What is the Best Dead Bait for Muskie? These Work 100% Of The Time

No matter how you prefer to catch your muskie, you can’t deny the effective impact dead bait can have on getting muskies on the hook. Dead bait of soft rayed fish have lots of natural oil in their skin and flesh, when these natural oils spread into the water, their smell helps to attract muskies roaming around the area. If you haven’t tried it yet, consider this your call-to-action to give it a try now!

So, what’s the best dead bait for muskie? The best dead bait for muskie is white suckers. They work as effectively as they do when used as live bait. Their smell attracts nearby muskies. You can choose its size to match the muskie you’re going for. The range of 8-to-12 inches (about 20-to-30.5 cm) long is more popular. 

You’ll find everything you need to know about using suckers as dead bait for catching your next trophy muskie in the next few paragraphs. Read on to know more!

What is Dead Bait for Muskie? 

a number of bait options to illustrate what is the best dead bait for muskies

Using dead bait can sometimes generate greater results than an artificial one. So when muskie anglers get tired of waiting for a bite, they often change their lures to live or dead bait to guarantee a catch. Most live baitfish work well as dead bait. You can check my guide on catching live bait for muskies here.

Muskies go for white suckers in any size. Casting a white sucker in late fall is a successful shot, muskies are heavily feeding on them during this time of the year being an easy-to-catch high-on-protein fish that makes an easy delicious meal.

It’s better to use white suckers as dead bait in the fall season when muskies are not too picky about what they eat. That doesn’t mean dead bait won’t work in other seasons, but it’ll be more useful during fall months.

Can you catch Muskies with Dead Bait? 

This has been an area of debate between lots of anglers who go for muskies in different seasons using different bait. Some anglers argue that muskies are visual predators that prefer live bait and artificial bait that look live enough and won’t catch your dead bait even if you jigged your arm off the whole day. 

Other anglers proved with practical experience that muskie can go for dead bait with a little experiment; some local bait shops threw their dead suckers off the docks and kept an eye on muskies to find them wipe out all the dead suckers in no time.

So, you can indeed catch a muskie using dead bait. You can choose from alewives, small whitefish, and chubs. Your best choice will remain white sucker though, and I’ll explain why.

Why is White Sucker the best dead bait for Muskie? 

White suckers fall on the top of the list of “most favorite meals for muskies”. Muskies will chase suckers any day or night, they are high-on-protein and easy-to-catch fish that are hard to resist. However, some anglers face some problems when live fishing with muskie’s favorite dinner.

Suckers are temperature-sensitive fish. If the water temperature changes 3 or 4 degrees from their tank at the bait shop to your storage program on the water, they might die, but if you’re fishing with dead ones already? Problem solved.

Another flexibility added to fishing with dead suckers is that they can be deployed exactly in the strike zones in the way you want them to be. You wouldn’t worry whether it can swim out of the strike zone or tangle another line. 

Moreover, the scent of a fresh dead bait can provide some kind of attraction to predatory fish that spend the majority of their time hunting and chasing, they won’t say no to an easy meal every once in a while.

9 Dead Bait Muskie Fishing Tips 

  1. When a muskie catches your bait, just when it starts to swim away, sweep your rod to the left to make sure the treble hooks are set into the muskies’ mouth corner. This way you don’t hurt the muskie and it doesn’t get away. 
  2. Dry your bait with paper towels and separate them with a sheet of wax paper before freezing half a dozen in a plastic bag to prevent them from sticking together.
  3. Use smooth drags and make sure your bait can run at a good speed freely with no obstructions.
  4. Target shallow and deep weed lines, river mouths, drop-offs, rocky areas, and flats for better results.
  5. Use a rod holder to help you fish dead suckers effectively.
  6. Hang your sucker horizontally in the water and about 1-to-2 feet (30-to-70 cm) off the bottom. If the fishing area has a lot of weed growth, suspend the bait about 1-to-2 feet (30-to-70 cm) above the weed cover. 
  7. Don’t move your dead bait too frequently, that harms more than it helps.
  8. Match the hatch. Bigger bait catches bigger muskies, even if it’s a dead bait. Go for more than a 12-inch (about 30 cm) sucker if you’re planning to catch a more than 50-inch (127 cm) muskie.
  9. Use the Figure 8 technique of drawing the figure in the water to gain more time to catch them before you take your lure out.

Don’t forget to check out my guide on the best musky reels here. If you’re on a budget, I also highly recommend checking out these awesome spinning reels for less than 100 bucks here.

When Does Dead Bait for Muskie Work Best?

Using dead bait, especially suckers, for muskie can be effective in different conditions according to where you’re fishing. However, using white suckers as dead bait during fall and early winter gives you the best opportunities to catch trophy muskies much easier than any other season in the year.

During the fall and early winter months, muskies tend to feed more heavily than usual trying to put on some weight before the water gets chilly. You’ll find them hiding in weedy areas of any reservoir you’re fishing in waiting to chase their next prey. Dead bait then gives them the chance to get an easy full meal without much chasing which can be irresistible to hungry muskies.

Related Questions 

Is Fishing with Dead Bait a Good Idea? 

Yes, sometimes fishing with dead bait is a good idea. It’s because soft rayed fish have lots of natural oil in their skin and flesh. When these natural oils spread into the water, it helps to attract hungry fish roaming in the area.

Is using Live Bait for Muskie Fishing Legal? 

Using live bait is legal as long as the fish was caught legally and meets any size, catch, or possession limits established for that species, according to DNR. However, it’s best to check the DNR website for the specific live bait you want to use and make sure it’s legal in your state.

What’s Muskie’s Favorite Food?

Muskie’s favorite food can be anything from Suckers, Tullibee, Ciscoes, Bullheads, Carp, and minnows. Generally, Muskies prefer soft rayed, high-on-protein fish that is also easy to catch. Muskies can be stocked in some lakes that are overpopulated with these species to get rid of them.

What are the best months of the year to troll for muskies? 

The best months of the year to troll for Muskies are October and September. Muskies are feeding heavily and constantly in the fall, resulting in faster bait catching. They can be found in various depths and can be caught with lots of bait options whether it’s live, dead, or artificial bait.

Helpful Resources 

Fishing Dead Bait: Old-School Theories and Updated Techniques

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