The signs of seasons change is upon us once again. Acres of green forest are slowly turning into a canvas of beautiful colors, lily pads are speckled with yellow dots, but more importantly is what is happening below the surface. Walleyes that have gone into hiding during the summer lull are feeling the change, and getting ready to put on the feed bag. One thing you can count on is the walleye fall bite is coming to a lake near you very soon. With these tips and techniques I hope to help you put more walleyes in your boat this fall.
Let’s face it, when asked what time of the year most anglers cherish the most the answer is usually, the spring bite. It is my belief that many of these anglers have never had the pleasure to capitalize on the cool crisp morning walleye fall bite. Recently I spoke with a good friend and well respected guide in my area. I asked, what do you look most forward to in the fall? He responded to me with, “campfires, bow hunting, pumpkin spice, and big fall walleyes”.
Where to begin:
Typically, I begin my search for fall walleyes around structure areas in lakes near me. My home body of water is Lake Winnebago and it can give anglers a run for their money on any given day. I begin by looking at my electronics and finding areas that have subtle points or saddles. These areas are relatively easy to identify using the Navionics charts. I look for areas where contour lines are tightly packed together resulting in a sharp drop off. From there I will scan the area and look for transitions where the bottom will go from sand or mud and lead into rocky structure. With the cooling water temperatures, walleyes will pull back into shallow structure and shorelines. The cooler water also may start to kill off shallow weed growth, reducing cover and making the fish easier to pick out on your electronics. Now that I have a starting point I will then look for any green vegetation that may be left in the area or large boulders the fish may be using as cover. This can potentially lead to spot on spot congregations of walleyes right away. I then begin to scan these areas for baitfish and work my way up to the ledges of the structure close to the transitions. Once I find what type of structure and depth the walleyes are holding on, I refer back to my electronics and target other similar areas around the lake. I tend to concentrate on the backside of windblown structure when executing this search method.
I reached out to an angler you may have heard of for his take on searching for fall walleyes on large bodies of water such as the Bay of Green Bay. Here is what the 2018 National Walleye tour Champion Max Wilson had to say.
“The first thing I look for when searching for fall walleyes are the steepest drop offs I can find. This time of year Great Lake walleyes follow the migration of Gobies and as the water cools the Gobies push deeper and deeper. The walleyes won’t be far behind. The best places to look are the back side of current swept humps or breaks. The other thing I key in on if there is no steep drop offs around me is bait. During the fall, the walleyes are putting on the feed bag getting ready for winter by gorging themselves on Shad and Alewives. That is how we won the MWC on Leach Lake. We targeted suspended, actively feeding walleyes in the bait pods.”
To get a different take on things I also reached out to Minnesota Guide, and tournament angler Justin Sivek. I asked Justin, “What do you look for when searching Minnesota Lakes for walleyes in the fall”?
Justin Replied, “I mainly look for bait. I try to find large pods and the biggest thing is to match the hatch. I look for rock shorelines or current seems. I put most of my focus on shallow fish in under 10 FOW. Fish here are putting on the feed bag so they gorge themselves this time of year.”
Well folks, there you have 3 different anglers talking about totally different bodies of water and the outcome of searching techniques are very similar. Utilize these search methods to find yourself a great walleye bite. This is the time of year when you can find a lot less pressured fish due to anglers trading in their rods for duck blinds and deer stands.
Techniques and baits:
When talking about different baits used for walleyes the possibilities are endless. Anglers all over the country have implemented and tweaked all styles of fishing to capitalize on having the new hot bait. One thing we can all agree on is basics always work. If you are anything like me you love to feel the thump while holding your favorite jigging rod pitching a jig. For years I have been a live bait kind of guy but over the past 3 years I have become a believer in soft baits or plastics. Vertical jigging plastics has been a trick that river fisherman have used for years. The secret is now out and anglers are definitely utilizing this technique out on the lakes. I prefer to use a thumper jig due to the small blade on the lower side of the bait giving it a bit more flash and profile. I dress it up with a 4 inch paddle tail and begin to work the edges of the selected structure I have found. When working the bait back to the boat I like to start off slow and subtle. If that is not working I will be more aggressive and try to trigger a reaction bite. If I know there is fish in the area for sure and this technique is not working I will work the area by casting crank baits. It is very important at this time to get a feel for what the fish want and how they want it presented. When using this technique I like to rig up a 6’8” Medium Light Piscifun Serpent spinning rod matched with Piscifun Viper 2 2000 series reel. This gives me great balance and comfort and allows be to work the baits with precision.
When asked what top fall baits he uses, Max Wilson had this to say. “My top 3 baits for fall walleyes are the Moonshine Shiver Minnow, Berkley Snap Jig with a paddle tail, or blade baits that produce vibrations”.
When asked the same question about fishing shallow waters in Minnesota Justin Sivek had this to say, “I mainly use stick baits. Berkley cutter 110s and 90s. Another bait I use a lot is the Husky Jerk 12s. I look for baits with a minnow profile that dive anywhere from 4’ to 9’. The fish I target are suspended in shallow water on the shorelines. When the bait fish are pushed up tight I will cast in and work the breaks. If the weather is calm and the bait is hanging out I troll cranks over the areas”
So there you have it folks. Don’t put the boat in storage as of yet. There are plenty of beautiful days ahead that can produce the best open water days of the year before that first thin layer of ice forms.
-By Corey Clark