Minnesota Outdoorsman - Minnesota Fishing and Hunting Reports
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Don't overlook weed walleyes in fall


jim-edlund-tip-steve-pennaz-target-walleye-160930

"The combination of still-green weeds and wind were a baitfish magnet."

by Jim Edlund

Some of early fall's best (and overlooked) walleye fishing can happen in or near weeds. But not just any weeds — they have to be green — as in alive, and still producing oxygen and attracting baitfish. .

"Lake Commandos" TV host Steve Pennaz discovered this first-hand while recently fishing the glacial lakes of northeastern SD.

"We saw numerous boats working the deeper breaks and basin with spreads of cranks on boards. We decided to do something different and look shallower, primarily because we were shooting a multi-species show."

Pennaz and guest Colonel Scott St. Sauver worked shallow flats for the first couple hours of the day with just one fish to show for it.

"Then we hit a narrow stretch of a sunken island with grass on top and breaking quickly into deep water on both sides.  It produced four bites in a short period. We didn't get another bite until we reached a second area that was also narrow, had grass, and broke quickly into deep water. It produced three fish.

"And here's what cool about digital mapping like Garmin's Lake Vu. When I studied the areas that produced fish the similarities stood out, so I looked for other spots like it, including shoreline-connected areas.

"One stretch on the windward side of the lake broke quickly into deep water. We started pitching in that area and found still-green shallow grass — a mix of thin-bladed vegetation, coontail, and what I call 'South Dakota cabbage' in 8-12 feet."

"Pitching down wind or directly into the wind was key. The current formed by the wind was moving the weeds around so casting parallel to the weeds cut down on hanging up.

"We used 10-lb. fluoro leaders tied to 10-lb Nanofil superline also helped slice through the salad and facilitated long-distance casts."

pennaz-baits-weed-walleyes-160930Pennaz' multi-species program involved throwing 2.5" Berkley Power Tubes, small swimbaits, and 4" Gulp! Minnows on 1/8- and 1/4-oz jigs. Soon he and St. Sauver were catching fish, each of the walleyes 20″ or better.

"Wasn't just walleyes, either. We found a number of big crappies and bass in the same weeds. My guess is the combination of still-green weeds and wind were a baitfish magnet, a multi-species buffet."

"The tendency in the post-summer and fall period is to head to deeper water, but don't overlook whatever green weeds you can find — especially after turnover when water temperatures and oxygen levels equalize throughout the entire lake. There are times when walleyes can be found in ultra-shallow water and weeds, even during the day."

jig minnow walleye

Photo by Bill Lindner

 

LEECHES VS. MINNOWS VS. NIGHTCRAWLERS

 
By: Greg Bohn, the Master of Slip Bobber Fishing:
 

Slip bobber rigging is simply a live bait delivery system. The most perfect rig will be worthless if your minnow, leech, or nightcrawler doesn't look attractive. It won't entice a bite. As a result, taking care of bait and hooking it properly are critical. If the bait is dead or sick-looking, you'll spend all day staring at bobbers.
 

I'm often asked how I decide what live bait to use. Contrary to popular thought, choosing a minnow, leech or worm isn't based solely on the season. The decision actually rests more on water temperature, and that can change from day-to-day or even hour-to-hour. Water can be cold in the morning and warmer at noon, especially in spring. I've had guide trips when minnows worked in the early morning onto to have walleyes switch their preference to leeches by mid-day after the water temperature rose a few degrees. Always have at least two kinds of baits in the boat to be safe.
 

Surface temperature can be misleading. Water is far colder one or two feet off the bottom where the bait is than on the surface, which warms as the day progresses. Check the temperature in late afternoon for the most accurate reading.
 

With that said, there are some rules of thumb. For example, minnows are typically a cold-water bait. They're the choice from opening day when water is 40 to 50 degrees until the temperature reaches 60 to 64 degrees.
 

Leeches become number one by May and produce well through summer to October.
 

Nightcrawlers have their place, but it isn't around panfish-infested weed beds in July. However, crawlers work well on deeper structures such as humps and rock bars, sand bars and after dark when water is 65 to 80 degrees.

