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Beginner's Guide to DIY Muskie Fishing

All images by Brad Smith

DIY muskie fishing is a big step, but very addicting. 

If you have made the decision to jump into chasing muskies, good luck. You are about to embark on one of the most challenging fishing experiences of your life. However, when it comes to DIY muskie fishing, it is also one of the most rewarding fish you will ever catch.

Depending on your level of fishing experience, there are some basics you have to cover before you can hope for repeatable success on the water. These practices and techniques are something that every great muskie fisherman does every time they are on the water, not to mention the prep work required before hand. Not following these steps will reduce your likelihood of success.


If you do not have proper gear, you just won't be as effective as you could be on the water. A long muskie caliber rod is required. Look for something at least seven feet long and heavy enough that you can cast large heavy baits all day. Your reel also has to be able to handle abuse. The line needs to be strong enough to cast those big baits and handle the torque from the rod whipping those baits out there.

Brad Smith's father, Glen Smith, with a nice 40" muskie

For this, I would recommend a 7-foot, 6-inch St. Croix rod of your price range, matched with an Abu Garcia C4. Make sure you have 80-pound braid on that reel with about twenty yards of mono backing. You won't need the whole 80-pounds of strength. However, that line size has a diameter that won't cast off baits. Smaller diameter line will break on the cast from the torque.

You also need a good long handled net. Don't skimp here. Nets make or break every fish.


Holy cow, be careful here. Buying muskie baits can turn into an addiction of constantly looking for the next big thing in the bait world. All you really need is a handful of baits that gives you full confidence in their success. They also need to cover several different areas of the water column.

Brad Smith with his first muskie on the fly

For example, look for a Stomper or Topraider on top. Side to side baits are great also. For mid depth areas, you are going to need at least one solid bucktail. Besides the bucktail, at least one good flashy crankbait and several good side to side jerkbaits are a must. For these, Shallow Raiders, Suicks, Cobbs, or Cowgirls are your best bet.


Before you hit the water, use the Internet to your advantage. Make sure you are checking fishing reports and message boards to get a feel for what the fish are doing. Fairly quickly you can find if they are shallow in weeds or suspended over baitfish. Having a starting place before you hit the water can cut hours out of your day trying to find a pattern yourself.


Nothing beats time on the water casting baits. Keep a log of your successes and failures. You will have more failures than successes. If you think otherwise, you are starting a losing game from the beginning. When I first got into muskies, I fished two seasons before boating my first fish. Now, I have caught so many I've lost count. Again, nothing beats time on the water and just casting baits.

Doug Buckett with his first 50-inch muskie

Muskie fishing is flat out tough. However, it does get easier. If this sounds like something you are still considering after reading all this, welcome to the club. You will find it a good club with members who are some of the best fanatical fishing enthusiasts you have ever met.

Just make sure you release your fish after you catch it. This muskie crowd, we police our own.


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Beginner's Guide to DIY Muskie Fishing