Skip to main content

Searching for a Never-Ending Walleye Bite

A combination of factors can put the walleye bite into overdrive this time of year. Here's how to capitalize on the action both day and night.

Searching for a Never-Ending Walleye Bite

Photo by Dr. Jason Halfen

With fall comes an intense focus on walleye fishing throughout the Midwest. This is a magical time of year for fervent walleye anglers, when many of us covet the biggest chubs we can find at the bait shop, dig deep into our tackle boxes to find that one special stickbait that wiggles "just right" and launch the boat during the dinner hour to fish well into the night, rod tips illuminated by the light of the moon.

Rapidly cooling water temperatures, dying shallow weeds and annual movements of baitfish and perch coalesce to put large numbers of oversized walleyes into a feeding mood. Indeed, walleyes can be tempted to strike by day and by night. Double-check your navigation lights, buckle your life jacket, fill the thermos with coffee and head to your favorite lake armed with these time-tested tips for fall walleye success.

Walleyes By Day

A dazzling array of techniques can be applied in the pursuit of daytime walleyes in the fall. On some lakes, slow trolling crankbaits on lead-core line in deep water can yield outstanding results. On other walleye waters, ripping lipless rattle baits around deep rocks and weeds can turn heads and fill the livewell. Time and again, however, my daytime walleye pursuits include live-bait rigging with supersized chubs and snap-jigging with Rapala Jigging Raps and similar lures.

Throughout the Midwest, fall walleyes can be found concentrated along steep breaklines and around deep humps and sunken islands during the daytime hours. Typical depths will be in the 25- to 35-foot range featuring a relatively hard bottom—sand, gravel or rock. Your traditional 2D sonar is a powerful tool not only for pinpointing these areas, but also the walleyes that swim there. Slowly patrol likely spots; when classic fish “arches” appear on your electronics, typically within a few feet of the bottom, you’ll have found your target.


Liven Things Up

The classic approach for deep-water walleyes in the fall is to present oversized minnows—especially creek chubs or redtails—on a live-bait rig. I begin with a 7-foot 6-inch, medium-light-power, fast-action rod equipped with a 2500-series spinning reel spooled with 20-pound-test Seaguar Smackdown in the Flash Green color pattern. On the business end of the line, I thread on a half-ounce (or larger) egg sinker, followed by a bead and a small swivel. I finish the rig with a 6-foot leader of 8-pound-test Seaguar AbrazX and a 1/0 Gamakatsu Octopus hook.


Select a large bait—6 to 8 inches certainly isn’t out of the question—and hook it carefully through the lips to keep it lively and kicking. Lower the rig to depth and pull it slowly through those arches on your sonar view using your bow-mounted trolling motor. Big minnows often telegraph an impending walleye attack. When you feel the bait quivering and shaking in fear, the fun is about to begin.

A Snappy Presentation

Snap-jigging is a more active, aggressive approach for eliciting reaction bites from these same deep-water walleyes. This presentation originated with the Rapala Jigging Rap (typically No. 7 or No. 9 in the fall). However, it is now applied equally well with similar-sized Northland Puppet Minnows and Shiver Minnows from Moonshine Lures.

Use a shorter rod for snap-jigging these lures and spool up with 8-pound-test monofilament to provide the stretch and shock absorption needed to keep big walleyes pinned to small hooks. A quality swivel linking the mono main line and a 12- to 18-inch fluorocarbon leader is a necessity to prevent the line twist inherent with these lures’ erratic darting actions. Sharply sweep the rod upward and allow the lure to fall back to the bottom on a slack line. Often, when you repeat this snap-jigging motion, you’ll set the hooks into a walleye that struck as the lure fell.

MidwestWalleyes
Fall walleyes tucked into remnant weedbeds can often be triggered by realistic swimbaits when other presentations fail. (Photo by Dr. Jason Halfen)

Walleyes By Night

While daytime walleye presentations can vary widely, our toolbox for chasing walleyes at night is more focused. In my experience, the most productive—and fun—way to target walleyes under the autumn stars is to troll shallow-running crankbaits along and adjacent to nearshore structure. This is an exciting bite I eagerly look forward to every year, planning multiple trips to lakes with good water clarity throughout the Midwest.

