Late Fall Muskie Rollercoaster
By Jim Saric

Late fall fishing can be pretty unpredictable. Although it is mostly cold, I have a lot of memories of warm November days fishing in a sweatshirt. Of course, those days were often followed up the next day by a snowstorm. These unstable conditions can make muskie fishing challenging, as the muskie can move. I know fall is often considered prime muskie time, but it is also one of the more difficult times to catch muskie. After all, the feeding windows are shorter when compared to summer, and fall weather is just more unstable with many more fronts passing through. Combining these two factors usually means inconsistent fishing. So, you have to be willing to adapt to be successful in late fall. You have to check the shallow, deep and the in-between.

Iíll usually start with the in-between which includes checking out the drop-off or breakline. Muskie use these areas like highways under water. These breaklines could be weed edges or just hard-bottom drop-offs. In either case it is a natural starting point, and Iíll work all my traditional fall lures such as crankbaits, like Depth Raiders; big minnowbaits such as the new nine-inch Shallowraider; Phantom jerkbaits; or big soft plastics such as Bulldawgs. If the fish show up on the breakline, thatís perfect. However, more often than not, it isnít that easy.

My next move is either shallower or deeper. Generally, if it is warm and sunny in late fall, I will move shallower, as the muskie usually do the same thing. Donít be afraid to drift over shallow weed flats in a few feet of water. Regardless of water temperatures you can still catch muskie on these shallow flats with Cowgirls, but glider-style jerkbaits such as Phantoms really shine at this time. Warming trends will bring muskie shallower at this time of year, and you just have to make the adjustment to try the shallow water.

If I am catching muskie on the breakline one day, and the next day conditions turn nasty and snowy, Iíll move deeper. Often you can catch muskie suspended or deeper along the drop-off. Hereís where Iíll either fish big soft plastics such as a Pounder Bulldawg or even go to the extreme and vertical jig a Fuzzy Duzzit.

Look for the presence of baitfish on your sonar. If they are close to the breakline or drop-off, cast the Pounder off the deeper edge toward the open water or vice-versa. However, it the bait is suspended near the breakline but deeper than 20 feet, then lower the Fuzzy Duzzit so it is just above the top of the baitfish or into the top portion of the bait. Move through the school of bait, ripping and dropping the vertically jigged lure and hang on tight!

One thing that is certain this fall is that the weather is going to be unpredictable. Watch the weather and donít get too fixated on yesterdayís memories on the water. If the weather changes and the muskie you found yesterday seem to have disappeared, try moving slightly shallower or deeper and you might find your fall fishing more consistent.