|Fall fishing on rivers is surprisingly predictable; probably
much more so than any other time of the year. Perhaps good that
most sportsmen are hunting come fall. For the few diehards that
are still attempting to launch a boat, fall is sacred. Some
of the best and most consistent patterns of the season and you
don’t usually have to share the spots with several other
With solitude and cooling temperatures come new hazards. I know
of a guy who had to sit in his pick up truck for three hours
with his foot pressed hard against the brake because the ramp
was covered with ice. This unfortunate guy forgot to lock in
his hubs and the ramp was so slippery, his pickup slid backwards
when he tried to either put the vehicle in park or use the emergency
brake. So… the poor guy sat spinning in two-wheel drive
until somebody happened to drive by. Ice and cold temperatures
can really present new hazards for boats, trailers and motors.
Not trying to scare you from enjoying the river come fall but
do realize that this type of fishing does carry some responsibilities.
||Like many anglers, I have always had to juggle fall
fishing with hunting activities. The CWD scare in Wisconsin
a few years back caused me to not hunt deer with a rifle
or shotgun for several years in a row. The result was
a newfound love for fall fishing on the Mississippi River
near my home. Here I am on one of the most spectacular
fall runs for walleye to be found anywhere and there was
hardly a soul fishing the river. I had the whole pool
to myself. This solitude is reason enough to relish fall
river bites. Be for warned however.
When it comes to finding walleye and sauger come fall, don’t
outthink the fish. I know we all have an inner ego that wants
to find a secret spot that nobody has ever heard of but the
reality during the fall is that community spots hold lots of
fish. Another reality during the fall is that these community
spots don’t often get hit hard because there just isn’t
many people out fishing anymore. Many of these community spots
are deep holes in the river channel or primary current breaks.
Deep holes often winter sauger. Walleyes are usually not very
far away either but their location is usually not mixed directly
in with the sauger.
Both walleye and sauger can be above or below the hole depending
on how aggressive the fish are. The break on the lip of the
hole usually creates a seam of slack water that often holds
fish. When something like a shoreline or wing dam causes an
eddy where a seam of slack water develops between the two directions
of moving water, this current seam can usually be physically
seen. A good river fisherman can see the difference on the surface.
Now these same types of current seams exist in river holes as
well but the evidence isn’t revealed on the surface.
Both walleye and sauger location may seem really depth orientated.
The main channel might be twelve feet for argument sake and
the bottom of the hole is twenty feet. Most of the fish may
come right off the break in say fourteen feet. The productive
depth often coincides with the horizontal current seam that
is formed as current pushes and reverses through a hole.
Many anglers also make the mistake that the seam direction coincides
with the current direction on top where we can see. When trying
to break down the pattern each day, make sure to fish both ways
because direction is crucial. Slip jigs down with the current
and drag jigs back up through the hole against the current.
Some days, all of the fish come by dragging just because of
the direction the fish are facing in the hole.
More and more anglers have figured out that they catch a lot
more fish when they can efficiently use two rods when jigging.
When trying to use a two fisted jigging approach, remember to
keep the presentation simple. I want my rods, reels and line
to be identical to help with my rhythm and for consistency.
For a rod, we have really settled into using either the Jason
Mitchell Elite Series JMSS59MX or JMSS66MLX for vertical jigging
and dragging. These rods are the lightest and most sensitive
rods we have ever seen. (www.jasonmitchellrods.com)
Until I figure out what the fish want, I will usually try and
keep the rod in my dominant hand as close to vertical as possible
while fishing the other rod near vertical or dragging until
the fish tell me more. Once a pattern develops where one presentation
starts to shine, I can easily match with the other rod. Another
tip when jigging with two rods. When you stick a fish and lay
the other rod down on the gunnel so that both hands are free
to fight the fish, the other rod stands a good chance of getting
snagged. Over the past few years, we have all switched to using
Folbes Rod Holders. This particular design allows us to point
the rod holder in such a way where throwing the rod into this
rod holder is extremely easy and the angle of the rod holder
will keep the other rod out of harms way. One final tip, come
late fall when the temperature gets down right frigid. Use plastic
bodies like Berkley Power Bait or buck tail. Fall walleye and
sauger seem to like the bulked up profile of plastic bodies
or buck tail jigs. This artificial body doesn’t tear off
as easy and anglers can experiment with proven easy to see color
combinations. Your fingers don’t get as cold either.
Editors note: The author Bill Ortiz is a past PWT Angler of
the Year and has several top ten finishes on the PWT and FLW
Walleye Tours. Bill is sponsored by Evinrude, Ranger Boats,
Lowrance, Fin Tech Tackle, Jason Mitchell Elite Series Rods,
Off Shore, Berkley, Mathews Bows, Folbe, ElectroTec, Gollon
Bait Farms and Jones Chevrolet.