Catch massive muskies with this highly effective soft-plastic bait
No other freshwater fish is as notoriously tough to catch as the legendary muskellunge—there’s good reason anglers call it the fish of 10,000 casts, after all. So, how is it possible that tackle maker Jon Bondy, outdoor photographer Brandon Broderick and I managed to catch 15 muskies in 15 hours over two days last fall? And these were big fish, too, including four Incredible Hulks in the 40-pound-plus fish-of-a-lifetime category. Even most of the “smaller” fish tipped the scales at more than 30 pounds. The reason for our success had as much to do with the incredible waters we were fishing as it did our secret weapon: Jon Bondy’s very own Bondy Bait, and the unique presentation he’s developed to go along with it.
So, where were we fishing? On southern Ontario’s Lake St. Clair, as well as the Detroit River in Windsor, where there appears to be more big fish per acre of water than anywhere else on the planet. I can say that with some authority, since I live along the shore of northwestern Ontario’s Lake of the Woods, which many anglers believe to be the centre of the muskie universe. To be certain, the fishing is good on “The Woods,” but 15 mammoth muskies in 15 hours of fishing? Not a chance. And that’s not even counting the fish we hooked and missed, including a behemoth that slammed Broderick’s bait, headed across the river to Motown and almost pulled him into the river. I’m not exaggerating.
We were rigged up with eight-foot, extra-heavy-action muskie sticks and baitcasting reels spooled with tough 80-pound-test Spiderwire braid. We also tied on 200-pound-test stainless steel leaders fashioned from downrigger cable and tightened the star drags on our level-winds as much as humanly possible. To get them any tighter would have required vise grips. Even still, Broderick’s behemoth somehow managed to strip out line. It’s a good thing it did, too, or else Broderick, who was hanging on for dear life and starting to panic, would have been left with two equally untenable options—either loosen his grip on the rod and lose it or hang on and get pulled overboard. (He caught the fish, by the way.)
Such a strong bite offers proof that muskies are first and foremost a riverine species, functioning best in big waters with swiftly flowing current. It also shows that southwestern Ontario’s Essex County—lying at practically the same latitude as northern California—offers the perfect blend of environmental conditions for optimal muskie growth.
Factor in a steadily warming climate and tons of food, especially large gizzard shad, and it’s a magical brew for muskies and muskie hunters alike. Consider: Our sonar screen repeatedly misread the tops of the gigantic balls of bait for the bottom of the lake. I had no idea this quality of muskie fishing existed anywhere on earth. Nor have I seen a more brilliant way to catch muskies than with Bondy’s self-named lures and presentation.