Fall Trolling Tactics for Walleyes

By Jason Mitchell, Jason Mitchell Outdoors

IMG_7278HRWhen I look back at past years, there are several patterns that really stand out in the fall. Vertical jigging over deep rock piles. Casting stick baits after dark over shallow rocks. Pitching jigs tipped with soft plastic swim baits into remaining weed beds. Live bait rigging with big chubs. Trolling crank baits along main lake contours. The locations can vary from current areas and bottle necks to classic sharp breaking structure and rock, either deep or shallow.

For much of the fall, trolling crankbaits dominates much of the fishing I do. The location (and how the fish are using a particular location) determines the most efficient presentation. So often, we find fish in transition relating to big pieces of structure. What I love about trolling crankbaits when fish are transitioning in the fall is that trolling is fluid, trolling allows you to see how and where the fish are moving much more effectively especially if you are on the water every day. Big schools of fish might be pushing up or down a reservoir. Fish might be filtering out of back bays and moving across the mouths of bays over deeper holes and main lake structure. Usually, there is a general movement, could be fish moving up or down, in or out but they are collectively moving somewhere and trolling allows you to sample the water and keep tabs on these often nomadic fish much easier than any other presentation I can think of. On big bodies of water, this is especially true.

There is an old adage with fall walleye fishing that bigger baits work better in the fall. From my experiences, this is usually true. Most days, larger baits seem to be much more effective. Anglers theorize that young of the year baitfish are larger in the fall and the other reasoning held by anglers is that fish want to bulk up on food in the fall and a bigger bait makes bulking up much easier. Don’t know the why’s exactly but it is usually a good starting point. I start out with big baits that move water but there are exceptions to everything. There are a handful of baits that are confidence baits for me…Salmo H6F Hornet and Jointed Shad Raps in the size five or seven for inland lakes. Salmo 8SDR Bullheads and Reef Runner Deep Rippers on reservoirs. All of these baits leave a good footprint and move water, these are baits I always try when I am on the water come fall. Each fishery however is unique. Deep Diving Husky Jerks are popular on some Great Lake fisheries in the fall for example and these baits have a pretty subtle shimmy as they move through the water. One particular lure that I have used with great success just about every where I have fished in the fall is the Salmo 8SDR Perch. If it came down to just one lure, that would be it for me during October and November when I am trolling for walleyes.

There are many nuances with trolling and there are a few wrinkles I like to incorporate into my trolling that I think helps me catch more fish in the fall. You can adjust the footprint or vibration of a deep diving lure by how much line you let out. When you run a lure close to the boat, the lure will run more up and down, bill down and tail up where the bait puts off the most vibration and looks the largest from the rear. As you let out more line and the dive curve flattens out, the lure will level off where the bait runs more horizontal. As the bait levels, the lure still displaces water and rolls but the vibration and foot print gets toned down. Many anglers will troll cranks and let out line to get the lure to dive to the depth and that factor dictates how much line they let out. In the fall, there are many times where the fish really seem to like the vibration and look of a lure running bill down and tail up that happens when a lure hasn’t peaked the dive curve. Learn to manipulate that and you will catch more fish this fall.

In deeper water, I often accomplish this task with lead core. You don’t need lead core to get a Salmo 8SDR Bullhead to tick bottom in twenty three feet but if you want that lure moving an optimum amount of water with the bill down and tail up, you will not be able to do that by simply long lining the lure. If you long line the lure, the lure will flatten out as it reaches the bottom of the dive curve. Now there are days when the fish want the lure flattened out and as a general rule of thumb, the fish seem to prefer the lure running more horizontal earlier in the season but this is something to experiment with that can make a big difference in the fall from my own experiences.

The other factor I love about lead core in the fall is that it will snake behind the boat and follow the contour much better, sticking that lure right along the break where it needs to be for longer periods of time. The changes in direction often seem to trigger fish each time you turn the boat. What I don’t like about lead core is that it just takes longer to roll off a spool compared to the speed of sticking a lure down with a snap weight or even a down rigger. You have to have more set up time, you need to approach your zone from further away as it takes a little while to roll off more than three colors of lead.

One thing I have been doing with a lot of success especially when I am trolling tighter or shorter runs where I am in and out of the zone fairly quickly before I have to pick back up and set back out is to use a snap weight in conjunction with the lead core. Typically, I will clip a snap weight right on the leader above the crank about twelve feet, two arm lengths. If I go further than two arm lengths, it becomes hard to net fish without removing the weight. By adding a little lead to the lead core, it rolls off the spool super fast and cuts the amount of line out in about half.

Kind of combines the best of both worlds regarding lead core and snap weights. Gets down fast and still get some snaking and direction change behind the boat. The pendulum effect where the lead core rises and sinks as you speed up or slows down becomes more exaggerated as well which seems to bode well in the fall for triggering fish. There have been times where for whatever reason, this system didn’t work well and I had to go back to traditional lead core but there have been many times where I know I caught a lot more fish by using this system so it is something to experiment with.

