WELCOME TO FALLEYE SEASON
Fall. It is the season many sportsmen wait for all year. The choices for fishing and hunting fun are plentiful, almost making it too tough to choose. For me, the choice is rather simple- time to put a big walleye in the boat and a limit in the freezer for a nice family fish fry over the winter. "Falleye" season really breaks down into the type of water you usually fish. If you like big lake water, deep lake water you want to think about trolling. If shallower lakes, shield lakes or river pools are your jam, you wil be thinking about jigs. So let's explore these two options.
I don't have a big lake boat rigged for trolling, so my favorite walleye tactic is to target shallow, structure oriented lakes. One pattern that works well is fishing the first drop-off in an area where there is some movement to the water. This could be an area where the weed line ends because of a depth change, or the first drop around an extending point- typically it is the first drop from a flat that extends from shore then drops off five to ten feet. Typically walleye will suspend here looking for bait. This is where your electronics come in handy to search for subtle points and turns where current has created drop offs or to find bottom content that changes to creat a "place of interest" for feeding fish. Weedlines are often a good indicator as to where to find such drop offs.
Once you have located the spot to try, nothing works better than the classic jig and minnow- either live or plastic (Gulp is a good way to add some scent to your strategy), drifted slowly along the drop off edge. Drifting with the wind and swimming a light jig and minnow combo is a good way to locate fish. When you find fish, set your spot-lock or drop your anchor and work the area. Use the lightest jig that can keep you in touch with the bottom. I usually try to match the hatch with both my jighead and my minnow trailer. Perch color or fire-tiger work well for me where perch are present. Matching other walleye favorites like fat heads works well. This approach usually calls for a medium light spinning rod and reel loaded with 6-8 pound test. You probably are fishing pike water so you may lose a few jigs to bite offs but the lighter rig will give you the sensitivity to feel the "walleye bite" and give you a good fight after hookset.
If you like hunting for big fish on big water, trolling is your game. In big lakes, Fall usually finds walleye suspending over their deep-water haunts, often near reefs, sunken islands, humps and similar structure- places where they can go to feed on bait. Trolling suspending minnow baits and worm harnesses on a down rigger is a very common and successful method. Spoons are also used. If you like a more active approach, find fish suspending over such structue and agressively rip jigging spoons from the bottom through the suspended fish. If the fish can be reached with a lipless crank, this is also a good bait to employ using a ripping retrieve.
If you elect to troll, the game has become quite technical using your electronics in combination with line counting reels and planer boards. Trolling speed, lure size and even scent also come into play to catch these suspended giants. Experiment by altering the variable on all your gear based on what your electronics are telling you about depth. Troll at various speeds until the fish tell you what is right with the bite. If you use the tried and true worm harness, you may have to have some rigs with different sized bladess using different sizes on different down
riggers until the pattern is set. Make sure your bait is fresh. The smell and taste of a fresh crawler is key to changing the tap-tap to a catch.
If you find yourself in a casting situation, try“Rip-jigging”- that is, employing continuous jerky lifts to a jigging spoon while rapidly retrieving it to the boat. Another lure I like to rip is the
weighted Rippin’ Rap. This lure produces sound and vibration on retrieve and will wake up fish lurkiing near the bottom with its vibes. Even with this aggessive tactic I still like a light rig- 8 pound test on a spinning reel with slightly more backbone- medium power.
Whether you jig them with finesse, boat them on the technical troll, or rip their lips off the bottom, fall is the time to get on a big one and Live the Passion!