By Danny Wade 

Note: This article in part comes from Danny Wade’s “The Muskie Manual” and is copy written material. Unauthorized use of this material is protected by la

Lower Midwest Step Children

Usually when one thinks of Muskie fishing, our thoughts typically ponder the deep back woods and beautiful lakes of northern Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and other similar locations. Thoughts of the St. Lawrence River, Hayward Wisconsin, Eagle Lake Ontario and a long list of others we could name, flow through our thoughts like memories of old friends and folk lore of long ago. The mystery and mystiqe of fishing for these fresh water monsters will forever intrigue those who long to catch them. But it’s not by accident we think of such locales when we ponder the mighty Muskie. These northern haunts are the more natural environments where Muskies and giant Pike have traditionally and naturally flourished.

But a new vein of Muskie fishing has arisen in the past 40 to 50 years, namely the successful stocking of Muskies into the reservoir environment. Reservoir Muskie fishing in the lower Midwest in particular, has greatly expanded. You can now find excellent reservoir Muskie fishing as far south as North Carolina, as far east as the state of Maryland, as far west as Missouri, North Dakota and others. These lower mid west and southerly states have provided their resident anglers  an opportunity to pursue trophy Muskies much closer to home. States like my home state of Ohio have helped pioneer much of the successful propagation science that has made good Muskie fishing available to far more anglers than ever before. 

To some northern Muskie “purists”,  we out of region “step children” are considered somewhat less in credibility than our northern counter parts. And to some extent I can understand the rift. Most of our traditional Muskie heritage and folk lore was birthed in the depths of the great north woods.  That’s just a fact.

Nevertheless reservoir Muskie fishing is here to stay and will continue to improve as the methods of stocking and rearing continue to improve as well. 

“A Muskie is a Muskie wherever you find them!”

Throughout my many years of Muskie fishing I have heard this comment made to me many times, especially from Muskie newcomers that read a lot of the articles in the northern based magazines.  

The premise is that you fish for Muskies in Ohio with the same lures, the same tactics as you would in Minnesota or Wisconsin or other northern reaches. Certainly there is some degree of truth to this because there are muskies being caught even in our Ohio region on the traditional larger lures of the north. 

But my point is in writing this article focuses on reservoir Muskie fishing where the forage base in the lower midwest is different from northern lakes.  Our smaller shad imitations certainly seem under sized by comparison. But don’t miss an important point here. The reason smaller baits do so well in the lower Midwest reservoirs is because most of those waters are mainly a shad based forage. The shad in our waters are typically  in the 4” to 6” range. This is what our Muskies feed on 24/7 … 365 days a year! As Al Linder has been saying for a zillion years, how important it is to “match the hatch”

 In effect that is what we are doing here in our lower Midwest Muskie waters. by using baits that directly imitate the size and appearance of the food source. 

 There are different strains of Muskies to be had throughout the country such as the Great  Muskies, St Lawrence River strain, the Tiger Muskie and others.  In Ohio our Muskies are the Ohio River strain, originating from the Ohio River.  These are all Muskies and all have similar features and tendencies.  The difference is what they eat.

 Fishing reservoir Muskies using baits that represent what the Muskies feed on most of the time is a very important principal to embrace when fishing the lower Midwest reservoirs. 

Why do you think baits like Monster Shads, Tuff Shads, Little Earnies, AC Shiners, DW000s, Bombers, Sissions and and endless a list of others, have produced untold numbers of Muskie catches in lower Midwest lakes and streams. 

Our lower Midwest Muskies certainly are like their northern cousins in many ways but where they differ is in what's on the menu to eat… IS very different. Big suckers, walleye, whitefish and more mostly represent the feedbag of the Muskies of the far north. 

So in closing…let me say this article was not intended to cause schism between the northern fisherman and the southern region Muskie fishermen. But indeed it is intended to get you thinking about how to approach fishing for Muskies in the lower Midwest reservoirs. Interestingly enough…back in the early to mid 1980s when I was slaying Ohio Muskies on AC Shiner 00s throughout the summer and AC Shiners minnows in the shallow, cold waters of early spring, fishing with small baits was nearly considered heresy in some Muskie circles back then. Now days…pick up your copy of Helen and Rollies Muskie catalog and look how many “smaller baits” in comparison are being fished with even up north now. Down sized baits have their place at times even in northern waters such as after a cold front when down sizing is a good bet where ever you fish.

I recently was informed by an avid Cave Run regular that one of their favorite baits down there now is the AC Shiner 00! Wow! I was a little ahead of the curve on that one! All I’m saying is if you’re going to fish in a place that has a shad based forage, then you must give some considerable run time to down sized baits!

Try the concept! You’ll like it! Best of luck! Catch A Big One!

Danny Wade

This article was taken in part from “The Muskie Manual” written by Danny Wade and is copy written material. This article may not be reproduced without express written permission from Danny Wade 2/15/202