When fish are moving on big water, trolling allows you to land on the “x” each day like nothing else. You can just get a feel for where they should be tomorrow because you can see where the fish have been and track that movement much easier. As shared in the first paragraph, it bears repeating. Trolling is a very fluid presentation where you can get a really good pulse of how large the school is, whether you are dealing with fragmented groups of scattered fish or one large school of fish, you can figure out the bearing or direction these fish seem to be heading, you can almost guess where they will be. You gather an incredible amount of information when trolling because you just go over so much water. Come fall, trolling remains one of the most efficient tactics for catching walleyes on many large inland lakes, reservoirs and Great Lakes fisheries.

X

Autumn Fever

By Jason Wright, Ultimate Outdoor Adventures TV

Kurt Schirado - Fall WalleyeAs the fall harvest comes to full swing across west central North Dakota and the pale rolling prairie begins to show signs that our short-lived summer is coming to an end, the brilliant fall colors signal the approach of yet another season of “walleye-fever,” and the Missouri River from the Garrison Dam Tailrace to the North Dakota/South Dakota border just may play one of its most major roles yet of producing great numbers of fall walleyes.

Some of the finest walleye fishing of the year often takes place during the fall months of September, October and November. And, the Missouri River is no stranger to producing great catches of walleyes during the fall migration from Lake Oahe to the northern reaches of the Missouri River, but the trick is to locate where the bite is, and to match your presentation to the disposition of the fish. Contrary to the spring walleye migration, fall walleye fishing on the Missouri River can be as unpredictable as the fall weather, and from my past experiences, it’s not unusual for this river system to produce some of its best catches and largest walleyes during the most brutal weather conditions. And, similar to most walleye infested waters, the majority of large fish caught this time of year are females on a feeding frenzy timeline in order to nourish their developing eggs prior to the many months of frigid water temps before the spring spawn.

Comparable to the spring walleye migration, the fall is a great time for those that aren’t as familiar with a river system to get their feet wet as schools of fish begin to migrate north from Lake Oahe staging in various breaks and/or slack current areas of the river, south from the cities of Bismarck and Mandan to the South Dakota Border. Although, good fishing can be found within portions of the river throughout the entire year – if you know where to look for them and how to fish for them – it’s the spring and fall walleye migration that causes unmistakable symptoms of “walleye-fever” for most avid “river-rats.”

Unlike lake and reservoir walleyes, river walleyes have to fight current all or most of their lives; therefore, they have learned to adapt to structure and/or areas that provide current breaks (areas of less or no current) so they don’t have to struggle against current all the time. A current break is caused by anything that partially blocks, completely blocks, and/or diverts the river’s current allowing for less or no current. These slack current areas can oftentimes be identified by the unmistakable “oil-slick” appearance on the surface separating the main current from the slack or no-current area; hence the term current break. Most slack water areas are found behind and/or alongside exposed and underwater sandbars. However, other obstructions that can cause current breaks are rocky riprap, wing dams, stumps or fallen trees, as well as man-made obstacles such as bridge pilings.

The key to locating river walleyes during the fall is to start by finding the river channel and then begin looking for areas of slack current and/or the “oil-slick” on the surface nearest the channel. Walleyes will be using the channel to migrate in search of the slack water in order to ambush prey; therefore, key in on anything that might jut out towards the channel or hard bends in the river which might act as a funnel or magnet for both baitfish and walleyes funneling them into the slack water and thus possibly narrowing your search.

2014-08-12 10.16.21Once you have pin-pointed such an area, begin presenting your bait in a natural manner along the current break. During the fall, most traditional summer techniques will continue to produce fish; however, I focus on either trolling larger shad imitating crankbaits such as the new Berkley® Flicker Minnow and/or presenting jigs tipped with either Berkley® Gulp!® Alive™ 3” or 4” Minnows or 3” Minnow Grubs. Another great bait/presentation which has really caught the attention of many open water anglers is the use of jigging raps, and the fall is a great time to experiment with this otherwise well-known hard water presentation. Jigging raps can be jigged vertically as well as pitched out and retrieved with a sweep and drop motion.

No matter the presentation, I recommend starting towards the tail end of the slack current area where there is slightly more current and troll your way up into the slack water. The rise and/or fall of the river level can oftentimes dictate where walleyes will be located, for example; if the river level is dropping, walleyes have a tendency to seek deeper water near the current in fear of being trapped in the shallower water, and the opposite is usually the case when the river level is rising. During stable water levels I usually begin presenting my baits in depths from 5 – 15 feet in hopes of finding the shallow “feeding frenzy,” but since the active bite may have taken place during low light conditions, I won’t overlook deeper water near the river channel where walleyes might be resting prior to the next frenzy or migrator northward, especially when the water temps begin to drop during late fall.

Unpredictable cold fronts of the Dakotas can oftentimes bring with them rain, sleet, wind and snow during the fall which can actually “jump-start” a feeding frenzy by causing water temps to plummet from 70 degrees to near 50 degrees. This sudden drop in water temperature can trigger large schools of baitfish to scatter, while at the same time walleyes will seek areas such as the current breaks and funneling spots mentioned above, which attract and/or funnel roaming baitfish. As the baitfish begin to congregate along the current breaks and filter or funnel into the slack water, walleyes take advantage of this opportunity while using these current breaks/slack waters areas to ambush the roaming bait. As the fall season progresses and the average water temperatures remain lower, the best days on the water will be the warm sunny afternoons after the water has had a chance to warm slightly.

