Article by: Gord Pyzer on northernontario.travel
Like most anglers, I suspect, I wept a week ago when I had the big boat winterized and tucked snugly into bed. Since then I have been relying on my smaller tiller handled V-hull to get the bulk of the yeoman's work completed.
But, sadly, I think this past weekend was the last trip of the season for the young metal Miss, too.
But that doesn't mean the open water fishing season is over by any stretch of the imagination. Far from it. In fact, if you've been yearning to catch the biggest fish of your life - possibly even a new world record - now is the time to take a serious look at the Ottawa River in the Prescott-Russell region of Southeastern Ontario and to book a guided fishing trip with muskie expert John Anderson.
It is what I've done the past two years now and it has been so much fun, from so many different perspectives and for so many reasons.
First, when you hire a guide like Anderson, who owns the Ottawa River Musky Factory, you don't need to worry about any of the planning, logistics or details. You just show up and start casting on all of the high percentage spots in one of the world's most fabled muskie waters.
And because I flew to Ottawa and didn't want to tote along a ton of tackle, John let me use his vast array of top quality Shimano and Loomis rods and reels and all of his lures.
Talk about being pampered.
Funny thing, though, while we must have had over a thousand different muskie baits in the boat, two pails lined with soft plastic Bulldawgs occupied the top spot of honour. It is a late autumn presentation detail that Anderson has perfected over a lifetime spent on the river.
"Bulldawg-style muskie baits started the soft plastic revolution," Anderson told me, as I snapped one of the lures onto my leader and began heaving it to the edge of a weedbed, on a spot he fondly calls Dolly's. It is named in recognition of the voluptuous country and western singer, Dolly Parton and the mammoth muskies the spot has produced for him and his guests.
"The lure style works because the fish can’t tell that it is not real. The twister tail started fooling bass, walleyes and other fish in the 1970s and it was only natural that the same motion would work for muskies. The Bulldawg turned the original twister tail into a musky-sized version of the same bait and presto, it was an instant success."
Anderson didn't need to convince me of the lures' merits as I once had the pleasure of guiding the Vice-President of the Madison, Wisconsin chapter of Muskies Inc. to his biggest fish ever on the Winnipeg River near Minaki, Ontario. He caught it after his buddy, Matt, had raised the giant on a different bait but the fish refused to strike a figure eight alongside the boat. It subsequently ate his buddy's Bulldawg, however, when he pitched it up to the seagull rocks where Matt had first raised the big toothy critter.
"That is the point," Anderson chuckled, when I told him the story. "No two anglers fish Bulldawgs the same way. And there is no wrong way to present the lure style. This is probably the reason why it has continued to catch muskies at the same pace since its inception. Muskies can get used to the signature of most other lure styles, but a Bulldawg is always different."
As Anderson and I continued comparing notes in the boat while we drifted around Dolly's flinging the big baits into the water, I mentioned to him that I have long believed that sound and vibration are the next fishing frontiers.
"It is interesting that you say that," Anderson said, "because Pete Maina once told me that he also thinks muskies can pattern the sound of a lure better than any other part of a bait's signature. A Bulldawg's tail emits a lot of vibration, but the lure itself is silent, and I think that has helped make it a steady producer.
"As a guide, you have to have a couple of “idiot” baits in your boat that your guests can throw and catch fish. A lot of my clients have minimal experience catching muskies and lack the dexterity required to make a glide bait walk-the-dog four feet down or a jerkbait hover in the zone.
"But I can tell you, as a guide who casts for muskies year round, that Bulldawgs are my number one "go to" bait in November. They will move fish that won’t move for any other bait and catch muskies when nothing else will.
"I'll let you in on another secret," says Anderson. "A little used technique that has been extremely successful for me in the cold water of late fall is slowly trolling Magnum and Pounder Bulldawgs. To do it properly, you need to attach an appropriate size bell sinker to the split ring on the front hook to take your bait down and make it stay upright while it swims."
Hopefully, your mind is whirling, twirling and spinning now as you vision big toothy critters exploding on soft plastic Bulldawgs and thrashing alongside the boat. If it is, just wait until you hear the other presentation tricks that Anderson, and his side-kick Wally Robins, have up their sleeves in Part Two of my exclusive On the Water Interview with the Legendary Ottawa River musky guide.
For more information on fishing in Ontario visit northernontario.travel
Author bio: Gord Pyzer is well-known in Canadian fishing circles as Doctor Pyzer because of his work for Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources. He's now one of Canada's top fishing communicators and a member of the Canadian Angler Hall of Fame. Gord is a two time winner of Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters Presidents Cup and is an internationally sought speaker, tournament angler and co-hosts the Real Fishing Radio Show with Bob Izumi.
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