A BIG secret – that doesn’t involve any secrets at all is understanding the capabilites of your lures and turning them into secret weapons. When your in complete control of your presentations and dialed in on the tiniest details of thier action even anglers throwing the same baits can't compete. Getting dialed in and unlocking the secrets of your tackle is a great off-season project for folks who chase muskie and pike where the water stays hard and/or have a closed season to fish for the species.
What’s the big secret? Simply use all your favorite lures in a clear water situation, lots … without any concern for trying to catch a fish – try everything possible until you learn everything that can be learned about what looks best – and the limits of the lure (i.e. depth, speed, ect.).
It’s something I noticed consistently during years of guiding, and that I still see from time-to-time fishing with new anglers: no practice with lures – not at all certain what the lure is doing on a retrieve – nor preparation to react to approaching critters (muskies or pike).
Any place where clear water can be found (pool is great) – to be able to see the lures throughout a retrieve. (Bring those polarized glasses to optimize, especially if outside.) Try ‘em all. May sound silly to some, initially, as it’s easy to think a spinner is a spinner or a jerkbait a jerk bait. Spinners are simple – just throw them out and reel them back, right? Yeah, but. Spinners do likely require the least amount of testing as they are fairly simple, but certainly check the limits of speed and depth. There’s a point where some baits’ blades stop spinning (how deep is it at that lower limit?); baits will only handle so much speed before blowing out. What’s the right amount of line for the best-looking figure eight or O? Know the baits limits – so you know which one might be best for running over weeds 5 feet down.
It’s really, really important for jerk baits, crank baits, many plastics, topwaters … what do they do best and what are their limits? For many baits, the speed and severity of twitching – or pulls – or pauses – causes very different reactions from different lures, as well as in most cases having a direct impact on the depth the lures run. Very important to know! And, the limits (i.e. twitch so hard – and the lure blows out). The more of this you know, instinctively, through practice, the more effective you will be. You’ll be so much better at choosing the right lures for the situation – and you’ll know exactly what that lure is doing out there even though you can’t see it (much of the time in actual fishing situations).