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Up Your Odds With Muskie

It has often been said that the muskie is "the fish of a 1000 casts"-something which if you assume 2 casts per minute or 120 cast per hour, should produce a muskie in about 8.5 hours. This is all assuming you’ve actually located some fish and don't stop to eat or drink anything.

So how is it that some anglers have 5 hookups or more per day? Wouldn't you just run out of hours in a day? I'll explain the components of this system I've used over the last decade to maybe cut that down to "a fish of 200 casts" or the possibility to hook 5 muskie per fishing day.

Mark Tarnawczyk with muskie

The system starts with the rod, my preference happens to be a 2-handed, 7 foot heavy action baitcasting rod rated for 17-40 pound test & 2 oz lures. I like a little spring in the the tip to really load the rod and cast a mile. Check out G. Loomis or, St.Croix websites for specific models.

For the reel, I'm a believer in Shimano and the wear and tear they can take and remain dependable day in and day out. I use a Calcutta 251 (left-hand retrieve) which can hold 160 yards of 17lb diameter line and has a very high speed retrieve ratio. Speaking of line, I exclusively use Superbraids with 60 pound or better break strengths as they offer great hook-setting power at long distances.

Mark Tarnawczyk Muskie

My lure of choice will probably be a debatable amongst the muskie fraternity but I’m a huge fan of the 1 ½ oz Ledgebuster Clearwater Spinnerbait in Single-Willowleaf.

This spinnerbait excels for its ability to run true and deep at very high speeds-without physically exhausting you like a crankbait or jerkbait would over the course of a day. This IS-the KEY to this system. You can cover a great deal of water effectively and appeal to active muskie through their sense of sight & vibration. They have not created a reel that can outrun the speed an active muskie can accelerate to yet and probably never will. Most of my casts range from 30-40 yards and can complete upwards of 3 retrieves per minute with the lure running anywhere between 2 feet to 8 feet below the surface.

The last part of the system which is as important as the actual tackle is location. This will vary according to season & forage base in the lake of your choice but one thing you need to keep in mind-the muskie is the top line predator in all freshwater. That being said, creating a milk run of locations you can fish fast is important. I consider 15 minutes to long on a spot that's 100 yards long. In this process, a pattern will emerge to you for muskie preferences on the lake that you fish and you become more effective on subsequent outings. Here are some "hard to beat" location choices for multiple hookups per outing.

Points with current and cover such as weed, wood or rock. The steeper the drop into deepwater, the better. Consider the wind in this scenario for how it positions baitfish. Don't overlook points originating from islands.


Bottleneck areas funnel current and concentrate baitfish. I found these to be incredible during the fall when temps hit 55 Fahrenheit until freeze up or the season closes.


Rock outcroppings & shoals really excel first & last light as muskies really aggressively prowl these areas. Again, wind often dictates the productivity of these areas from day to day. Cast over even the shallowest areas of the shoal. Any other cover such as weed or wood sweetens the spot.


Deep shorelines are another hotspot I never pass up, especially if it's the only deep water nearby. On a map, look for tightly bundled blue lines near shore. These areas are sweetened by scattered weeds, boat docks and shoreline cover. Deep for me is 6 feet within 10 yards of shoreline.


Fishing the above areas will reveal exact locations of specific fish and prime feeding real estate will soon become apparent to you that you can duplicate and expand on in the future. You milk run of spots will soon expand and the time you spend at each should decrease while hookup ratio will increase.

Considering everything I've force fed you, my 2 favourite lakes for muskie fishing for a good balance of size & numbers are Stony & Buckhorn Lake in Ontarios' Kawartha district for the sheer amount of muskie, varied locational elements & water clarity. A good pair of polarized glasses really helps, as does a good hydrographic map of the lake you are fishing. If you are going to gamble on the muskie game, it's good to have an ace up your sleeve.

Mark Tarnawczyk