MOBILITY THE KEY
For anglers trying to zero in on fall walleye in natural lakes, covering water can be a real key. While there will always be a certain percentage of the walleye population in current, some of the most untapped areas are deep weed edges in combination with extensive sand, marl flats. These areas will hold a multitude of food options for walleye. This could include minnows, crayfish, insect larvae and perch. One of the most effective ways to locate these fish is by trolling. When you do this, you have a few options, my two favourite being crankbaits along with bottom bouncers and spinners.
On these sand flats you will usually find these scattered weed clumps in water 10 to 15 deep. By long line trolling a medium diving crankbait like a #7 Flicker Shad you can cover water and trigger strikes. If the fish are a bit more finicky or the weeds a bit denser, switching over to a bottom bouncer/spinner combination can be the ticket.
The bottom bouncer/spinner combination is also way more versatile when it comes to fishing reservoirs that have sunken timber like a Tobin Lake. With any presentation it pays to experiment when it comes to blade size, shape and colour. One of the keys though, is make sure that the spinner is up off the bottom when fishing heavier weeds or sunken lumber. This will cut down on snags but also allow the fish to see the bait a bit better. A lot of times walleye in these areas will be off the bottom, roaming for forage. This is especially the case with a good walleye chop or overcast conditions.
When trolling spinners, speed is also a big factor. I prefer trolling about 1.1 to about 1.7 miles an hour. Sometimes this cannot be achieved with the big motor so using your front troll motor is the equalizer. If you don’t have one, you can adjust the speed by then putting your big motor in and out of gear. A change of speed in most cases is a good thing. This will allow your bait to slow down, then dart forward, triggering strikes in the process.
Bottom bouncer fishing is an art in itself. One of the keys in presentation is to keep the bottom bouncer at a 45 degree angle behind the boat. I first was introduced to bottom bouncing in 1982 at the Payless Fishing Tackle Pro Am on Big Lac Du Bonnet. Bob Probst, who was at the time one of the best walleye anglers in the world, put on a clinic during that event, something I will never forget.
I have had many a spectacular day using this pattern, once the fish were located and the presentation keyed in. Don’t think this is a small fish pattern, many a large walleye can be caught using this technique. In 1989 my partner and I won the Premiers Cup Walleye tournament trolling bottom bouncer and spinner baits with the current. In this case we used huge blades and nightcrawlers to present a particularly large profile to big aggressive fish.
As September moves into October, the walleye can move deeper or shallower and anywhere in between. It pays to start shallow for active fish, then gradually look out deeper. When you do find fish schooled in smaller areas, it can sometimes pay dividends to put the spotlock down on your front troll motor (OR ANCHOR) and work the area by fan casting with jigs or jigging spoons as well as vertical jig.
When the fish are a little off, the vertical trigger is sometimes the key. This involves a stationary hold, then a small twitch to trigger bites. On the other end of the spectrum, a jigging rap or jigging spoon fished aggressively can make a difference. As is always the case, it pays to be versatile.
Trolling is an art and I would hate to count the number of hours I have spent with the boat in gear. When long line trolling these flats, get yourself a line counter reel. You can then be precise on the amount of line you let out behind the boat. In most cases with water shallower than 15 feet you want at least 100 feet out. In lakes with clear water, sometimes it takes at least 150 feet. This can also mean a change in crankbait size, says going down to a #5 Flicker Shad from a # 7.
One other crankbait that has really had an impact with long line trollers is the Rapala Scatter Rap Glass Shad. It features a custom scatter lip that will consistently deliver erratic and evasive sweeping actions. The see-thru body takes on a realistic look as it radiates and reflects surrounding colors. While I haven’t used one yet, I will make sure to get some on the end of my line in the next couple of weeks. The larger model at 2 ¾ inches will dive to about 15 feet.
Another key when you are using these medium diving crankbaits is to have two separate line counter reels rigged with different diameter braid. To get the bait a little deeper I will use one spooled with ten pound braid. When your dealing with timber and a bit heavier weed cover, then 14-pound test is the ticket.