Catch Giant Pike and Muskies in Super Shallow Water

Ill-tempered and ravenous, postspawn muskies are prowling the shallows, looking for something to clobber. Make it your topwater lure. This edge-of-your-boat-seat, skinny-water action will only last a couple of weeks, and Jim Stewart, part-time muskie guide and owner of Rollie & Helen's Musky Shop (800-453-5224; muskyshop.com), can help you make the most of it.

1 FIND THEM Stewart pins down postspawn muskies by first hitting the shallow, north-end muck bays where the fish typically spawn. He then targets nearby points, downed trees, weed-and-rock transitions, cabbage, and sand-and-gravel shelves. Pay special attention, he says, to where the wind is blowing into cover or structure. Shut your boat motor down about 75 yards away from the structure, and use your trolling motor to sneak to within about 100 feet of your target.

2 FOOL THEM Make a long cast. Bring the turn-tail bait back with a steady retrieve, holding the rod tip low. Do the same with the dog-walker, but add repeated twitches that make the lure sashay from side to side. If you see a muskie following, don't stop the retrieve, Stewart stresses. Speed it up.

When the lure is about 10 feet from the boat, release the reel's spool and make a figure L or 8. "If you're just searching, do an L," Stewart says. "If you've had a follower, do a full figure 8 or two."

3 LAND THEM "The biggest mistake I see people make with top-water muskies is setting the hook too soon," says Stewart. Don't react to what you see, but wait until you feel the weight of the fish. Then come up and to one side with the rod tip-- and hard.

Your drag should be screwed down so tight that you can hardly pull line out. Once you know you have a solid hookset, back the drag off to let the fish run. Then take your time, and use a good muskie net to land your trophy.

THE OUTFIT

THE ROD A 7½-foot medium-heavy baitcasting rod with a long handle, like St. Croix's Avid Series Musky Rod, facilitates long two-handed casts and works well for figure 8s.

THE REEL Match it with a sturdy one-piece-frame baitcasting reel, such as Daiwa's Luna.

THE LINE Spool up with a small-diameter, low-stretch 80-pound-test superbraid, like SpiderWire Stealth, and finish with a 12-inch, 100-pound, prerigged fluorocarbon leader.

THE BAITS

[1] TURN-TAIL BAIT Use an 8- or 9½-inch Sennett Tackle Pacemaker in Orange Black Lace as a searching bait. Go with the smaller model in calm, clear water.

[2] DOG-WALKER Once you find fish, walk the dog with a 7½-inch Poe's Giant Jackpot in black-and-silver.