After the kids go back to school and the summer days start to shorten, for most musky anglers there’s only one thing on the brain, “September Transition”. If you are new to angling in the Northern parts of the US, the muskies in these lakes can tell time like no other, and the eons of instinct start to make these massive fish move. September is a special time on the lakes when the work becomes a little easier and the strikes become a little more vicious.
Late August muskies are enjoying the last of long warm days with higher water temps, but as the temps start to drop, we see a distinct change in musky mentality. Before the freeze, musky take their time moving into the last of warm water shallows, and the topwater bite takes off! No more slugging through long days of power rolling bucktails, the topwater bite is electric.
Topwater in Wisconsin is amazing to witness if you get your boat out and explore the shallow weeds. The more noise, motion, and disturbance a lure can make the better, which give our favorite toothy friends a reason to release their inner monster. Top water bites are usually vicious and unpredictable, so when I say, “never be casual”, I mean it. You do not want to miss this voracious eater because you might miss the best strike of your life.
If you are unaccustomed to fishing the topwater bite, here is some advice: Never take your eyes off your lure. It is likely a musky is lurking right below and if you miss it in the figure 8, it would be a tragedy. These predators are using the last of their energetic strikes to put on weight before water temps drop. Once we reach late fall and time to soak “live bait”, the fun of the full-on casting is over. This is one of the last great opportunities to put in the physical work to nail a hard-earned trophy.
Not all topwater lures drive the fish out the same. I would recommend trying your luck with all the styles before you narrow down a favorite. If you aren’t afraid of a physical labor of love, pull out a fresh Poe’s Giant Jackpot, for a long-tested and highly affective topwater attractant. Jackpot’s need finesse and can’t be used lazily, but when popped with gusto, really catch the gaze of muskies.
Tail prop lures like Bucher Top Raiders, Gooch’s Tally Wacker, and Suick Nitewalker, are great for getting the job done with less work. These baits can be straight retrieved, jerked and paused, and even popped under the surface for wilder presentations.
Another option that drives muskies wild are flaptail lures. These types of baits incorporate a little extra interesting water slap disturbance, to bring the muskies up to play. Some good choices are Smity Slap-Tail, Bomb Squad MK-65, and Cat’s Tails Musky Rat. All can be use with a combination of jerks and pauses to get the bait flappin’ and slappin’ across the surface.
Lastly, an oldie but still a goodie, are creepers. Creepers, like Tail Prop lures, can be used with very little work or kicked up a notch. They are great for novices and pros because no matter who’s using the bait, they can still deliver on topwater bites. Musky Safari produces several varieties of creepers, as well as Hi Fin and Bitten Tackle.
So, if you happen to be putting together your September pattern box for some days on the lake, don’t forget to stock up for topwater bites. Topwater lures are not only great for this time of year, but also can be used a search bait to help you find active fish and throw back. It’s a great pattern to follow for early fall and an even more intense fight if you get to land a trophy musky in the process!