My fall bait theory is…bigger is better, in fact, I don’t think there is a better time to go big than during late fall and just prior to ice-up. When the water temps begin to rapidly cool down, walleyes begin to get sluggish and are not as likely to expend a great deal of energy on nothing more than a snack; therefore, bulk up and slow your presentation down as the water temps drop. But, in retrospect, the fish will be the determining factor as to where they will be located, how active they are, and whether they want a snack or a meal.

Will the stars align, is it possible “Walleye-Fever” will spread like a raging wildfire this fall, could this possibly be the start to one of the best fall fishing seasons, or will it simply come and go like the rising and setting sun, only to go through the motions with a few hot days on the water? I cannot answer those questions, but I will say that the pieces are pointing towards the possibility of a widespread autumn fever.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

X

Fall Back Walleyes

By Jason Mitchell Outdoors

Fall patterns run the gamut from shallow to deep. Depending on the body of water, there might be walleyes on shallow rocks or weeds, deep structure, deep rocks, open water or current bottlenecks.

Sometimes what is old will again become new in that locations, bays and shorelines that held fish early in the season suddenly load up with fish as water temperatures cool. Some of the best fall spots are often just a matter of going back to where you caught fish during the spring or early summer.

The reality is that there will be different populations of fish on different programs so it is impossible to say that most fish slide out deep in the fall or push up shallow. If only finding fish were that easy. Throw in the seasonal big moves that some fish make as they search out current or position next to bottleneck areas with moving water and the reality is that fall walleyes can be found just about anywhere.

What is a sure thing however is that fish will be moving and change will be a constant. Because fish do move so much in the fall, I have wrote in the past how much I love large community spots late in the year… big locations that intersect the route of many transient fish during the fall when fishing pressure drops off to practically nothing. That is a good recipe for success.

Another good recipe for success is to target smaller lakes that were really good earlier in the year. Now why small lakes versus big lakes? Don’t get me wrong, big lakes often fish really well in the fall and often fish much later into the fall as they take longer to freeze over but there are things I really like about lakes that are less than a couple thousand acres as fall turns ugly.

Small lakes seem to fish better during periods of strong winds. Tough weather is a reality as the open water season comes to a close and too much wind will sometimes make the fishing on big bodies of water much more difficult. Wind pounding hard bottom areas and the fact that water temperatures cool down with each passing front often are good for fishing but everything is better in moderation.

On smaller bodies of water or at least protected bays, you can sometimes fast forward or rewind on the patterns by either looking for protected areas that have avoided the brunt of the fronts and wind or you can look for area that are getting hit. Small lakes are sometimes going to be more controlled than the wide open all or nothing atmosphere of big water.

Not always but often, small lakes start out hot and then get tough as the summer progresses while large lakes often start out slower but then typically offer good fishing through the summer. So often however, we watch these small lakes become really productive again in the fall.

Often as well, cooling water temperatures drive good fishing in that falling water temps only make most patterns better, where as unusually warm trends actually seem to scatter fish. Determining whether the fish are on the scatter routine versus the loading up routine often dictates the strategy…. ie: trolling crank baits covering a lot of water versus fishing vertically on a specific location. As a rule of thumb, pale washed out fish are fish on the run while darker fish are more stable residents of a particular location.

Fall walleye fishing can be some of the best fishing of the season. Classic patterns unfold each season on many bodies of water and there is often very little fishing pressure. Fall fishing however can also be extremely frustrating when fish are not watching the calendar. There can be times when it seems like the fall pattern is no pattern…. fish are scattered everywhere but there isn’t a concentration anywhere.

You can put the odds in your favor this fall by either targeting a smaller or larger lake with some strategy just like you would early in the year. Adjust your strategy and presentation to the fish and not the calendar. Warm trends and scattered fish call for a completely different game plan than cooling temperatures and concentrating fish. Look at the conditions and not the calendar.

X

How a Weekend Wedding Lead to Fishing the Big Waters

By Matthew Skoy, Wildlife Pursuit

2014 - Unique WeddingMy wife informed me that we were heading to Islamorada, FL. for a wedding. I was excited because I had never experienced Florida, and I was convinced I would come back with a tan. I never expected what would happen when we arrived at our destination, but as faith had it, I met the bride’s dad, who some would call a fishing legend.

The night we arrived in Islamorada, the father of the bride asked if I had ever fished the big water. I explained that my fishing experience had been limited to North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and I had never been fishing for deep sea creatures. He laughed and said I was in luck, because he had brought his boat! He insisted on taking me out to Whale Harbor the morning of the wedding in search for a monster Tarpon. To say I was excited would be an understatement – I gladly agreed to the offer.

The day of the wedding, I met him by the docks before sunrise, and we loaded up the fishing tackle. He explained to me that he could not guarantee anything, but would do his best to make a catch happen. It wasn’t an hour into the trip, and I hooked something big. The fight was on, and I was determined to land this creature. As time passed, I knew I was fighting the biggest fish of my life. After about 45 minutes I was able to pull in a tarpon that would kick the scales at over 100 pounds. This was a tremendous accomplishment and I was thrilled! The bride’s dad went one step further and filmed the entire adventure. It was priceless!

