Summer Muskies & Side Imaging

Written on 07/02/2024
Chas Martin

How many times have we all left the water after a tough muskie hunt thinking, “wow… I couldn’t even raise a single fish to the boat!”  The answer to that question is MANY TIMES!  It is the nature of our sport and the fact that we are chasing the most challenging freshwater fish to catch in the world.  But, with the advent of Side Imaging technology, all of this is now changing in incredible ways!  I no longer count the total number of muskie follows by just the ones I saw PHYSICALLY chase a lure to the boat but instead I now include the ones I see on the computer screen too!  And these “SI” follows, as I call them, are just as valuable as seeing one with your own eyes.

Now, if you are reading this and you do not yet own an SI “fish finder” unit you might want to consider purchasing one over the next few seasons.  And by the way I am not in any way sponsored by an electronics company.  I am just telling my subscribers and viewers that the SI technology is helping me and my clients put more big fish in the boat than ever before.  It is simply incredible.

In this episode you see me make a good figure-8 with my Grape Flame 500 Buchertail tinsel and toward the end of the 8, I felt the slightest tap on my lure.  At first I could not figure out what had happened and, I was tired so my eyes and mind were strained from a long day in the sun.  Looking down I barely noticed a slight swirl in the water, which would have been easily missed if I had simply looked away at a passing boat, and this triggered my curiosity.  Perhaps that was a fish!  And it was.  Looking at my SI screen I clearly saw a near perfect cookie-cutter image of a musky shadow about 45-50 ft away from the boat on the port side. 

I tried a number of cast-back strategies on this musky, including a TopRaider, 700 Buchertail and a JB Rattler but nothing enticed this musky to follow or strike again.  I then switched back to my 500 Grape Flame and decided to try and angle change from the complete other side of the reef system, which I have found helps to trigger these fish into striking aggressively.  Talking to myself I said, “I know this fish is between me and my other track (waypoint).”  And within a cast or two of this statement I was hooked up with a musky that pulled my off of my pedestal seat and was towing my boat in a circle!  After an intense battle I was holding a WISCO tanker up to the camera for an awesome Musky Mastery episode!

Without Side Imaging would I have caught that fish?  Possibly.  I did see the swirl in the water near the boat but I could have easily written this off as a disturbance from my trolling motor.  Looking at my SI scanner I was able to determine that this was a musky and it allowed me to HUNT this fish and try various other techniques to try in triggering her to strike.

So I guess the secret is out!  I rely more on Side Imaging than I do my actual 2-D sonar.  It allows me to keep my boat on the spot accurately and also to see all sorts of fish, such as the big musky featured here, that are swimming all around me.  It is important to remember that we, as muskie anglers, MUST continue to rely on our hunting instincts in order to consistently catch fish but when combined with astute use of technology it takes our game to the next level!  So, if you have SI technology I urge you to hone your skills and take the time to really learn how to use it.  If you do not currently own an SI unit I would strongly urge you to consider purchasing one in the coming years.  I suppose it could always “double” as a way to search for missing golf balls on the sides of your cart or perhaps it could scan for hidden spice bottles in the pantry.  Regardless, you can find a creative way to convince your significant other to invest in the technology!