Air temperatures were in the mid-40’s last night where I live. They’ll get into the 70’s today, and, for the next few weeks, we’ll see those ranges daily. Birds and butterflies are starting to move south, and across walleye country, anglers who like to catch walleyes are starting to get excited. If you live in an area where walleyes live, here’s how you can get in on that action!
Autumn is big walleye time. If a trophy walleye is your goal, select a body of water that has a history of being home to the big ones and fish it hard, now. Some lakes are big fish lakes, others are eater fish lakes. For many of us, the opportunity to catch truly big walleyes is better now than it was just a few years ago. Usually, the biggest walleyes come from lakes that are home to cisco, smelt, and other oily baitfish.
In the fall, bigger baits usually catch the biggest fish. There is a theory that big fish are more likely to eat one big meal than several smaller meals. Hunting down several smaller meals requires more energy, and using that energy keeps the weight down on the fish.
Some folks like to troll crankbaits in the fall, and trolling cranks at night can be especially productive on big fish. Those baitfish we talked about earlier are fall-spawners. They suspend over deep water during the day and move to shallow sand/pebble spots at night. When they’re shallow, it’s easier for the walleyes to catch and eat them. A Lucky Shad style crankbait that enters a walleye neighborhood has a very good chance of getting eaten.
Mike Frisch makes his living chasing walleyes and other species of fish. In the fall many walleye anglers will tie a jig to their line and leave it there all day. Jigs are traditionally a good way to catch walleyes during any season, but they’re particularly good in the fall. Mike will go against tradition and tie on a bottom-bouncer. Behind that he’ll add a 3-to-4-foot snell made of 10-pound test line. Depending on water depth he’ll use a bouncer up to 4 ounces, with 2-to-3-ounce bouncers being what’s on his line most of the time. He goes with the heavy weights because he wants to move quickly. When he catches a fish or sees a group on the sonar he might slow down, but often the faster presentation is what it takes to get the fish to bite. To go against tradition even more, a nightcrawler will be on his hook. It’s often thought that minnows will be most productive in the fall, and at times they are, but there are plenty of times when the crawler will out-produce a minnow. Traditions are good, but don’t let a tradition get in the way of success at catching more fish.
But no matter how good crankbaits or bottom-bouncer rigs can be in the fall, there are times, especially if you’re looking for numbers of fish, that a jig simply cannot be beat. In the past several years, more walleye catchers are going to plastic on the jig. Something like a Rage Swimmer or Rage Grub on a ¼- or 3/8-ounce jig has become the go-to rig for some of the most successful walleye catchers.
If you like to catch big walleyes or lots of walleyes, now and until the water gets hard is the time to do so. As the weather gets cooler, the walleyes get hungrier. If you’re on the water doing what we just talked about, your chances of getting bit will be very good.
– Bob Jensen of fishingthemidwest.com.