Good For Anglers & Better For Musky
By John Myhre © 2011
For many years the use of live baits such as very large suckers has been an accepted
method for fall Musky. Along with this tradition came the idea that Muskies caught with
live bait should be killed, since they were most often "gut hooked".
The catch and release
concept has made a real improvement in our Musky fisheries over the past few decades, and
the technology in quickstrike (QS) rigging live-bait is totally compatible with this line
of thinking. Quickstrike rigs allow for an immediate hook set with near 100% hookups. Most
live-baiting for Muskies is done in the cold water periods of the year when a Musky's
metabolism is slowed way down. Since Muskies are almost always mouth hooked on a QS rig
they are very releaseable. Live bait fishing with QS rigs can add a whole new dimension to
your Musky angling, especially during the cold water periods when fishing gets extra
Sucker harnesses and other types of live bait rigs have been around for many years. QS
rigs, a generic name, are the new generation of these live bait rigs. Things like finer
wire, smaller hooks, and perfect hook placement in the bait make these rigs very
MATCH THE HOOKS TO THE BAIT SIZE
For many years the consensus was that one should use as large a hook as possible for
Muskies, but in actual fact the bigger the hook, the harder it is to drive home into a
Musky's bony jaw. Smaller hooks set much easier.
When rigging, use treble hooks that are just big enough to have exposed hook points
after being rigged on a sucker minnow. Here is a list of treble hook sizes for
corresponding bait lengths.
|8" - 10"
||#l or #2
|11" - 15"
||#1/O or #2/0
|16" - 18"
||#3/O or #4/0
My personal preference is for 12" to 14" size suckers. The huge size,
18" and over suckers usually don't work very well with quickstrikes because their
body is too thick to get good hook exposure and they are so strong that they often tear
the hooks out of themselves. When using the smaller size hooks I always use heavy duty
models to prevent straightening or crushing. Remember needle-sharp hooks are a must, so
always sharpen them.
RIGGING FOR 100% HOOKUP
Hook placement in the bait will make the difference in hooking percentages. I have
found that a sucker hooked through the nose with one hook, the traditional method, will
get 50% of the fish that strike. The other 50% wind up getting no hooks and just letting
go of your sucker.
In order to get good hookups, the hooks must be positioned properly and move in the
Musky's mouth to penetrate. Hooks just don't tear out of a sucker's nose that easily. When
I started hooking the front hook through the soft flesh on the cheek of the sucker so the
hook could easily tear free, my hookup percentages jumped incredibly. The best placement
for the rear hook seems to be low on the side just behind the dorsal fin. This usually
puts the hook in a good position to nail 'em.
QUICKSTRIKE RIG CONSTRUCTION
basic rig construction consists of a 24-inch length of uncoated bronze stranded
wire, 20 to 50 lb. test, a heavy duty rear treble hook, and a smaller front treble or
optional single front hook. The front hook should contain shrinkable tubing around the
shank so it will slide on the wire making it adjustable. A strong black swivel should be
attached on the opposite end of the whole rig. An optional small spinner blade should be
added in front of the front hook making it legal for use in states where a multiple hook
rig is illegal. The whole thing can be assembled by using either crimp-on sleeves or
twisting the wire to make a good connection. You can easily make your own rigs or they can
be purchased from most Musky tackle outlets.
When fishing with quickstrike rigs it is often better to freeline the suckers instead
of using bobbers. Use a 1/2 to 1 ounce sinker on the line just ahead of the swivel. The
additional weight will keep the bait in the productive zone nearly all of the time. In the
fall, work your suckers over the deeper areas that have stumps, logs, cribs, and or rocks.
When fishing on clear natural lakes concentrate on bars and areas of shoreline that have
sharp breaks into deep water with cover and bait-fish present. When a Musky picks up your
sucker, try to get directly over it right away and set the hook very hard.
So there you have it. Some new twists to an old idea that may help you to boat a few
more fish. The next time you're going to fish live bait for Muskies, try a quick strike
rig. They're the answer to many problems associated with live bait angling, and most
importantly, they rarely damage the Musky.