Top 10 Musky Lures for 2019 with Guide Steven Paul

Musky Lures That You’re Not Throwing…

The sport of musky fishing is truly in its golden age.

Through many years of conservation and angler education, not only the size but the number of muskies encountered has drastically increased. This renaissance of sorts has brought many new anglers to the sport; affording musky lure makers the opportunity to expand the quantity and quality of their selections.

With so many lures flooding the market, it can be difficult to distinguish between which lures are worth the cash and which ones are better left on the shelves. Every year we are faced with the “Next Big Thing“, some hyped up musky lure that is GUARANTEED to catch you the MUSKIE OF A LIFETIME, but as we all know, the hype usually doesn’t pan out.

So instead of crawling down the musky lure rabbit hole in search of fact versus fiction regarding the new musky lures out for 2019, let’s look at some sleepers; musky lures that have been forgotten by time, dismissed by critics or overshadowed in the public eye.

These lures aren’t current hits but they are proven producers that you should add to your musky lure list this year.

Musky Lure#10: The Reef Hawg

The Reef Hawg by Tom Fudally is one of those lures that’s been lost in time.

Long before Phantoms, Hell Hounds and Shum Shums, the Reef Hawg was a go to in the glide bait department. Worked over shallow rocks, weeds and other cover, it is absolutely deadly in the hands of the right angler. No, it won’t sway as wide or smoothly as some of the custom-made glide baits out there, but that’s not the point.

After you give it a real beating, smash it into some rocks and maybe use it to chock a trailer tire, only then you will begin to unlock its magic. The Reef Hawg’s unique cadence and subsurface walk the dog action should be a part of every musky hunter’s arsenal.

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Musky Lure #9: PDEEZ Bucktails

With so many bucktails on the market, it’s easy to think that they are all the same.

Bucktails are just blades, wire, hooks and flash about right? Well, that’s not necessarily true because sometimes the devil’s in the details.

Paul Didaskalou of PDeez has designed some of the highest quality bucktails out there and they haven’t really made a splash in the U.S. market. PDeez inlines have a unique dialed in feel that serious musky anglers will instantly recognize as the “IT FACTOR“.

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Musky Lure #8: Bill Norman DR2

The Bill Norman DR2 is what I would consider being a classic southern musky lure.

This lure has been a family favorite long before Melton Hill and Cave Run Lake were known to the musky world.

Winter, I’m throwing it…

Spring, I’m throwing it…

Fall, I’m….well you get the point.

Rip it, twitch it, or straight retrieve, it doesn’t matter just get it wet.

These smaller musky lures are getting a little harder to find on the used market, but keep a keen eye out for a flea market or yard sale tackle steal; you can land some killer musky lures for pennies on the dollar. They have definitely been forgotten by most, but a select few know just how deadly these are around cover and break lines. When fishing lakes like Melton Hill that have a shad forage base, some of the best musky lures aren’t musky lures at all.

Pro tip…. ditch the stock hooks and rings and replace the front and rear hooks with Mustad KVD 3/0’s.

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Musky Lure #7: Heddon Hellbender

The Hellbender is another musky lure that excels at targeting those southern muskies along with their northern counterparts.

This undersized offering has been putting muskies in the net from Tennessee to Canada and other Northern waters for years. It is similar in action to the above mentioned Bill Norman lure, but it’s smaller size is often the key to triggering strikes in the spring and strikes for muskies who are less cooperative.

The Heddon Hellbender is still being made but its diminutive profile doesn’t catch many eyes in the tackle aisle. Rest assured, this little lure can get it done.

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Musky Lure #6: Storm Thunder Beast

The Storm Thunder Beast isn’t sexy, it isn’t flashy, but it gets the job done.

With so many big rubber baits available, the Thunder Beast has definitely been overshadowed by sleeker and simply cooler looking musky lures.

But the Thunder Beast does have a few unique qualities that should earn it a place in your tackle box. It’s large and flat profiled tail gives the Thunder Beast a different pulse in the water, but the real stand out feature is its ability to descend at odd angles.

