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Fall fishing for game fish


A large pike, caught on a spoon.

A large pike, caught on a spoon.

by Jack Payne

Fall fishing is a tale of opposites. Early fall you will find fish in their summer haunts, then as the evenings cool they will move shallower. Near the end of October many game fish can be found very shallow, almost on the shoreline feeding on frogs, as the frogs make their migration for the winter.

Once the fall frog or shallow water bite dies down, then the deep water and steep breaklines produce. Quick drop-offs near a large feeding flat are good bets. Sharp breaks that are close to any remaining green weeds are a sure thing.

Where the baitfish goes, so goes the game fish. Sometimes this means suspended fish, other times very deep water and on those Indian Summer days you might enjoy shallow water fishing.

Big baits become more popular in the fall and, as the water cools, a slower speed is needed. Walleye anglers often go with 3-5 inch minnows on spinners or jigs. Bass anglers step up to the magnum size worms early in the fall and then possible a shorter but heavier profile bait as late fall takes hold. Pike feast on large baits and are suckers for slow wobbling bait or lure.

A good bass and pike bait would be the Stopper Spinner Bait in the 3/8 ounce size. When the fish moves deep, try vertically jigging the spinner and add a piece of pork or a plastic tail to increase the bulkiness of the lure. By all means fish it slow.

Another dandy fall pike lure would be the Swim Whizz. The Swim Whizz has two depths setting to select from. One lure can be used while fishing over and along a cabbage weedbed and then over a deep water rock pile or a deep water flat. It is also fabulous alongside of a deep drop-off.

Our best fall walleye lure is the Jig Heads from Stopper lures. Most often we grab the two tone colored heads in the 3/8 or the ΒΌ ounce heads. If the fish are shallow then a 1/8 ounce head works great. Depths deeper than ten feet go with a heavier head.

We tip the head with meat unless the bite is strong and fast. Active fish that are hammering the jig will devour plastic tails. Slow action or under a typical fall cold front requires a more stealth approach and a large minnow worked vertically over a school of walleye is the ticket. The heavier jig heads work best in keeping the bait near the bottom.

Fall smallmouth bass love minnows. Smallmouth bass enjoy hanging around steep drop-offs and deeper water. A jig bounced along the base of the drop-off with a lively large minnow is virtually impossible for a bass to pass on.

Walleye and bass anglers can also use the Double Drop Fly rigs from Stopper Lures. As the name indicates this rig is set up with two flies and ready to be vertically bounced over deep water structure.

Fall fishing locations can change by the day. Do not waste time in one location unless certain of the results. We check the weed line quickly for active fish and we check the muddy areas to see what the frogs are doing.

If the fish are shallow, then casting a spinner or a Swim Whizz might do the trick. A small jig head with a minnow rarely fails. If the fish are deeper, then a slow drift or the use of the trolling motor while vertically jigging either a Double Drop Fly rig or the jig and minnow combo works great.

If the fish are scattered then trolling a Swim Whizz or a spinner works best. Just remember to fish slowly. Fall fishing produces the largest fish of the year with minimal fishing pressure.

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