Not-So-Barren Wasteland

Tips for finding open-water muskies

SEAN OSTRUSZKA, Social Media Liaison

Imagine walking across a dark room to find a light switch.

If you know a wall or table is nearby, it almost gives you comfort. You know there is something there to sense. No matter what, you have something to orient yourself, which gives you confidence in your movements even if you can’t see where you’re going.

Walking through a barren dark room in an entirely different scenario. There’s nothing to orient yourself, nothing to sense. You know the light switch is somewhere, but finding it seems impossible. You have no idea where to even start.

Scenario two is fishing open water for many muskie anglers.

We all know there are muskies out there, suspending, not oriented to any piece of cover or structure. Finding them seems like walking through that dark room, and even harder is gaining the confidence to fish for them.

Enter Spencer Berman. Being a guide on Lake St. Clair, open-water fishing is a lot of what Berman does.

“There really is no structure in most of St. Clair,” Berman said.

Instead, Berman locates muskies by locating what they eat.

“The first part of every day is spent looking for the schools of bait,” Berman said. “You find the bait, you find the muskies.”

Needless to say, electronics are crucial for this type of fishing, particularly new side-imaging sonar. While standard sonar works, it’s not always the most effective for finding bait due to the narrow cone shooting straight below the boat. Plus, Berman has seen high-suspending schools of bait part “like the Red Sea” around his boat, which makes it impossible to mark them on electronics looking for fish below the boat. Side-imaging sonar allows Berman to see a much wider swath of water without spooking baitfish.

If you don’t have side-imaging sonar or simply have no idea where to start looking for bait in a wide-open basin, just do what Berman does: Troll.

“If you’re going in blind, the easiest thing to do it to start trolling to see if you can find bait,” Berman said. “This way you’re covering water and fishing at the same time. I have the luxury of being on the water almost every day, so I usually know where to start. But the baitfish move, and if I’m not marking them I’ll start trolling to find them again.”

Those who are good with their electronics may also be able to run around on pad while still being able to allow their electronics to work, which can also shorten the search time.



Because they’re fishing over deep water, anglers may assume they have to throw lures that get down deep. Not true.

“You always want your lures above the bait,” Berman said.

Berman throws a lot of big soft plastics, which typically sink a foot a second. Normally, he’ll just cast and retrieve his lures like he would if he were fishing an offshore structure. If the baitfish are holding tight to the bottom in say 20 feet of water, Berman will count his lure down five to seven seconds before starting his retrieve.

“You always want your lures higher than the muskies, because open-water muskies especially like to attack their prey from below,” Berman said.

Cast toward the schools of bait, but you don’t have to cast right through them. As long as the baitfish are nearby, cast the entire area, as muskies won’t be far away.

For more information on Spencer Berman and Spencer’s Angling Adventures, visit

Jim Saric

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