When chasing muskies, I’m not going to tell you that using one particular style of lure is better than another, because, as you may have discovered while musky fishing, or for any species for that matter, is that just about any lure can shine given the right place and right time. But there are times when fishing a glider that you’d think that it’s the only lure that you need in your box. They're versatile and can be fished many different ways given right conditions, which is, quite frankly, often.
There are many types of gliders out there, sometimes referred to as glide baits or jerkbaits on the on-line tackle stores, and many can be productive. There are many mass produced commercially sold gliders that are very effective. Generally, these baits are a bit less expensive than the custom made baits, based on the time it takes to make them and their materials. But no matter what type you decide to purchase, each one seems to have its own personality and way to trigger muskies to bite.
Some popular commercially produced gliders include those made by Phantom, ERC (Esox Research), the River Run Manta, and the Musky Mania Magic Maker among many others.
|Here are a few commercially made gliders along with a custom made Hot Tail (bottom left).|
|The top glider is the Hellhound in their walleye pattern. The bottom lure is a custom made lure called the Secret Agent by the CIA Lure Company (link and info below), a soft version of a glider. They come with a nice attachment for the tail to give it some extra flash and action, not pictured here.|
You can also try to obtain custom made handmade gliders from a variety of people in the musky world. Some sell theirs commercially, and others guys pretty much make them for fun and are lucky to break even on their costs. Either way, these baits can be pricey, but you can purchase effective baits that maybe the muskies in your area haven't seen before. And sometimes, these guys can make a customized color to suit your needs. Given that fact that these guys make these lures one at a time often with spare time when they aren't fishing, they're well worth an extra dollar or two. And let me tell you, that I appreciate their efforts for sure.
Three guys that I know that make outstanding gliders can be found on Facebook. Tony Ashby’s Hot Tail is a big hit with many anglers around the country discovering how effective his gliders are. Tony’s lures are easy to work, have a great wobble on the fall, and come in a nice array of colors. Tony puts a lot of time into his lures and boy do they catch fish! His Facebook page can be found here: Hot Tail Gliders
|Tony Ashby sporting a fat healthy musky caught on his very own Hot Tail Glider.|
|This musky T-boned this walleye color Hot Tail!|
|Tony has several different sizes of Hot Tails, three of which are shown here. The top is the magnum, middle the regular size, and the bottom is a smaller size. Tony also makes a version that doesn't have the soft tail, and has an extra treble hook if you prefer that. I have a few of those too, but none pictured here.|
|These are variations of the Hot Tail Walleye color. The top one was the original design, the middle one was a more recent design, and the newest design is below. They all look great in the water and catch fish, and I'm glad to have the variety.|
|The top glider is a new design by Tony, the Humpback Hot Tail, in dark walleye. The middle one is the sucker pattern, and the bottom one is black with red flake. By the way, toothy critters will eventually tear the tails, but they're easy to replace. I've used either ribbon tail saltwater grub tails or Kalin's six inch Mogambo Grub tails as replacements. You can also customize the look on the water too by doing that!|
Another awesome glider is the Apache. Company owner Tim Jedrejczyk, who also taught some of us the concept of the "death pause", really puts a lot of effort into the look and feel of this glider, and it’s an awesome addition to my glider arsenal. They are heavier than most gliders, easy to work, and also really catch fish. They have a very nice wobble on the fall and are great for doing the “death pause” (discussed below). You can find Tim’s glider here: Apache Gliders
|Check out this pig of a musky that Tim caught on his H&H Custom Muskie Lures "Apache". What a fish!|
|This musky fell for one of Tim's Apaches! |
|I have three Apache colors. The top is the walleye color, middle is firetiger, and the bottom is Lac Seul Perch. These lures are fun to work, run a little deeper than most gliders, and really look awesome in the water. They actually come with a very strong saltwater hook and I temporarily swapped them out one day while on the boat because I forgot my hook sharpener that day, but have since put them back on.|
Both of these custom made gliders are a part of my fishing arsenal, and each one provides a slightly different presentation, and both are worth having in your musky tackle box, and even better, attached to the end of your leader.
