Muskie fishing can be a tireless pursuit. An angler can spend many hours beating the water to a froth, only to have a muskie finally appear, lazily trailing the bait then slowly disappearing out of sight. Muskie follows are a common occurrence when chasing this majestic beast; however, there are a few tricks that can be utilized to turn those curious fish into solid takers.
Toss a Knuckle Ball
Tossing a different lure to a following fish is one way of attracting their attention and hopefully convincing them to bite. The one key ingredient to make this technique work is to throw an entirely different lure, both in style and color. For instance, if you get a follow from a fish while throwing a bucktail, immediately throw a topwater lure back to the direction that the follow originated. If your bucktail happened to be black, try a white or silver topwater for contrast. The key point is to make your lure presentation entirely different. Fish that follow baits to the boat are usually semi-interested in what they perceive as a meal. By changing-up your bait and immediately knocking on their door again, a positive reaction can usually be garnered from that same wandering fish.
Alter Your Retrieve
Adjusting or changing your retrieve is one of the best tricks for long-range follows. These fish are especially curious but lack the aggression due to the monotony of the bait action. Putting a little "zing" into that bait is just the ticket for changing their minds.
When a following fish is spotted, suddenly accelerate your bait and work it all the way back to the boat in this manner. If you're using a bucktail, burn it in as fast as you can turn the handle. For topwater the same holds true. Jerkbaits are a little different as you are best to use more aggressive pulls and jerks while bringing the bait back to the boat quicker.
Another interesting technique is to change the direction of your lure. This can be easily accomplished by turning your rod in a 45- or 90-degree angle.
Finish with a Figure-Eight
A "figure-eight" is a term used to describe a boat side technique for following fish. It is quite simple to do and the rewards can be great. When a fish is spotted following your bait to the boat, thrust you rod tip under the surface while your lure is still in the water. In a controlled and seamless motion, begin working your bait in a "figure-eight" motion in the water. This tactic should be used while your lure is about 3 to 4 feet from the rod tip and maintained at 2 to 3 feet below the surface.
Working a big figure eight, or a large circle in the water are both effective but the motion must be fluid and constant for the tactic to be successful. (Refrain from "drawing" tight circles or "eights" in the water, as the fish will not be able to turn quick enough.)
Don't be surprised to see following muskies turning in fast circles while chasing the bait, before finally hitting out of sheer aggression. Boat side figure-eights are a dynamite action for following fish, and are also productive when done after each "follow-less" cast in case the fish is holding deep and out of sight.