A few hours after the fishing trip, his daughter was married and we celebrated the wedding and the catch of the day. I will never forget what he did for me on that warm Florida day. He introduced me to a whole new world of fishing and I will always be grateful. Thank you for the experience and the memory of catching a monster tarpon!

X

Her First Fishing Adventure

By Matthew Skoy, Wildlife Pursuit

2014 - Her 1st Fishing AdventureShe insisted on wearing her lifejacket before leaving the house for our very first fishing adventure. At two years old, my little girl loves to try new and exciting things, and today would mark our first fishing outing. I picked up a small Dora the Explorer fishing rod and created a small tackle box out of an old toolbox. We had a dozen night crawlers and multiple forms of snacks ranging from juice to cheerios. We had our sunglasses and sunscreen and we were ready to hit the open road.

Finally, the truck was loaded and we were off to a nearby pond. During the drive, I reflected on my first memory of fishing with dad. I remembered the feeling of catching my first fish and how excited and proud my father was in that moment. As memories began to flood my mind, I thought about what this experience would be like with my daughter. I thought about the memories we were making and how excited I was to witness her pulling in the catch of the day. As we approached the pond I felt like a kid in a candy store, so thrilled to being exposing my daughter to the beautiful art of fishing. The time had come to share what I had learned over the years with my daughter.

When we arrived at the fishing hole, we took off toward the dock. Within minutes, I baited my daughters hook, attached a bobber, and dropped the line off the edge of the dock. I took a deep breath and captured the moment of my daughter and I fishing together. Everything was perfect, the sun was up in the beautiful blue sky, the water was calm, and there was no one else fishing, just me and my baby.

Well, to say that snapshot in time was perfect would be understatement, but it did not last long. After just minutes of enjoying the moment, my daughter observed a park in the distance and insisted we leave our fishing adventure and move in the direction of the park. After she repeated the word park several times, I knew that our fishing trip was over, but what a moment, even if it only lasted a few minutes. The rest of the afternoon consisted of running around the park and going up and down the big slide.

Even though our fishing outing was short lived, we still experienced it together. This article is for all the moms and dads out there teaching their kids to fish, because I am certain you can relate. During our time together on the dock, I realized to embrace the moment and enjoy every second of it! We will be planning another fishing adventure in the near future and maybe this time we will find a pond without a nearby park.

X

Spinning Late Summer Lazy Walleyes

By Jason Wright, Co-Host of Ultimate Outdoor Adventures TV

WalleyeAs mid-summer quickly approaches and farmers are prepping their combines for harvest, those of us that chase walleyes begin to sense just how limited our open water fishing can be in North Dakota. There are those that have already begun to store their long-rods, switching their focus from fishing to bowhunting.  I often wonder if the cause of “early rod storage” is possibly because the late summer/early fall bite can oftentimes be tough.  However, there are many of us that choose to hang on and persevere through the tough walleye bite that can occur – especially on Lake Sakakawea – during the latter part of August and early September prior to the fall “feeding frenzy.”  It is safe to say that for some years the month of August can be phenomenal while for other years it’s just the opposite.

 

Now here is a scenario I have encountered on various late August/early September outings on Lake Sakakawea, and I think many of you can relate.  You’re excited to get to your favorite spot on the lake more so because there are only a handful of trailers at the ramp.  However, it’s one of “those” days on the water – you know the kind – a bit hot and quite muggy, and as the fishless morning continues your confidence in your chosen technique begins to melt like the ice in your cooler. You’re out in 25 – 35 feet of water, trolling over loads of fish that you know are walleyes – at least you are pretty sure – since this is the same area you caught them in last year not to mention last week.  But today you’re wondering if your Lowrance is stuck on simulation because it is fish after fish on the screen.  Frustration begins to take hold because not one of the perfect hooks moving across the screen is making any attempt at smashing your crankbaits.  Maybe they are salmon!  No, that can’t be since eventually one of them would take a crankbait.  Pike?  Nope, they too would sooner or later tear after a 400 Series Reef Runner; right?  Skipjacks?  Hope Not!

 

The situation doesn’t make sense. The water is warm, so the metabolism of these walleyes on the graph must be high meaning they should be “active” and feeding. The weather is stable; sunny and hot for the last few days.  But your “400 Series Ripshad Reef Runners” trolled with lead core which simply slayed them last week and is always a great go-to setup this time of year is being unnoticed. The problem could very well be and most likely is something you can’t see. After over-analyzing the situation you begin to wonder if the abundance of baitfish hanging in the 30 – 50 foot range had caused an all-out free for all feeding frenzy the past few days.  That’s it; they’re stuffed like sausages, lazy, lethargic and not in any mood to chase after a crankbait.

 

If you’re not following me, think of it this way: Many of us enjoy a mouth-watering holiday meal with family and friends, but we oftentimes over-eat, feeling lazy, tired and stuffed.  Now if the ice cream truck was driving down the street, you most likely aren’t going to jump up and chase it down; right?  But, if someone decided you should casually drive to Cherry Berry and sit down for a creamy cup of frozen yogurt you might be able to muster up enough energy to make that happen.  Do you see where I am going with this?

