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Tennessee Musky Fishing : Winter Tactics

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

The pursuit of Winter muskies in Tennessee is an endeavor of feast or famine

for many anglers. When status quo patterns crumble as a result of climactic irregularities, the

winter bite becomes difficult at best. Interject the hand of man into the equation in the form of

drawdowns and sporadic damn releases and a difficult situation now becomes an insane


As our beloved Tennessee muskies are opportunistic creatures that crave stability, finding success requires

anglers to overcome the wild mood swings of a Southern winter often taking some adjustments

not only in our presentations but in our overall perspective and willingness try something


Falling water is a difficult scenario regardless of season, I often prep clients with the rather silly

hypothetical question: “If your living room started magically shrinking would you run in terror

or stick around to see if it crushed you”. I use this anecdote to drive home how shocking a hard

drawn down can be for the entire lake’s food chain.

Our stability dependent muskellunge inevitability follows the food chain during drawdowns but

can become finicky to say the least. In these falling water scenarios, it is imperative to have a

firm grasp on your electronics to locate not only bait fish but what I would consider to be active

schools. Garmin Panoptix makes this scenario far easier as bait fish can be viewed in real time.

Finding active schools of baitfish will often mean a muskie is nearby or will be soon, drawn to

the commotion of moving prey. Continually scanning these active schools with a Rite Hite

Turret allows you to not only keep a keen eye on the bait school as it moves, but to also keep

scan for our desired target.

As for presentations in this scenario, big rubber is hard to beat. Swimmin Dawgs and Medussas

seem to shine as they allow for so much flexibility in depth of presentation. The controllability

of the depth of presentation is imperative as these school adjacent muskies often shift quickly.

However, I find the most important aspect of my rubber is in the jigging nature of these lures.

Bait school adjacent follows are often sluggish at best and boat side jigging is at times the only

way to elicit a strike.

The impact of winter cold fronts can often be difficult to gauge as they may have little to no

effect on surface temperatures etc. However, making an assessment to the degree of negative

impact can often be gauged on the level of light penetration. Reading and playing to the level

of light penetration is a proven tactic through the year but can be a game changer during winter

in Southern waters. The deeper that light is able to penetrate the water column the deeper

muskies will be. This can be influenced by wind, water color, and conversely the lack of either.

Taking this thought process into consideration during winter cold fronts allows me to establish

a hypothetical edge, a cut off line in the water column, to narrow our search parameters.

Simply put, if muskies are no higher than the level of light penetration and they are no deeper

than the bottom and they didn’t crawl up into the woods last night, it seems like we’ve got

them pinned down. Looking at what is generally perceived as the “negative” impact of a winter

cold front in a positive perspective opens leads you to capitalize on this cold front opportunity.

Finding desired presentations for these “pinned down” winter muskies is at times tricky but

with biological inevitability of the spawn looming, lock jaw is rarely the case. Weighted dive

and rise baits, like the Livingston Lures Titan, has worked for me when used in a painfully slow

and methodical manner to get toothy commitments from what are generally perceived as

negative fish.

If you find that light penetration is sending muskies beyond the reach of cranks and dive and

rise, offering big rubber in conjunction with bottom contact is king. A personal favorite winter

cold front presentation is a Lake X Toad “top-rigged”: a quick and easy modification that allows

for continual bottom contact in the most snag free configuration. This “top-rigged” toad

hopped slowly with deliberate stoppages and ample hang time has resulted in some bone

jarring strikes during severe cold front conditions. This slow yet disruptive bottom bouncing

presentation is a great casting alternative to jigging, allowing for a little more “search and

destroy” to keep the blood flowing during those bitter winter cold fronts.

While there are an incalculable number of scenarios we face during our time on the water,

making daily, hourly, and minute-to-minute adjustments to keep yourself in position for success

is going to put more muskies in your net regardless of your latitude. Allotting time prior to cast

to locate the bait school, pin down the depths, and stage your tackle arsenal will be worth it

when you find yourself hooking up with a monster.

Book you Tennessee Musky Fishing Guide Trip


Tennessee Musky Fishing.

Melton Hill Musky

Center Hill Musky Fishing

Tennessee Musky Guide

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