Have you ever imagined the pressure a football quarterback feels during the two minute warning in the 4th quarter of the game when his team is down by four points and it’s up to him to take his squad down the field for the winning touchdown? It’s a “now or never” situation. Well obviously there’s not that kind of pressure in walleye fishing, but for many anglers this time of the year means there isn’t much time left in the open-water season and it won’t be long before the snow will flies and ice covers the lakes marking a new winter season. So now’s the time for that final drive down the field to some of the best walleye fishing of the year, not only for numbers, but also for some of the biggest walleyes of the season.
The biggest factor for successfully catching late season walleyes is to know their seasonal migrations on your particular body of water. That will tell you where to find the fish, and in turn, give clues as to what the best presentation will be to catch them. In rivers for instance, walleyes begin to migrate up river toward spring spawning areas. While they won’t necessarily set up in the same spots you’ll find them come spring, they will be close. Deep, main river holes just down river from spawning flats are good places to start the search. Vertical jigging the head and tail end of the holes should yield some fish and indicate whether or not you’re on the right pattern.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind that may increase the odds when jigging this time of year. While it’s true that the walleyes are feeding to bulk up for the upcoming cold water period, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be smashing your offering with reckless abandon. Bites can be subtle in the cool water of fall, so paying attention to details in your presentation is important. Anytime you’re vertical jigging, sensitivity is critical. You’ve got to feel what’s going on with the jig at all times. A quality, high-modulus graphite rod like the Walleye Angler Signature Series WX60ML-HM85 (available from Bass Pro Shops), coupled with a small diameter, no-stretch line like 6 pound test Berkley Nanofil will insure you’re rigged right for the task. Using the right rod and line cannot be stressed enough!
Finding walleyes on the Great Lakes in the fall is a matter of knowing migration patterns too. On Lake Erie for example, walleyes move from the eastern and central basins toward the western waters. Open water trolling tactics are still effective this time of year, but you’ll do better to concentrate your efforts more “in-shore”, than out over the main basin. Look for the majority of fish to relate closer to breaks, where the basin transitions to shallower water. The same principal holds true on Lake Michigan, be it the northern reaches near Bay De Noc, or the waters around Door County Wisconsin. Walleyes will move from the main lake toward the bays and shoreline breaks where they’ll spawn come spring.
Day time fishing can be productive, but in these gin-clear