Hunting GiantsBy Jason Freed - October 1, 2012
In AdvanceTo find the larger fish in any system in the fall, one has to have an understanding of what they are after and on most Northern Minnesota lakes that means ciscoes. During the fall, ciscoes are looking to spawn and this will draw a crowd. Prime spawning ground will include rocky flats adjacent to shorelines and points that have deep water nearby. Ideally there is also some weed growth that can serve as a hideout spot for spawning ciscoes. While waiting for the right water temperature, the ciscoes will often suspend out in this deeper water. When the temps get to be around 42 degrees or so, the ciscoes move in and the walleyes will follow.
The HuntThe seasonal movements of walleyes also come into play. As the water temperature continues its decline, walleyes generally start to leave main lake structure in favor of shoreline points or even bays. As the walleyes move back to the shoreline structure, they will often set up along shoreline breaks as shallow as 4-6 feet of water and shallower if a stiff wind is blowing into shore. Given this fact, walleyes and ciscoes are on a collision course and the advantage goes to the toothy critters. What we want to focus on is the giants that will lurk near these rocky areas in their pursuit of these tasty, fatty ciscoes. An effective method to target the bigger walleyes is to 'super size' your baits. In doing so, you will eliminate the smaller fish from being part of the equation. Yes, this may mean less action, less bites, but not necessarily so. FLW touring pro Toby Kavlevog notes, "In the fall we will see bigger fish ending up in the same area and forming schools in their search for baitfish." What does this mean for you? If you catch one giant, there will likely be others nearby. Jigging can still be an effective presentation vessel for giant eyes but instead of your typical jig and shiner, try a bigger redtail or creek chub on a longer shank jig. To help with hooksets, use a jig with a longer shank that accounts for the bigger bait but also allows for ample hook space for solid hook ups. There are a plethora of jigs out there, but look for one that come with a longer shank hook which are terrific when hooking on a 4-5 inch redtail or creek chub. You can make long cast toward shore and snap it back in the early fall, but as temps drop, you may need to slow this presentation a bit. When the temps really plummet swimming the bait back might be the ticket. Allow it to tick the rocks, pause it, twitch it; and this pause and twitch will be when the walleye drills the bait.
A second option to consider are any of the surplus of swimbaits that have recently burst onto the market. Bass guys out west have known for years the viability of swim baits to lure big fish, walleye guys need to do the same. Making long casts, swimming them just over the rocks will get you big bites. Storm Wild Eye swim baits or Berkley Hollow Belly are both good choices as big fish seek out spawning baitfish. Look to match the bait fish as best as you can when picking out your colors and adjust the size of your jig for the conditions you are fishing in. When the walleyes go after these baits, there is no mistake, they crush them leading to KVD type hooksets!
As summer is but a distant memory the giants start to prowl beneath our cooling fall waters. Driven by the need to feed as winter approaches, it is GAME ON for big fish. The allure of chasing these giants is not so much for a fish fry, rather it is the desire tomatch wits with the biggest and baddest each lake has to offer. Get out there, super size your baits and chase down a giant!