaches that depth, point your rod tip parallel to the surface and begin swimming the lure back to the boat, methodically lifting your rod up and down as you retrieve your line.

Finally, when your lure is near the boat, let it fall back to the bottom, or at least to the point where it is hanging vertically, straight up and down, and let it dangle there for a second or two. Then lift it up with your rod tip six or seven times, from the 9:00 o'clock position to 11:00 o'clock, before letting it shimmy back down.

Gord Pyzer and Doug Stange with a 42-pound plus muskie Gord Pyzer and Doug Stange with a 42-pound plus muskie caught in the fall while fishing in Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Just remember to pause for a second or two at the top of each lift as well as at the bottom of each fall, because that is the magical moment when a giant muskie -- or bonus prodigious pike -- is most likely to eat your bait and yank the rod out of your hand.

It is fall -- time to catch the muskie of your dreams -- in Ontario.

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