| Editor's note: John Kolinski is the 2002 Professional Walleye
Trail Angler of the Year, the 2003 Illinois River RCL winner
and a 17-time championship qualifier. He is the only anger to
fish the PWT and B.A.S.S. at the same time. His articles can
be read in numerous Midwestern outdoor publications and at several
web sites. Kolinski is sponsored by Triton Boats, Mercury Motors,
Lowrance Electronics, Yo-Zuri fishing line, Normark/Storm Lures,
MinnKota, Lindy Legendary Tackle, Tempress Rod Holders, Off-Shore
Planer Boards, Optima Batteries and Panther Marine.
|Two things happen without fail every September - walleyes
become tougher to catch than the last minnow in the baitwell
and kids in many states return to school after an extended summer
It's a good time for anglers to learn a few new lessons, as
well. After all, as some old sage once muttered, "If you
aren't learning, you must be stupid."
While that might be a bit harsh, it does ring true in some respects.
Most of us have the ABCs of walleye fishing down pat, but we
don't know what to do during that September shutdown when our
favorite species and our favorite locations stop producing.
It's transition time for walleyes in many bodies of water. Cool
nights and hot days keep water temperatures rising and falling,
which never seems to have a positive effect. Forage is also
more abundant than at any time of year, making it that much
tougher to coax a walleye into eating jigs, crankbaits and even
our traditional live bait offerings.
Now's the time to learn a new skill or perfect one you haven't
used a lot. You might even discover that you enjoy casting cranks
or trolling jigs.
John Kolinski the Teacher
|Many anglers simply give up or turn to other species.
They are missing out on an outstanding opportunity to
further their own education. Accept the fact that it will
be more difficult to catch fish, but don't accept the
notion that they can't be caught.
Here's a step-by-step guide to the September coursework
that will make you a wiser, more successful walleye angler
throughout the open-water season and particularly when
the going gets tough:
- Elements of literature: Catch up on your reading before
you hit the water. Find out what the pros are doing to
get September walleyes to bite. Read up on a new technique
you haven't tried or considered and give it a whirl.
- Writing fundamentals: You do keep a log of your days
on the water, right? If not, it's a good time to start
one. Take note of water temperature, wind direction and
strength, recent and current weather fronts, water levels,
moon phases and current flow, if applicable. Record the
presentations that didn't work, the ones (if any) that
did, and things you wish you would have tried.
- Physical education 101: How versatile an angler are
you? Hung up on trolling crankbaits on lead-core line?
Insist on slip-bobber fishing no matter where you go or
when you fish? Hooked on jigs?
- Biology: Understand that rapid and drastic changes in their
environment often send walleyes into a funk. React accordingly
by trying more subtle and more precise presentations, whether
it's bottom bouncers, three-way rigs or still-fishing with live
bait on slip bobbers or Lindy rigs. Know, too, that with the
abundance of forage available in September, it's often prudent
to give the fish a look they don't see every 10 minutes. If
there's one time of year when matching the hatch isn't always
the right approach, it's September.
- Philosophy: Anglers in general fall for many of the old myths
that exist about fishing. Remember when it was said that walleyes
couldn't be caught on nightcrawlers in water less than 50 degrees?
Remember when it was widely accepted that crankbaits were worthless
in cold water? Remember when we thought summer walleyes were
strictly a deep-water fish? Remember when our grandfathers used
to tell us that walleyes didn't bite in August and September
because they lost their teeth and their mouths became sore?
Every one of those theories has been proven wrong. There are
no hard and fast rules when it comes to fishing. Today's technology
boom is the product of anglers who have been willing to try
something different and go against the grain.
- Social studies: Unlike our kids, walleyes spend the summer
in schools. By now, they're beginning to disperse. Accept this
fact and use it to your advantage. Don't expect to catch great
numbers of walleyes in any one location. Remain mobile and hit
- History: Somewhere during the past 20 years, we've lost touch
with many methods that produced a lot of fish for our ancestors.
When's the last time you put a piece of crawler on a hook with
a split shot or a Lindy No-Snagg sinker and simply drifted a
piece of structure? Have you ever taken the time to anchor up
on a rockpile and fished with bobbers? How about snap-jigging?
