October 10, 2010

Pete Maina's Top SEBILE Lure Choices for Muskie Fishing

Pete Maina's Top SEBILE Lure Choices for Muskie Fishing

Story by Russ Bassdozer as Told by Pete Maina

Pete Maina of Hayward, Wisconsin is world-famous for his lifelong relationship with one of the largest, meanest, toothiest, most challenging and also one of the rarest freshwater predators - the muskellunge.

Pete co-hosts The Next Bite TV show on Versus, now filming for its sixth season. He regularly appears as a guest and muskie expert on other TV shows. He frequently lectures on muskie fishing at sport shows throughout North America. He has published two books and educational videos and DVDS on muskie fishing. As an outdoor writer/photographer, his photos and stories, mainly about muskie, have graced numerous magazines for many years. But if you're a muskie angler, then you already know all that and more about the legend of Pete Maina.

Pete joined the SEBILE pro staff in June 2009. Since then, Pete's been like a kid in a candy store, sampling many of SEBILE's big lure models. Here now is a run-down of Pete's favorite SEBILE lures so far. Please enjoy.

I've caught muskies mainly on five or six different styles of SEBILE lures so far, and in several different lengths, different lips or floating/sinking versions in each style. I've also caught walleye, pike and other species while trying to catch muskie, Pete Maina tells us.

Stick Shadd 182 FT and 182 SK

The Stick Shadd would be my favorite overall - the largest 7-3/4" size. The sinking is the most versatile overall, but of course it depends on the situation and what depth I'm targeting whether the floating or sinking model fits.

Use quick, sharp snaps with the Stick Shadd, that's the main thing. I don't really do long pulls or anything like that. Short, crisp snaps are how it looks best. The interesting thing about it is that it still has action on a pull or straight retrieve, it still has side-to-side swagger, so that is a triggering mechanism I have tried to use with some success if I see a fish following but it doesn't hit, then I will try a long pull or straight streak. However, they just about always hit the Stick Shadd because of the super-erratic action it has when snapped. The Stick Shadd's belly has a sharp keel, and because of the unique design that its got and the weighting system, that's the glory of the Stick Shadd to me. Any other muskie glider is far more predictable in its path - and the Stick Shadd is a glider style jerkbait too, but that darn thing, you just never know what it is going to do next. It really, really looks like something hurt and wounded. It doesn't just go to the opposite side every time like some other gliders that move in the same amount of drift side-to-side no matter what you do. To the contrary, the Stick Shadd goes one time two feet to one side, and next it will go one foot to the same side, then all of a sudden, shoot a little higher up or dart down. It never looks like anything that is patternable, and I think that really helps trigger predators. They really think this is a wounded deal, and I better grab it now or I won't be able to grab it at all. It's all over the place, and I really think that is the way to get them to react to this thing. That applies to the floating and sinking Stick Shadd both - sharp twitches look the best to me.

I've also downsized and caught mad pike on the 6-1/2" Stick Shadd 155 using the same action. Indeed, that type of action should cause the same reaction with any predator species, big or small, and there are Stick Shadd sizes for them all.

Bonga Jerk 165 and 125

The Bonga Jerk is another I've done real well with. I've caught muskie on both the 125 (5") and 155 (6-1/2") Bonga Jerks. In spring, I did especially well with the smaller one, the 125. That was a great spring bait for me.

To me, the Bonga Jerk has proven to be a great shallow water deal. What I like, the versatility of it is that I can run it right underneath the surface, and really use it kind of like a topwater as well, but the fact is, it is mainly a glider style bait. Again, use the short, quick twitches, that's one surefire tactic. Also, the Bonga Jerk is unique in the pull-and-stop kind of action you can use, if you are trying to work calm water, and entice muskies up to the surface, what I will do with it is give it a good yank so the sharp keel slices down under the water, and then let it rise back up to the surface, settle, and then give another yank, let it surface, settle and keep repeating that. What is unique about both the Stick Shadd and the Bonga Jerk is the sharp, water-slicing keel system that Patrick Sebile puts on them. It gives them that swimming action you see when you are using a pull or a straight retrieve. I'll do long sweeps, about 3 foot sweeps with my rod, and they get this side-to-side swerving action which is unique for glider style jerkbaits. Most other jerkbaits, you pull them straight and they are not doing anything else except moving straight.

