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What happens when you get two fishing pros together?

Jeff Gustafson's first muskie of the day caught fishing with a sucker.
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What happens when you get two fishing pros together?

A lot of trophy fish is what happens!

Pro angler Jeff Gustafson recounts his day of fishing with muskie legend Pete Maina. They show us just how great fall fishing in Sunset Country really is!

A few weeks back, I was asked if I might be able to sneak away for a day of fishing with the original musky maniac Pete Maina while he was up in Sunset Country filming an episode of his new fishing show Catch ’N Relief. I had crossed paths with Pete a few times over the years at a few boat and fishing shows, and I have watched many of his TV shows over the years, so I was excited at the opportunity to share the boat with him for a day.  

The goal for our day of fishing was to show people the excellent options that are available to anglers in the fall after many anglers have gone home and put their gear away for the winter. I do quite a bit of fishing in the fall, right through to freeze-up, so I knew we would have some fun catching crappies, walleyes, and bass. The trophy pike and musky that Sunset Country is known for are a different story. 

Over the years, I have tried to film five or six episodes of musky fishing, only to come up short on most outings with follows or a small fish. Fishing is always tougher when there is a camera in the boat! It’s still world-class fishing for pike and musky, and I catch a bunch of these fish when I’m chasing bass or fishing with buddies, but when the pressure is on, I might be cursed. 

One of the big bass they caught that day!

We left the boat launch on Lake of the Woods and started fishing on one of my favourite fall crappie holes. I hadn’t been there yet this year, so it took a little bit of idling around to find a school of fish on the Humminbird, but once we did, we quickly boxed up half a dozen fish for dinner and let the rest go. It was fast and furious action once we found them, and we didn’t take any photos, but they were nice ones and we ate well!  

After some crappie action, we moved along to hit a couple of my favourite late-season smallmouth humps. We got on top of some nice smallmouths pretty quick, catching a few dropping some jigs and drop-shot rigs on top of them, and a few casting an umbrella rig and a flutter spoon. Pete was impressed with the spoon because it’s kind of a pike bait that works really well for bass late in the year. It’s a 5-inch long, ¾-oz spoon that you allow to flutter around in these schools of fish. They absolutely hammer it when they bite.

After catching some bass (and I knew we would), it was time to chase the toothy critters. If we could just get one or two to bite, we would have a pretty good show put together after the fast action with the bass and crappies. We did catch a few walleyes mixed in with these fish as well.  

The spoon that the bass were loving.

We took a ride to a different part of the lake to fish for toothy critters. When we pulled up, Pete told me he had a few live sucker minnows in the boat that he picked up a bait shop when he arrived in Ontario the night before. I have actually never used a live sucker to musky fish before, but I was excited to see how it was done. I know some people are against using them, but I’m all about catching fish, I don’t care what they bite! 

Pete discussed in the boat how they are actually a lot better for the fish than most lures because they don’t hook fish around their eyes or rip their mouths. He was using a pair of smaller-than-I-would-expect treble hooks, which always hook muskies in the corner of the mouth if you hit them quickly after they bite. Moments after he dropped the first sucker about 8 feet down under the boat in 15 feet of water, I got to find out first-hand how slick these rigs are when I set the hook on a nice musky in the low 40-inch range. It got my heart pumping big time! It was fun, and that’s what fishing is all about.

Jeff's muskie caught on a sucker.

We continued fishing the first spot we started on, and fished our way around a long point. When we got around the other side of the point, I caught my second musky in about 15 minutes. It bit an oversized bass jerk bait that I have caught a few muskies and a bunch of nice pike on in the past. I had just finished mentioning to Pete that I have probably caught a couple of hundred muskies in my life, but you could count on two hands the number that I have caught when I’ve actually been fishing for them. I have a jinx! But maybe I finally kicked it today. The second musky was a mid-40-inches and really thick. A beautiful fish that I was jacked about catching! I’m ready to be a musky angler now for the rest of the season!  

Jeff's second muskie of the day.

We continued fishing the same spot, and Pete took a turn on the sucker minnow, landing a big pike, followed by another nice pike on a large crankbait he was casting. What a productive spot. It was one that was obvious on the map, a long point with several high spots on it and deep water access nearby—all the ingredients for a good late-season spot. After we left this spot, we rolled over a couple more main lake reefs, and Pete put a few more big pike in the net. It was another successful day of fishing in Sunset Country!

Pete used a sucker minnow to catch this huge northern pike.

The great thing about fishing in October is you have a shot at some of the biggest fish of the year. Everything is chunky and heavy as they prepare for a long winter. The lakes are quiet with little boat traffic and if you dress properly, it’s nice being out there. While some of the resorts across the region shut down in September, there are quite a few that stay open throughout the fall and even year-round. Some will be quiet during October while they wait for hunters to show up, so you may be able to find some hot deals at some of these places… to go with the hot fall fishing.  

A successful muskie release!

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