When A Musky Follows, What Should I Do Next?
Muskies follow and follow often. We all know that. The follow is actually a big part of the sport, and the subject of many discussions at the dock, during dinner afterwards, and certainly at the local pub after a hard day on the water. Arguably, how you approach and execute a return or comeback to any following musky affects how successful you are bound to be at getting the fish to strike. Suggested timing, tactics and the overall approach to this strategy can vary depending upon any given situation. I never claim to have all the answers, but here’s how I approach a follow and the comeback.
First off, you need to read the mood of the fish. I know that sounds crazy to some, but experienced musky hunters know exactly what I mean here. Basically, you are trying to determine the aggressive attitude of the fish at that moment. This doesn’t always translate perfectly, but more often than not it is actually quite simple to access the musky’s mood. If the fish is nose-tight to the bait you’re bringing in, and its tail and fins have an anxious quivering movement, that is called a “hot fish”. Additionally, if the water boils behind your lure or the following fish starts snapping its jaws barely inches behind the bait, it’s a no-brainer. This musky wants to chomp.
Contrarily, a musky cruising in low and lazily below and behind your lure is generally considered less catchable. However, don’t confuse this with a fish reacting to the lure suddenly late in the retrieve. Not all muskies are positioned far out away from your boat at the end of a long cast. A weed patch, big boulder, man-made fish crib, brush pile holding a ‘lunge could be half that distance to the boat. If you are running a deep diver or heavily weighted swim bait, a hot fish might be right behind the bait, but simply out of sight. Assessing a musky’s mood in this instance can be much more difficult.
The next move is determined by your initial assessment. In a nutshell, a hot follow should be dealt with right away. But, the lure you choose to throw back on that fish often determines whether it strikes or not. Every experienced angler seems to have a go-to cast-back bait or two, and here are a few of mine. When I get a hot follow on a topwater lure, I generally always grab “big blades” as a cast-back bait. If the fish follows a bladed spinner, my immediate response is a cast-back with a smaller version of the same bait. Crankbait follows in my boat call for a quick cast-back with a diminutive lipless crank. But, in all cases, there are no set rules and no guarantees
The final cog in the comeback strategy is determining WHEN to return. Generally, a hot fish requires an immediate cast-back. But, if that doesn’t do the trick, I leave it alone for at least 30 minutes. A bit longer might be better. Any change in weather or light conditions demands a comeback effort. Don’t be surprised if you catch it at last light.