Both of these styles, by the way, the Bonga Jerk and Stick Shadd, just a side note for both is they're very advantageous at the side of the boat because a lot of muskies will convert (from following to striking) right at the side of the boat, and the fact that you can just go around in circles or an actual eight pattern at the side of the boat, and still get action on the Bonga Jerk and Stick Shadd, they look like they're swimming whereas most other jerkbaits don't do anything, they just look like a stick in the water on a figure-eight. The Bonga Jerk and Stick Shadd, these things have action, they're swimming right below the rod tip.

Magic Swimmer 165 SSK, 190 FSK and 228 SSK

The three largest sizes Magic Swimmers are great for muskie - the165 SSK, 190 FSK and 228 SSK. One thing you can do with them is just swim them. I mean, talk about a beautiful bait for beginners. Real easy bait to use, real easy bait to cast. Castability of the Magic Swimmers, and all the lures is exceptional. The amazing castability is one of the things where you can tell Patrick is a designer who is a fisherman. Durability is also a huge selling point on all of the SEBILE baits. I have beat them silly this year, and have not had one single issue with wear or tear. Obviously, there are plenty of chomp marks and scratches on them, but the finishes hold up and I have not had any lure durability problems whatsoever.

The other successful thing I have had luck is a pull-and-stop, especially when I am trying to get a little deeper with the 190 FSK fast-sinking model. I'll kind of give a nice long sweep, and then pause, and I have had a lot of success with that. I've had quite a few times where the muskie are nailing that bait right on the pause. I'll do like 3-4 foot sweeps so that it darts forward quickly, and then it just kind of hangs there, and boy, they just bang it right then and there!

You can allow for the bait to get a little deeper that way as well. After the sweep, you kind of reel the loose line back up, you want to catch up with your line, with your rod in a position to set the hook. It is a hard thing to describe, but you want to catch up on all the slack, yet you do not want to pull the lure forward any more. In other words, don't pull it out of its pause, but keep that line barely tight so you may be able to detect a strike and set the hook.

Splasher 190

The rod tip action to use is similar to the glider style Stick Shadd, with more of a short, sharp twitch or walk-the-dog style retrieve. Especially when it is calmer, I twitch and make it walk the dog. It just hops side-to-side real nice, very easily, on a very, very slow retrieve. This is definitely a finesse retrieve for muskie, and I certainly prefer this kind of walk-the-dog style tactic with the Splasher.

Another interesting technique with the Splasher is that you can use a pull-and-stop type retrieve. Just use it like a big popper. Pull or reel it along a few feet, pop it and stop it. Keep repeating that.

In real rough conditions, when you have pretty heavy waves, and you feel like a real loud, big, obnoxious thing is what may be needed, you can rip the Splasher murderously hard, and it will tear the stuffing out of a wave! A lot of times, that is the key to muskie heaven when you have a lot of wave action.

Koolie Minnow 190 BRL, 160 ML FT and Acast Minnow 165 MR

With the Koolie Minnows, you can do a little bit of everything with these. They look good with short, sharp twitches, essentially the quick snap type thing. You do need to spend a little time with the Koolies to get a handle on how hard to twitch them, but you can do anything from bringing one up so its rolling wildly on the surface (190 BRL), to keeping one down deeper. With a nice, straight retrieve, they have a beautiful wide wobble, a wider wobble than most any other lipped minnows you will see out there. Then the other tactic is, the pull-stop is a really good retrieve with the Koolies since they are so erratic with that wide wobble.

I am pretty impressed with the Acast Minnow 165 MR as well. It too has unique, cupped lip design, and the action looks awesome twitching, it really looks good. What you have to learn, with the Acast and the Koolies is, how to work them so they stay shallower, and that means to adjust the level of intensity or severity with which you twitch one, so that you can control the depth level they will get down to that way.

