Jigging for Autumn Walleye
By Tim Allard*
Autumn can be a bitter-sweet season when it comes to fishing. Early
fall's a period of transition when walleye move from summer haunts
to deeper, winter holding areas. Patterning them during their
travels can be challenging. The good news, however, is by mid to
late fall walleye are often concentrated in predictable areas.
Locating these fish will deliver steady action as they feed steadily
to bulk up for the winter.
The Virtues of Going Vertical
A fundamental advantage of vertical jigging is precision.
With proper boat control and the right vertical presentation you can
dissect specific structures whether fish are belly-to-bottom on a
hunger strike or cruising and voraciously hunting. Sometimes too
jigging is also the only option because of space constraints. Spots
on small rivers, zones with quickly varying depths, or crowded
community holes are examples when trollingís may not be practical.
I must admit I have a weak spot for jigging, but itís important not
to gamble with success and use this method exclusively - you've got
to know when to troll them. If boat control is a challenge you might
be better off trolling. Walleye are also a fickle breed and what
turns them on one day might not be as effective jigging. Even though
jigging can be a deadly tactic, accept that in late autumn a
wide-wobbling crankbait is also a consistent producer and sometimes
the better presentation.
Rivers are excellent fall fisheries as walleye make
predictable moves as winter approaches and turn overís non-existent.
Current is a key ingredient to walleye whereabouts. Expect walleye
to move out of shallow stretches and slip into deep holes and slack
water areas close to fast-moving water. Some productive river spots
are found downstream of islands, rocky reefs, bridge abutments,
bars, or points.
Holes around eddies are particularly hot in autumn. These typically
form around river bends, however, main channel obstructions (whether
visible or submerged) will also create these swirling walleye
magnets. Wash-out holes like those found below culverts or beneath
dams are other common fall gathering areas.
be sure to fish river tributaries, particularly the deeper drop off
that often leads into the main river channel. Balls of baitfish
stack up here and walleye schools are never far away. This leads to
an important point: forage is a critical factor in fish location.
Certain areas may appear good bets when reviewing a map but they can
be a bust without bait. If you think you've found good structure but
aren't marking baitfish on your sonar and haven't boated any
walleye, it's time to fire up the outboard and locate the Marble Eye
Lakes: The Later the Better
Lakes provide excellent autumn walleye fishing. Shallow, fertile
lakes that don't stratify will steadily produce throughout autumn.
Large, deep lakes, however, are better after turnover once walleye's
deep-water patterns are established.
Look to classic structures for walleyes on lakes, including points,
saddles between islands or reefs, and humps. Focus on the nuances of
these structures, like rock piles or an uprising in depth. Finding
smaller fingers off of structures will also hold walleye as they
serve as routes for travel. Also, be on the lookout as well for
inside or outside contour bends in breaklines. The deep weed edge
and drop off of large, fertile bays are other reliable autumn
hotspots on lakes.
Heavy Metal Heroes
A good rule of thumb when vertical jigging in autumn is
beginning with larger baits and an aggressive tempo. When walleye
are rising up off bottom to crush a bait on its initial drop itís
the sign fish are active. You'll still catch fish jigging slowly,
but you'll catch more by increasing the pace. Generally too, bulkier
baits catch bigger fish in autumn. For hostile walleye I use baits
between 3/8- to 1-ounces. Jigging spoons are well matched to probe
the deep haunts of autumn walleye. Plus, a spoon's thin profile
helps it quickly sink into the strike zone, while its bottom hook
also provides an excellent hook-up ratio. Iím particularly fond of
rattling models to attract fish.
Jigging minnows are another quality autumn bait. Their lifelike
profile and dying-minnow arc action appeal to ravenous walleye. In a
similar vein, bladebaits also work well in fall. Their tinny, tight
vibes drive walleye wild, attracting fish and evoking reaction
It's a good idea to carry all of these bait styles as walleye can
have profile preferences. Remember too that strikes often replicate
the action intensity of your offering. So if you're jigging with the
gusto of a java addict (which works when walleye are turned on) be
ready for hard strikes.
Jigging spoons, swimbaits and blade baits can also be presented on
more toned down jigging sequences with lazy lifts and slow drops. Be
sure to add subtle shakes to your jigging sequences to trigger hits.
Any of the raise-drop-hold moves you'd use to present these
offerings beneath the ice work well in autumn's cold water.
Seduce Fickle Fish with Jigs
In an ideal world walleye would always be in an
antagonistic fervour but sadly this isn't reality. When fish are
inactive, forget about flamboyant and flashy and go with the more
refined action of a jig. When fish are fussy my go-to bait is a
bucktail jig tipped with a nose-hooked minnow or Gulp! Alive! Leech
or Minnow to boost the offering's profile and its olfactory appeal.
I have all the confidence in bucktails to convert scrutinizing
walleye into snackers. In the water the jig's hair comes alive in a
seductive sway like a model's mane in a shampoo commercial. When
fish are biting light outfit the rig with a stinger hook. Other good
fall jigging baits include big soft-baits like lizards, tubes, jumbo
leeches, jerk shads, and a grub and live minnow combination.
Most often I raise and lower the jig on controlled slack in autumn.
Adding short snaps and hops do well to attract fish. Shakes and
pauses will regularly instigate strikes.
Autumn fishing action gets going as the tree leaves start falling
and by the time the first flurries arrive walleye are often holding
in predictable late-autumn areas. The season can be tumultuous when
it begins, but late fall can deliver some of the best fishing of the
year and vertical jigging will deliver consistent and quality
Robins Walleye - G. Loomis Pro Staff, Wally Robins, with a late
autumn walleye taken on a jig.
Storm ThunderBlade - Storm Luresí ThunderBlade is a dynamite
vertical jigging bait for cold-water Ďeyes.
*Tim Allard of Ottawa, Ontario is a
hard-water expert and author-photographer of the newly released
book, Ice Fishing: The Ultimate Guide. For more information visit:
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