One of the best ways to get batter at catching muskies is to find out as much as possible about the forage avaialable on the waters you fish. Ask bait shop owners, local guides, even the local DNR guys – what the primary muskie forage is present on your favorite lakes and find out if bunch-up for some reason at certain times of the year?
The rest simply comes with experience and time on the water, but you need to pay attention. Many people never really take that extra step (detailing forage) that can make all the difference in patterning muskies. Remembering that muskies actually feed little, and considering that they often feed in spurts of activity triggered by weather; and that such weather generally means the majority of muskie will be firing up during this period, knowing the where and what type for the forage base becomes even more important. A good angler is in a situation to get the maximum benefit from accelerated feeding periods.
Learn the movements and prime locations of forage by watching for forage in the shallows and viewing other anglers. Also do the best you possibly can in learning to read your electronics to hopefully judge fish types and general size. Other anglers are generally no help in locating species like suckers and Cisco, but they can sure be helpful in locating walleyes, bass and panfish. Note these locations and the respective season (especially as it relates to the water temp range).
Most fish movements are pretty predictable; the same structures will attract the same species during certain time-frames. This is why you see boats in certain areas year after year. Take note. Find out when all fish spawn and where. Prime locations for different forage bases to spawn will vary. Knowing where and being able to predict spawns is very important. Do your best to pin down forage movements.
Once you have a good understanding of the forage, using it is quite simple really. Sheer numbers of forage draw the predator. Even though it may be a mixture of several different types, quantities of forage is a great find. Big groups of the same forage type though, may offer more of an advantage. This would come in the form of lure selection and presentation thereof.
Matching the hatch is often an issue while targeting any fish species. Like most tactics and theories in fishing, matching is somewhat overrated; there are times it just doesn’t matter. But, the heavier the numbers of the same species and the tighter they are grouped, the more matching the hatch becomes an issue. Good examples of this are schooling fish like perch and cisco. When targeting schools of these forage bases, mimicking the general size, shape and color of the forage will make all the difference at times.