WWYGD: When Muskies Come Hard

It's never an easy thing to catch a muskie, especially a fish that breaks, or even approaches, that magic 50-inch mark. But in fact, there are times when the fishing gets even tougher than usual. In this segment of "What Would Your Guide Do," Jon Bondy lays out the details on his methods for tackling tough muskies.

Among muskie hunters, the dread runs deep. Fear of the precipitous zone beyond the weedline prompts anglers to wing baits exhaustively toward the shallow end of the pool. Tragic, says guide Jon Bondy, especially when the biggest green fish often swim well below the weedline.

As first light gives way to hot sun and calm seas; when cold fronts yield to bluebird skies—conditions dreaded by others—Bondy merely grins and breaks out the big jigs. That's when the fun really begins.

From season opener in early June through July, and again from October into December, the Ontario based guide stalks the Detroit River and adjacent Lake St. Clair for the region's gargantuan spotted muskellunge.

Bondy Baiting
Years ago, while guiding for walleyes, Bondy often hooked big 'skies while jigging in 20 to 40 feet of water. In response, he gradually devised a masterful deep-water plan. "I had to do something drastic to catch fish on those bluebird days when fishing sucked in the shallows, and platoons of party barges took over.

"That first year, I used saltwater baits," he recalls. "Anything I could get my hands on that was big enough to jig in deep water. We boated a 30-pound muskie on the first day. The next day produced another 30. I started swearing my clients to secrecy.

"None of the saltwater baits were quite right. I needed the bait to be heavy enough to thump down to 40 feet, yet it had to swim upright and not flip over. I put a blade on the back to bring the tail up and provide balance."

The final result—the original Bondy Bait—was a sheepshead-shape hunk of plastisol molded around 7 ounces of lead, with two treble hooks and a Colorado blade for a tail. Quietly, the lure has chalked up 14 wins in national tournament competition. This season, he's unveiling perhaps his hottest creation yet, the Bondy Wobbler.

Deep-Water Hunting
On Lake St. Clair, Bondy drifts fast with the wind, casting over subtle 6-inch rock plateaus. In rivers, he works along sharp drops— shipping and side channels— using the trolling motor to control-drift at current speed. He starts at the base of the weedline and vertically jigs down the slope, gradually moving in to 20 to 30 feet of water. On the calmest brightest days, he positions in the shallows and casts baits out over the deep shipping lane to avoid spooking fish below. Big muskies often hear the splashdown and streak up to smack the bait.

When a bite happens, he repeats everything—depth, drift speed, jigging cadence—and usually gets wacked again. "It might take 5 hours to find fish, but when we do, it's possible to catch 15 muskies in a small area. Current keeps fish moving continuously, so you have to hunt tirelessly to find 'em."

While jigging the Bondy is simple, driving hooks home takes concentration and power. Using 8-foot heavy-duty casting rods, 80-pound braid and self-made 200-pound leaders (to clear snags), he drops the bait to bottom and gives the rodtip a 3- to 5-foot upward sweep. He then follows the bait as it drops, letting its weight slowly pull the rod down. The key, he says, is to maintain contact all the time, as strikes are brutal but fast.

Muskie anglers hate deep water and bluebird skies in equal measure. Bondy loves both, which helps explains his rock star status. Want to boat more 'skies? Delve deep and hang on.

Contact: Jon Bondy; lakestclairfishing.com, (519) 800-7004.

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