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By Colin Crawford

Getting back to basics, it’s a path that all versatile anglers will chose eventually. After experimenting with all the trend setting items and equipment, most anglers realize that there are a couple of presentations, that consistently produce fish.  Both are live bait presentations, both have been around awhile.  Most often, the choice is narrowed down to jigging or live bait slip rigging! Let’s take a few
moments to review one dynamite way to catch a trophy!
Rigging, especially riggin’ in the rocks can be both productive and challenging. As the beauty of autumn surrounds us, what better time and in what better conditions can we apply our rigging skills.  All fish, especially the predators, walleye, northern pike, smallmouth and largemouth bass are on the prowl for LARGE MEALS, meals we can best offer through the basics of live bait rigging. As predator fish begin their preparation for winter, their focus centers
on large forage. Young of the year perch, cisco, shiners and chubs, along with other forage, such as frogs, crawfish and even their own off-spring will be targeted to become an additional layer of winter fat. 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 fall feeding binge.  Feeding forays are anything but mysterious! The fish have to eat a lot
as autumn leaves begin to fall. 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 fall action on the biggest fish of the year. I keep the presentation as simple as possible, and that means close to the boat. For slip sinking live bait rigs, I use the heaviest sinker
that conditions allow, usually 3/8 to 5/8 ounce. If I’m over rocks or other structure, I try to skim just over the top, letting the sinker touch occasionally, but never dragging the bottom. You can use a larger hook in the fall than at other times of the year. Generally, a #4 gets the vote for most applications, however, don’t hesitate to experiment with #2’s if using large minnows, frogs, or crawfish   A medium action spinning rod, such as the Berkley AIR 7 in the 5’ 10" version, is a selection ideally suited for live bait presentations. If possible, avoid soft action rods that may allow the rig to dip into the rocks. Shorter, more manageable rod lengths are best for short-swing hooksets on finicky "eyes!" Live bait rigging calls for S L O W speeds, allowing the bait to do the work, enticing a strike, naturally.   I prefer a bit of a breeze when working a live bait rig, seems to add to the effectiveness. Backtrolling is the clear ticket, unless you are a wizard with the bow mount! Practice precision and patience, and you will
increase your odds of a fall trophy! During November I fish primarily with jigs.  For panfish and bass, a Foxee jig in a 1/32 oz. to 1/16 oz. jig tipped with a crappie minnow has given me a number of fresh fish dinners. I usually use a Foxee jig in the 1/16 oz. to 1/4 oz. jigs with the added plastic grub and a pike minnow as well as a variety of crankbaits for walleye.  Many walleyes are picked up while panfishing with the jigs and live bait combination.  A rip drop retrieve with tight vibrating crankbaits like the Rattling Rapala the lures of choice has been very effective.  I bang them over rocks and rip them through weeds to trigger fish.  The key, is to use the lightest live bait delivery system, including line and weight of the jig so that you can stay in touch with the bottom, but allow the
bait to stay  in strike zones longer. I like to use nightcrawlers when the walleyes suspended off the bottom.  Crawlers have more natural buoyancy than either minnows or leeches, and by injecting them with a shot of air, they have even more lift. Floating jigs and attractors aren't always for suspended fish.  In dirty
water, walleyes will most often be close to the bottom.  At times, I'll use an attractor or Gum Drop Floater on a short snell in water where the walleye's vision is limited due to water color.  That added spot of color could be what it takes to get the fish's attention and get it to bite.  Minnows will work in the fall on live-bait rigs, but I generally use either a leech or crawler.  Remember, the population of bait fish is at a high in the fall due to all the fish that were spawned in the spring. It will be tough to get a walleye's attention with a minnow when there are already millions of minnows swimming around down there.  Therefore,
the different bait that isn't as abundant will be more attractive. Zeroing in on a good location becomes simpler in autumn.  For walleye, search those locations that typically hold a lot of forage in the fall, especially the rocky areas near current or flowage breaks. Even though the walleyes will maraud the shallows at night, where a crankbait presentation is extremely effective, during daylight conditions, you can oftentimes find them in close proximity to a rock pile, not far from a meal.  Scan these rockpiles and reefs carefully with depthfinder, looking more for evidence of forage, then the immediate presence of fish. My theory, which has worked for me a time or two, is to first find the food, because the trophy I’m looking for will not be far away from the kitchen at this time of year.
The leaves have started to turn and fall to the ground in the north country. Just like the walleyes and other predator gamefish, the squirrels and black bear are foraging and storing up for winter. Nature is telling me that it’s time to get on the water, to enjoy the colorful pageant called autumn, and to do a little foraging of my own.

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