All of the gliders mentioned above are hard baits, but there is one lure maker that designed a soft bodied glider, the Secret Agent, that also has a nice wobble on the fall, and extra attraction with a rather unique tail. I think it’s great too because if a musky bites down on this bait, the fish will feel mostly the softness of the lure and may hang onto it longer. You can try to obtain these gliders via this Facebook page (ask for Don): CIA Lure Company (Confidence in Action)
There are many more custom gliders on the market. You can find them doing internet searches or even on eBay. Some guys make and stock them, some are made to order, so delivery dates might not be as quick as a commercial product. My advice would be that if you order one, to be patient, as these guys have day jobs and they do this on the side, and they put a ton of time and effort into their product. Each hand made glider is almost like a work of art. And they really like when someone catches a fish on their lure, and pictures sent to them are much appreciated.
Gliders come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. Some that rattle, some that don’t, some that sink faster than others, some that wobble on the fall, and others that don’t, some with soft plastic tails and others that don’t have them. And they all work. It’s these variations that can give you a wide range of techniques to choose from. And each can be an effective tool at one time or another. For me, learning how to fish a glider was really a revelation when it came to my outlook on musky fishing. If you haven't fished one before, and you're into musky fishing, then you owe it to yourself to pick a couple of them up and give them a try.
In a nutshell, these are walk the dog style subsurface lures. Some run deeper than others too, so having a few different brands could help you. How? Perhaps you’ve had recent success working an ERC Hellhound, but on this particular day, the muskies don’t seem to be interested in that presentation. Having one that, perhaps, runs a bit deeper or wobbles more on the fall, or perhaps has a tantalizing soft tail, might be the ticket to triggering that rare musky strike.
|Ken Briggs poses with a nice rainy day musky caught on an ERC Hellhound. Hellhounds are easy to work to get that nice walk the dog action.|
The methods used to work these lures vary from one angler to another, but the common theme is to alternate your retrieve hand on the reel with pauses and reel turns, along with twitching the rod tip to create alternating periods of slack and taught line during your retrieve. If you've had experience fishing a walk the dog topwater for bass, like a Heddon Zara Spook, the retrieve and cadence are similar.
Some lures are easier to work than others, but after a while, with practice you will easily figure out the cadence for each brand. Some guys hold and work their fishing rods on this retrieve in front, twitching up and down, others hold to the side and twitch to the side, while still others hold their rod tips up and almost jig them. No matter how you do it, the muskies will react to a bait that has a good side to side movement. And, even then, when it doesn't seem to work like you think it should, muskies may still hit it. They don't look at it and say, "well, it isn't walking the dog". Rather, they see the lure as something moving and as prey.
|Jeremy Tyson, co-founder of the Facebook page, Keystone Outdoor Addiction, proves that tiger muskies love Hot Tails too. Check out this fat tiger musky, what a beauty!|
|Shawn Reardon netted this tiger musky after it slammed a Musky Mania Magic Maker. These smaller gliders are perfect for chasing tigers or post spawn pure muskies, and they're easy to work to get that walk the dog action.|
There are varying opinions on the type of leader and terminal tackle to use, and even the type of rod or reel. Some musky anglers have rods built just for fishing gliders and other jerk baits. I found that I've been able to throw all of these on each of my musky set ups (XXH, XH and MH) without any issues, but the larger gliders are a bit too heavy for use with a bass flipping or pitching rod, but it can be done. The heavier rods are more for you having leverage to toss big baits than it is for fighting the fish (although, getting the fish to the net is better for their survival chances and a clean release).
I don't have dedicated reels, but some guys like a quicker line pick up so that they can take up the slack easier when walking the dog.
As far as leaders go, I’ve come to like the wire leaders without swivels when using gliders. I think that they help the action and the fish aren’t shy about the wire at all. But really, I'm not sure that it matters a whole lot. I've used them with regular fluorocarbon musky leaders and caught fish. The muskies really don't give a darn what leader you use. But if you don't use one designed for muskies, they will bite you off and steal your expensive musky lures.