 

My suggestion, based on my own experience, is if you run into a similar scenario while fishing Lake Sakakawea like my daughter Brynn and I did on a recent outing, offer those stuffed and lazy walleyes a little dessert that is attractive enough to get them to check it out and then strike.

 

Spinners and CrawlersI have found that a spinner rig trailing a fat juicy nightcrawler can make a fabulous after dinner meal even for an over-stuffed walleye.  Another great tip that I have had great success with is rather than a live crawler try a Berkley Gulp!Alive! 7” Spinner Crawler which provides a rolling action walleyes can’t resist.  However, some days I have found that less is more so I remove the bottom hook from my spinner harness and tip the remaining hook with a Berkley Gulp! Killer Crawler.  If you haven’t tried either of the above Berkley Crawlers, they would be a wise purchase from Scheels. Give them a try, and you might be amazed at your success.

 

Several key factors make spinners and crawlers the best bet when nothing else works on suspended or bottom-hugging “dog day” late summer walleyes.  First, a spinner is presented more slowly than a crankbait this time of year, meaning the fish don’t have to work very hard to chase it down. Second, that tempting nightcrawler is enough to make a walleye’s mouth water as it rolls through the water giving off an undeniable scent. Third, the vibration of the spinner blade quite possibly mimics that of a struggling baitfish triggering an innate behavior strike.  And finally, the flash of a spinner will attract any fish in the area to it or at least get its attention, so even though you troll more slowly and cover less water; the strike attraction zone of the spinner is probably greater than with a faster moving crankbait. In other words, the fish can see this slow-moving, flashy thing from a long ways away and since it is going slowly, they will swim a fairly long way to investigate.

 

The dog-day walleye scenario takes place to some extent anywhere you find walleyes and baitfish or other food, such as insect larvae that are not relating to structure, although, I feel it is most common to encounter these “middle-of-nowhere” walleyes in larger reservoirs such as Lake Sakakawea or Lake Oahe where they are roaming large flats.  But, this doesn’t mean that this late summer presentation won’t work on your favorite lake since it has more to do with the time of year and the abundance of baitfish or other abundant food.

 

Colorado vs IndianaNo one spinner blade seems to work best in this situation, but rather try to match spinner size to the size of fish that dominates the lake. If I am targeting 18 – 22 inch fish (or smaller based on my most recent outings), then I usually choose a No. 2 or No. 3 spinner blade.  If the walleyes that I am targeting are much bigger, then I might choose a No. 6 spinner blade.  I have found that the Colorado and Indiana style blades tend to work better – for me personally – than some of the other styles, possibly because the wider blade produces more vibration than some of the other shapes.  Other blade styles that I have had success using are the chopper and hatchet style blades. These offer different vibrations than more traditional blades and can trigger bites from walleyes that would otherwise ignore your offerings.

 

As far as colors are concerned, I usually recommend beginning with the age-old rule which is the hammered silver and gold metallic blades work best in clear water and then go with more fluorescent colors when fishing stained water.  But remember these are just guidelines to help you get started and, then you can experiment to see what works for you; or maybe let the walleyes decide since we know they don’t really follow our rules.  There are many cool colors and finishes on the market today when it comes to spinner blades and one of my favorite combinations is the holographic/metallic combination since you get the best of both – color and flash.  These blades are also responsible for winning various walleye tournaments the past few years and are becoming more and more popular amongst fishermen.

 

Spinner Storage Tackle BuddyI choose to tie my own spinner harnesses so I can decide the length and pound test of the leader as well as the style and quality of hooks.  I begin with a 4 – 6 foot piece of 10# Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon monofilament and then snell two Eagle Claw Style L183 #4 hooks approximately two inches apart, add six 5mm colored beads a quick change clevis and then tie a loop at the end which is needed to attach to a snap swivel.  I use the winter months – during a period of cabin fever – to tie my spinner harnesses and then wrap them around a Tackle Buddy Spinner Holder which keeps them from getting tangled.  I store all my snelled rigs and spinners in a small plastic container so that I’m not digging through a bunch of boxes in order to find what I need when I am on the water.

 

Bottom Bouncer and Snap WeightTaking the spinner and bait to the fish depends on where in the water column they are. A very effective and efficient weighting system for trolling open water spinners is the use of snap weights. Using the Snap Weight option, clip one of these to the line 50 feet in front of the spinner, let out another 50 feet of line. By varying the weight (1/2 once to 3 ounces), you can vary your depth.  This works best if the fish are suspended 3 – 6 feet off the bottom and when utilizing planers boards to spread out your lines this can be a very effective and overlooked practice.  Another weighting system which is most commonly used is to attach the spinner to a bottom bouncer which enables you to better target bottom hugging walleyes.  I usually begin with a 1¼ ounce bottom bouncer and then adjust my weight depending on the depth of water I am targeting.  Some anglers, myself included, even go a step further and paint the lead part – acting as an attractant – of the bottom bouncer, and there is no doubt this can make a difference.  Both methods can be very effective in targeting and catching late summertime walleyes…sometimes the spinners pulled behind snap weights get more bites, sometimes it’s the ones attached to the bottom bouncer.  Again, it may take a little experimentation to determine what’s going to work best on any given day.

