Fall for trophy walleyes
Fishing the Midwest
I’ve had the opportunity to fish in many areas across North America, from Ontario and Manitoba in the north to Florida in the south. I’ve been able to participate in lots of memorable bites, for big fish and for numbers of fish. But when I think about it, and I think about it a lot, if the remainder of my fishing trips could take place in only one geographic area, it would be in the Midwest, not only for numbers, but also for size and variety. Simply put, the Midwest offers the best fishing overall that an angler could ask for. You might catch bigger bass in the south and bigger walleyes in some of the rivers close to the West Coast. But many anglers who are familiar with what the Midwest has to offer believe that, in terms of fishing, it’s pretty hard to beat what’s close to home for people who live here in “fly-over” country. Many of those people like to catch walleyes. They like the eater-sized walleyes, but the big one, the truly big one, is often the goal. Now and for the next few weeks, the odds of attaining that goal is as good as it gets. Following are some ideas for catching a truly big walleye.
Anglers are catching more big walleyes than in the past. This is in part due to more knowledge being available, but also because more fisheries are being managed to grow bigger walleyes. If you’re after a giant, spend your time on bodies of water that produce giants.
Just as some bodies of water hold big fish and others are home to lots of fish, some areas within a body of water will be better for big fish. If you’re on a spot that looks good but is only providing smaller fish, you should consider moving to another spot. It seems like big fish and smaller fish will usually hold in different areas, or they may use the same area but at different times. Every now and then you might catch a big one mixed in with the little ones, but usually big fish hang out with other big fish.
Use larger baits than you ordinarily would for walleyes. When the fish are deep, you can’t beat a jig or a live-bait rig with a redtail chub. A six incher isn’t too big: Go bigger if you can find them. You’ll be increasing your chances for a lunker walleye if you use big bait.
If you’re on a lake that has big walleyes working shallower areas like wind-blown rock piles, throw a Red-Eye Shad. This bait was designed for largemouth bass, but walleyes, especially the ones that we’re after, will readily attack it. It’s a rattling, sinking bait. Let it get close to the bottom and start with a straight retrieve. If that doesn’t get them to eat, try lifting your rod tip up and down as you retrieve it. Not a hard ripping retrieve, just a more aggressive retrieve that allows the bait to rise and fall. If walleyes are home, they’ll take the Red-Eye.
If you really want to catch a big walleye, be on the water at night. Some of the biggest walleyes that I’ve caught have come under a full moon. Deep, clear lakes will often be best when it’s dark. The walleyes are in the shallows chasing fall spawning baitfish. These are big baitfish, and it takes a big walleye to eat them. If you’re fishing a small area, cast a crankbait. If the fish are spread out over a large area, trolling will be more productive. A Lucky Shad can be very productive when it comes to walleyes. Baits that look natural can be a good place to start, but baits that are mostly chartreuse have caught lots of big ones also. Only by experimenting will you learn what they want.
The next few weeks will provide a great opportunity to catch a truly big walleye. Spend your time on lakes that produce the trophies, use larger-than-ordinary baits, and put them where the biggest walleyes are living. If you do that, you’re going to need a strong line and a big net.