Fall Transition Walleyes

by Perry Good

Cooling water temperatures in fall send monster walleyes on a feeding frenzy. Whether the lure is a minnow imitation crankbait, leech or red tail on a jig, live bait rules in fall. This is a time that sportsmen should not overlook because walleyes turn on as if old man winter is ordering them to bite with reckless abandon. Now's the time for trophy fish.

Cold fronts, rain, wind and rough weather often precipitate the hot bite during the fall. Water temperatures start to drop from the 70 degree range back into the 50 degree range or below, most walleyes abandon the flats and hold tight to edges. Massive bait schools break up and walleyes head for specific structural elements that funnel scattered, roaming forage past specific spots. Look for long fingers or spines that protrude toward the main lake. Roaming baitfish usually congregate along these fingers and filter down them. Walleyes wait at the tips . Find those spots and you'll find big walleyes. Bright warm days are preferred to cold, blustery ones. The sun is lower in the sky this time of year, so light penetration is decreased. However, bright days will cause the water to warm up, which will turn fish on. Frequently, action will be better from mid-day on.

What constitutes an edge? An edge is where gravel turns to sand, mud meets rock, drop-offs, wave-washed points, deserted sandy bottom beaches, or bottle necks between two different land masses, or near a culvert where fresh water is filtered through a rock causeway.

The edge of a specific structure is a great place to start looking for fall walleyes. These edges form breaks, which almost act like barriers to hold fish a little longer to feed before they move on. These are physical boundaries between shallow food producing areas and deep water areas of the lake. Here schools of active walleyes meet concentrations of food and often this is a prime fishing area.

By fishing the edges of weeds, drop-offs and structure like rocks, you will increase your chances of finding a funnel point where fish concentrate. These spots vary but are based on factors like: water temperature, availability of baitfish, oxygen, light level, structure and schooling tendencies. Success rests with proper presentation. Once you have located the edge and fish, the next step is to entice them to bite. Your bait presentation will depend upon the specific edge that you have selected. If the walleyes are directly below and concentrated on a physical edge you can backtroll a livebait rig, jig, or a bottom bouncer rig, keeping the bait among the fish you see on the depthfinder. If you find the fish strung out along the edge, keep the bait moving and they will bite. If they're clumped up in one spot, hover over them and vertically jig them.

Rocks also attract fish, try rocky shorelines. Rock piles, humps or where rocks and weeds meet or are intermixed, work it over thoroughly with a jig or live bait presentation. Try to determine where fish are holding. Keep asking yourself the question what is their pattern?

Constant bottom contact is essential even though it increases the potential for snags. Use a small jig head with a wide hook gap to deliver the bait in wavy conditions. Leeches are an outstanding rock bait because they can take the pounding.

Drifting the breakline on a windy day is a way to catch trophy walleyes. The tackle is simple and the methods are easy to learn. First, use jigs tipped with a crawler, leech or minnow. The size of the jig should be just enough so you have contact with the bottom. For example, on a river like the Mississippi, I prefer to use 1/8 ounce or 1/4 ounce jigs. The important factor here is the shape of the head. The head of the jig should be round or a stand-up type of jig. This design helps when you are in an area that has snags, especially in timber or rocks. When I am on Mille Lac, I might switch to a lighter jig, spinner or a live bait floater .

With the cooling temperatures and the rough and tumble weather of fall don't put that boat away just yet, get out and fish the edges for some fall transitional walleyes. You might be surprised at the wallhanger you hook into.

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