By Ted Pilgrim, as seen on the Fishing Wire
When muskies launch into radical feeding rampages, there’s simply nothing else like it in freshwater fishing. Jaws snap, hooks set, water explodes and the aquatic world goes haywire for a while. It’s exactly the type of chaos that ‘muskie-heads’ live for. The problem, of course, is that these wild chomp-fests don’t happen every day. Most muskie quests consist of long hours of casting and figure-eighting, punctuated by fleeting windows of activity. As well, the success of days and days on the water is measured more in follows than actual fish in the Frabill. Further complicating matters is the dreaded “P” word. Fishing pressure on many muskie waters is at an all time high, with scores of talented anglers jockeying for a limited number of fish.
More often than not, most of these fishermen throw blades-inline and safety-pin style spinners that offer the right combination of flash, vibration and the illusion of a substantial meal. Given the success of baits like the Double Cowgirl, you’d be silly not to. Still, like all great baits before it, the muskie love affair wasn’t destined to last forever. The past few seasons, more and more anglers have reported difficulty getting fish to chew on the old standbys. More recently, some of the country’s top muskie-men have continued scoring lots of big ‘skies on the same pressured water where the legends have lost their luster. As it turns out, the ticket hasn’t been a radical change to a whole new type of presentation, but rather a minor tweak in bait selection, as well as slightly altering the way guys retrieve them.
Earlier this season, veteran muskie guide Chae Dolsen discovered a new bait called the Boobie Trap from Northland Fishing Tackle, a double-bladed inline spinner with a few distinctive features. Dolsen, who works the heavily pressured waters of Webster Lake, Indiana as well as the muskie mecca of Lake St. Clair, Michigan, had been a longtime proponent of double #10 bucktails. When a local tackle sales rep turned him onto the Boobie Trap, however, his catches took an immediate and dramatic jump in both size and numbers.
Meanwhile, on the waters of Ontario’s Lake of the Woods, another exceptional muskie madman was doing groundbreaking work in the realm of the muskie blades. Don Schwartz, also a talented muskie lure maker, discovered over the past few seasons that it’s not just the size and shape of the blade that matters, but the thickness and composition of the metal. Like Dolsen, Schwartz has in recent seasons spent plenty of time throwing double #10 bucktails. Yet as his catches started falling off, he began studying scores of different baits, eventually narrowing things down to the absolute ultimate spinner blade. “If you take two baits, each sporting double #10 Colorado blades, identical in every other way except the thickness of the blade itself, you’d still have two lures that perform very differently,” says Schwartz. “Thinner blades tend to offer slightly more water resistance, making them rotate slower and further from the shaft. This also makes them more difficult to retrieve at higher speeds.”
In contrast, Schwartz believes, thicker blades up to .05″ pull through the water easier and rotate faster and closer to the shaft of the bait. “These thicker blades are nice for their ease of retrieve. But if you get too thick with your blades, I think you give up some of the powerful low frequency vibrations that muskies hear best. Physically, a few one-hundredths of an inch in thickness seems insignificant, but from a performance standpoint, the difference is amazing.”
After learning these lessons via numerous muskie catches, Schwartz found his perfect match – the Northland Boobie Trap. The Boobie Trap, he discovered, offered blades that were thicker than those on competing models, yet slightly thinner than a .05″. At the same time, he started tying his own baits, again using these key “compromise blades.” Using both baits this season, the results have been remarkable, allowing him to convert countless follows into ferocious gill-flaring strikes. “There’s just something special about these compromise blades that have been magic for muskies,” he offers. “When fish turn wise to old standby baits, it’s not always necessary to make wholesale bait changes. The standard inline spinner design is still a classic, yet not enough anglers pay close enough attention to the most important element of the bait – the blades.”
This brings us back to Chae Dolsen. On initial trips with the new bait, he would often throw a conventional double #10 bucktail while his clients tossed Boobie Traps. The difference was immediately and profoundly evident. “This season,” he reports, “the Boobie Trap has just been on fire. Nearly every one of our bucktail fish has eaten this bait. Anglers in my area have really started to take note of its appeal to muskies. Since tying up this bait, we’ve had many, many six to eight fish days. This last week alone, I think we had close to 60 fish in the boat, including a beautiful 50-incher from St. Clair that I caught with my kids along. What a blast.”
Dolsen continues, “There’s no doubt that this bait offers something different in the blades that’s convincing fish to eat. The #10s are just slightly smaller than those on other baits. And the blades pull more easily through the water; they rotate faster and turn closer to the shaft, too. This makes them easier to burn at fast speeds. Another thing that’s been key is the position and component rigging of the upper treble hook. We’ve been hooking and landing a really high percentage of fish because of the design. Other than that, all I know is, my clients are really having fun throwing these baits and so am I.”
Author Ted Pilgrim, a self-proclaimed ‘muskie psychotic,’ shares deep down insights on how blade size and thickness matter when choosing and throwing inline bucktail spinners. The information contained within serves to not only give veteran muskie anglers a fresh perspective, but also make choosing an inline spinner for novices that much simpler.