Its body shape paired with an abnormal water displacement makes this lure stand out from other rubber baits.

The price tag on these is often lower than other big rubber baits and superb deals can be found on Amazon and eBay.

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Musky Lure #5: Joe Bucher Glide Raider

The Joe Bucher Glide Raider is one of those lures that got panned by critics from the start and subsequently never really took off with the masses. When compared to other glide baits on the market, the Glide Raider is considered “hard to use“, but that only applies if you try to fish it like other gliders.

The key to effectively using this musky lure is utilizing slack line during your retrieve which puts many anglers squarely out of their comfort zone. If you are the kind of musky angler that is willing to spend time developing retrieves, this lure is for you. If you’re looking for a throw and go glider look elsewhere. But like all things musky fishing, you get back what you put in.

The learning curve of the Glide Raider is a little steeper than other glide baits but it is a worthwhile endeavor. The Glide Raider is deadly on big musky.

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Musky Lure #4: Musky Mania Burt

The Burt is one of those lures I have an absolute love/hate relationship with.

But mostly hate, yeah I hate this lure… but man, has it gotten me out of some jams.

The Burt seems to excel when nothing else will, it’s definitely one of those lures that I tie on when nothing else seems to be working. When comparing dive and rise musky baits, the Burt rarely tops any lists, but it’s a truly worthwhile addition to your gear.

It might not be the first lure you pull out of the box, but it’s in there, just waiting to save the day.

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Special thanks to Spencer Jepsen for forcing me to add this awful lure to my arsenal, Yes I got a 50″ on it, but what did it cost? Just my pride…

Musky Lure #3: Suspending Depth Raider

The Suspending version of this iconic lure has been largely ignored, seemingly out-hyped by lures like the ERC Triple D and other suspending lures.

I can’t say enough good things about this lure, for a full rundown on this sleeper lure click here.

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Musky Lure #2: Shumway Fuzzy Duzzit

The Fuzzy Duzzit seems to have been forgotten by most musky fishermen in recent years.

It has taken a back seat to Bondy baits and the new wave vertical jigs to hit the market. But don’t count Fuzzy out just yet. This all-metal jig still has some tricks up its metal sleeves. First off, this bait is indestructible; it’s metal and hooks… simply a tank!

But the real advantage this musky lure has over the new school vertical jigs is its hook-up ratio and durability. An easy and recommended mod for this musky lure is adding a spinner blade to the tail which really steps up the action…think indestructible Bondy Bait.

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Musky Lure #1: Suick Thriller

I can hardly believe I’m saying this, but a lot of young musky anglers are not throwing Suicks. For me, leaving the dock without a Suick is like leaving without a fishing rod. IT’S A MUST HAVE!

Yes, they are a pain in the butt; yes, some Suicks are better than others, but this is just what comes with the territory. Musky fishing and Suicks are simply synonymous.

I understand that for some new anglers, these old school lures present a challenge, but they are well worth the effort. Each individual Suick has its own unique characteristics due to their cedar wood construction, so inconsistencies in buoyancy are always present from one lure to the next.

The key to using and this lure is making the proper tail adjustments to achieve your desired action and depth. Many videos and articles can be found online giving instructions to help tune your Suick. New models of this lure are available in hard plastic which minimizes the differences from one lure to the next, but honestly, their uniqueness is what makes the original Suick so great.

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With so many trending lures on the market these days, stepping outside of the box will present you with your best opportunity to land a true giant. The 10 musky lures presented here include some oldies but goodies, some musky lures that have just been forgotten, and some musky lures that have always been considered sleepers. If you’re looking to change it up this year, do yourself a favor and give some of these lures a shot!
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Tennessee Musky Fishing with Guide Steven Paul

The morning was still with no wind to be found. It was one of the first steamy southern mornings of spring on my home waters. When Tennessee musky fishing, paying attention to fine details is key. I maneuvered my boat around the leading edge of a shallow sand flat, quietly working my Buchertail 500 Tinsel X-mas Tree spinner, just teasing the remnants of last year’s decaying weeds.