 

Using in-line planer boards to take the spinners out to the side of the boat increases the amount of water you can cover especially when targeting roaming walleyes on large flats.  By putting lighter weights on the outside lines and heavier weights inside, you can probe different depths until you find the set-up that catches fish and fewer tangles will occur this way too.

 

So with the remaining opportunities this summer – prior to the fall bite – try “spinning” those late summer lazy walleyes with a slow-moving spinner and a tasty nightcrawler.  Changing your normal tactics this time of year just might turn your “dog-day” outing into a more positive fishing experience.  This technique is also a great way to introduce and/or take a young person fishing since it is not unusual to catch a variety of species and there is always some type of action.

FatherDaughter

X

The River

Matthew Skoy, Wildlife Pursuit
2014 - The RiverIt was a Saturday morning in late summer and I was making my way to a favorite fishing hole on the mighty Red River. When I arrived, I quickly found a V shaped stick and positioned it between two rocks on the river’s edge. My rod holder was complete! Next, I rummaged through my bag of tricks (tackle box). I grabbed the biggest hook and sinkers I could find and tossed my line into the murky depths of the Red. My mission was complete! I was now fishing on a beautiful summer day. As time passed I took note of bald eagles flying overhead, birds chirping, and the little red squirrel flying from tree branch to tree branch. I took a deep breath and let the sights and sounds soak into my meandering thoughts.

Soon the day had drifted away and it was time to make my journey home. As I started packing up my goodies I noticed a slight tug on my line. I waited for a moment and within seconds my rod was yanked from the rocks and started making its way down the sandy bank. I hustled, stumbled and dove for my rod before it crashed into the water. I leaned back with all my might to set the hook and the fight was on! I knew this was a big creature as soon as the hook was set.

The fight lasted nearly 30 minutes, but when the dust settled I pulled out this monster cat.
I was not expecting this huge fish to surface, but sure enough the big hook worked. My
grandfather always told me that if I wanted to catch something big, you must use big bait, and he
was right! The Red River always offers a unique mystical experience, because you never know
what you may pull from its depths. This fish was caught within the Fargo city limits and it’s
important to remember that great fishing spots may only be a few blocks away from your
homestead, so take advantage. I am looking forward to taking my little daughter out fishing for
cats in the near future. Sitting on the river’s edge is a great place for kids to learn the art of
casting and the importance of patience.

X

The Little Pond

Matthew Skoy, Wildlife Pursuit

zLjhgyon6OGGf4YPqgdmcgvEiK3yFiQoL0Qm5roQ4yg,TOidf435GYFa2L0kZOJcskrAjO7RlAaltQPdeSNduYsAs I was attending graduate school, I was also plotting a plan to pop the big question to my lovely girlfriend. However, as a broke graduate student, living on bottom of the fridge soup and whatever I could create from wild game, buying a ring was a stretch. So on my way home one evening after class I pulled into a local business and asked the owner if he had any work. I told him my situation, and he simply just did not have any opportunities. As I was walking out a little disappointed, he stopped me and offered an opportunity. He had some rental properties in town and asked if I would consider scraping and painting one of the homes? He guaranteed $1000.00 after the project was complete. Like a kid in a candy store I jumped for joy and agreed in the moment.

As we continued to talk, I asked him about the pond nestled between two of his buildings. I was looking for a place to get my line wet and this was my golden opportunity. He smiled and told me to help myself and assured me that I would probably catch a few bass. That summer I spent time in class, painting and doing a little fishing from time to time. I realized right away that this little pond produced some pretty nice sized largemouth. I was catching 1-3 pound bass regularly and enjoyed every minute of the peaceful little pond.

One day after a challenging day in the classroom, I stopped by the bait shop and picked up a few minnows and headed to the little pond. I knew I would be alone and I could take a moment just to relax. I caught a couple of bass right away and eventually found myself snuggled up to the bank catching up on some long-awaited sleep. As I zoned in and out under the blue Iowa sky, I watched as the wind drifted my big red and white bobber toward the tall grass near the edge of the pond.

As the day slipped away, I dreamt of big fish, diamond rings and the mysterious supper I would soon be preparing that evening. After a wonderful nap I quickly looked for my bobber and sure enough it was still nuzzled around the weed bed where I left it hours earlier. As I was getting ready to leave, my bobber began slowly moving back and forth and eventually it started drifting against the wind out of the weed bed. I quickly thought I would catch one final bass before the day ended, but that was not the case at all.

All of a sudden my bobber started moving rapidly across the top of the water and in a flash disappeared. I reached for my rod and set the hook and witnessed a swirl that immediately indicated I was not going to be fighting a bass, this creature was much larger. The fight was on! I finally recognized the challenger to be a monster northern pike. As I wrestled on the pond’s edge, I was finally able to get the fish close enough to reach down and pull it from the murky pond. To my surprise, I pulled a 40 inch northern from the pond and I immediately called the owner of the business to show him the monster fish. He was shocked and snapped this picture to prove the fish’s existence.

