Brett McComas

Fall transition walleye locations and presentations

It’s 9/11 today. Trying to forgive but will never forget.

Today’s Target Walleye is a “Special Issue” jammed full of fall-transition walleye fishing tips! Some new, some old, all relevant and timely to help you track down fish on your local waters — and catch ’em!

Today’s Top 5

Snap-jigging plastics for shallow fall walleyes.

Snap-jigging has taken off in the walleye world over the last 4-5 years (thx Al!). It’s a fun way to catch ’em and really good at pulling bigger bites, especially in the fall.

I tracked down walleye nut Will Pappenfus to get the down-low on this bite ‘cuz it’s a big part of his fall rotation…and he’s clearly been putting it to good use. Full write-up here on TargetWalleye.com, few excerpts below:

Location

> “It’s definitely more of a shallow-water deal…usually less than 10′. A lot of guys go deep in the fall, but if you can find green weeds (cabbage or coontail) in 4-7′ there’s going to be fish and bait hanging around.

> “Aside from weeds, I like to look for wind-blown points, stuff with rocks or gravel in 4-10′. Don’t necessarily need deep water nearby…. Fish roam around more in the fall than people think, so finding the bait is key.”

Gear

> “A 1/4-oz Northland Current Cutter Jig is my go-to. The longer shank and bait-keeper seem to keep the plastic pinned better than most jigs.

> Dress the jig with either an Impulse Core Swimbait or an AuthentX Pulse-R Paddle Tail. I usually stick with natural colors (shiner, smelt) unless the water is really stirred up, then I’ll switch to something brighter (chartreuse and pinks).”

> “Plastics ‘cuz they stay on the jig a lot better than live bait…allows me to fish faster and be more aggressive until I find a pod of fish.

> “As far as rods go, I like a 6′ 8″ M XF-action stick…that quicker action allows you to get more snap out of the jig. 10-lb braid to a 10-lb fluorocarbon leader — the leader doesn’t have to be long, 2-3′ max…fluoro because it has less stretch and visibility than mono.”

Retrieve

> “Long casts…I want that jig as far away from the boat as possible. Once it hits the water, I’m letting it sink to the bottom before I do anything — bottom contact is key.

> “Make a quick snap, then let it sit on the bottom for few seconds…a lot of times fish will be following the bait, so that 1- or 2-second pause is when they eat it.

> “If they don’t eat it on the bottom, usually that quick snap will get a reaction bite out of fish and they’ll eat it on the fall.

> “Position the boat so you can fish the edge of the structure. A lot of times fish won’t be up in the weeds or rocks, but hanging right outside of ’em waiting to ambush.”

Understand the fall turnover! 

Came across this Rick Olson write-up deeeeep within the Fishing Minnesota archives. Timely stuff — make sure you understand it!

> “As water temps reach their summer high, a layering process occurs…an upper warmer layer and a lower cooler layer — separated by a quickly changing narrow band known as the thermocline.

> “This deeper, cooler, bottom layer can quickly become totally void of oxygen…. …dead water can be a complete waste of time. …concentrate your efforts at the thermocline and shallower.

> “Fish-finders display density of objects…. The upper warmer layer is less dense than the cooler bottom layer — it’s this change in density that will show up on a graph…looks like a constant narrow band.

> “Some lakes are so shallow and windswept that they may never thermocline, like Mille Lacs…. The big lake circulates every time you get a decent wind, and the temperature remains relatively consistent from top to bottom….

> “It’s not just the fact that a lake will turn over that causes tough fishing conditions…more likely due to the rapidly-dropping water temps. The body temperature of a fish is subject to its environment — rapid changes in water temp can shut fish down…it may take some time for their body to adjust.”

> “The turnover usually coincides with the first hard frost of fall, but not always. Some years the change is so gradual that it becomes difficult to pin down. One of the indicators to look for is water temperature.

> “When surface temps drop into the lower 60s and upper 50s, you can figure you’re in the turnover zone. Walleye activity can range from bad to good depending on how quickly water temps cool off. A gradual slide can make for better fishing….