The surface temperatures were already creeping into the high 60’s; the trees had already bloomed, and were now wearing full foliage. All of the other anglers had moved on to the classic structures, but I was there to pursue a hunch. It was then, she made her move. The Buchertail had suspended mid-flight. From past experience, both success and failures, I knew to set the hook and set it hard. From that moment, I just held on tight for the all too familiar 50-inch class head shake.

Once she was out of the net and in the boat, I realized that this Southern mama hadn’t followed the rules. From her distended belly to the eggs she left behind on my bumper board, it was obvious that she had not gotten the memo: the spawn was over. All pseudo intellectual muskie hunters had claimed this “fact” with authority in the previous weeks, but this ol’ girl was proof positive that nothing is set in stone.

Using Patterns When Tennessee Musky Fishing

Traditional patterning seems to go out the window when dealing with the fish that call these waters home; and in the words of my friend from up North, “Southern Muskies are a tad puzzling.” It’s because of moments like these that I would like to share some of my own experience in decoding what is the Southern Musky.

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Sometimes when searching for a pattern, you must lay out all of the pieces and keep the big picture in sight, it seems like only then can you find the common themes and patterns.

Using this method, I have found that first key to tackling the Southern Musky lies in understanding water temperature.

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Using Water Temperature for Tennessee Musky Fishing

One hard learned lesson is that it doesn’t always matter what your surface readings are, but what lies beneath that hints toward Musky patterns. Early, in the first long days of spring, Southern waters begin to warm quickly. Surface temperature readings of high 60’s and low 70’s are far from unusual in March and April. You may even discover that by May, surface temps have neared 80 degrees.

It is important to remember that a large number of Southern reservoirs are supplied by colder mountain waters which begin their decent in the Appalachian and Smoky Mountain chains. Lakes, such as Fontana in North Carolina and Norris in Tennessee, are known to hold monster muskies and have depths as great as 200 feet. These lakes and others supply many of the downstream Reservoirs with cold flowage year around.

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It is this variable that can make gauging the Southern Muskies “seasonal staging” a slippery slope.

For example, I give you the big girl from April that hadn’t yet spawned despite one of the warmest winters on record and my mid-January topwater trophy. These fish alone required that commonly understood patterns could just be thrown out the window once you cross into Dixieland.

Seasonal Movements are Key When Tennessee Musky Fishing

The seasonal movements and “attitudes” of muskies in Southern waterways can be far removed from your surface readings. One way to tackle this is by using an inexpensive submersible thermometer. This will help you accurately gauge the temperature at various water depths. From here, you can narrow down target depths and understand a little more about the world below the surface.

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I like to measure the temperature in 5-foot increments. This allows me to narrow my search for the “goldilocks” zone, where conditions are the most agreeable for Muskies.

Also, some Southern waterways do not stratify and there is no obvious thermocline present to dictate maximum presentation depths. And though focusing on temperature bands from the high 50’s through low 70’s are obvious targets, sometimes finding that “magical” subsurface layer which gives the musky maximum comfort to hunt can lead to an unforgettable day.

How to Locate Your Target Areas

Another helpful key to our puzzle is dissecting any waterway into manageable target areas. Classic structure and cover is easy to find down South, but it can leave even the most experienced Musky angler frustrated when you keep knocking but nobody’s home. Imagine, you must narrow down a seemingly endless field of weed edge, standing timber, rocks, breaklines, river channels, points, open water, large creek mouths, islands, humps, reefs, marinas, sand flats, fish cribs, and lay downs, which are all subjected to changing river currents.

On top of all of this, you are up against waters that frequently rise and fall with the push of a button. These are just some of the conditions and factors you face on many Southern lakes and reservoirs. And although the endless acres of endlessly changing structure seems daunting, you must remember that when facing a behemoth, you must cut it down to a manageable size.

