Fall WalleyesBy Dale Helgeson - October 1, 2004
Fall is a magical time of year. There are so many outdoor opportunities available to us. Many people quit fishing for the pursuit of whitetails, ducks, and geese or even turkeys. But this may be one of the best times of year to land your big walleye of a lifetime. Springtime is probably the only better time to catch a trophy walleye but the fall will offer the opportunity everywhere, where as the spring you are primarily limited to the river system. Now all of your favorite lakes will produce large fish.
There are many factors involved with the fall bite. One large on in southern Wisconsin is the low boat traffic that the lakes now receive after the busy summer season. This will allow fish to come shallower because of the lack of noise. Cooler water temperatures and Lake Turnover have a large effect on the fall fishing as well. When a lake turns over the bait fish will work their way into the shallow waters. This allows a better comfort zone for the larger fish making them more accessible in shallower water than their normal summer patterns where you may have had to look for suspended fish.
One thing to remember is that big walleyes tend to look for larger baits in the fall. You can use a couple different techniques to affectively catch fall walleyes. The number one choice is live bait rigging, trolling, and jigging.
Live bait rigging for trophy fall walleyes usually consist of using small to medium creek chubs or small suckers rigged with a circle hook and a barrel swivel and a weight. I use Lindy no snag weights, Lindy weights or barrel weights. The weight is placed about the barrel swivel. This is to keep the sinker from sliding down to your bait. The swivel is used so you can eliminate some line twists. Then I usually use about a 5 foot leader to the circle hook. I like to use Daiichi Bleeding circle hooks and will sometimes place a bead above the hook. I will put the hook from under his bottom jaw and run it straight through the front of his head.
Then I will usually drift this rig slowly along the weed edges or drop offs during the day. If you have a known concentration of walleyes I will attach a slip bobber and anchor. If the wind gets too strong I would recommend a drift sock to slow the drift or use your electric motor. If the wind is too low I will run my Minn Kota on 2-3 for a speed and work the breaks. I hold onto the rod and if I feel a bite I will feed out line for a 10 count and then tighten the line and set the hook. I don't reel until I feel the fish pull back because he may drop it. I set the hook first after reeling in the slack line. It is better to miss a fish by setting the hook with nothing there than wait until you feel the fish and risk him feeling you and dropping the bait.
Trolling in the fall is another great way to catch trophy fish. I will run much larger baits like small musky Rapala's or large Reef Runners. I will try to spread my lines out using my Off Shore Planer Boards. I will run 6 lines all on boards. You must check the depths you are going to run so you can have your lures running the right depth. I like to run the weed lines and will run some shallow running baits just on top of the weeds while my outside boards closest to deep water will run diving baits. Make sure to check you electronics for baitfish.
Jigging is another technique that I use often I the fall. If it is a lake or river system where you know where they are and want to jig it you can cast your jigs into the structure or vertical jig depending on the depth and water clarity. In clear water I will cast my jigs and work them back but in dirty or stained water or rivers I do a lot of vertical jigging. I like to use a larger jig in the fall like a ¼ ounce Nuckleball jig tipped with a small chub, small sucker, or large roach. Just work the jigs slowly back to the boat when cast with a slow lift and drop technique and the same holds true for vertical jigging. Raise the bait off the bottom 6-12 inches and hold it for a 5 count and then lower it back down. Most fish will hit on the pause.
Try some of these techniques this fall to capitalize for a trophy walleye.
Good fishing! Be safe and take a kid fishing!