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Fishing For Fall Walleyes

By Ernest Miller

Fall is the time to put more walleye in the boat. With the fish aggressively feeding before winter, the lakes that are known for walleye in your area will produce more fish. Not only will you find active fish in more places but the average size tends to go up as well.

One thing about walleyes this time of year is they make more gradual adjustments in their overall position in lakes. Unlike summer time once you find the area of a lake the walleyes are in, they move very little from day to day . I often find them feeding at night very close to where we find them during the day. With their main goal to gain weight while using as little energy as possible it make sense.

Targeting main lake saddles and the flats near far reaching deep water points are a good place to start. With the fish unwilling to use much energy to search for food, targeting open water fish this time of year is very effective. With the fact that the fish are less apt to make sudden moves you have the opportunity to cover water and mark several groups of fish before having to worry about them leaving before you get back.

When the water cools I find very few fish make transitions in the water column like walleyes do. Even though walleyes don’t seem to make drastic changes in there overall location, walleyes will move from lying right on the bottom to feeding near the surface. Even though I have a high level of confidence in my locator overall, I focus my scouting efforts and tools toward identifying fish near the bottom. There are very few fish in the fall or even in the winter that will hug tight to bottom like walleyes will. Many species will suspend so it can be difficult to determine exactly what type of fish your seeing on your locator.

An effective strategy for focusing on fish near the bottom is to switch your graph on split screen with a 4X zoom on one side and a full view of the water column on the other. This will help you mark those negative fish hugging tight to bottom while still being able to see if the fish are already suspended and feeding. While scouting areas as deep as 60 feet, any sizable fish near the bottom are worth keeping an eye on. Being able to mark those fish on a GPS is definitely a bonus. You then have the ability to return later to identify a pattern. Being able to see the same groups of fish multiple times can say it all. When scouting for fall walleyes finding groups of fish that are working there way down toward the bottom in day light hours is almost a sure sing you found what you were looking for. When the fish are on a decent to the bottom that defiantly indicates the walleyes are reverting to a negative stage. However even if I’m no longer marking the walleyes on my locator I will focus on fishing the bottom in the areas I last marked them. More times than not they will lay on the bottom very close to where you last marked them. Two common ways I focus on these fish are with live bait rigs and three way rigs.

When live bait rigging with minnows in water of 25 feet I’ve found a couple of things to be helpful. Using fresh minnows is very important and being able to trap your own is second to none. Wild minnows tend to be unbelievably hardy even after their hooked. It’s not uncommon to be able to cast a trapped creek chub several times and still feel him swimming around on his leader. A minnow you can count on to keep swimming in a walleyes face is like candy. The second thing is the rod you use. I like a rod with two specific characteristics. I prefer a rod with a light tip section so the fish can’t feel resistance when they pick up the bait. The second thing is to have a quick taper creating good back bone for good hook sets. This is critical in this situation where you tend to have long lengths of mono out which creates a great amount of stretch. Jason Mitchell 7 foot 6 inch elite series rod is a good example of this combination.

When fishing a three way in main lake areas my rig consists of the following. I use a 6 to 7 foot heavy action graphite rod to support using larger weights. You don’t want you rod to bend with the simple action of lifting your weight as you bounce bottom. Power Pro 4-15 with 25 feet of 10 pound Maxima tied on with a blood knot has proven to be a good fit. The now stretch line supports being able to pound bottom with gentle lifts of the rod. The mono serves several purposes .You introduce a controlled amount of stretch in to a no give system , the leader to your bait is less visible and as you’ll see it works nice for an adjustable lead length. My drop line consist of a 3 to 4 ounce weight with 2 to 3 feet of 20 pound Maxima tied to a red off shore release. I clip it on right behind the blood knot. This gives you a generous 25 foot leader to your bait and can be removed when landing fish. It’s also nice to be able shorten you leader by sliding your clip toward your bait if you find your bait is hitting bottom.

How much action your bait has is probably the show stopper. The floating Rapala in 11 and 13 works great on these rigs. You can give it as much action as you want just by how hard you try to pound bottom. The Rapala has little to no action if it’s just being pulled. When the fish don’t want to work it’s almost like they prefer no action. This bait allows you to get as subtle as I’ve found possible. By lifting your weight off bottom and letting it settle back down rather than just dropping it the Floater is as subtle as I’ve seen.

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Article about fishing for walleyes in Michigan.