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Fall Walleyes start the Feeding Frenzy
By John Campbell

As predator fish begin their fall feeding habits, their focus centers on large forage. Young of the year perch, cisco, river shiners and chubs, along with other forage, such as frogs, crawfish and even their own off-spring will be targeted. Successful trophy hunters will match the hatch, almost scientifically, at this time of year. Imitation of the forage base is very critical and a key to productivity during the summer feeding binge! Feeding forays are anything but mysterious! The fish have to eat a lot as summer activity increases. The perdition cycle is in high gear on reefs, large points and adjacent flats, and in neck down flowage areas. Veteran anglers can predict these movements, and position themselves for hot late summer or early fall action on the biggest fish of the year. Walleyes are a structure oriented fish, most of the time. You might find large schools on some Great Lakes that don't relate to specific structure, but by and large they seek out structure. These walleyes will be tight to the bottom, lying in the holes between rocks and cuts in the bottom. They may be feeding, or waiting in ambush to find an easy meal that comes their way. When fishing structure, you have to be able to stay tight to the structure or your lure presentation will not be in the strike zone of the fish. Move just a boat length away and you will be out of luck

Huge Fall Walleye Fish tend to locate along transitional zones. The bottom may change from sand to rock or from mud to weeds; a drop-off may occur or slope into deep water; or water in one sector may be a slightly different color. The most important transition zones are the weeds. The weeds or vegetation may be the key to successful angling. Fish are wary. This helps them survive and can also make them difficult to catch. They utilize their excellent senses of vision and hearing, detect motion with unerring accuracy using their lateral line, and also use their sense of smell. Therefore, a cautious approach is required of an angler. With either natural bait or artificial lures, the presentation must be realistic. It should appear that the offering is part of the normal food chain. Hunger is certainly a major motivating factor, but fish also respond as predators and strike something that moves. At times, they even exhibit antagonistic behavior when biting an intruder to drive it away. Walleyes love live bait, especially in the fall, and there's no more practical way to present live bait than behind a slip sinker slowly dragged along the bottom.

Rigging allows an angler to comb a lot of water quickly. It's a great way to search for walleye schools that are scattered along a drop-off. The key to live-bait rigging is a slow, meticulous presentation. Terminal tackle for a live bait rig usually includes a walking sinker threaded onto the line on top of a barrel swivel. Keep the sinker weight as light as possible, yet heavy enough to let you feel the weight along the bottom. Usually 1/4 to 1/2-ounce sinkers should be adequate for early-season fishing. From the opposite end of the swivel I run a 2 to 4 foot snell of 6 to 8 pound test monofilament. Adjust the distance of your live-bait rig from the bottom according to water clarity. In stained water the fish will be tight to the bottom so the rig should run closer to the bottom. Just the opposite frequently holds true in clear water. I prefer to use the Lindy Rig in this case because it allows me the versatility of getting the live bait right in the face of suspended walleyes. A plain hook or the colored hooks are great, usually number 6 or number 8 finishes off the rig except for the bait. Let the fish show you, which form of live bait to use. A general rule is to use smaller minnows in the spring and larger minnows in the fall, with leeches and nightcrawlers being most productive in the warmer months of summer. However, I've found that walleyes don't always adhere to the rules. I like to have a complete selection of bait in the boat with me whenever I go fishing. I've had plenty of experiences that saw mid-summer walleyes attacking minnows and early spring walleyes showing a preference to crawlers. Walleyes often take minnows lightly, and will sometimes nibble at the tail of the night crawler like a small perch does. These slow biters have to be given time to get the bait into their mouths so that the hook can do itís job. That's the reason for the Lindy slip sinker, it allows you to feed line to the fish. Most anglers use open-face Shimano spinning reels for live bait rigging. They backtroll, with the bail open and the line caught under the index finger of their rod hand. When they feel a bite, they simultaneously point the rod tip back toward the fish and straighten their finger, allowing line to run freely off the spool. After anywhere from 3 to 30 seconds depending on how aggressive the fish are, reel up the slack line quickly until they feel the weight of the fish. They then snap the rod back with authority and hoist another walleye into the boat. This is the time of the year walleyes are feeding up for the winter months. All you have to do is be on the water when they decide to feed and you will get some trophy walleyes. For more techniques on fall walleye fishing drop me a line at www.walleye.info. Hope to hear from you soon

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