That summer I finished graduate classes with a 4.0 GPA, bought an engagement ring for my girlfriend and created an unbelievable fishing memory. Have you ever been cruising down the interstate and noticed little ponds on your travels? This story is living proof that one never knows what’s tucked beneath the waters of those little old ponds. If you have time, try and fish the spots that you always drive by, because the outcome could surprise you as it did me.

X

Catching Post Front Walleyes

By Jason Wright, Co-host of Ultimate Outdoor Adventures TV

In order to become a better cold front walleye fisherman it’s necessary to learn how to recognize the postfrontal conditions.  Since a cold front can be anything from a severe thunderstorm to strong northerly winds bringing with them a wind-chill in July, most fishermen won’t put time in on the water until the system has passed. However, as a fisherman that used to stay on shore during cold fronts, I quickly learned how to read the signs and found that I had been missing out on some of the best fishing with little fishing pressure.

I used to consider “cold fronts” as an excuse for my lack of success, but throughout the years I have quickly learned that it is possible to catch these “cold walleyes.”  I just needed to adjust my fishing strategies and learn to recognize the pre-front, cold front and post front conditions.  Since I have learned to recognize these weather patterns more precisely, I no longer cringe when the weather forecast is predicting a cold front or knowing that the tournament days will be during a postfrontal weather pattern.

It is the post front conditions that usually send most fishermen home scratching their heads and telling one another, “We sure couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day on the water.”  Post cold front conditions often are some of the most beautiful days fishermen spend on the water.  The sky is clear, the wind is calm and the temperature is just right!  They are also some of the least productive as far as numbers of fish are concerned.  The failure of recognizing post front conditions will send most fishermen in search of last weekend’s shallow feeding frenzy only to be left with the notion that they must have been one day late.  When in reality, they were in the right area at the right time.

The first step toward cold front success is realizing that you may be fishing during or after a major cold front.  Oftentimes post front conditions bring with them clear skies, calm winds, and cooler temperatures resulting in the perfect day to spend fishing your favorite 10 – 15 foot flat while trolling crankbaits or a bottom bouncer and spinner presentation. Yes, it might be the perfect day to be on that spot, but the walleyes might not agree.  Most likely, you and your fishing partner will continue fishing this spot or other spots similar to it with the same presentations not knowing that Mother Nature has played her “wild card.”  Put the pieces together…previous cold front…beautiful day…no fish!  There’s a good chance you are fishing during a postfrontal weather pattern.  It’s time to search for the map that you always keep in the glove box which you purchased because someone once mentioned that everyone should still have a good lake map – even with the technology available in the 21st Century.  Advanced sonar units with mapping capabilities are the norm on most rigs with installed contour lake maps, but I still rely on a good waterproof contour lake map when trying to locating these tight-lipped walleyes.

Whether it’s an electronic map on your Lowrance HD unit, program on your laptop computer, or the old fashion waterproof paper type, a good contour lake map will help to locate steep vertical drop-offs nearest your favorite hot spots.  Understanding and learning to read contour lake maps will enable you to be more prepared when you encounter a cold front fishing situation.

During stable summertime weather patterns walleyes are often found actively feeding on an underwater hump, sunken island or on top of a long shallow point.  However, walleyes will quickly abandon the typical summertime hotspots and retreat to the nearest deep/steep vertical structure and/or school together near inside corners or underwater bays seeking a secure refuge. These underwater “safe-zones” are pretty hard to locate without having the ability to see beneath the surface of the water via some sort of contour lake map.

Since more often than not these fish will quickly slip into deeper water, they are much easier to locate with your electronics compared to when they cruise the shallows searching for an easy meal.  Therefore, it’s as important to learn and understand how to use all the features/functions of your high-tech electronics to assist with this search.

As mentioned previously, cold front walleyes will relate most often to steep vertical structure which can be found using any contour lake map.  I would suggest starting your search by graphing main lake points where the river channel sweeps into the shoreline creating an easy escape to deep water.  If there’s no river channel in the area that you’re planning to fish, then look closely at the contour lines on your map and look for areas that normally hold large numbers of walleyes with easy escape routes to deep water.  These cold front “safe-zones” can be determined by looking for areas on the map where the contour lines are very close together referring to an area that has a steep vertical drop.

Once you have located these deep clinging cold front walleyes with your electronics, it’s important that you adjust your presentation to their lethargic state.  I have found that vertical jigging or slowly trolling a live bait rig triggers the most strikes.  It’s also a great time to dig out your anchor and toss out one rod with a slip bobber rigged with a 1/16 or 1/8 ounce jig tipped with a leech. Then rig up another rod with a small jig or lindy rig tipped with either a minnow or nightcrawler.  Cast either the jig or lindy rig out and slowly retrieve it with short pauses.

Anchoring isn’t a method that’s used by many anglers with the advanced technology of powerful electric trolling motors, GPS units and 4-stroke kicker engines, but I assure you that it is a proven method to success when trying to catch “cold walleyes” on any lake, river or reservoir.  With the passing of the cold front, these fish have gone into a more lethargic state.  Therefore, it’s really important to position your bait directly in front of them while slowing down your presentation.  If you hook a fish under these conditions, quickly mark your location on your GPS or use a marker buoy in order to concentrate your efforts on top of the tightly schooled cold front walleyes.

