by Will Stolski
Fall is one of the best times to catch walleyes…and straight-up big ones at that. The common narrative is that fish go deep, and the best way to catch ‘em is hanging big minnows…. While this is certainly true, an overlooked method is night fishing with bait from the bank.
Don’t get me wrong: Fishing from fancy boats decked-out with the latest electronics is fun, but there’s something rewarding about taking a step back and fishing from shore. And it catches big ones.
I reached out to one of my good buddies — Brainerd area guide Hays Baldwin — to get the nitty gritty on his shore-fishing approach. Hays was actually the first one to introduce me to the night-time madness and has spent countless hours dialing in this unique approach.
> Hays: “Some of the best areas have clean hard-bottom structure. Rocks are ideal, but fish will relate to sand and gravel as well.
> “If you can find a bank spot on the south end of the lake, that’s where you want to be. Heavy north winds push bait and fish into these areas.”
> “I like to fish outflow spots, whether it’s a creek mouth, culvert, anything with moving water really. Seems like these push the bait around more and make it easier for the fish to ambush.
> “It doesn’t seem like a steep drop is necessary. I actually like fishing more flat-type areas because the fish are cruising at night looking for an easy meal.”
> “Longer spinning rods generally work best — I’m bombing casts so some extra tip helps. A 7′ 6” medium, fast-action is perfect.
> “I fish a variance of a basic bottom rig: 20-lb braid mainline to a 3-5′ 12-lb mono leader with a 1/0 octopus hook. For my sliding dropper, I use a 2′ piece of 12-lb mono to a 2-oz cannon ball weight…allows the weight to slide up and down the line — that way when a fish picks up a bait they can run with it freely.”
> “After making a cast and getting the line tight, I set the rod up in the rod holder. Budget-friendly spiral rod holders [like Berkley Spiral Rod Holders] work just fine. As long as it holds the rod steady and doesn’t let it get pulled in, it’ll work.
> “I tape a glow stick to the tip of the rod so I can visually see if the tip moves. I dial the drag as loose as I can get away with. When I do get a bite, I try to get to the rod quickly and open the bail to feed line.
> “I fish big chubs pretty much exclusively…4-6” redtails or creek chubs are perfect.
> “Having a good spotlight or headlamp is probably the most important piece of equipment.”