Natural and Hot Color Matching Considerations

Okay, we've covered some of the SEBILE lures I'm loving so far, and how you may use them with some of my successful tactics. Now let's discuss how to pick some smokin' colors out. I recommend you should match up natural colors to hot colors, and even out the number of naturals and hots you have as you can afford to buy baits. How I look at it is, say you love the Stick Shadd and can only afford two Stick Shadds, I would get either a silver, gold or shad pattern, one natural color like that, and one hot pattern like a fire tiger, chartreuse or red, those types of hot things. If you really get confidence in a lure that you like, and start catching fish, add on other patterns as you can afford them in both categories evenly.

I know I sound like a lure-peddler trying to sell lures to you, but when you have a lure you have high confidence in, one that really works well, what you want to have is as many colors as possible, because those patterns will change. No one understands exactly why, but preferred lure color can change from one body of water to another, even lakes or waters close to each other, that look the same, you may find that muskie prefer different colors on different bodies of water. It can be a forage thing. It's often believed to be a water clarity thing. It's subtle but very common.

Literally all over the continent where I have been muskie fishing, you'll find bodies of water where there are just goofy deals where the difference between red or orange will actually make the difference between strikes or no strikes. I've seen it with muskies where the exact same lure type, the fish are active on it enough to where they will follow, follow, follow, but only a certain color is the one that's going to make them bite. You may go down the road five miles to a body of water with similar structure and similar water clarity, and its going to be a different color that makes the moody muskie bite there - it's a real weird deal that way. So I try to add different colors in the naturals. I may get a gold, a white or a silver type pattern. I may get a trout pattern, a walleye pattern, a perch pattern, those types of things in the naturals, and I match as many in the hot colors, fire tiger types, chartreuses, reds, oranges. gaudy, bright deals.

Then just let the fish tell you what color they want, and that is really a trial and error process, by showing them one color after another. I'd like to say there is a science to it, but it's just time spent trying one color after another, day after day on the water. There's no way to look at a body of water and say this is a red lure lake as opposed to an orange lake, but each lake's "color" can be different for unknown reasons. Usually, if it a lure style that they are into, they'll at least show a little bit of interest by possibly following one or two colors, and that's when you try to dial it in a little further, until you get the color that will trigger them to bite. It's true that the general rules are clear water, try more natural patterns. On sunny days, try reflective things, like silvers or golds. Darker days, chartreuse patterns and with darker water, the gaudy stuff generally is better. But unfortunately, it will still vary much from lake to lake, and it is just one of those processes that you have to go through. Before you give up on a lure type, you've got to throw some different, contrasting colors. It's a trial-and-error process, and there really could be one color that is the trigger, if you are able to find it. Just don't tell too many people. I've also seen where a good color has gotten to become too widely-used on lakes that get high fishing pressure, and the fish get sick of it and won't hit it any longer.

As a relative newcomer to the Sebile team, those are just some of my first impressions on a few of the SEBILE lures I've gotten to try so far, and some guidelines for you on how to use them, how to cycle through different colors and dial into a good color for any body of water too. Thank you for reading along.

Specifications of Featured Models

Model Length Weight Running
Stick Shadd 182 FT Reinforced Full Wire 7.6" (182mm) 3-5/8oz  (132g) 0-2' Floating. Topwater/Subsurface. Glider jerkbait.
Stick Shadd 182 SK Reinforced Full Wire 7.6" (182mm) 4-3/8oz (132g) 3-20' Sinking. Glider jerkbait.
Bonga Jerk 125 Reinforced Full Wire 5" (125mm) 2 oz (60g) 2-4' Floating/Diving. Glider jerkbait. Deep keel.
Bonga Jerk 165 Reinforced Full Wire 6-1/2" (165mm) 4oz (120g) 2-4' Floating/Diving. Glider jerkbait. Deep keel.
Splasher 190 S&S Reinforced Full Wire 7-3/4" (190mm) 5-1/2oz (165g) Surface Topwater. Walking. Pull-and-Stop.
Magic Swimmer 165 SSK 6-1/2" (165mm) 1-5/8oz (45g) 0-4' Slow Sinking. Jointed. Lipless.
Magic Swimmer 190 FSK 7-3/4" (190mm: 3oz (90g) 4-8' Fast Sinking. Jointed. Lipless.
Magic Swimmer 228 SSK 9" (228mm) 4oz (120g) 0-8' Slow Sinking. Jointed. Lipless.
Koolie Minnow 190 BRL Reinforced FW 7-3/4" (190mm) 2-3/4oz (78g) 0-10' Big Round Lip. Floating/Diving.
Koolie Minnow 160 ML FT Reinforced FW 6-1/2" (160mm) 2-1/4oz (64g) 5-12' Medium Lip. Floating/Diving.
Acast Minnow 165 MR 6-1/2" (165mm) 2 oz (56g) 5-12' Deep Diver. Maintains its depth as you twitch it.