Where to Prowl

Let’s begin by discussing likely places to find fall walleyes at night. Outside weed edges are usually at the top of my list. Rock-and-gravel flats follow closely as a second choice. Productive depths can extend to 12 feet. However, fish more commonly tend to hang out in the 4- to 8-foot range.




Frequently, key areas will be quite close to shore, where cabin and dock lights can concentrate large numbers of aggressive walleyes. Current-influenced areas near inlets or outlets are also fairly important spots to key on this time of year. This is particularly true later in the fall as lake shiners run into rivers and streams.

Gear Up

Make some targeted investments in the right equipment for night trolling to make the experience more productive and enjoyable. Start with quality, dedicated trolling rods with medium power and a soft, moderate action. Add line-counter reels to precisely monitor the length of line separating rod tip and lure. Spool up with a smooth, eight-strand braided line like 30-pound-test Seaguar Smackdown in the Stealth Gray color pattern. Add a cross-lock snap with a Palomar knot and connect directly to your lure. A leader is generally not needed when trolling beneath the moonlight.

Limit your crankbait selection to lures that run relatively shallow. I carry two basic body shapes: shad-style lures, which tend to be more effective during early fall when water temperatures are in the 60s and 50s, and long, minnow-style lures, which are typically preferred as lakes cool into the 40s. Rapala Shallow Shad Raps (No. 7) and Husky Jerks (No. 12) can serve as the nucleus of your night-trolling arsenal. Add some Rapala Scatter Rap Minnows, Smithwick Rattlin’ Suspending Rogues and LiveTarget Rainbow Smelt jerkbaits to round out your collection. Carry a variety of colors, including bright, dark, natural and metallic patterns, and be willing to experiment from night to night—and even hour to hour—to pin down the most productive lure profile, color and action.


Set a Speed

Boat speed is a critical piece of the night-trolling puzzle. Resist the temptation to just drop the kicker in and go. Your trolling speed should be closely correlated with water temperature.

A good starting speed for night trolling, assuming water temperatures are in the low- to mid-50s, is 1.6 to 1.8 miles per hour. If your favorite waters are warmer, then a speed closer to 2 mph might be appropriate. Likewise, if a mid-week cold front has knocked the water temperature down a bunch, be prepared to go slower.

Picking Sticks

Rod selection tips for night trolling.

Quality trolling rods need to be sensitive to easily detect the presence of debris that might impact lure action, so select rods with full-graphite construction. Medium-power rods won’t overpower smaller fish, and a moderate action will provide a measure of shock absorption when dealing with a big fish on braided line.

Rod length is key to preventing baits from getting tangled. If I’m pulling a total of 4 lures, I’ll position two long rods—10- to 12-footers—perpendicular to the gunwales. These are my “outside” rods. The other anglers in my boat will use shorter rods, typically in the 7-foot range, and they’ll present their lures just outside the back corners of the boat. These serve as the “inside” rods.

Eyecon trolling rods from St. Croix are an excellent choice for night trolling. I use 10-foot outside rods and 7-foot inside rods. ($140–$160; stcroixrods.com)

Northern ’Eyes

Three fantastic fall walleye bites in the upper Midwest.

Excellent October walleye fishing can be found throughout the region. Here are three prime destinations that each offer something a little different from the others.

1. LAKE OF THE WOODS | Baudette, Minn.

The vast expanse of Lake of the Woods, straddling the Minnesota-Ontario border, is a year-round walleye factory, with the fall months providing both excellent numbers and truly impressive sizes. Some of the biggest walleyes are taken by trolling crankbaits on lead-core line in the deep basin of Big Traverse Bay. For numbers, many anglers anchor up and jig with frozen shiners near the inlet of the Rainy River.

2. Leech Lake | Walker, Minn.

Leech Lake is a personal favorite. It offers everything that a walleye angler could want, including a tremendous daytime bite on big chubs and jigging Raps along the humps in Walker Bay, as well as hundreds of miles of shoreline that host an excellent night-trolling bite. Community trolling runs in Walker Narrows and near Pine and Stony Points attract a lot of attention—and fish.

