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Most muskie fishermen look to the shallower waters to find their catch. However, this leaves the big muskie out in deeper water out of the picture. Perhaps it's on account of the amount of water a muskie fisherman needs to cover to find the fish, or maybe its the uncertainty of what depth to fish at. Whatever it is, most musky anglers leave these big fish alone, but that doesn't mean their not worth your time if you know what you're doing.

There are many reasons muskie inhabit deep water. Much of the time - it is during the midday hours when the shallower water temperatures rise, but it can also be after spawning, or when a cold front pushes through, or maybe that's just where the feeder fish are. Whatever the reason, here are a few methods to use to fish the deeper waters for muskie.

casting for deep water muskie

Bait Casting:

An obvious tried and true method. Of course we all know how this works but it's a little different when covering large open and deep water. First thing to do is locate a pile of fish on your fish finder. These schools of feeder fish attract those hungry muskie and it presents the best opportunity to narrow down on our target. The odds get even better if you can find a pocket between schools of fish. Set camp there and pull out a medium to large deep diving crankbait or one of your large plastics. You should be able to gage the depth of those schools of fish by using your fish finder. Using this depth as a starting point. Try working the edges of the schools with erratic jerks and pauses. Remember - you're trying to make your lure stand out as the injured, easy target. Switch up lures, depths and colors but keep working those school edges until you see some action.

Jigging for deep water muskie


Find the dropoffs along weedy, shallower areas that you know produce muskie at the right times. Move just past them into the fresher deeper waters. Put the largest plastic you can find on your line and drop it to the bottom and start jigging. Try letting the bait hit the bottom, then snap it up 3 - 5 feet and allow it to descend again with controlled transitions. Musky Plastics with small spinners or other small, flashy elements tend to add that extra something you need and give you the best shot. Work these dropoffs and switch up plastics until you notice something happening.

Trolling for deep water muskie


Trolling can give you the best shot at covering the largest possible area which increases your odds at finding those muskie. However, trolling also has inherent flaws and can leave many muskie out of reach. First thing to determine is the depth to which you're attempting to get your lures. Look for the signs of muskie life below using a fish finder and locating schools of feeder fish or muskie themselves and mark that depth. You'll usually be choosing from a selection of deep diving crankbaits and the larger baits are usually better in this technique, seven inches plus is a good place to start but don't be afraid to tie on a 10 or twelve inch monster if you've got it and you're later in the season.

After you've marked your target depth - find the muskie crankbaits which come closest to that depth and throw them over. Keep your speed between .5 and 4 mph depending on the depth you're looking for. If you can't get your depth right try letting out more line, speeding up or slowing down, or putting the rod tip at a greater angle. When targeting these muskie - try to keep the lures a few feet higher then the muskie rather then lower as most muskie anglers say the fish are more likely to strike up then move down to catch a lure.

After you've got the lure out at the right depths try shaking things up with a few more techniques:

  • Using an "S" curve or "C" curves in your boat's path covers the best water.
  • Make sure to keep your drag set light as the boats speed itself will generally set the hook, and having drag to heavy can loose many fish on strike.
  • Find structure points and make sure to cover these areas in your path.
  • Adjust your speeds from time to time - this can cover different depths and can provide slightly different action for your lure.
  • Don't be afraid to add some action to your lure from time to time with a pump or pull - this can add some interesting action to you lure also.
  • If you're hitting ground but not snagging - let it go. This can often create some more noticeable excitement for bottom-dwelling muskie and may trigger a strike.