> “Late summer and early fall can be one of the best times to work the shallow rocks with Rapala Shad Raps. …the most effective crankbait for working shallow structure there is. …perfect fish-attracting wiggle and some great fall colors like ‘fire tiger’ and ‘crawdad.’

> “Another option, would be avoiding the negative effects of the turnover by trying to find a lake that hasn’t turned yet, or one that already has and had a week or 2 to settle down. The first ones to go are the shallow lakes as they have less mass and cool quicker…. There may be as much as 2 weeks difference — or more — as to when it all begins and ends.”

Base your fall cranks on water temp.

Hey fall trollers — water temps are finally starting to dip! Instead of tying on any ol’ crankbait, did you know you can use water temp to tell you which exact styles to run.

Brad Hawthorne’s logged a zillion hours pulling cranks in the fall, so it’s the first thing I asked him about when I had the chance to hop in his boat:

> He always starts early fall with #5 Rapala Shad Raps ‘cuz they’ve caught more fish than any other bait in his boat…especially while water temps are 60-65. Bump up to a #6 or #7 as temps reach the lower end of that scale.

> Once the water hits 57-62 — and the weather is cooperating — he’ll put on BIG ol’ bent-lip #9 Shallow Shad Raps. Everything is going shallow and putting the feedbag on, including perch this size….

> Original Jointed Minnows are one of his favorite overlooked fall trolling baits when temps are in the 50-57 range and fish are on the chew. They run 5-7′ outta the package, but Brad will pinch on a small splitshot up above the bait to get ’em down to the 8-10′ range.

> Frigid temps: Original Floaters are tough to beat. Brad’s caught fish on ’em in water as cold as 42 degrees. #PolarPlungeStatus

More details straight from Mr. Fall Cranky himself in this video.

Fall walleyes LOVE sand.

This can be a frustrating time of year to track down a limit of tasties. Fish are on the move, but they’ll be migrating to predictable areas and eventually schooling up hard.

 

Ted Takasaki, Scott Richardson and Greg Bohn combined forces to give us and Yoda some fall-transition secrets. Full write-up archived here, few excerpts below:

> “Baitfish will only stay in weeds as long as they’re very green. Once weeds start to die off…baitfish and walleyes start to leave those shallow-water weed areas.

> “If you’re fishing summer spots and they aren’t there, start fishing the sand. As the transition is getting underway, it’s still common to find walleyes in 15′ or less.

> “They start to move out to more open-water areas at first…sliding out around deep water: sandbars that come out from shore and drop to deeper water, sand flats, sand points and sand humps.

> “Walleyes begin to move deeper as water temps drop toward turnover (begins at 62 degrees or so). Instead of looking for fish to be on top of structures, look deeper.

> “They will be in spots like the sharper breaks or on mid-lake humps that top out at perhaps 20′, rather than 15′, or in holes in soft-bottom flats where depth drops from 15′ to 20′.

> “Walleyes become more selective about where they stage. They generally locate on a spot-on-a-spot. For example, if they’re on a mid-lake hump with scattered boulders, they will be on the boulders. If all rock, look for the patch of sand. If all sand, look for the rockpile.

> “Because more and more walleyes show up on these few spots, more and more of the lake holds no fish. It’s easy to be skunked if you don’t pay attention to subtle differences on the structure.”

More info here on the specific baits they use to target these fish.

A simple shore-fishing rig for fall ‘eyes.

You don’t need a boat to catch fall walleyes! And even if you have one, some days the wind might keep you on shore.

TW fan Will Stolski tracked down Brainerd-area (MN) guide Hays Baldwin to get the scoop on his shore-fishing approach — he’s spent countless hours dialing it in. Full tip on TargetWalleye.com, few quick-hitters below:

 

Location

> “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(ish) 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.”

Gear

> “Longer spinning rods generally work best — I’m bombing casts so some extra tip helps. A 7′ 6” M F-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 the $1.99 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.”

TargetWalleye.com Highlights

Tip of the Day

Not from the cold….

