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It's Sauger Time!

By Jason Halfen - November 16, 2020
On major rivers across the Midwest, the cooling waters of fall translate into bountiful fishing opportunities, particularly for sauger. These turbid water-loving cousins of the walleye really pack on the pounds as the leaves start to fall, concentrating in deep holes, along main channel edges, and below dams. If you've never tangled with a school of sauger before, now is the time.

One of my favorite ways to locate pods of feeding sauger is with a Dubuque Rig, which is designed to be trolled upstream and is centered around a standard 3-way swivel. Attach your braided main line to one of the swivel eyes. To the second and third eyes, attach mono or fluorocarbon leaders with two different lengths: a "short" leader that is about a foot in length, and a "long" leader that is 24-30" in length. Use these leaders to connect two baits to the rig: tie a heavy jig (1/2-3/4 oz) to the long leader and a 1/16 oz jig to the short leader. Dress each jig with your bait of choice; I tend to prefer soft plastics on each - 4" ringworms, 4" flukes, and 3.5" paddletails are all good choices - but it won't hurt to use a lively fathead minnow on one jig or the other. These two baits, presented at two different depths, provide the opportunity to target walleyes feeding close to the bottom, as well as those that might be tempted to rise several feet off the bottom.

Position your boat downstream of your intended fishing area, and start moving upstream at a speed of 0.5-0.8 mph with help from your bow-mount trolling motor. Lower the rig into the water, allowing the heavier jig to contact the bottom. Present the rig with a series of lifts and drops as you move upstream, releasing enough line to allow the heavy jig to remain in contact with the bottom during the drop. It is important, however, to resist the temptation to simply drag the lower jig across the bottom, as this is a sure-fire way to donate tackle to the river. In high-flow areas, you will likely notice that most of your bites occur on the bottom jig, while the top bait, fluttering off the bottom, will be a key producer under low-flow conditions and in cleaner water. As such, this double-barreled approach excels under a wide variety of river flow and clarity conditions that accompany fall fishing.

When you fish the Dubuque Rig, you'll be presenting relatively heavy baits in moving water, and as such, this is no place for a wimpy walleye rod. Two rods are particularly well-suited for presenting the Dubuque Rig. On the spinning side of the family, I like a St. Croix 6'8" medium power rod with extra fast action, which you can find in series ranging from the Eyecon all the way to the Legend Xtreme. I like the same length and action in the Avid X casting series; look for the AXC68MXF to find a rod that can pull double duty for chasing walleyes and summer bass. When paired with a casting reel that features a flippin' switch, presenting the Dubuque Rig with casting gear can be accomplished with a minimum of angler effort. Whether you choose spinning or casting tackle, you'll have tons of fun chasing sauger this fall!

Gear Used

Jason Halfen
Dr. Jason Halfen is a long-time guide, tournament angler, and specialist in marine electronics. He owns and operates The Technological Angler, dedicated to teaching anglers to leverage hi-tech tools to find and catch more fish. Learn more by visiting
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