In a perfect world musky would just be willing to chase down every offering we throw at them. Way more often they are sitting idle, suspended at any given depth in the water column, or essentially doing nothing.
One thing is for certain that there are many times where a musky can be triggered into biting a smaller offering. Lucky for us, muskies do not have hands and often must inspect things with their mouth. Smaller, more subtle presentations are a proven method for making them bite when they are not actively feeding.
If you are a bass fisherman first you probably already have a basic flipping stick set-up with some 50 lb braid. Spinning gear will work as well, something with at least 20 lb braid. If your fish size in your waters average well under 45” then 20-30 lb on spinning gear will be fine and allow you to throw lighter baits. If the fish are larger you may want to go to a heavy casting outfit with 50 lb braid.
Now that you have your outfit figured out, next comes your connection to the bait in order not to break or get cut off. One thing I have been doing forever is using 27 lb uncoated stranded wire leaders that I make. In more recent years I have switched to Terminator brand single strand Titanium wire in 20-30 lb. You can tie your braid directly to your titanium wire with an Albright knot or you can clinch knot to a small swivel as well.
For connecting to your lure to your leader I would not highly recommend a snap unless it is a small Stay-lok brand, most snaps are just not reliable enough. Another option is to tie a clinch knot to the front split ring of your bait, which is a more reliable connection. To see how either of these knots are tied all you need to do is flip over the package of the Terminator Titanium wire and both knots with tying instructions are included. Keep in mind the knots you tie will not cinch the same as mono or braid.
As far a lures go keep it simple. One of our go to lure styles would be suspending minnow type jerkbaits such as Rapala Husky Jerks, Shadow Rap Shads, or Rattin Rogues. Using these style of baits in a jerk and pause technique tops the list for us for downsized musky fishing. They look natural, hang in their face, and cater to the muskies instinct of an easy meal.
Another no brainer for downsized musky baits is a safety pin style spinnerbait. How many times do you hear the bass fisherman complaining about some darn musky just ate his spinnerbait? The difference is YOU will have some sort of leader to prevent that bite off. One other lure style that has crushed it in the bass world is chatter baits, muskies think highly of them as well. Of course they are not durable enough to handle a musky. New for 2019 we are excited to try the brand new Micro Angry Dragon from TNA Tackle. Finally a small sized chatterbait that can actually handle a musky! Pretty cool.
That is just a taste of how you can coax a few more muskies this upcoming season with a smaller approach. Obviously with lighter gear you need to handle fish responsibly and not overtire them. Make sure to match the gear to size of fish you encounter. Fish don’t always want a giant T-bone steak for dinner.