I realized there were a lot of lures in these boxes that have only been used once, maybe twice. And there were others that always seem to get grabbed and slipped onto the the swivel-clip at the end of my leader.
These "popular" baits are what could be called "confidence" lures because they have either caught fish in the past or have resulted in a lot of muskies following the lure to the boat.
Muskie anglers rate their trips on two types of criteria. Number one is how many fish are caught. On any trip catching a fish, even getting one hooked but losing it, is cause for a high rating.
The second criteria is how many follows you've had. When a muskie follows a lure to the boat, it is always exciting. When you get a lot of follows, this is deemed adequate for a high rating.
With this in mind, muskie anglers are always prone to grabbing the lures that seem to get the most action, be it hook-ups or follows. Some lures just seem to produce better than others.
I'm going to go one step further here. Some lures, and I'm talking the same model, size, and color, will perform better. You might have two black bucktails, -same brand, same size. But for some reason one out produces the other. What you now have is the makings of a confidence bait. Which lure do you grab when it's the right conditions for a black bucktail?
There's a good reason why we muskie anglers pick the lures we do. And we're always looking for more confidence baits so we keep buying more. The lures that we don't use much get passed on and who knows, they may become someone else's confidence bait. But we do have certain rules we follow to weed out the bad and find the good.
When it comes to baits, I try to utilize as much as I can as often as I can because you don't ever want to sell yourself short. You don't want to put on one or two different lures and just be committed to those for that day of fishing or for that time of year.
During this past early season, a lot of the people that I was fishing with thought I was nuts for going with top-water water baits until they started seeing me catch eight to ten fish every week, just based on top water. It's unheard of. Or is it? As far as I know, there's just not a lot of guys throwing a top-water lure early season. But it worked for me so now I have some new early-season confidence baits.
I also like to modify my baits, turn some of those never-touched lures into confidence baits. One example is the Rapala Super Shad Rap®. I like to take this lure and where the lip drops down vertically and then takes a 90 degree turn, I snip the lip off where it takes that 90 degree turn. Then it runs just sub surface and it creates a small wake just below the surface or just on the surface and it drives the muskies wild.
Most muskie lakes are diverse and there's so many different ways that you can fish them that you don't want to get hooked on any one simple idea or one simple precedence that's been set. There's a lot of bodies of water that I've fished that guys go in and say the only thing that you can catch muskies on is bucktails, and that's not the case. Take Mille Lacs, which is where I put in a lot of my time. You can fish Mille Lacs for muskies with just about anything you want anytime of the year and see some success. Obviously in the early part of the season, you're better off using smaller baits, and as the season draws on, your bait size grows. There's a point at which too big is also a subject. I've seen some massive muskies caught on this lake on small baits. Yet, I've caught some huge fish on huge baits and small fish on these same giant baits.
My point here is that a skilled muskie angler gained that title because he spent a lot of time on the water experimenting with lures and discovered there is really no one rule that defines what will work for any given condition. But what that angler has also done is discover on his own what works for certain conditions. Now he has the ability to grab for a lure that he knows is capable of producing. When you have confidence in your lures, it's an attitude that transfers to the ability to achieve success. That's a big factor when muskie fishing.
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