Can't-Miss Techniques for Late-Summer and Early-Fall WalleyesBy Josh Lantz - September 1, 2021
"September is a transition time for walleyes," says Minnesota professional angler and fishing promoter, Joel Nelson. "Most lake walleyes will adhere to summer patterns during warm weather, but any early cold snap can trigger pods of baitfish to move to the shallows. The walleyes won't be far behind."
Nelson is a proponent of vertical jigging and pitching in these scenarios. His key offerings include simple 1/8-to-1/2-ounce jigheads rigged with smaller plastics, typically paddletails and shad varietals, fished under the boat in the mornings and evenings, and away from the boat during mid-day. He uses two distinct spinning rods for these presentations.
"When fish push shallower - often after a cold snap - and you're pitching farther away from the boat, moving up in length and power to a 6'8" medium power, extra-fast rod gives you a bit of extra leverage, and it'll also handle heavier Fireball jigs up to 5/8 of an ounce," advises Nelson, who says shallower walleyes are often more concentrated. "Big schools of walleyes are typically present in these conditions, so look for 'can't-miss' signatures on your electronics' side-imaging before wetting any baits."
That's a primary reason why Tollefson likes a shorter rod like the 63MLXF. "It lets you control your presentation right in the cone of the sonar," he says. "That's key because using your sonar is extremely helpful for determining what it takes to coax fish out of the wood, as well as keeping yourself from getting hung up."
To anglers pursuing river 'eyes during late summer and early fall, Nelson says water levels play a huge role in finding and catching fish. "Come September, many walleye streams and rivers are at their lowest stages of the year, which usually causes fish to stack up in relatively small areas," he says. "A canoe or kayak float down likely stretches may yield only a handful of fishable spots, but that's not a bad thing. Once you find them, you can catch a bunch."
Nelson says river walleyes frequently hold in the deepest water available right now. "You've got to go down and get them, either vertically jigging as you slowly drift through the holding water, or by pitching jig and grub combinations into current seams and other slack-water edges," he says.
Nelson employs the same 63MLXF and 68MXF Eyecon and Legend Elite spinning rods on the river that he uses when lake fishing. "These exact same rods and presentations are equally effective at taking river walleyes at this time of year, in addition to smallmouth bass," he says, which can be found "in similar, though usually slightly shallower areas." Nelson says bonus bronzebacks will inhabit more areas - not just the deeper pools where walleyes congregate. "They definitely roam more than the walleyes do right now and aren't afraid to hit a variety of aggressive offerings."
Whether pursuing walleyes in lakes or rivers throughout the coming weeks, take our experts' advice and start your search in the normal, deeper summer haunts, but be ready to look shallower when cold fronts and other weather changes drive baitfish closer to shore. Fish vertically to concentrations of fish and use your electronics to your advantage. Rig for versatility and enjoy bonus catches of crappie and smallmouth bass to add to the fun.