John Beyer of Pontiac landed a beautiful 7-pound walleye while he was fishing for crappies recently with his friend Jo Kilgore of Pontiac at Lake Bloomington.
They targeted a rocky shoreline drop-off near East Bay Camp in 5 to 9 feet of water with deeper water nearby and reeled in several 10-inch crappies.
The pair used slip-bobber rigs tipped with minnows to entice the fish to bite.
Their fish weren’t alone. Two hours after leaving the spot, they bumped into two bass fishermen at the boat ramp who saw the walleye come to the net. They fished through the area and landed a beautiful 8-pound bass.
If you’re a thinking angler who wants that kind of success for yourself, you’ve got to pause and ask yourself two questions: Why there? Why then?
As for location, walleyes and other predators start moving toward the structure with steeper drop-offs adjacent to deep water. That lets them move only a short distance to travel from the safety of the depths to shallow feeding shelves.
As for timing, fall is big fish time. The trophies that were hard to find in summer become vulnerable while they go on a feeding binge to bulk up for winter. In reservoirs with walleye populations like Lake Bloomington and Shelbyville, check the steeper banks in autumn rather than the gradual sloping structure that produced in spring.
The same general movements hold true for the walleye’s cousin, the saugeye, which inhabit Evergreen and Dawson lakes. (Dawson still hosts some big walleyes that remain after the change to saugeye stockings a few years ago.)
Beyer and Kilgore used one of the best methods to target the fish. Slip bobber rigs allow anglers to quickly change the depth of the minnow to stay within that foot or two of the bottom that produces this time of year.
Start with an 8- to 10-pound main line and slide on a thread-style bobber stop. They allow depth adjustments when needed and they don’t nick the line like other styles can do. Use a stop made in a color you can see. You’ll want to be certain the float slides up to meet the stop each time you cast. That’s the only way you can know the bait is where you want it to be. Thread on a red glass bead and a good slip bobber that won’t stop on the line. Tie on a barrel swivel and add a 2-foot leader of line lighter than the main. If you get snagged, you can break off the leader without losing the whole rig. The business end should be a 5/16th-ounce jig or a bleeding red hook with a red glass bead above it.
Take several sizes of minnows but don’t be afraid of using big ones this time of year to match the size of baitfish in the lakes. You might get fewer strikes, but the ones you get might be the biggest walleyes and saugeye of the year.