There’s a healthy chop on the water and a nip in the air. The bold yellows and reds of autumn have taken over and shoreline looks like fire. It’s a perfect time to cast a line for the Midwest’s favorite sport fish: walleye.
Like most fish species, walleye aggressively feed in the fall in preparation for winter. As the fall turnover takes place (the process where the rapidly cooling upper level of water causes lakes to churn and mix), deeper water becomes oxygenated. This opens the depths up for walleyes and they will often find deep structure for their new hunting grounds. Lures like deep diving crankbaits, jigs, and spoons are good options in this case.
In areas of the lake where the turnover hasn’t taken place yet, however, walleyes will still patrol shallower weed lines, sandbars, and points. Spinners, mid-depth crankbaits, and worms can be effective in these conditions.
With fall’s variable conditions, you need to be prepared for anything. Here are some of the lures you should make sure have in your arsenal to drive walleyes wild this fall.
Bay Du Noc Swedish Pimple Jig
This is one of my all-time favorite lures and I promise you won’t forget its name. The Swedish Pimple is a jigging spoon, well-known for its flashy sides and hallmark red trailer piece. It’s particularly effective when you’ve located deep walleye on your fish finder chasing schools of baitfish.
Jig it aggressively a foot or two off the bottom for a couple of seconds and let the lure fall. Walleye are quick to snap it up on the fall, but give a few seconds to rest before the next jigging cycle. For particularly finicky walleye, you can tip it with a minnow or leech. Go for the 1/2 ounce size.
Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow Deep Diver Walleye
For deeper walleye, trolling a Crystal Minnow Deep Diver is a great way to quickly cover water for aggressive fish. Yo-Zuri offers many unique holographic and translucent finishes that are proven to pique walleyes’ interest. The body is also cast with massive 3D eyes and several internal ball bearings for added irresistibility. The 5-1/4 inches size will get down to a maximum depth of 13 feet.
Berkley Walleye Rig
One of the most iconic walleye lures, the Berkley Walleye Rig is a type of ‘bottom bouncer’. The rig consists of a series of colorful spinners and beads, followed by two separate Octopus hooks which are typically topped with a live nightcrawler.
These rigs are called ‘bottom bouncers’ because the goal is to troll them just fast enough that you bounce the lure on the bottom and create vibration with the blades. Many walleye anglers consider this to be the way to catch walleyes.
Northland Whistler Jig
A common theme for successful walleye fishing is lure presentation on or near the bottom. The Whistler Jig is fitted with a propeller to slowly helicopter down to the bottom on the fall, creating a nice vibration as it does so.
You can fish this jig vertically, or with a slow rise and fall action during a slow troll or a cast. Tip it with a fathead minnow, crawler, or leech. 1/4 and 3/8 ounce sizes are the best choices for walleye.
Rapala Down Deep Husky Jerk
With trolling depths down to 19 feet, the Down Deep Husky Jerk really lives up to its name. The thing I love most about the Rapala Husky Jerks is that they are suspending crankbaits, meaning they will stay put after you yank them through the water.
This leaves the lure in the strike zone and lets the fish decide when to strike. A vulnerable meal is too hard to pass up for a hungry walleye.
Cotton Cordell Wally Diver
As the name implies, this crankbait was designed with walleyes in mind. Its tapered body gives it a uniquely tight wiggle as it swims that has been proven to be a walleye favorite.
Cast the Wally Diver for mid-depth fishing up to eight feet or troll it to get down to 13 feet. I love the gold shiner finish for fall fishing.
Berkley PowerBait Power Worms
Many anglers may not realize it, but a Texas-rigged worm can be a great choice for walleyes. Berkley Power Worms are the most popular plastic worm on the fishing market due to their incredibly powerful scent.
Although repugnant to people (seriously, take a whiff inside that bag), Power Worms get bites in the slowest fishing conditions. A Texas rig allows you to fish the worm as slow as you like for finicky fish in a wide range of depths.
Rapala Jigging Rap
Rapala makes quite a few more lure styles besides crankbaits and this is one of my favorites. The Jigging Rap is a great choice for deep or suspended walleye that are targeting schools of baitfish. Its plastic fins make it swim in a fluid, gliding motion as you jig it up and down.
Don’t shake your rod tip on this one. Instead, long and smooth upward pulls of six to 18 inches followed by a fall is the preferred fishing motion. Periodically give the lure a pause and wait for a hungry walleye to smash your Jigging Rap.
How do you fish for walleyes in the fall? Share your favorite lures or strategies in the comments below.