Fall River Walleyes
The most wonderful time of the year
By Spencer Bauer
Fall signals a lot of things. Football season starts, baseball playoffs get rolling. Many of us are gearing up for hunting season. However, for many anglers, fall time means walleye time. If that sounds like a good time, then this article is for you.
Walleyes, like nearly every other fish in the fall, starting chowing down like Joey Chestnut at a hotdog eating contest. The human conception of discomfort pales in comparison to what wild animals must endure to survive through the winter. So, every critter north of the Mason-Dixon line has to prepare if it wants to feel the temperatures warm the next spring. Most do this by eating as much as they can stuff down their throat, plus a little more. If you keep that in mind while on the water, you will catch more fish.
Location and Time
River walleyes are on the move once water temperatures start to drop. Due to this, anything that blocks current can concentrate walleyes. However, those close to the deepest holes in a 10 to 20 mile stretch of river tend to be the best.
Dams can concentrate fish too, but they also concentrate anglers. I like to get away from the crowd if I can help it. However, if you are short on time, dams often offer spectacular fishing once the leaves start to turn colors.
My favorite time to be on the water is at sunrise or sunset. Walleyes can be caught anytime of the day. With that being said, walleyes are crepuscular (most active during twilight periods), and I experience the best action as the sun rises or sets. One major exception is a cloudy, windy day. If it is raining it can be even better, and fewer anglers to contend with.
Bait and Lures
Since walleyes are on the move, it pays to be on the move as well. Grab some waders and cruise the banks, or keep your foot on the trolling motor. Fish are active. Give a spot some time and if it doesn’t produce, don’t be scared to move onto the next likely one. Due to this, I tend to lean towards lures over a stationary live bait. Soft plastic swim baits and twister have treated me well, especially as the water cools. Bigger is often better. Don’t be afraid to tie on a 5+” swim bait. For plastics, my overall favorite in the fall is the Custom Jigs And Spins 3.25 Pulse R. Crankbaits can be excellent late in the evening or at night. Wooden stick baits and suspending jerk baits catch lots of walleyes. Rapala Original Floater 11's have been catching walleyes for years and are still great.
When you know there is a large concentration of fish, for instance if you have identified a wintering hole, a live creek chub on a set rig can be excellent. This is a great way to target the largest fish in the watershed, plus you never know what else you might catch. For me, it definitely adds a fun sense of excitement never knowing what you might hook into.
I keep tackle simple. Any medium action spinning rod spooled with 6 lb monofilament or 10 lb braid will work. I love Penn spinning reels, especially a 3000 size Penn Battle, because of their durability. You never know what will bite, and these reels have handled numerous big hybrid stripers and flathead catfish up to 44 lbs. They will serve you well for years.
There is something special about walking the river in the fall, listening to playoff baseball on the radio, and catching one of the most challenging fish in the Midwest. These are memories that put a smile on my face at random times, and I will cherish for as long as I’m blessed to be on this planet.