3. Chippewa Flowage | Hayward, Wis.

The “Big Chip” doesn’t receive the fanfare that other places do, but its walleye bite can truly be sensational. Stained water means you’ll be fishing during the day, following the movement of the lake’s walleye population toward deep-basin areas as the reservoir’s water level is drawn down in preparation for winter. Classic jig-and-minnow presentations will put big numbers in the boat, while soft plastics fished slowly around the periphery of the basin’s yield.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New for 2021: Elite Archery Bows, Slick Trick Broadheads and CBE Sight

New for 2021: Elite Archery Bows, Slick Trick Broadheads and CBE Sight

Learn more about two new Elite Archery bows, the Enkore and Remedy, two new broadhead from Slick Trick and a new site from Custom Bow Equipment (CBE).

New for 2021: Mathews V3 27 & 31 Bows

New for 2021: Mathews V3 27 & 31 Bows

Bowhunter Editor Curt Wells had an exciting visit with Mark Hayes, design engineer for Mathews, as the pair looked at the new V3 27 and V3 31 bows.

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

ATA 2021 NeDuring this video from the Archery Trade Association's New Product Premiere showcase, Bowhunter's TV Mike Carney visited with Evan Williams, pro staff manager for Hoyt Archery, to learn about the new RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum and Ventum 33 bows.w Product - Hoyt

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

The Hobie MirageDrive 360 pedal propulsion system is the pinnacle of kayak control with more efficient fin designs, glide technology and allows the boat to be moved in any direction.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

From dabblers to divers, there's an Avian-X Topflight decoy for every duck hunter.Deceive Ducks with Ultra-Realistic Decoys SHOT Show

Deceive Ducks with Ultra-Realistic Decoys

Game and Fish Staff - December 10, 2020

From dabblers to divers, there's an Avian-X Topflight decoy for every duck hunter.

New for 2021, the 4MM AXIS will offer bowhunters even more of what they want in a micro-diameter arrow.Easton Archery Rolls Out 4MM AXIS Long-Range Arrows Bows

Easton Archery Rolls Out 4MM AXIS Long-Range Arrows

Game and Fish Staff - November 23, 2020

New for 2021, the 4MM AXIS will offer bowhunters even more of what they want in a...

The Havoc RS440 XERO, Havoc RS440 and Siege RS410 bring cutting-edge tech to your hunt.New for 2021 from TenPoint Crossbows Crossbows

New for 2021 from TenPoint Crossbows

Game and Fish Staff - December 29, 2020

The Havoc RS440 XERO, Havoc RS440 and Siege RS410 bring cutting-edge tech to your hunt.

It may be 125 years old, but the .30-30 Winchester retains its status thanks to modern loads.Turning .30-30; It's Better Than Ever SHOT Show

Turning .30-30; It's Better Than Ever

Richard Mann - October 27, 2020

It may be 125 years old, but the .30-30 Winchester retains its status thanks to modern loads.

See More Trending Articles

More Walleye

Habitat changes across some of the Midwest's finest walleye waters have negatively affected populations of the iconic species. What can anglers do to help?What's Going On With Walleyes? Walleye

What's Going On With Walleyes?

Scott Mackenthun - June 17, 2020

Habitat changes across some of the Midwest's finest walleye waters have negatively affected...

Walleyes often move deep in late summer; these three proven tactics will help bring them boatside.Late Summer Walleyes – 3 Deadly Tips to Catch a Limit Fishing How-To

Late Summer Walleyes – 3 Deadly Tips to Catch a Limit

Joel Nelson

Walleyes often move deep in late summer; these three proven tactics will help bring them...

Walleyes are shallower now than at most other times of the year. Go light and think simple.The Skinny on Shallow Walleyes Walleye

The Skinny on Shallow Walleyes

Matt Straw

Walleyes are shallower now than at most other times of the year. Go light and think simple.

Fishing live bait properly can be the difference between success and a long day on the ice.Go Natural with Live-Bait Presentations on Ice Fishing How-To

Go Natural with Live-Bait Presentations on Ice

Joel Nelson - February 18, 2021

Fishing live bait properly can be the difference between success and a long day on the ice.

See More Walleye

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now