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Late Fall And Winter Walleye in the Rivers

While some anglers are putting their fishing equipment away for the season, a few die-hard walleyes anglers are taking advantage of what can be some very good walleye action. The rivers that crisscross Walleye Country can provide some outstanding walleye fishing through the fall and winter months. Here’s how you can take advantage of that action.

There are several locations in rivers that hold walleyes this time of year. Current breaking structures like wing-dams can be very productive, as can deeper holes. Sand flats extending below islands can also be good. Successful walleye anglers will need to try different areas to determine where the majority of the fish are holding on the river being fished. Deep holes can be very good on some rivers on some days, current breaking structures will be best on other rivers on other days.

When fishing structure, try to determine if the fish are holding in a particular area of the structure. Let’s say we’re fishing a wing-dam. Pay attention to where the fish are coming from. Maybe they’re holding on the tip of the wing-dam, or maybe they’re on the upstream side of it. Once you’ve figured out where they are on the structure being fished, you should start on that same area on other wing-dams that you fish on that day.

Most walleye chasers will have a jig tied to the end of their line. If that walleye chaser has two rods rigged, there will probably be a jig on the other rod also. Experience has taught that jigs are what these cold water walleyes like to eat.

Just as jigging is the preferred tactic for taking walleyes at this time of year, that jig is traditionally tipped with something like a three inch fathead minnow. But the most successful anglers often break tradition and try something different. One of those anglers is Drake Herd. Drake lives in Minnesota and is the 2021 National Walleye Tour Angler of the Year. He knows how to catch walleyes in a variety of places by employing a variety of techniques. Drake says that although minnows behind a jig are a good way to catch walleyes in rivers in the cold weather months, plastic baits are perhaps more efficient for a variety of reasons.

One of those reasons is the options that plastic offers. Minnows come in one color, plastic baits are available in a variety of colors, and color can be a factor at times. Drake’s go-to plastic is a Salmo Slick Shad. He likes the Ruffe color in clear water and Lemon Tiger in stained water, but he’s quick to try other colors until he finds one that the fish like.

Bait size is another consideration. The Slick Shad comes in a smaller size, not quite 3 inches, and a larger size, a little over 3 inches. He uses the smaller size most of the time, but when the walleyes are slammin’, he goes with the bigger one. Another plastic bait that has become popular with walleye anglers is a Rage Swimmer.

Plastic baits are also preferred because you don’t need to put your hands into a minnow bucket full of cold water to get a new plastic bait.

Regardless of what bait you put on the back of your jig, keep in mind that strikes can be soft in cold water. An eight pound test fluorocarbon leader attached to a superline will provide outstanding sensitivity and hooksets.

Use a jig heavy enough to keep in contact with the bottom, but not so light that the current quickly sweeps it off the bottom.

There are lots of rivers throughout Walleye Country that will offer walleye action for the next few months. If you want to catch some walleyes right now, find your warm coat and boots, tie a jig onto your line and head for the river.

– Bob Jensen of

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