How To Setup A Musky Tackle Box

The variety of musky lures is dizzying. Depthraiders, Tallywackers, Rizzotails, Suicks, Bobbies, Eddies, Reef Hawgs, Grim Reapers, Foolers, Musky Killers, Bootails, Ghost tails, Awakers, Jackpots, Harassers, Big Joes, Hawg Wobblers, Coots, Bauers, Mouldys, Cherry Twists, Creepers, Teasertails, and Cisco Kids.

Oh yes, and even Wade’s Wobblers, Smittys, Cobbs, Strikers, Wood Ticks, Swim Wizs, Cranes, Believers, Burmeks, Legends, Sensors, Amma Bamas, Slammers, Buchertails, Rapalas, Bagleys, Musky Bugs, and Grandmas. There even is a Burt and Ernie!

And that’s just a few I can think of off the top of my head.

With so many lures to choose from, how does one get started? Even worse, if you are like me and have too many of the above, but still need more lures…you have a problem.

And how do you organize your tackle? How can you keep track of what you have and make sure you bring along what you need on every trip, yet still allow your boat to float.

If you are new at this sport, I’ll discuss the various lure types. For those who are swamped with tackle, or would like to be, I’ll detail how I organize my tackle to make sure I have everything at my fingertips.

Getting Started

With the hundreds of lures on the market where do you begin? First, ask yourself a few key questions: What types of waters will you fish? Do you know how to fish the various lures? How much do you want to spend? What do you really need?

As a musky hunter you must understand that lures are just tools. Certain tools do a better job than others. Select lures (tools) that cover different water depths. Each lure does the best job of triggering a strike from a musky at the depth it was designed to run. By having multiple lures that cover multiple depths, you have tools that are designed to perform different jobs. Some lures must be retrieved faster than others when running at a specific depth; their productivity is dependent on the attitude of a musky. Sometimes a slow moving lure is best and other times a fast moving lure is the answer. Certain lures also work better in different water colors.

Let’s break down the lures according to running depth.


Topwater lures are designed to cover the surface and catch muskies in areas of thick cover where other lures can not be fished or to trigger strikes from muskies that won’t hit other lures. You should have a few topwater lures in your arsenal.

You also need different topwater lures for varying wind conditions. Topwater lures with more blades and propellers are better in windy weather. Those with few blades or propellers are best in calm conditions. I recommend having one for the following wind conditions: calm, slight chop, and windy. Black lures have the best silhouette and are probably the most versatile, but I have also done well with florescent colors.


These lures cover water deeper than topwater baits do,, and depending on the blade size and style, they can be fished beneath or bulged on the surface of the water. I would recommend having a couple bucktails with each blade style. For example, select two with Colorado blades, two with fluted blades, and two with willow leaf blades. The Colorado blade creates the most lift and makes the bucktail run the shallowest at the slowest speed. The willow leaf blade creates the least lift and makes the bucktail run the deepest at the same speed, but has the most flash.

Regarding colors, I would suggest a nickel-bladed bucktail with dark hair, such as brown or black, and a florescent orange or chartreuse blade with dark hair. Contrast is important, and these two color combinations can work in most situations.

Minnow Baits

Minnow baits are shallow-running crankbaits. You’ll need a few of these to pry the muskies from the cover. They should be buoyant so they can run from just below the surface to about four feet. One in a perch pattern and another in a fire-tiger pattern will cover most situations.


Jerkbaits either dive and rise (divers) or glide side-to-side (gliders) when jerked. These lures generally cover mid-depth ranges. Although they can be weighted to cover deeper depths. Some are quite buoyant and can be worked over shallow cover. You should have a few divers and gliders; I would suggest a couple jerkbaits in fluorescent patterns and the others in either some perch or shiner patterns.


Crankbaits are designed to fish the deeper areas where many of the larger muskies can be found. Deep-running crankbaits, in both a straight and jointed styles, are a must. The crankbait should be buoyant to free itself from cover. Straight model crankbaits work best through cover and at high speeds; jointed crankbaits work better at slow speeds and have higher sound and vibration. Choose a few colors that have a contrasting back and belly such as black and white or green and gold. Florescent colors also work well in dark and stained waters.


Jigs work best under post-frontal conditions or when the fish are deep or tight to cover. Thus a few of these should be in your tackle box. Jig heads should be 1/2 and 1 ounce, and trailers such as reapers, creatures, and large twisters work well. You can experiment with colors, although black, silver, and motor oil will produce most of the time.

Terminal Tackle

Don’t forget some leaders, extra hooks, split rings, pliers, hook cutters, and a hook file. My only advice is to not skimp on these items, as they are just as essential to boating a musky as the lure is to getting the fish to strike.

Getting Organized

Before you know it you will have many more lures than you ever planned for, even if you musky fish a few days a year. But what do you do with them? Musky lures are commonly too bulky for most tackle boxes, and the number of lures quickly out-grows other boxes. One box just can’t handle the diverse nature and size of all of your lures.

You should store lures according to there use. There are many tackle boxes on the market designed for musky baits. One in which I have found to be the best for my musky lures is the Flambeau Big Bait Rack System. It is available with two full racks to hang lures. There are 50 individual separate sections, so the lures can be hung but won’t tangle. You can even store more lures by placing a couple in each section, although some lures will tangle. This box is durable yet lightweight, keeps the lures totally waterproof, and is fairly inexpensive.

I have so many lures that I use several Big Bait Boxes. I have one that holds crankbaits, one that holds jerkbaits, and another that holds bucktails and topwater lures. I keep another that has a mixture of lures which I modify for every trip. Usually I bring the mixed box with one of the others in the boat. The other boxes I either keep at home or in the truck.

If, for example, I know I will be casting a stained water lake, but may also be doing some trolling, I’ll bring my crankbait box and a mixed box lures that are most productive for fishing stained water. In late fall I may bring my jerkbait box and a mixed box with clear-water lures.

There are many ways to organize your tackle. If you have fewer lures you might consider sorting them according to water clarity. You might have a clear-water, a stained-water, and a dark-water box.

When it comes to storing jigs, terminal tackle, or sucker rigs, I keep each in a separate box. I use a smaller, more compact Flambeau 1032 or 7270 boxes. This box makes storing the lures in my boat compartments easy, keeping them out of the way unless I need them. Also, I can view the lures or tackle in each box without opening them. Most tackle boxes cannot handle storing different size musky lures and terminal tackle at the same time. By keeping these smaller musky jigs and sucker rigs, along with other necessary items, separate from your larger musky lures, you’ll save a lot of space and find they will last longer.

There is no perfect method for storing musky lures, and no right answer to the ideal number of lures? Start out with a few lures and then decide what you’ll need. If you fish with a guide, look through his box and decide. As you become more proficient with the various lure types, you will gradually accumulate more.

There is no one secret in musky fishing. It is the little things that make one better. Tackle storage and maintenance is one.