Slow trolling with lead core line is another successful post cold front presentation which allows an angler to send small and/or otherwise shallow running crankbaits to deeper depths than they are normally capable of diving.  Utilizing lead core line is the best option in order to effectively contour troll crankbaits off and around breaks in order to target lethargic fish and/or fish that are relating tight to structure.  This is often the case for several days following a strong cold front.  The combination of the lead core trolling line and very small crankbaits can trigger an innate behavioral strike.

The next time you find yourself on the water during the most beautiful day, but without fish, think about the possibilities and ask yourself, “Is it possible that I am fishing during a postfrontal weather pattern?”  If the answer is yes, utilize your contour lake map, locate a “safe-zone” and adjust your fishing strategy.  You may be on your way to being a successful post cold front walleye angler.

X

Loading up Walleye

 Loading up Walleye

By Jason Mitchell, Jason Mitchell Outdoors

Like many anglers, I learned how to live bait rig for walleye with the bail open and my trigger finger on the line.  At the first indication of a bite, the thought process was to let line peel off the spool giving the fish line so that they could swallow the bait.  Anglers insisted that the less a walleye feels your presence, the better.

The author Jason Mitchell shares a few secrets on how you can keep catching walleyes this summer with live bait rigs.

The author Jason Mitchell shares a few secrets on how you can keep catching walleyes this summer with live bait rigs.

There are situations where giving to the fish, whether it be by feeding line or pointing the rod tip back when either running live bait rigs or spinner rigs, can be the ticket.  Especially earlier in the season, the drill often seems to be creeping the rig along and feeding the fish momentarily before the hook set.

One adjustment to make however that can be difficult for some anglers is dragging the fish versus feeding the fish.  Around the 4th of July on many bodies of water year in and year out, the water temperature continues to climb and the metabolism of the fish climbs.  There comes a point where you catch so many more fish by dragging the fish along versus feeding the fish.

Dragging the fish is just that.  No finger on the line with the bail open, no worry about the fish “feeling” the angler and no pointing the rod tip back towards the fish.  When you get a bite, you simply let the rod load up and drag the fish along until you start to get a few head shakes.  Ever had one of those days where the rod holder out fished you… when you were trying hard to catch a fish with the rod you were holding?  I know I have.

I think what happens as fish get aggressive is that they simply grab onto the bait and just don’t want to give it up if it seems to be getting away.  When you drag the fish with steady and constant pressure, the fish just seem to keep choking up on the bait or harness until they hook themselves.  This adjustment or change in attitude happens every summer.

Summer walleyes often require a few adjustments with both presentation and mentality.

Summer walleyes often require a few adjustments with both presentation and mentality.

Earlier in the season, rigging with live bait can often be considered a finesse tactic.  As the summer progresses, I often find that I catch more fish with a more aggressive mindset concerning live bait rigs… power rigging.  I often use a heavier walking sinker or bottom bouncer that keeps the presentation close to the transducer of the sonar.

I like heavier snells, sometimes as heavy as twenty-pound monofilament so that I can move really fast without the snell twisting up.  I often move as fast as a mile and a half per hour but then drop my speed as I mark fish on the electronics.  Once fish are deeper than fifteen feet, I feel that I will mark most fish that are below me.  The name of the game is to scoot along fast until you come across another pod of fish.  Once you find or mark some fish with your electronics, you can slow down and fish at speeds that might range between one half mile per hour to a mile and a half per hour for rigs and up to two miles per hour for spinner rigs.

One of the hottest rigging trends the past few seasons have been half crawler rigs that utilize a bent hook that causes the half crawler to rotate or cork screw through the water.  Most of the half crawler rigs on the market today use a much heavier hook and use two bends on the shaft of the hook which is quite different from the original half crawler rigs we made ourselves from the standard gold Aberdeen hook.  I still think the original designs are much better because the hook is lighter and only incorporates one bend so the action on the night crawler is tighter and more of a shimmy at a much slower speed.

Recently I designed a half crawler rig for Northland Tackle called the Crawler Hauler that also has a barb on the hook to keep the night crawler pinned in the right position.

 

Here is a video explaining how to use this hook design to catch a lot of walleye:

 

As summer progresses and water temperatures climb, successful rigging for walleye often begins to morph into something faster and heavier.  Feeding and finesses is replaced by dragging and loading up the rod.  I often switch from a medium light spinning rod action to a bait-casting rod like our Jason Mitchell Pro Walleye Series JM701MC as summer progresses because it is easier to set the hook by just sweeping the rod with the wrist.  Be conscience of these different mentalities and rigging options and get comfortable on each end of the rigging spectrum because these adjustments will allow you to keep on catching as the summer wears on.

Editors Note:  The author Jason Mitchell hosts the outdoor program Jason Mitchell Outdoors, which airs on Fox Sports North at 9:00 am on Sundays and Fox Sports Midwest at 8:30 am on Saturdays. More videos and information can be found at www.jasonmitchelloutdoors.com.

X