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Setup

the muskie fishing boat
The lean, mean, fishing machine Slimetime


INTRODUCTION
This page is for cybermuskieheads who want to give Lake St. Clair muskie fishing a try. There are basically two ways to do this. You could go with somebody else who already fishes there and has a boat, or you could do it in your own boat. The first choice can be great and I would highly recommend it if the opportunity presents itself. The rest of this page is for those of you who would like to do it the other way.

THE BASIC MUSKIE BOAT
Lake St. Clair is not one of the Great Lakes but it isn't an "inland" lake either. It's about 21 miles across at it's widest. It's relatively shallow and it can get rough. The most productive way to fish the open water of St. Clair is to troll. The muskies move all over in response to prey movement. It is an open water fishery for sure. You have got to be able to get out there where the fish are.

For good accessibility you are best off in a boat that can handle big water. My boat, Slimetime, is a Lund 1850 Tyee deep-V with a Merc 115. Almost all my friends fish from larger boats. Honestly, I prefer the comfort of the larger boats but Slimetime does fine, and it's maneuverable and trailerable. You could fish from a slightly smaller boat if you're careful but you will be limiting yourself to more protected waters. The muskies might not be there, especially during the summer months when the best fishing is often 2-6 miles offshore. You can't get them if you can't get to them.

EQUIPMENT
You need some basic stuff for open water boating safety and navigation without which you shouldn't leave the dock. All the usual Coast Guard required items are omitted because you already have them. If you don't know what they are you have no business on Lake St. Clair, or any water bigger than a wading pool. Here is the...

Minimum Equipment List

  • compass (ideally lighted)
  • lake map
  • marine radio
  • spare bulbs, fuses, drain plug, spark plugs, etc.
  • rainsuit(s)
  • first aid kit
  • basic tools
  • flashlight
  • spare gas/oil
  • spare prop
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah...Now we get to the fun stuff. If you don't have it - go buy it. If your wife/husband won't let you, you're probably a wimp and have no business fishing for muskies anyways. Wimps are not allowed in my site so click that little X in the upper right corner of your screen now. Here is the...

Fishing Equipment List

  • Terminator lures (if you want to catch BIG fish)
  • sonar w/speed and temp plugins
  • GPS
  • "Down-Easter" type bolt-on rod holders, 4 req'd at least (see below)
  • upright rod holders, 4 req'd at least
  • planer boards and cable reels, rail or pole mounted and bolted on
  • A couple dozen Offshore or Kumler releases with o-rings for extra grip. NOTE: If you start getting a lot of missed fish check to be sure the rubber pads are not worn smooth or impregnated with Teflon. If so, replace the pads (Offshore) or file a crosshatch pattern with a small file (both brands)
  • BIG net
  • decent camera, waterproof "disposa-cameras" are good
  • shades
  • towel to wipe off slime
  • pliers/snips
  • fishing hat
  • Michigan and Canadian fishing lisences
  • more Terminator lures

For trolling, your rod holders are a key piece of equipment. You want something strong that will allow you to change the position and angle of the rod, that will hold the rod securely, yet release it quickly when you get a hit. Without a doubt, for downrods and longrods at least, the Down-East rod holders are the best choice. We've had a few problems with the double clamp-on version however. Over time the C-clamps fatigue resulting in spreading and causing the tightening screw to shift from perpendicular. This unfortunately can result in a catastrophic failure of the rod holder ripping off the boat from a strike. Also, a tightening screw has broken a few times but only one screw, not both at once. If you really want a bulletproof set-up I would highly recommend the bolt-on Down-Easters, either flat or rail mount. I have never yet had one break nor heard of anyone who has. Also, especially if you fish in clear deep lakes, lakes with lots of floating weeds, or if you're into precision structure tolling you really should consider downriggers. They are great for muskie trolling and at least 3 of my 10 biggest muskies ever came off downriggers.

TACKLE
Muskie fishing is brutal on tackle. Your bass stuff won't last a day. Your salmon stuff might go a week or so. Ultimately, I guarantee you, anything that can break - will break.

Basically, it goes like this. You're out there trolling in 1-2 foot waves about 4.5 MPH or faster and you're dragging a bait that pulls harder than a 7 lb walleye. The aforementioned bait is running tight, say about 15 feet from the end of your rod tip. An average Lake St. Clair muskie swimming about 8 mph in the other direction catches a quick look, thinks it's food, and hits in typical muskie fashion. Muskies do not nibble like a bluegill. They don't suck in prey like a bass, or pick-up like a walleye. They don't even chew. A muskie shoots forward and STRIKES hard enough to bite clear thru a preyfish nearly half it's own size. Your prized K Mart Great Lakes Special Downrigger Rod promptly detonates like a model car with a M-80 in it. If you're lucky you might even hear the your El-Cheepo spinning reel scream a little just before the spool rips completely off and your line breaks. There you are your mouth hanging open like a dumbass. That was only a twenty pounder!

