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Playing the "Size" Game With Musky  By Justin Hoffman

Musky fishing is literally a game of size. Searching for the lifetime fish that stretches beyond the fifty-inch mark on the tape, or a 'ski that bottoms out the scale at thirty-pounds are targets we all strive for when out on the water. Lets face it - size does matter to a musky angler. But how about the size of the baits you throw at these fish in the hope of luring them in? There is a time and place for big baits and small in musky fishing, and learning the in's and out's will help you in attaining that fish of a lifetime.

Small Baits
The phrase "small bait" is a relative term when discussing species-specific lures. For the freshwater musky, small can be defined as a lure that measures less than five-inches in length. (Quite the contrast to some of the monster twelve and fourteen-inch baits used to scour the depths by some musky hunters.)

Although musky can attain tremendous weight and size, there is something about a small bait under the right circumstances that can work pure magic. Early season is one of those moments.  Springtime means cooler water in many regions of the country, and it also means slower metabolism for its watery friends. Muskies are less likely to exert themselves chasing down large prey, but can be convinced to take a swipe at a bite-sized snack. (This only makes sense, as the natural prey they will be feeding on will be young of the year baitfish, perch and bluegills in the two to five-inch length.) Tossing around small bucktails, cranks and jerkbaits can be the key to success early on in the season.

Cold front conditions are another situation that calls for downsizing your presentation. We've all been there before - bright blue skies, sunny and without a cloud in the sky. This is darn tough fishing in anyone's book. Muskies can be caught during these periods, but it will take something small, natural and unobtrusive to do the damage. This isn't a time for monster cranks or behemoth trolling plugs, but scaled down versions that will be appealing and noteworthy to the lazy musky with lockjaw.

Fall time has traditionally meant BIG baits, but what about those days when the fish continuously follow the lure but refuse to strike? Small baits are the answer to the question. Musky can become conditioned to big baits that are commonly thrown by the majority of anglers. Most days, everyone and his brother are throwing large jerkbaits or gliders, sometimes resulting in fish that love to follow. Next time you run into this frustrating dilemma, make a quick switch to a smaller version of the bait you are using, and be prepared to hang on to that rod. A simple switch in the "size game" is often all it takes to find action.

Large Baits
Now that we've discussed when to utilize small baits for musky, lets find out when big is best. Hot summer weather is generally a good time to go big. Fish will be extremely active, and will be looking for a substantial meal to keep their energy levels up.

During the hot, humid days of summer, nothing beats a jumbo bucktail, oversized topwater or monster crankbait. Believe me, these fish are hungry during this seasonal period, and are always on the prowl for a meal that will fill them up.

Fall time is another great season to resort to big lures. Fish are fattening up for the coming winter months, and are looking for chunky baitfish to satisfy their cravings. Although they desire large prey at this time, they are certainly not prepared to chase long or hard for that meal. Big is the factor for lure size, but slow presentation is the key phrase. Trolling big cranks and working humongous jerkbaits is the name of the game come fall time. These are tried and true tactics in the name of musky of hunting, but remember the "small bait" rule if fish begin to become uncooperative.

Night fishing is the last instance when big will out produce small when it comes to lure size. Under the cover of darkness, musky will be keying in on silhouettes and vibration to find their next meal - the exact components that large lures exhibit. The bigger the bait, the easier it is for Mr. Musky to locate and strike your presentation. Big lures make victory a certain possibility when the moon comes up over your favourite fishing lake!

Musky fishing will always be a game of size, not only for the angler but also for the fish. Knowing what to throw and when to throw it can lead every musky fisherman on the path to success, culminating in a 50-inch or 30-pound memory that will last a lifetime.

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