Catching summer muskie

by Ben Beattie | August 18, 2022
Man Holding A Muskie Fish

Find weeds, find muskie. That simple truth is the basis for my summertime guiding strategy. It’s more predictable and reliable than any other pattern on Lac Seul.

Encounters and catches involving weeds are so common it’s difficult to pin down one story to tell. I’ve caught multiple muskies out of the same weedbed on the same day so many times that it’s no longer surprising when it happens.

We boated three one afternoon, back-to-back-to-back, without moving the boat. All three fish were sharing the same patch of weeds adjacent to a large sandbar.

We’ve sight-fished muskie cruising through weeds just under the surface, stumbled onto a new weedbed and raised or caught a muskie right away, and caught fish off the same weedy saddle every year — lots of them. The list goes on and on.

Watching a big muskie explode out of a weedbed — with mouth open, gills flared — burns that image into your brain. It’s exactly what led my buddies and I to give them the nickname “cabbage dragons.”

Weeds + structure combo

The best weedbeds are the ones directly adjacent to at least one other type of structure. A reef with weeds, that’s a spot. A weedy saddle between two islands, that’s a spot. A sandbar with weeds, that’s a spot. A weedy underwater point, you better believe that’s a spot.

Years ago, a friend and I were doing some pre-season scouting on a new area of the lake. We spotted a reef that was breaking the surface and made our way closer to mark it on the GPS. We noticed on the sonar a large soft-bottom flat that extended off the east side of the reef and both knew if the flat featured weeds we’d just found a new spot. Returning in July revealed a sizeable weedbed adjacent to the reef. To this day, that spot remains one of my all-time favourite and most reliable spots on the entire lake.

Smaller can be better

I’ll take quality over quantity when talking about weeds. Some of my least favourite weedbeds are the long stretches down a section of straight shoreline. Yes, there are lots of weeds, but they’re essentially featureless. Boring.

I visit spots where the weedbed is no bigger than a parking space, but it’s adjacent to a cool feature, like a reef or an underwater bar. That combination makes the small weedbed more appealing than a larger, featureless one.

Pick it apart

When it comes down to actually fishing weeds, working the deep edge of a weedbed with a crank-bait or swimbait is a solid approach. Work baits down with long casts parallel to the weed edge.

Getting weeds stuck to your bait is inevitable, and i’ve never once seen a muskie hit a bat that’s trailing weeds.

Muskie bury themselves in weedbeds and covering more than just the edges is key.

Picking baits depends on the amount of water between the tops of the weeds and the surface. Another factor is the thickness of the weedbed. Getting weeds stuck to your bait is inevitable, and I’ve never once seen a muskie hit a bait that’s trailing weeds.

My go-to baits are bucktails, spinnerbaits, top-waters, and dive-and-rise baits, like a Suick. Many areas on Lac Seul feature thick weeds that grow to the surface, making them a challenge to fish effectively. Burning bucktails over weeds is a classic approach that works anywhere muskies and weeds exist. Moving my long 9’, 6” rod from left to right helps steer baits. In the thickest weeds, a spinnerbait with tandem single hooks is the closest thing to weedless I’ve found.

Working the weeds

Working topwater baits over weeds isn’t just a tactic reserved for sunset. It can be as effective mid-day as in the evening. Prop-style baits, like Topraiders and Psycho Sisters are simple to retrieve and steer around weed tops. Walk-the-dog baits have proved to be very effective later in the summer, while creepers and flaptails get the nod when a slow presentation is required.

If there’s room above the weeds or the weedbed isn’t too thick, a Suick is fantastic. Making contact with the weeds by pulling the lure forward and down can be a big trigger. Strikes usually occur when the bait backs off and slowly rises on the pause.

A big part of successfully fishing weeds is understanding the layout of the spot and maintaining proper boat position and control. I use a weed icon to mark the outside edge of the weedbed on my GPS. Side imaging is another helpful tool for locating weeds that can’t be seen from above. Relying on your electronics is also key for fishing during low light and under the cover of darkness. Muskies are notorious for patrolling shallow weeds during nighttime. Work baits even slower at night for more success.


ben beattie profile

Ben Beattie is a full time fishing guide and outdoor writer, living in Sioux Lookout. His passions are big pike and muskie, lake trout and walleye. He is also an avid hunter. Reach Ben at: mail@oodmag.com

Originally published in the August 2021 issue of Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine.

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