Fall is a great time to be on the water. The lakes usually aren’t crowded, and the fish bite. When chasing walleyes, fall anglers often head to the lake armed with a supply of minnows, jigs, and live bait rigs. For good reason, as jigging and rigging are time-honored fall walleye fishing methods that usually produce fish.
In recent falls, however, fishing partners and myself have realized better successes by being more aggressive and moving fast with techniques often thought of as geared more toward summer and late summer. We’ve been pulling bottom bouncers and live bait snells tipped with nightcrawlers and also trolling crankbaits and have found that the fish will hit them well into fall. In fact, these methods have become go-to techniques more times than not during October when walleyes are the target.
Bottom bouncers with live bait snells and crawlers, “plain rigs” we call them, are quick-moving bait presentations that often work well when the fish are relating to mid-to-deep-water structure like the edges of underwater points and flats, along sunken islands, and over the tops of sunken humps.
We rig with heavy bottom bouncers, 2-, 3- and even 4-ounce models, to get our baits to walleyes in deep water from 15 to 40 feet and even deeper. We keep the bouncers fairly vertical while moving along quickly at speeds from .8 to 1.0 mile-per hour to quickly cover water and trigger bites from these deep water “structure” fish.
When fish are found more scattered and away from structure, say they’re spread across mid-depth flats or roaming deep water basins, trolling crankbaits is a great way to maximize your chances for a good catch. Again, crankbaits fish quickly so lots of water can be covered and their actions are good for triggering bites.
We’ve had good fall successes trolling Lucky Shad crankbaits and Salmo Hornet baits too. These baits have actions that walleyes like and they come in lots of walleye-preferred colors. Our favorite color patterns often change from day to day, though we often start with brighter baits in off-colored waters and use baitfish look-alike patterns in clearer waters. As always, experimentation is the best way to find the color of the day.
We often use Off Shore planer boards when crankbait trolling as well. Planer boards attach to the fishing line, and as more line is let out, they take baits away from the boat. This allows us to cover a wide path when trolling for scattered fish roaming basins and flats. Plus, boards also minimize the chances of fish spooking from our baits as the boat passes overhead. As water clarity continues to improve in lots of lakes, planer boards help us combat this situation and up our walleye catches.
Fishing speed is another important consideration when pulling crankbaits and again experimentation is key, though we often find success trolling around 1.8 to 2.2 miles-per hour.
As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure!
Mike Frisch is co-host of the popular "Fishing the Midwest" TV series. Visit www.fishingthemidwest.com for more "fishy" stuff.