Sometimes, taking a step back in time leads to a major step
- Geography: Chances are, experience has shown you a lot of
places where September walleyes don't live. Look at a map and
explore areas you wouldn't normally consider. Maybe you've avoided
flooded timber because it eats jigs. Now's the time to learn
how to fish it and what can be fished effectively. A Lindy Vegi-Jig
has always been a good choice for me. Explore other place you
haven't been, too. As the late summer water begins to cool and
oxygen levels improve everywhere, there's nowhere a walleye
won't go to find an easy meal. There aren't many places they
can't find one, either, with everything from shad, shiners,
chubs, willow cats, minnows and juvenile gamefish to leechs,
crawlers, salamanders, crayfish, frogs and grubs available.
- Home economics: Learn to tie a new knot. There's no question
that some knots give a crankbait better action than others.
You should know them all and use them accordingly. Expand the
menu. If you've been hung up on jigs tipped with live bait,
give an Uncle Josh Kalin grub or a Sizmic lizard a chance. It
might be that something different that triggers a strike. Been
content to spool your trolling reels with one of today's super
lines? You'll get more consistent hook-ups and keep more fish
hooked all the way to the boat using a low-stretch line like
Yo-Zuri Hybrid. Maybe you're also reluctant to employ planer
boards. Now's a good time to get comfortable with them and learn
what a set of Off-Shore boards can mean to your catch.
- Advanced math: In many states, it's legal to use more than
one hook per line. And if the fish aren't eating the Lindy Fuzz-E
Grub you've been bouncing or the Normark Shad Raps you've been
trolling, try putting them together. Try running two cranks
on the same line to see if the difference in action elicits
strikes. Try using two markedly different styles of cranks on
a three-way rig like a deep-diving Husky Jerk as a dropper and
a shallow Shad Rap as the trailer. Try a double-jig combo tipped
with either live bait or plastic. Try running spinner and crawler
rigs in tandem with a slow-wobbling crank.
- Chemistry: Since the fish aren't exactly jumping in the boat,
try some new formulas. There are a variety of topical scents
you can apply to your jigs and crankbaits. Conduct an experiment
and see if they make a difference. Even if it doesn't improve
your catch immediately, it could make a major difference at
another time in another place. Ditto for plastics.
- Technology today: This course is a must. If you're like a
lot of anglers, you know enough about your Lowrance 113CHD sonar
and GPS units, your Mercury four-stroke kicker and your MinnKota
bow mount to get by, but you're not using them to their full
capability. Take a few minutes to re-read the Lowrance manual,
then go out and learn how to fine-tune your display to fit the
present situation or how to store routes and identify icons
quickly. Adjust the sensitivity settings for maximum definition
of fish with minimum interference. As far as your motors go,
when the wind presents an opportunity, learn how to use them
together for perfect boat control. I use my Mercury for power
and my MinnKota for direction, and it keeps my Triton tracking
exactly where I want it. All of these lessons will help you
catch more fish.
- Art for anglers: No, it's not time to paint a mural. It is
time to put your imagination to work. We know from experience
what doesn't work, so why not try some things you've never tried
before. Ever seen a walleye with a banged-up nose and broken
teeth? Chances are, they've been slamming into rocks trying
to dislodge crayfish. What might a crayfish do on the end of
your line? Tried a crawler on a regular bait hook with little
success? How about giving a half-crawler on a bent hook that
wobbles or spins differently in the water a try? Convinced there
are walleyes tucked into the boulders on your favorite reef
or wingdam or hanging among the branches of submerged timber,
but can't get them to bite? Maybe a precise presentation like
drop-shotting is the way to draw them out. Hung up on bouncing
round-head jigs and not having any luck with them in September?
Switch it up and try a different head style like a stand-up
jig that you can slowly inch across the bottom. If you're stuck
on trolling, try adding an in-line spoon as an attractor. If
there's a bug hatch taking place, try trolling with a fly or
a couple of flies together.
Ultimately, it's all about advancing our angling education.
September fishing by conventional means is tough. Our challenge
is to crack the secret on our favorite body of water by thinking
outside the old tackle box.
If we're successful, we've added one more month of enjoyable
and productive open water fishing to the calendar.
If not, we've at least learned some new techniques, broadened
our horizons and gained a better understanding of how to make
the most efficient use of the tools available to us. In turn,
that makes us better anglers when the fish are cooperative.
And eventually, those lessons will help solve the September
Class is now in session.
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