Collins River Musky Fishing - Year Round Action

September 17, 2020
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Northern musky anglers are in full musky mode as summer winds down, with musky fishing season closing by the end of November in states like Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Collins River near McMinnville TN offers a long fall season with low temperatures and clear water. September is a great time for musky fishing, with September rains providing better fishing conditions. Musky live bait and weed beds are common in shallow, weedy areas.

Northern musky anglers are in full musky mode as summer winds down. Soon, cabin fever will kick in for our musky brothers up north. In states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, musky fishing season closes by the end of November. Its a mad rush right up to freeze out and then its over. Drilling holes and ice fishing for the next six months, buying up musky lures, repairing gear and excess drinking becomes the norm. I mean, what else is there to do when you're an avid angler and can only dream about musky fishing for half the year? Talk about dedicated anglers! We are.

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Collins River Tennessee

On the other hand, the Collins River near McMinnville TN, offers a long fall season that only gets better as winter winds cool the river temps to the low forties. Normal summer water temperatures rarely reach 80 degrees on the Collins, but dry summers can raise surface to the unsafe levels for a safe release of muskie. The more rain the river gets leading into fall, the better for the fishing. Summer fishing tactics gradually change as the Collins River begins to cool. I would consider the month of September the "transition" into slightly different approaches and techniques for Collins River musky fishing on the middle to upper end of the river.

September starts off the way August ends with water Temps hanging around the low to mid seventies with low, clear water conditions. Heavy, late summer rains are good for small rivers and streams as they add oxygen to the water and stir up critters on the bottom and the river bank. Its a great time to for Collins River musky fishing, as September rains pick up. I look for opportunities to fish those cloudy, rainy days. Top water action can be fantastic in the months of September and October.

Musky Live Baits

Musky live bait like suckers, and big chub minnows get gobbled up in the fall on the Collins and if used correctly, (Meaning circle hooks and quick set rigs!) causes less harm to the fish. Expect a missed fish here and there using the circle hook rig. Be sure to lower your rod tip and pull into the fish for better hook ups. You can find quick set and circle hook rigs at any musky shop on line. The month of October brings the first few frost and water temps dropping into the 60s. Collins River musky begin to venture away from deeper summer holes and spend more time in the shallow, weedy areas. Moss and weed beds in or near deeper water is a consistent area for holding musky. Spinnerbaits, buck tails and minnowbaits produce around these weed patches. Keep an eye out for weeds in 4 to six feet of water.

Fall Musky Baits

As fall begins to transition into winter, musky fishing tactics on the Collins River change. As water temps fall into the 50s and below, glide baits begin to shine. The side to side action of a well tuned glider is one of the best ways to catch muskie in the Collins River, even on the coldest of days. There are many choices in glide baits on the muskie market. You can pay anywhere from 20 to 100 bucks on hand crafted muskie glide baits, but I recommend starting out with easy to use, reasonable priced gliders that produce excellent results. The Hellhound, is one of the easiest lures to use and comes in 6, 8, and 10 inch sizes. I've caught more muskies on the 8 inch Hellhound glider than any other glide bait, period. Shop around, watch videos, and learn about muskie glide baits. Your missing out if you don't. Below is a short list of fall muskie lures to bring on your Collins River fishing trip.

  • Rapala- 8 inch
  • Redfin- 8 inch
  • SS Shad- 6 inch (
  • A.C. Shiner- Tandem spinnerbaits
  • #8 bucktails
  • Paddle tail swimbaits


  • Hellhound- 8 inch
  • Phantom soft tail- 6 inch
  • Manta- Hang 10
  • Side winder- Deadhead tackle

The above lures can easily be found by simply typing in the lure name. There are many types of muskie lures on the market. Keep in mind you will most likely be fishing clear water, so use more natural colors. If the river has color, or is stained, use brighter colors with more flash. Spinnerbaits and bucktails work best when the river has a milky green color.

Last but not least is boat position. The upper Collins River is no more than 50 yards wide at any given area. I like to slow float with my boat at a slight angle towards either side of the river. I keep my cast in front, and down stream, working parallel to the bank, and casting the middle of the river, always looking for any structure in deeper water.

If your looking for good musky fishing in the fall look no further than this little gem of a river. Miles of fishing opportunities for trophy class muskies await you on the Collins river. Its as far south as you can go to catch the "fish of a thousand casts". I'm guessing it won't take that many!

Dwayne Hickey In The Spread, Instructor
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