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CATCH FALL FISH ON JIGS

by Bob Jensen

 

There are lots of signs that fall is not far away. You can listen to the locusts at night, notice that the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler, or you can just look at the calendar. No doubt, another fall is starting to make its entrance. That excites many anglers, because in the mind of many very successful anglers, fall is the best time of the year for fishing. And to many of those same anglers, jigs are the way to catch fall fish. Jigs might not be our first choice if bigger fish are what we're after, but when it comes to catching numbers, jigs are the ticket. And don't misunderstand, big fish will eat jigs. But there are a lot of different styles of jigs, from the generic roundhead jig to a good number of specialty jigs. Here are some ideas for selecting and using jigs to catch fall fish.

First we need to determine what species of fish we're going to be chasing. In the Midwest, walleyes are what most anglers would like to catch. We'll be tipping our jigs with either minnows or plastic much of the time. When using minnows, redtails are great when you can get them, although I've done very well in some situations with four inch sucker minnows. Shiners are the best choice in some lakes, and if you just want to catch a bunch of fish, fatheads are probably the way to go, but get the biggest ones you can find.

I really like Fire-Ball® Jigs when using minnows. Fire-ball Jigs have a short shank/wide gap hook. Put the hook in the minnow's mouth and out the back of its head. By doing so, we get outstanding hook-up percentages, and the minnow stays on the jig longer. The minnow's lips are right up against the jig head.

Another jig that's really been getting the attention of avid jiggers is the new Swivel-Head Jig from Northland Fishing Tackle. The hook isn't molded into this unique jig, it's attached with a swivel. The hook is completely free to move, so the minnow can move more also. It has a stand-up head, so it can be fished slowly. The Swivel-Head Jig is catching fish when others don't.

If you choose to use plastic, and more and more walleye anglers are, try a Rock-It Jig. It has a longer, sharper hook and a holder that keeps the plastic from sliding down the hook. It also has a stand-up head so it can be hopped or ripped along the bottom very effectively.

Now for largemouth bass. If you just want to get bit, go with a jig/plastic combo: Use a five or six inch plastic worm and fish the weedline.

But if you want to focus on the biggest bass, go with a rubber-legged jig with bulky plastic. The Jungle Jig is an outstanding jig of this style. Work it along the deep weeds, but also swim it in the deeper reeds. If you can locate clumps of coontail in deep water, try making short pitches to the clumps. I've had some memorable days fishing deep clumps of coontail.

From now until ice-up, if you put your jig in front of a fish, the chances of that fish eating it are very good. This fall, if you have to choose between raking leaves or going fishing, go fishing. You'll be glad did.

PHOTO CAPTION—Mike Frisch catches lots of walleyes like this one on jigs in the fall.

To see all the most recent episodes of the Fishing the Midwest television series, new fishing related tips, and fishing articles from the past, got tofishingthemidwest.com If you do Facebook, check us out for a variety of fishing related things.

How to Load the Boat With Giant Fall Crappies

A Midwest pro shares his one-two combination for nailing trophy fall crappies.
Article by Mark Modoski
 
fall crappie fishing,
Photo by Keith Sutton

Fall can be the best time of year for big crappies. 

When early-fall water temperatures drop into the mid 50s, crappies go on a feeding tear, gorging to put on weight for winter. "There's no better time of year to hammer trophy-size slabs," says Scott Smith of Crappie Xtreme guide service in Illinois. To capitalize on their ultra-aggressive feeding behavior, Smith hits crappies with a one-two punch of spider rigging and vertical jigging. But which tactic scores the knockout depends on where you find the fish. 

Load Up on Suspenders
Fall crappies often suspend in open water, chasing schools of baitfish. To target them, Smith uses a spider rig, which gets its name from the eight rods extending off the front of the boat—in Smith's case from a pair of Driftmaster rod holders that accept four rigs each. He deploys 10-foot crappie rods matched with small spinning reels spooled with 4- to 8-pound-test. Small crappie tubes work well, but Smith's go-to are live minnows, which he rigs on a 3⁄32-ounce jighead with a 1⁄4-ounce weight fixed about 18 inches above the bait. 

