W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Sam Anderson
Changing Conditions of Fall Fishing
By Sam Anderson
A fish has two major components in its environment. They are the water that the fish lives in and the weather that is changing, not only seasonally but day to day hour to hour and minute to minute. When either the weather or water changes rapidly, a fish must have a period of time to adjust to that change, and when it is adjusting it is not in the mood to become active; its body doesn't allow it. That's when some of the toughest fishing occurs.
Specific weather conditions tend to trigger a walleye feeding frenzy. Basically it's a cold front, but there's more to it than that. The ideal conditions for catching big walleyes may come only a half-dozen times in a season. To make the most of them a fisherman must watch forecasts and the clouds and be prepared to fish one step ahead of the storm. The main concern dealing with the movement of fish is a cold front. The frequency of cold fronts vary in different parts of the country and at different times of the year. Regardless of the weather patterns in your part of the country, the cold front will have a profound effect on your fishing results.
A cold front is formed when a mass of cold dry air collides with a mass of moist warm air, pushing the warm air mass along, usually in an east to southeast direction. Cold fronts are associated with rough, unstable weather, such as a thunderstorm, squall lines, tornadoes, rain or snow.
The approaching cold front is not what bothers the fish. In fact, some fast and furious action can be had under "pre-frontal" conditions. It's what happens after the front passes through the area. Usually, after a cold front we are greeted with a drop in temperatures, a brisk wind from a westerly to northerly direction, plus a bright, blue cloudless day.
The one element that harms the fish the most is light. That's why the passing of a cold front is synonymous with poor fishing. We get an intense light condition, a bright blue sky, that will drive the fish to great depths. At these depths the fish will become very dormant and inactive.
A fish has no eyelids to block out the light. Rather than fight a bright light condition in shallow water, it will drop to a lower level seeking a darker environment.
This is not to say you can't catch fish under bright conditions. Deep water interpretation of structure and knowing where to fish deep, plus knowing how to present lures at the proper depth and speed can help offset these bad effects.
Crankbaits are a great way to find those walleyes in cold front conditions because you can cover a lot of territory and concentrate on walleyes that are active. You may catch more walleyes on live bait rigs, but you'll catch a bigger average size on crankbaits. In addition, crankbaits offer a rapid way to eliminate unproductive water. Plus, you can use the crankbait as a locator bait and then finesse them with live bait.
Two basic types of crankbaits can be used for the majority of your shallow-water walleye fishing. One is the long, thin floater diver like the Original Rapala. These have a lazy, side to side action that's attractive to walleyes. The other type is the standard, bass style crankbait. But when you choose this style, use the smaller thin crankbaits in cold front conditions. The larger models don't produce as well for walleyes. Select the smallest models that have deep-diving lips. Lures like a Shad Rap is excellent for this type of fishing. In general, use bright, visible colors like fluorescent orange or chartreuse in darker water, and subtle colors like silver, blue or black when the water is clear.
Backtrolling is a method of slowly maneuvering a boat with the outboard in reverse to achieve precise line and bait placement along a specific depth contour. This technique was designed to work with jig-and-live bait combinations, jigging spoons and bladebaits to catch walleyes. Add to this a slower presentation using a sea anchor is a cone-shaped under water wind sock, similar to those at airports that detect changes in wind direction. Drift Control sea anchors aide boat control in two ways.
First of all, they slow your drift in strong winds. Secondly, you can use them to fine-tune subtle boat maneuvers in rough seas or heavy current. Backtrolling is still one of my favorite methods to catch deep water cold front walleyes.
Weather conditions often determine walleye location, dictate presentation, and ultimately measure success, yet weather is probably one of the least understood element of the fishing equation.
If you would like to learn more about this technique or other
presentations log onto www.samanderson.com . Or if you are on a hot bite
this late fall drop me a line, I would like to hear from you.
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Since August 1, 1998