Gliders, for the most part, will work the upper third of the water column, and are generally effective in the eight to ten foot depths or less. For ones that sink and wobble, they can be effective in deeper water too. But, really, you never know, as muskies can be cruising the surface and as long as they can see your lure, they may hit it.
I was fishing a glider over thirty feet of water one day about two casts from shore, and was moving to another shallower weedy spot, standing on my trolling motor at a pretty fast speed and had a musky come up and slam my glider. I wasn't even working it, the Hot Tail was wobbling side to side as the boat moved, almost trolling. I couldn’t believe it! Unfortunately, that fish came unbuttoned at the boat. I guess a couple lessons here, that these crazy fish might be cruising near the surface over deep water where a glider could be quite tempting for them, always be ready for a bite, and they aren't always picky about your retrieve!
Gliders, as I mentioned above, can be very versatile. How? If you’re using one that sinks nicely, you can cover various depths by the speed of your retrieve. Slower, longer pulls and glides will allow you to work the lure deeper, while quicker walk the dog moves will allow you to work the lure just below the surface. They also give you options for a boat side presentation that others may not.
Remember my last article about doing figure eights? Well, you can certainly do figure eights with these as you can do with any lure. But, with some practice, you can even do walk the dog figure eights at boat side. Or, you can twitch the rod tip and make the lure move side to side in place, literally.
Another boat side maneuver is to do what is locally known as a “death pause”, when you stop your retrieve and let the lure flutter down, then jig the lure back up and let it fall again. I really like the soft tail gliders when doing the death pause, because that tail, in my humble opinion, provides a nice tantalizing action on the fall.
|Jeremy with a very fat musky caught on a walleye color Hot Tail Glider. Jeremy really takes glider fishing to a new level by using the "death pause" and jigging to trigger muskies to bite at boat side.|
All of these boat side maneuvers can work and trigger a strike, and you should do one form of these after each and every cast. Why? A musky can follow and you may not see them especially if they follow deep or in murky water. But, if you see a fish following your glider, you might be able to trigger a strike well before they reach the boat with, say, a death pause, or maybe start the walk the dog retrieve after performing a death pause. The sky and your imagination are the limits with these lures.
|Mike Schiffbauer shows that big musky gliders can catch trophy fish of many species, including this 31 1/2 inch, fourteen pound walleye that engulfed an Apache. What an awesome catch! By the way, gliders are also great for catching Northern Pike.|
Heck, and there are other ways to work these baits. I see no reason that you can’t cast some of the heavier sinking ones out, let them sink a bit, and jig them back to the boat in deeper water. Why not? I doubt the muskies are down there criticizing us for going against the grain of what others might be doing. If you find that something puts a fish in the boat, then it’s just another new technique at your disposal.
One more thing that I like about gliders is that, for the most part, aren't taxing on your body. Often, after tossing size 10 double bladed bucktails for an extended period of time, I'll switch to tossing a glider to give myself a bit of a break. Gliders are easier on me to work, and the change of a lure now and then might be just the ticket when that feeding window opens.
Gliders are effective during all months of the year, cold or warm, as long as you have open water (and muskies are in season). So, get out there and glide for muskies! Below, more musky glider fishing eye candy...I can hear that fat musky mumbling and drooling in a Homer Simpson type voice... "mmmmmmmm... ggrrglll....gliders..."
|Rocky Droneburg sporting a thick musky caught on a Hot Tail. Rocky has really mastered catching muskies on gliders.|
|Nate Kahle with a beautiful musky caught on a Hot Tail.|
|Jeremy Tyson caught his personal best, a fat monster of a musky, doing the death pause and jigging a walleye color Hot Tail at boat side.|
|Bob Franko (BlackJack Guide Service) hooked up on this beautiful 47 inch musky after if followed about ten feet deep in gin clear water, enticing her to bite with four jigs/death pauses of a Hot Tail.|
|Jeremy with a beauty that inhaled a walleye color Apache.|