Fan the rods across the bow with the tips 5 to 10 inches above the water and lines dropped at various depths, depending on where you're marking crappies. Move the boat ever so slowly—​1⁄4 to 1⁄2 mph—with the trolling motor. The spider rig creates the illusion of an entire school of baitfish swimming together. 

Win on Points
If the fish aren't yet suspended, Smith jigs vertically over brushpiles in 10 to 12 feet of water, focusing on cover at or near the top of a break, which he says holds the largest numbers of good fish. He keeps working over brush until he hits a crappie. "They school this time of year, so if you find one, you've likely found a bunch more." Smith's jig of choice is a  1⁄8-ounce pink jighead tipped with a Southern Pro tube; he varies the color to see what works best that day. If wind or current make it tough to keep tubes over the sweet spot, he'll step up to a 3⁄16-ounce jighead. When he gets a bite, Smith simply lifts the fish out of the water and into the boat. By not taking in line with the reel, he ensures the bait falls to the same depth on the next drop—right back into the hungry school.

Bottom Bouncers for walleye

Few things in life work as well as a bottom bouncer, making it pretty much the ultimate sinker for walleye fishing. The wire "leg" common to all bouncer styles allows your sinker to crawl up and over snags. Bouncers deflect off boulders (ideal for rocky Canadian lakes) and scratch across sand. Just clip on a livebait or spinner snell, add livebait, and you're all set.
 
All bouncers self-adjust, depthwise, meaning that when depth changes (within reason), you sinker automatically runs a little deeper or shallower to compensate. The only thing that changes is the angle of your line extending downward.
 
In short, bottom bouncers sort of do most of the thinking for you, keeping your bait or lure in the fish zone, a few inches above bottom. So much so, that anglers often simply set their rods in rod holders, drift or troll along at the proper speed, and wait for the rod to bend. The trick is not jumping the gun and grabbing the rod out of the holder at the first indication of a bite. Rather, wait for it to bend, then throb, indicating that a walleye is firmly attached at the other end of the line.
 
Expensive, high-graphite-content bass rods tend to be too stiff, bending only near the tip when a fish bites. A rod that loads up too quickly telegraphs its presence to fussy fish, and they're likely to drop the bait. Better yet is a softer, medium action walleye rod that bends through the midsection until it loads, giving walleyes ample time to suck in the bait. Seven to 7 ½-footers are about right.
 
So are small thumbar casting reels, spooled with 10- to 12-pound test durable monofilament line. Depressing the thumbar with your thumb releases additional line to compensate for depth changes. Some automatically reengage once you take your thumb off the thumbar, preventing the necessity of reaching over with your other hand to reengage the spool. They allow you to fish two rods simultaneously, or to keep one hand on the tiller motor while trolling.
 
Traditional v-shaped, "safety pin" bottom bouncers that evolved on the Missouri River system are ideal for presenting spinner rigs or livebait snells up to about 3 ½ to 4 feet in length. Any longer, and the bait tends to drag on the bottom. Some bouncers constructed a foot or more in length position your bait farther off bottom. Nice for fishing; tougher to store in your tackle box.
 
Slip bouncers combine the best aspects of snag-free presentation with the ability to feed line to a tentative walleye on the strike, allowing a few more seconds before you sweepset the rod forward to set the hook. Most are straight, rather than v-shaped, to fit in tackle boxes. Many attach to your line via an easy on-off clevis or coiled wire end that allows you to change sinker sizes without retying.
 
In most instances, 1 ½- to 2-ounce bouncers do the trick for shallow to moderate depth walleye presentations, drifting or trolling from ½ to 1 ½ mph. You can run a shallow-diving minnowbait behind bouncers at slightly faster speeds; just be aware that diving lures may be scratching bottom.
 
For deep, intensely slow, teasing livebait presentations, 3-ounce bouncers match nicely with what's termed a "slow death" presentation, using a half-nightcrawler threaded onto a kinked, light-wire Aberdeen hook. The crawler ever-so-slowly spins or flops as you inch along, tantalizing fussy walleyes into striking.

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