How to Fish Live Bait for Muskie? A Simple Guide for Big Catches

Fishing for muskies with live bait has been proven effective for so many years now. Nothing matches the natural movement and shape of an actual fish that can trigger muskies’ natural instinct to chase and catch.

However, fishing for Muskies with live baits has been an area of controversy lately. Some anglers and local regulations stand against it while others think it’s the ultimate answer to catch muskies. If you consider yourself one of the latter group, this guide will be very useful to you.

So, how to fish live bait for muskie? To fish live bait for Muskie you need to target late fall with one of their desired fish which is often 13-inch white suckers. The size you use depends on the size of the Muskie. 4-to-5 inch for small Muskies, 12-to-18 inch lures for bigger ones. Cast your lures in deep weed edges.

Keep reading to know more about what it takes to catch a muskie with one of the most popular techniques; live bait. 

How to Fish Live Bait For Muskie?

an image of a man hooking a fish to illustrate how to fish live bait for muskie

You need to review the “menu” of muskies before choosing your live bait, but as a quick help, I can tell you they eat almost everything.

This can be overwhelming, but some research narrowed it down a little, as it showed that muskies eat prey up to about 30% of their body length.

So, if you want to catch a trophy muskie, you need big lures and if you’re going for smaller muskies, a 3-to-4 inch (around 7.5-to-10 cm) bait will be okay. Most anglers go for 13 inches (33 cm) sucker minnows as a safe choice. You have other options for live bait like rainbow trout or shinners.

Use heavy 8-to-10 ft (about 2-to-3 meters) trolling or downrigger rods that can assist you during the fight. Balance this rod with a high-quality line-counter reel with a heavy bait clicker, the line counter will come in handy when you want to determine how much of your line you’re letting out. 

Use 30-to-36 inch (76-to-91 cm) fluorocarbon leaders with 80-to-100 pound (around 36-to-45 kg) test above the sucker rigs and check if it needs replacement after every hit. Use a sliding egg sinker weighing 0.75-to-1.5 ounces (21-to-42.5 g) above your leader. You can check my recommended Fluorocarbon lines here.

Now, the technique is easy and effective but has to be done fast. After the muskie catches your hook and starts to swim away, set your hook quickly. As simple as that.

Pro Tip
When a muskie catches your bait, just when it starts to swim away sweep your rod to the left to make sure the treble hooks are set into the muskies’ mouth corner. This way you don’t hurt the muskie and it doesn’t get away.

What is the best live bait for muskie? 

So, what’s the best live bait for muskie? The best live bait for muskie is the white sucker. You can choose its size to match the muskie you’re going for. The range of 8-to-12 inches (about 20-to-30.5 cm) long is more popular. White sucker will survive a day in your life well, or longer in a larger, well-aerated tank.

Muskies go for white suckers in any size. Casting a white sucker in late fall is a successful shot, muskies are heavily feeding on them during this time of the year being an easy-to-catch high-on-protein fish.

Bluegill is another good live bait for Muskies, and I’ve made a whole post just about it. You can check out my guide on using live bluegill to catch muskies here, it has everything you need to know.

What is the best hook for muskie live bait fishing? 

What’s the best hook for muskie live bait fishing? The best hook for muskie live bait fishing is a 4/0 single treble rigged on a modified bridle. It doesn’t harm the fish and it works best around weed beds and covers, not like single hooks. For 14-inch (35.5 cm) or larger baits, you’ll need to add a second hook.

As not to hurt the Muskie that caught your lure with a treble hook, you can mash down the barbs. They won’t hurt the fish mouth and will come out much easier.

The picture below illustrates how you can use your hook near cover and weed edges.

How to live bait rig late fall Musky? 

Get your setup ready and start fishing for Muskies in late fall. Your chances to catch a muskie during this time of the year are more likely to get you a trophy muskie. Muskies tend to feed heavily before the winter hits, they catch your live bait in no time.

First off, you need to select the spots where you’ll begin your search. Go for places like deep weed edges, inside turns that funnel baitfish, points jutting into the deepest water in the lake, and hard-bottomed mid-lake humps. 

Remember to keep the sucker in the strike zone without moving too much, it’s more effective this way during this time of the year.

As mentioned before, muskies are heavy-feeders during fall, and they’re aware of every moving thing around them and looking to capitalize on large meals that only take the minimum effort so it’s better to keep your bait in one potential zone than dragging it around.

Related Questions 

What is the best bait for Muskie? 

The best bait for muskie is any bait from topwater, bucktail, crankbait, and white sucker. You can choose from these options, they all work in different ways and are preferred in various circumstances.

What is the best time to fish for Muskie with Live Bait? 

The best time to fish for muskie with live bait is during the fall. Muskies tend to feed heavily before winter. When the water hits the 50F mark (10C), live bait fishing for muskies becomes more effective.

How to keep your live bait alive longer?

To keep your live bait alive longer and in a healthy state use an oxygen pump in your water tank. An oxygen pump forces a stream of air into the given container and it makes it easier for fish to breathe and stay alive longer in a healthy shape.

Helpful Resources 

Live bait Rigging Systems for Muskies

Muskie Fishing with Live Bait Rigging