Fall patterns are starting to set up and for us walleye anglers that’s great news. Sure you can catch fish late in the summer but fall means more: more biters, more action and much more fun. A lot of the fun begins when hungry ‘eyes show up in shallow water and become willing accomplices in a fall free for all.
Walleyes don’t always move up and in and is related directly to the present condition of their environment. Sounds complicated but it really isn’t. Basically; it’s the darker lakes that are more apt to produce a good shallow water fall bite and includes Leech and Winnie. Gull Lake on the other hand has been red hot in the fall for a number of years but the bite is deep, near deeper breaklines and hard bottom areas. Mille Lacs has long been known for producing a good shallow fall bite but things have changed and the action has been more likely found in deeper water.
The common denominator including the last two mentioned is water clarity. Gull has super clear water and Mille Lacs is trending that way with the explosion of zebra mussels. The mussels filter water which has reduced fertility and increased visibility which I believe has kept walleyes out in deeper water. There might be more to it like changes in baitfish populations but I really believe the water clarity has had an effect.
The darker lakes with a good shallow walleye movement are custom made for drifting or slowly trolling with a jig and minnow. The key is using a jig just heavy enough to get it to the bottom and lifting and dropping the bait making it sure it gets back to the bottom and covering some water. Gravel shoals, sand breaks and weed beds are all potential fall hot spots and can all be worked with the jig and minnow technique.
The technique includes getting a jig tipped with a minnow to the bottom before ripping or snapping it forward and getting it back to the bottom again, and again, and again. The snap forward triggers fish and drop back is when they are most likely to pick it up. Most of the time they’ll just be there when you snap forward again which can result in a sufficient hook set, especially if your hooks are sharp and you’re using a lower stretch line Northland Tackle’s Bionic Walleye Braid. The Walleye Braid has virtually no stretch and can mean more fish hooked but don’t get crazy with the hook set. Rip it too hard and you can pull a hook lose. Another key is to use a mono or fluorocarbon leader which is basically invisible to the fish and can mean a lot more pickups and pickups and hook sets are what the fall is all about. See you on the water.
Ron Anlauf is a frequent contributer to the Outdoors page.