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Big Fish on Big Baits

By Bob Jensen - October 1, 2004
If your goal in fishing is to catch one or several big fish, then autumn is the time to do so. And, if you're going to be chasing big fish in the fall, big baits are the way to go. You can catch lots of fish on small baits, but if you are going to target truly trophy fish, you need to use big baits. For the biggest walleyes or smallmouth bass, it is very difficult to beat a redtail chub on a Roach Rig. Big ‘eyes and smallmouth just don't say no to a redtail very often.

Redtails can be difficult to locate in some areas of the Midwest, but they can usually be found somewhere. If you can't find redtails, suckers or shiners can be substituted. Our baits should be at least four inches long, and if you want really big fish, six inches is a good starting point.

The best bait will be the liveliest bait. Keep your bait in a container that has plenty of aeration. The Aqua Life buckets are best because they put out small bubbles that provide the best oxygen for keeping bait healthy and lively.

Selecting the right body of water is another critical consideration when chasing the big ones. Do some research as to which lakes have a recent history of producing the biggest walleyes or smallmouth, then spend your time on that lake.

The best areas in the fall will be those that are near deep water. Check out a lake map and spend your time where the water drops off quickly into the depths.

A Roach Rig is a bare-bones presentation that allows an angler to present live bait to the fish in a very natural manner. It is a hook on about a four-foot monofilament snell with a slip-sinker above the snell. The slip-sinker allows the angler to give the fish some line when it eats the minnow without the fish feeling resistance, as the line slides through the sinker.

Sensitivity is crucial when Roach Rigging. Sometimes, if you're using a lively minnow, you can feel it start to squirm as a fish approaches. When this happens, slow down or stop and let the minnow just sit there. If it was a fish that was causing it to squirm, you should know about it soon. Let the fish eat the bait for a few seconds, then set the hook.

A sensitive rod will pay big dividends this time of year. A Series One spinning rod in a medium heavy action will be just about perfect. Team it with eight-pound Trilene XL and you'll be ready for action. Set the hook hard when using big baits.

If you put in your time on big fish water, you will catch a trophy, perhaps the biggest walleye or smallmouth you've ever caught. If you want to put that fish on the wall, consider a reproduction of the fish. If you want to keep the fish, that's fine, but just keep one. We need to put most of them back so we can catch them again next year. But, the only way you'll catch one this year is if you get out there right now.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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