Get to Know the Muskie

Range-wise, I'm not aware of muskie being on any other continent except North America, says Pete Maina. Unlike the northern pike and all its cousins of the pike genus, which are pretty much spread throughout the worlds's northern hemisphere. muskies are limited to North America and even then, they aren't spread out as much as northern pike. You have pike right down to the international border waters with Mexico and you have pike up to the Arctic Circle. Muskies,  if you drew a line across the central part of the US, that's about how far south they go. The farthest south I am aware of having any indigenous population is West Virginia and Tennessee. Also halfway up into Canada, Red Lake, Ontario would be a pretty good northern line. There's one body of water I know of that is a little further north than Red Lake, Ontario that holds muskies, but for some reason, that's kind of the northern boundary. The eastern provinces have them, but when you get over to Manitoba and Saskatchewan, they don't have them at all. Likewise, muskies weren't indigenous out West in the States either. Muskie have expanded into Colorado, Washington state and Nebraska, but they were introduced there. For some reason, the Central and eastern parts of the continent were really the only places where muskie naturally occur.

Tiger Muskie

Usually, muskie and pike spawn at different periods, so would rarely cross, but you know how you get one of those years where it warms up super quick? Muskie and pike may end up crossing more in those types of situations, and every once in a while, you will see a situation where there's a particular year class of tiger muskie (muskie/pike hybrids) that show up. There are a few waters where hybrids naturally occur in a fairly significant population, meaning 5-10% of the muskie you catch out of that body of water may be hybrids - and that's high. It all depends on the fishery. Most places, hybrids are a really rare deal.

Overall, they are quite prized, especially naturally existing ones on a body of water where they are not stocked. But even where they are stocked, tiger muskie are kind of a prize deal because they are so rare.

Part of what makes muskie hard to catch, is vey simply, that they're one of the rarest game fish. They are the top of the line predator, and nature's rules dictate that there cannot be too darn many of them. They are the lowest density critter in the water meaning less muskie in the ecosystem than anything else. That's what makes them harder to catch than anything. You are literally fishing for a needle in a haystack compared to other species density wise. So then, a hybrid that occurs naturally in a population where there are muskies and northerns, that is an extremely rare critter, and they are beautiful. Just a real unique fish and so rare, that to catch one, is like taking muskie fishing a step further.

Fishing for Pike Versus Muskie

There's not a ton of difference between muskie and pike fishing, says Pete Maina. There are a lot of similarities, it's just that the fishing patterns for the same time of the year are different because muskies are comfortable in much warmer water than pike. Overall, the preferred water temperature that muskie like to exist in has about a 15 degree difference. The pike seem to be most comfortable in the mid to upper 50s water temperature, and then the muskies actually like the warmer water. They like 70 degrees and can tolerate even 80 degree water in the shallows at times when feeding opportunities are there. So, you won't see a big pike up shallow in that kind of water temperature. So the biggest difference is the water temperature preferences of these two species, and that really drives the whole enchilada - the locations they'll frequent at specific times, the food supply, and fishing patterns.

In terms of lure selections, pike are more predisposed to hit spoons than muskie, for some reason. Bur for the SEBILE lures mentioned here, these are all top choices for the pike angler. You may have to size down, but that all depends on the fishery. Like anything else, the average size or the size structure on a body of water may require you size down or not - on a body of water that has large pike, up to 30 lb pike - that's essentially just like musky fishing, and you'll get a lot of action on the same large size baits discussed here for muskie.

- Pete Maina

Visit Pete's website at www.PeteMaina.com and click here to visit Pete's TV show, The Next Bite website at www.TheNextBite.com.

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