The Moonshine Shiver Minnow darts and glides like other jigging baits, but what makes it different is how well it rolls over on the drop — like baitfish do — with a bit of slack. Some also prefer its nose-forward design (with no front hook) for pitching and casting to walleyes:

 

This Next Bite write-up talks about how it’s Moonshine Shiver Minnow SZN. They basically bowhunt for walleyes…one rod, one lure, searching for big fish with their electronics before taking their shot:

> “…used to switch between Berkley FireLine and Berkley Nanofil…but now we all agree: The new Berkley Fireline Ultra-8 Carrier is a mix of the 2 lines with the smoothness of Nanofil due to the four extra carriers and the abrasion resistance and strength of the original Fireline braid.

> “In most walleye situations we use 10-lb but moving up to 14-lb is sometimes necessary for heavy cover, zebra mussels or bigger fish.

> “Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon leader material in 10-, 12- or 15-lb makes a great connection between the braid and lure. 24″ of fluorocarbon is generally enough even in clear water and greatly reduces the number of times the leader knot goes through the guides of the rod.

> “The combination of braid and fluorocarbon creates an ultra-sensitive connection between the rod and lure so the angler can sense every change in bottom composition as well as every bite.

> “The weakness in this system is that the no-stretch line and heavy lure give the angler no room for error when fighting a big fish. In this case we change out the hooks with a larger #6 Berkley Fusion19 Treble Hook for better hooking….

> “If the boat driver finds a mark and wants to cast, keep an eye on the orientation of the boat, wind and fish. Since it is common to be well offshore, it can help to watch bubbles or a specific spot in the wake of the boat while the driver maneuvers.

> “After the lure hits the bottom jig it up and immediately give the lure some slack. Keeping tension on the lure will reduce the side-to-side action that makes Shiver Minnows special…makes a huge difference in the number of bites.

> “…the right motion creates a loop of line near the rod tip and involves a solid snap at the beginning of the stroke. Similarly, if the lake bottom is covered in moss, algae, or mussels timing your jigging stroke to stay above the bottom increases bites over time.

> “Vary the height and number of jig strokes before letting the lure crash back down to the bottom. Many times, larger jumps will trigger fish but just as often this will pull the lure out of the strike zone. At the same time, fish occasionally suspend off the bottom and a larger stroke attracts their interest. Work both ends of the spectrum until a trend emerges.”

Full Next Bite write-up here.

Bonus Tip of the Day

Solid info from Brian “Bro” Brosdahl and Mike Gnatkowski in a throwback Game & Fish write-up, few snippets below:

> “Walleyes can be more difficult to find at this time of year because they’re on the move and transitioning from deeper to shallow water. You can count on the last green weeds to attract baitfish and walleyes.

> “Look for the greenest weeds you can find at the outside edge of bays that face deeper water. Eventually, those weeds die too and baitfish and panfish have to either slip off the first dropoff, or they migrate to the safety of the shallows.

> “Locate the outside and inside edge of the weeds by using your polarized glasses or your electronics. Make note of the depth where the weeds end because that should be the same all around the lake. Avoid any [weeds] that are beginning to brown.

> “Walleyes will position at different locations along the dropoff depending on conditions. They might be right on top, along the slope or at the base of the dropoff waiting to intercept minnow schools. Most times the walleyes will be at a very specific depth, but will move up and down the contour.

> “After a month or more, the migration reverses. The shallows begin to chill and fall wave action mixes and re-oxygenates the water. Walleyes can now go wherever they want. Baitfish move back to the extreme shallows and walleyes will be right on their heels.”

Meme of the Day

Hope you get to hop in the boat and cast away this weekend:

Parting Shot

Walleye = one of the best eating fish out there, but would you eat THIS one?

 

I’ll take a hard pass!

Have a great weekend and thx much for reading!

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Target Walleye — walleye during open water and all species during hardwater — is brought to you by Al and Ron Lindner, Jim Kalkofen, Brett McComas and other diehard fish-nuts like you! #fishheads
Brett McComas is the main man for Target Walleye He was discovered in Brainerd, MN after years of wondering how in the heck people break into the fishing biz. He’s in it now, but still can’t answer that question…. Brett is one of those guys who majored in marketing, only because there was no such thing as a “fishing degree” at the time…. Get him at brett@targetwalleye.com 
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