Jiggin’ Fall River ‘Eyes

By Brian Athern - November 1, 2000
A lazy retrieve of my Road Runner Jig was interrupted with a violent THUMP! The next few seconds included my light action spinning rod being buckled over, 4# Solar Trilene being peeled off the ultralight reel, and a real nice battle. Those events ended as my guide Steve Tieman of the Rock River Guide Service slipped the net under a beauty walleye.

Fall temperature changes usually bring about that Indian Summer period followed by days in the 50's and nights in the brrr's. This is the time to get out to a river near you for some excellent walleye action on leadhead jigs. Sure a fish or two may be persuaded with a ‘crawler harness or by dragging 3 way crankbaits, but this is jig primetime.

My good friend Jim Coniglio has beaten me over the head with the absolute best times to get out with jigs; Spring and more so the Fall. Jim would know, being someone who has consistently CPRed (caught-photographed-released)

The key to Fall success is using the lightest jig that you can maintain contact with, achieving the most hang-time in the fish's strike zone.
quality fish from the Des Plaines River in Chicago's near western suburbs. Jim feels that his Rattling Glo Eye Jigs give him an edge, but agrees that fishermen take fish on "the other guy's jigs" too.

Targeting areas one mile or less from dams is a good starting point for beginning your hunt. Steve Tieman for instance, concentrates his efforts for clients in search of walleyes just below the Oregon Dam spillway in Fall. He begins by working 1/8 - 1/ 4 ounce jigs on the west channel, pinpointing current breaks along the sharp drop-offs. On the east side he downsizes to 1/8 to 1/32 pony-head jigs, twister tails, finished off with a minnow.

Good twister tail color selections for the Rock River include firecracker, sparkle, cotton candy, grey/pink, translucent ice blue, purple, and white. Silver, white, black, and chartreuse are all good choices of jigheads in a variety of sizes. The key to Fall success is using the lightest jig that you can maintain contact with, achieving the most hang-time in the fish's strike zone.

On the Des Plaines, current is a big factor. The most common sizes thrown around the Hoffman Dam's spillway are 1/8 and 1/ 4 ounce, with the heavier jig seeing more action. Coniglio's keys to success are contrasting jig head and twister tail color patterns and the 3-D eye feature of his jigs. Jim will stand between live bait fishermen working bottom rigs and clean house with his set up. A steady retrieve rounds out the very user friendly presentation.

Color selections for this river lean more towards pumpkin, watermelon, dark green hues, sparkle, cotton candy, and other shad related schemes. Jig heads, as mentioned, should contrast the grub design with dark heads/light bodies, light heads/dark bodies being most productive. Travel to this waterway with the idea that you'll donate some tackle to its snag filled environment. That aspect of the Des Plaines had aided greatly in the rebound of game fish populations relating to cover on the once eye sore.

Des Plaines' bank or wading anglers will target fish with medium action spinning gear and 6-10# test depending upon the stretch of river chosen. Rock River patrons by boat opt for 4-6# test and light - medium/light action tackle, while shore or wade fishermen stick more to medium gear and 8-10# line. From washouts and spillways to current breaks and eddies, work them thoroughly for ‘eyes.

This fall, get out to a local river and target that mile long stretch up to the dams for walleyes. Take advantage of the migratory paths these fish travel to their preferred spawning grounds. Fall is an excellent time to lock horns with a trophy walleye close to home or just explore an untapped fishery. Get out with your jiggin' rod and enjoy Fall river ‘eyes in the great outdoors!

Good Fishing!

Author Brian Athern
Brian Athern
Brian J. Athern is a Field Editor with MidWest Outdoors Magazine, Fishing Facts Magazine and has also worked with the former www.thesuburbanangler.com. If you have any questions or comments regarding this article you can email Brian at bumnbri@aol.com