Jigging Up Late Season Walleyes
by Ron Anlauf
One of the most endearing aspects of late season
walleye angling is its
In this complicated fast paced world we’re living in it’s nice to get
back to the basics. Successful fall fishing requires a minimal amount
of gear and thought. With a handful of jigs, a few minnows, and a good
depth finder you’re in business. Before fall gives way to the onslaught
of winter anglers have the opportunity to cash in on some fantastic
The ravages of the fall turnover can turn a
walleyes world upside down and make for some awful tough fishing
conditions. Even shallow lakes that don’t “officially” turnover still
go through a cooling off process and it can take a little time for a
fish’s body to adjust to the new, colder water temps. But soon after
things start to settle down, and walleye anglers can expect to see
definite improvements in walleye activity.
After the fall adjustment walleyes go on a feeding
binge that can last right through the early season ice fishing season.
One of the shortcuts to finding fall walleyes is knowing where they are
historically caught through the ice. Instead of waiting for hard water;
open water anglers can beat the ice brigade to the punch and cash in on
peak fishing conditions. Early season ice action can center on drop
offs, deeper hard bottom areas, weed edges, as well as transition lines
where hard bottom meets soft. Those are the very same spots where late
fall walleye anglers should begin their search.
Fish that are holding on or near any of the
aforementioned spots can be readily scanned with good electronics like
the Humminbird 997c. The 997c is a color graph with side scanning
capabilities that can allow you to run a break or dropoff and quickly
see if and where any fish are trying to hide out.
Because late fall ’eyes are easily marked they can
be relatively easy to find. Instead of wasting a lot of time fishing
where they’re not, anglers should key on classic spots that are
definitely holding fish. A good plan of action incluides slowly cruise
over the best looking spots, and keep going until you start to mark
fish. Once you’ve marked a few it’s time to turn around and wet a
Late fall walleyes tend to bunch up and if you’re
making one here and one there you’d probably do better by keeping on the
move until you’ve marked at least a few fish holding close together.
Once you’ve located a potential hangout you may elect to drop a marker
to help keep your bearings. It’s easy to get a little confused,
especially if your concentrating on your electronics. If you’re worried
about other anglers moving in on your marker, try dropping a black one.
They’re almost impossible to see, unless you get real close.
One of the most consistent producers come late fall
is vertical jigging. Working a jig and minnow straight up and down is a
slow methodical method that allows an angler to really work over an
area. The technique is simply a lift and drop of a jig, and you can
actually walk the bait along the bottom. Although they may be active;
late fall walleyes are not usually aggressive enough to chase down a
fast moving bait. The lift and drop of a jig tipped with a minnow
can be just the ticket for triggering cold water ’eyes.
Medium sized minnows like fatheads, rainbow chubs,
or shiners are perfect for tipping a jig. All will do the job but the
shiner has the edge when faced with dark water conditions. The extra
flash a shiner can provide seems to get more attention from deeper, dark
Round headed jigs like a Northland Fireball in
sizes ¼ to 3/8oz are the way to go. To tip the jig run the hook through
the mouth and out the top of the minnow as far behind the head as you
can. This method will help hold the minnow in place, especially
when it’s exposed to the rigors of vertical jigging. A little twist on
vertical jigging includes replacing the jig with a Buckshot Rattle
Spoon, the very same bait you would use for ice fishing. Instead of
the rhythmic lift and drop, the Buckshot requires more of a snapping
motion to be effective.
If you can legally fish with another line you may
want to deploy a live bait rig on a “dead rod”. A dead rod is nothing
more than a rod rigged up and in the water but resting in a holder,
instead of your hand. It’s difficult to concentrate on more than one
jigging rod, and the dead rod let’s you effectively fish two baits at
the same time. Longer softer action rods in the seven to eight foot
range are recommended, like St. Croix’s Legend Series 7’6” spinning rod
model TWS76MLF. In most cases you’ll know when the dead rod has been
hit when it doubles over. Instead of letting a fish run you’re usually
better off setting the hook immediately. The long rod can buy you some
valuable time, time that may allow a fish to fully engulf the bait
before it feels an unnatural resistance and rejects it.
All of the aforementioned minnows can be effective
when used with a live bait rig but if they’re available you can’t beat a
red tail chub. Red tails elicit viscous strikes from every species of
top of the line predators. I don’t know if it’s love or hate, but
whatever the reason they really hit red tails hard. They will also let
you know if there’s a predator close by. When you’re in the presence
of hungry ’eyes red tails really start pumping, trying to swim to
safety. You can see the action in the tip of your rod. If the rod
tip starts throbbing; hang on. If you don’t get hit you may want to
spend a little more time working the area over.
Look for late fall walleye fishing to become more
and more consistent the closer you get to ice-up. Some of my best days
have occurred when the lake I was fishing had a thin layer of ice
starting to develop in the shallower bays. Another attractive aspect
of late season angling is the fact that you can have an entire lake to
yourself, and that’s as good as it gets.