Whether it is your first trip south or you’re lucky enough to be a native, the key to success on these waterways is dissecting it into manageable sections with varying points of interest. In Southern waters, much like the giant Canadian lakes, you can’t fish it all in one day. I have found that the best approach when choosing how to begin, is finding a section of water that has multiple classic Musky holding areas and dissecting it thoroughly and efficiently using multiple presentations.

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More often than not, anglers find that fish are holding in areas outside of our comfort zone.

This is where it becomes paramount that your build self-confidence when casting to open water and breaklines, forgoing visible cover. Selecting target structure or cover based solely on the season in Southern waterways can also be a fool’s errand, as once again these Southern Muskies are not playing by the rules.

Tactics for Tennessee Musky Fishing Success

I have found that there are several tactics that can help you find success with all of these variables at play. A successful plan of attack can be to work a piece of shallow cover, then immediately follow that with the most nearby dramatic structural change. So instead of steadily trolling along a shoreline or weed edge, focus on working in block grids that include as many fish attracting elements as possible; for instance, fish a weed edge for a period, then the open water behind it, and follow that with the closest breakline, all staying within the same block area.

This is where presentation and lure selection becomes very important. Structure and cover, water temperature, weather, and forage dictate lure selection, but it is up to you to entice triggering qualities, all the while dialing in the rate of retrieve. A huge advantage in these hunting conditions is mastering multiple retrieves with one lure, varying speed and depth, thus getting the most from your lures and eliminating guesswork and missed opportunities.

Selecting the right locations to target can be a daunting task on any body of water, but to insure down south success, you need to come prepared to fish fast and effectively along all types of structure. By following the first key in finding the “goldilocks” zone for maximum activity, now we can add to that dissecting your waterway and being prepared for constantly changing conditions. It seems like a simple solution, be where the active fish are, and find out what turns them on.

Find the Forage to Maximize Tennessee Musky Fishing Success

One of my favorite things to tell friends and guests on my boat is “go big and go home empty handed”. It seems cheesy but it helps drive home another key to the Southern musky puzzle: forage dictates bait size not the date on the calendar.

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This point holds true especially in Southern waterways as the primary Musky forage is threadfin and gizzard shad.

Yes, some shad can grow to 10 to 12 inches in length, but the primary focus should be on the snack-sized forage, 3 to 7 inches. Southern Muskies will at times form ambush packs and rush schools of shad with frenzied attacks; these Muskies are not on the “eat one large meal” diet, so more times than not a four inch crankbait will out perform a 16 ounce hunk of rubber. One of the most important elements of locating any active Musky is understanding its forage base. Knowing this and utilizing your on-board electronics to locate bait movements, is key to finding these Muskies.

Shad have seasonal movements that contradict some of our traditional Musky thinking, but sometimes it’s better to follow the food and not the dogma that has been beat into our heads. Locating and properly presenting around schools of baitfish is sometimes the only way to contact active fish in mid-summer and early fall. Once located, I tend to lean on “matching the hatch” in size, but not color. A quickly retrieved Baby Shallow Raider in Firetiger has all of the moves of a wounded shad but stands out in the sea of silver baitfish.

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Another tactic would be vertically working a Single Blade spinnerbait.

This can grab a lot of attention falling just outside the edge of a roaming school. This tactic of using downsized lure presentations doesn’t apply to only working around bait schools; smaller minnow baits seem to excel in Southern waters year round. Smaller crankbaits, slowly worked around rocks and points can be a deadly presentation. So when tackling the lakes, rivers, and reservoirs of the South, remember that bigger isn’t necessarily always better, in fact, it usually never is.

The puzzle of Musky fishing is not always an easy one to solve, but there is an overarching theme: be where the active fish are and give them what they want. Sometimes, the pieces doesn’t always come together the way we think they should. Southern waters and reservoirs test our traditional notions of Musky behavior and movements, but not in a way that’s truly foreign or mysterious. Muskies, regardless of their longitude, have the same basic needs, sometimes we just need to break out of our comfort zone to find theirs.

To book a trip with Guide, Steven Paul, give him a call or visit his website!