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               Fall 2006 Feature Article

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Hot Patterns for Cool Walleyes
by Rick Olson

With the arrival of the fall come some big changes. As the cooling effects of fall begin to change a walleyes environment the result can have a definite effect on where they can be found and just how active they’ll be. They say that a little change can be a good thing, and if so the early fall period is no exception.

Late summer can make for some tough conditions and walleyes can play a little hard to get. Where they went and what they did really doesn’t matter now. Now is when walleyes start to show themselves again, and they do it with a new and much more agreeable attitude.

That new attitude is a result of cooler water temps and an instinctive response that pushes ol’ marble eyes into a serious feeding binge which can last right through the fall and into the early ice period. Taking advantage of the situation is what it’s all about and requires a little understanding of a walleye’s basic needs and a handful of baits to get in on the action.

Where they begin to show up doesn’t always fit into the category of “classic” fall structure, and might be more associated with early season locations. Shallow flats or even back bays could heat up with the fall cool down. Cooling water temps can bring walleyes up shallow and spur activity that can be downright intense at times. On reservoirs it might be up major creek arms where immature white bass and perch have been holding out and growing up but now have to move out with the fall draw down. Walleyes will wait and ambush all of that prey is it makes it’s way to the main channel. On natural lakes it could be weedy flats, or maybe rocky bars or reefs. It will all depend on what‘s available but you can usually find a shallow water pattern somewhere early in the fall. Late fall is another story and when “classic” really comes into the picture but this is now, and there’s plenty of good reasons to get back on the water.

If you’re working a reservoir look for bridges that are up creek arms as they are usually associated with necked down areas and can serve as funnels that will help to concentrate fish. The fall draw down creates current which is increased by areas that are pinched off, or necked down. The result is a funnel effect where walleyes can wait and ambush bait that is delivered directly to them on a silver platter. Walleyes instinctively know that current areas can provide some tremendous feeding opportunities, and are drawn to them like a magnet. Any bridge should be checked out but one surrounded by deeper water has the most potential to be a serious producer. A bridge up a creek arm with some fifteen to twenty feet of water nearby would fall into the “serious producer” category.

Top presentations for bridge bound walleyes include dragging bottom bouncer and live bait combinations, casting with a jig tipped with a minnow or crawler, or vertical jigging depending on how deep and how clear the water is that you happen to be working. Casting crankbaits like a Glass Shad Rap is another option, and can be especially effective if you have some darker water up shallow. The Glass Shad Rap is perfect for casting as it’s heavy enough, will suspend , and has built in rattles.

Rocky bars and reefs might be more suited for a trolling run and will depend on just how big an area you have to deal. A big expansive rocky bar or reef is custom made for a crank bait trolled just over the tops of the rocks and will allow you to cover some ground. Smaller spots might be more effectively worked with a casting technique which will allow you to pinpoint the most productive areas.

Weed beds can be trolled with a crank bait, cast to with a crank or jig, or trolled with a jig. It will all depend on the makeup of the weed bed and how much water you to cover. A sparse weed bed is perfect for trolling a jig right through the middle of the stuff. The thicker beds may push you out to the deep edge or keep you working over the top. A hot late summer and early fall pattern includes running lipless cranks like the Rattle Rap across the tops of cabbage and coontail weed beds.

Water clarity is another consideration which can have an effect on when the walleyes can be expected to be the most active. Darker water will help promote daytime activity while clear conditions may force you to try burning the midnight oil. Wind can have an effect on clear water and could really stir things up, especially if it howls out of the same direction for a couple of days or more. High winds and heavy waves can stir up bottom sediment and turn clear conditions to stained and trigger intensive daytime activity. It’s something to be aware of and can create a terrific opportunity for some serious pole bending.