Multi-Rod Approach For Musky
By Craig Sandell © 20

Why do Muskie anglers use more than one rod?

There are many reasons but the main reason relates directly to the lures we use. If you have fished for Muskie for a couple of years, you have accumulated a few different lures…you undoubtedly have bucktails, crankbaits, jerkbaits and perhaps surface baits. Each of the lures come in different sizes and weights and each requires a different presentation technique. The difference in the lures dictates different rod, reel and line selections in order to accommodate the different demands upon lure presentations.

This article will try to set some general guidelines for line, rod and reel selection for each of lure types. First, however, we need to discuss rod loading.

What the heck is a rod loading?

Rod loading refers to the transfer of the casting momentum from your arm to the rod and from the rod to the lure. The stiffness of the rod, the flexibility of the rod tip and the weight of the line and the lure will all have an effect upon the loading of the rod. A good match of rod weight, line weight and lure weight combined with a good casting technique, will result in the maximum transfer of casting momentum from your arm to the lure…resulting in good casting distance and lure placement control.

For example; if you have a heavy weight rod with a "broom stick" backbone without a flexible rod tip and you are using a bait casting reel loaded with 40 pound micron line, you are not going to get much casting efficiency or control if you try to cast a ½ ounce bucktail. Conversely, if you have a light weight rod with a flexible rod tip and a reel loaded with 50 pound TUF line, you are going to have a problem trying to cast a 3½ ounce jerkbait. In the first instance the rod will not transfer your casting momentum and in the second instance the rod will ‘overload’ and negate casting momentum and lure placement control.

You can begin to see that your tackle configuration is directly related to your casting and presentation success.

As a visual example of rod loading, the seven pictures shown below will provide some perspective. (The pictures are courtesy of John Dettloff from his book Top Water Tactics and Tales.)

Armed with a perspective of rod loading, lets discuss the approach to different lure types:


In very general terms, the bucktail is a light weight lure with a very uncomplicated presentation…You cast it out and reel it in.

The rod you use should be at least 6½ or 7 feet in length. Because you are not casting a heavy lure, the rod should be on the "light weight" side with a medium backbone for a good hook set and a flexible rod tip for maximum rod loading.

The 6½ or 7 foot rod length in a nominal length. With it you can get a good loading of the rod and good casting control. A longer rod may work better for a boat side figure eight but you have to be careful not to overload the rod with a heavy bucktail like the large Eagletail or Cowgirl.

Suggestion: Layout all of the bucktails in which you have confidence. Get the rod that you have designated as your bucktail rod. Get the reel that you want to use (at least a 4.7:1 ratio) and load it with the line of your choice. Cast each of your bucktails with the rod/reel combination to be sure that the lure casts well and that you are able to accurately place the lure where you want it to be…Remember that you want to fight the Musky not the rod.

Crank/Twitch/Jerk Baits

Traditionally, these types of lures are usually used with a heavier weight of rod and heavier line. With the advent of spectra line, heavier line is less used than in the past and therefore a more streamlined rod can be used. As with the bucktail rod, 6½ or 7 feet is a good nominal length but the rod should be a medium weight rod. The heavier weight rod will make it easier to handle the action of a crankbait. The real consideration here is the weight of the lure. This type of nominal rod setup will support most medium sized crankbaits and jerkbaits. If you are tossing heavier lures, like the Bull Dawg, you will need to setup a heavier rod with line that has a tensile strength of 80 pound spectra or 40 pound braided micron.

Suggestion: As with the bucktails, layout all of the crank/twitch/jerk baits in which you have confidence and cast each using the rod and reel you have chosen. Make sure that the rod does not under or over load and test your casts for accuracy. Ensure that the lure action during retrieve meets you expectation.

Surface Lures

These lures tend to run a bit heavier than a bucktail and a bit lighter than a crank/twitch/jerk bait. With today’s spectra lines, you can probably use a rod of medium weight and backbone with a flexible tip. I would recommend the use of a reel with a 6.3:1 retrieve speed. This will provide you the flexibility to easily vary the action of the lure during the retrieve. The length can also be 6½ or 7 feet.

Suggestion: As with the other two types of lures, layout the lures in which you have confidence and cast each to be sure that you are getting the action you expect and the accuracy you require.

In Summary

I have tried to give you some general guidelines for rod/reel/lure configuration. I recognize that the nominal approaches discussed may not be effective using very light or very heavy lures. You will have to experiment with some different configurations to discover which will most compliment your fishing approach.

Talk to other Musky anglers and ask them how they deal with different lure and rod weights.

As a closing consideration, remember that you are going to be on the water casting for a good part of each fishing day. Heavier rods are harder to cast for long periods but lighter rods may not give you the control and hook set that you need.

There is more to Musky fishing than just picking up any rod and reel and lure. Having a plan of attack and complimenting that attack with balanced tackle will increase your odds of success on the water.

Tight Lines