If you use cheap or inadequate equipment it will break. Besides your rod, reel, or whatever else that blew, you are also going to loose line, terminal tackle, and a lure that was good enough to get hit by your fish-of-a-lifetime (you lost that too). You will wind up crying, or worse yet bragging, about the "one that got away". Well Buba, I'm here to tell you that you won't be impressing anyone with that crap, except maybe yourself. Why not save yourself the grief and learn from my mistakes instead?

The tackle I use is listed below. I have a hook up ratio of about 65%, which is decent for muskie trolling. I think in the last three years I've only lost two baits because of something breaking. Both times it was the main line that went. The problem turned out to be the rod tip guide fraying the line. Like virtually everything else about muskie fishing, if something can break it will break. I have found ceramic silicon carbide (dark colored) or aluminum oxide (white colored) guides can crack yet still be retained by the shock ring. The crack will expose tiny sharp edges of the ceramic which will fray line. Additionally, the shock rings themselves can also develop nicks and grooves when trolling because the line exits at an angle and rubs against it. I had both problems and it cost me some good lures and maybe a couple fish. A great way to check your guides is rub them with a Q-Tip. If it snags anywhere on the guide where the line can touch, then the guide will wear the line. If you want to eliminate this failure mode completely switch to good quality stainless steel tip guides, and do the Q-Tip check on the rest of the guides. One less thing to break and the odds are just a little bit more in your favor. Anyways, here's what I use. Other guys I know use different stuff but it's all similarly heavy duty.

  • DOWNRODS: Ugly Stick, 6', heavy action with stainless (no ceramic) guides
  • LONGRODS: Diawa Dipsy Diver, 8.5', heavy action with stainless guides. These are excellent rods. Mine are custom painted so they catch even more fish!
  • BOARDRODS: Ugly Stick Downrigger, 9', medium action, stainless guides.
  • REELS: Penn 320 GTI and 209s (until I get more 320s). The reels are attached with stainless hose clamps also. They are literally bolted on.
  • LINE: Trilene Ultramax (out of production now) or Tuff, 60 lb Test, attached to backing with a blood knot.
  • RELEASES: Kumler or Offshore.
  • SNAP SWIVELS: Stainless steel barrel crosslock type, 150 lb test, attached to line and leader with a trilene knot.
  • LEADER MATERIAL: Trilene Big Game or Mason monofilament leader material, 80lb test
  • LEADERS: I use a stainless snap swivel on the mainline end, and a snap only on the lure end. Length is 6', all knots are "Trilene" type. To see a picture click here.
  • WEIGHTS/SINKERS: Ball or pyramid type, 2 thru 16 oz, lead
  • LURES: Terminator (I run what I make because I think they are the best, see the "Tips" section for other lures)
NOTE
I don't believe the rods I use are made any more. I don't know where you can buy some. I don't know what other rods are just as good. Mine are not for sale. Don't bother to send me a email asking these questions because I will just shitcan it. If you want to buy good rods go to Lakeside Tackle (Jefferson at 10 Mile in St. Clair Shores), ask for Danny Chimelak, tell him the Rocketman sent you and buy exactly what he recommends.

PRESENTATIONS
That's all the basic stuff you need. These are the typical presentations we use, in alphabetical order. If you hear these terms on the radio or see them in text now you'll know what the heck we're talking about.

  • BOARDROD: A line attached to the planer board cable by a release. Usually means all the way out to the end.
  • BOATROD: A downrod, longrod, or washrod but not a boardrod. Here is a picture.
  • DOWNROD: A line fished from a rod pointed down toward the water, generally on the side of the boat. The rod tip may be underwater.
  • DOUBLERIG: A set-up where 2 lures are run off one line, almost always on a downrod. To see a picture of the doublerig click here.
  • LONGROD: A line fished from a rod mounted horizontally from the side of the boat.
  • SLIDER: A second line fished from the line going to the outside of the board. It is positioned by a second release attached to the planer board cable 1/2 way out. The slider attaches to the main line and it slides down to the second release where it conveniently stops until a hog muskie slams it. To see a picture of the slider click here.
  • SNEAKER: A second line fished from the planer board cable inboard (duh) of the outside one.
  • UPROD: A rarely used presentation consisting of a a rod mounted upright in the downrigger rod holder on my boat with the lure running about a quarter mile back which occasionally catches a walleye.
  • WASHROD: A line fished off the transom of the boat, frequently with the rod tip in the water so the lure runs in the propwash.

There is one last setup term you need to know. We often use in-line sinkers of various weights as is explained on the "Tips" page. How far back the line is running and the sinker weight is referred to by a combo term like "30 and 4". This example translates to 30 feet of line out with a 4 oz sinker hanging from the snap swivel between the mainline and the leader.

Now you know enough to go muskie fishing. If you're ready to learn how to catch 'em go to the Tips page.





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