Glide Bait Muskies 101
By Steve Genson (fishhunts.com)
Glide baits are an amazing tool for musky fishing, because they have the ability to move fish when nothing else will. I can’t put my finger on the exact reason, but I believe they elicit a unique instinctual response from the fish. Seems like there are times when muskies will eat a glide bait when they’re not even hungry. They can’t resist when the bait moves and pauses just right.
The best time to use these baits is in cooler water – 65 degrees and less – but I’ve had great success throwing them all season long. They work great when fish aren’t responding to straight retrieve baits or when I’ve located stubborn fish on a spot and I can’t get them to move on other bait styles. They are excellent for target fishing around rocks, weeds, wood and current seams – letting the lure pause for an extra moment on isolated sweet spots where muskies setup to ambush prey.
Working the Bait
The most important tip I can give for glide bait fishing is to employ an erratic retrieve that’s constantly changing. Mixup your speed and cadence multiple times within each cast. You never know what will trip their trigger. Vary your speed, glide distance, pause time, etc. Never make the same series of movements twice.
The pauses are the key to getting strikes on glide baits. You want to throw in plenty of them throughout the retrieve, but you also don’t want to overdo it. The happy medium for me is 3 or 4 good, hard pauses each cast – and get ready, because the strike almost always comes during these windows.
Ideally, you want the fish to bite before it gets to boatside because gliders aren’t the best baits in the figure-8. My go-to strategy to combat this issue is employing a “Death Pause” 3 to 5 feet from the boat. I’ll use quick, fast movements with darting action, then I’ll slow down my speed/cadence, and finally I’ll give the bait a hard pop and let it turn to the side and hang there (AKA the “Death Pause”). That’s when they’ll come up and smack it!
I’ve caught fish on glide baits in almost any condition you can think of; clear water, dirty water, sparse cover, heavier cover, etc. Lakes, river, shallow weeds, shallow wood, flats. The only limitation is depth – when the fish are positioned lower in the water column in deeper water (12+ feet), these baits will fall out of favor.
Tools of the Trade
So what makes a good glide bait? They should have a quick, darting side-to-side action. I also like to see a little wobble and a slow sink on the pause. The best baits are the one’s that are easy to control, especially when I’m fishing with guide clients. That’s why I like the Hellhound – of all the glide baits I’ve tried, it’s the easiest to control. Phantoms and Mantas are great options, too.
Using a shorter rod will make your life a lot easier. My favorite is a St. Croix Legend Tournament 7’6” XHF, which is designed specifically for jerkbait fishing. It has a nice stiff action, which you need to control the lure, and it’s short enough to point downward as you’re twitching the bait closer to the boat.
Another big key to your setup is your leader. I stay away from fluorocarbon when I’m fishing glide baits. You’ll want a heavy wire leader that creates a pendulum for your lure to jump back and forth on. My go-to is a 12-inch ST174 wire leader.
What Could Go Wrong?
One negative to glide baits is a lower hooking percentage when compared to bucktails or topwaters. The best way to maximize your hookups is getting the fish to t-bone the bait and giving them a low, sideways hookset. Depending on which direction the fish wants to go with the bait, I’ll set the hook in the opposite direction. You don’t need to jack ‘em, but make sure you have a hard, strong sweeping hookset to seal the deal.