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3 T’s of Fall, Transition, Turnover, and Trophy Walleyes
By Perry Good
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 offspring
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
Feeding forays are anything but mysterious! The fish have to eat a
lot as summer activity increases. The perdition cycle is in high
gear onn reefs, large points and adjacent flats, and in neck down flowage
Veteran anglers can predict these movements, and position themselves
hot late summer or early fall action on the biggest fish of the year.
Big fish become vulnerable for longer periods in the fall because they
move into areas where baitfish are staging, some remaining in the general
area through winter. To catch walleyes during fall transition and
early fall consider the tendency for walleyes to move up.
An obvious relationship exists between prey and walleye movements during
this transition period. Forage fish move shallow during turnover
and early fall because cooler water now becomes available there.
And walleyes follow their food to these areas. The sunlight penetration
also makes a big difference as to where the walleyes are located on any
given hump. You wouldn't think that
sunlight penetration would go down as far as 25 or 30 feet but in clear
lakes it does. So when fishing, pay close attention to the sun and
make sure that you fish the shady side of that hump. More active
fish will be found in this area.
I prefer shallow rock humps with big, boulder-sized rocks. I
also prefer them to be fairly close in proximity to shore. They don’t
necessarily have to be tied to the shoreline, but they should be fairly
The rocks, if they are close enough to the surface, absorb heat from
the sun like a solar panel. The warmth attracts minnows and you know
the rest. A few scattered weeds growing up between the rocks can
be a real bonus.
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. A wind coming
into the rock pile can be advantageous, although I have enjoyed some nice
catches on, calm days. Remember that the angle of
the sun’s rays is not as direct at this time of year so the fish can
be quite shallow. The direction of the wind will have a lot to do
with how the fish locate. Usually they will be working the windy
side of the rock pile.
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
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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