Zeeland, MI —
Fall turnover, which is the mixing and changing of the water, is taking place on many lakes.
As the air and water cools, the game fish change their locations. Some will move deep, often between 20 and 40 feet.
The sharpest drop-off in the lake will hold schools of bass and walleye. Others will find the warmest shallow water that has forage. Mud bottoms and a green coontail weedbed are prime locations. These areas often have frogs, minnows and young bluegill.
Cabbage weeds die first and the oxygen content is not as suitable to a fish. Coontail will stay green until ice-over.
These five tips will provide a nice a change in strategy that will often deliver large fish and quantities before the ice takes over.
• Tip No. 1, fish slow.
Regardless of the lure being used, a slow presentation is best. A fat plug with a short bill that has a wide wobble under a very slow retrieve is perfect. Any change in the retrieve might easily be a fish, so set the hook hard.
• No. 2, afternoons provide better fishing than mornings.
Once the sun starts warming up, the fish start feeding. Late afternoons often have the warmest water of the day. Sleep in and have that second cup of coffee.
Fish after dark for pig walleye. Walleye feed aggressively under darkness and wind swept points are prime. Rocky reefs draw fish and a spotlight will identify feeding fish. Their eyes stand out like a beacon. Locate the fish and turn off your light.
Drift or quietly slide in and start casting shallow running minnow-imitating plugs. Rapala Husky Jerks and the Smithwick Rogues are perfect for this scenario. Both lures are buoyant and will hold in place briefly when stopping the retrieve. This is when most of the strikes will take place.
• No. 3, large baits produce the largest fish.
The food supply has shrunk from the summer peak and most of the forage is large. Use large lures for the largest fish and plan on catching your biggest fish of the year.
Long lures, often six inches, out-perform the shorter lures both on numbers of fish and in size. Lures with a red eye work best and glow tape is an added bonus at night. Witch Craft tape makes these additions simple and cheap.
• No. 4, if you like livebait then this is your time of the year.
We land a bunch of large smallmouth fishing a jig with a four-inch red tail chubb. These really are bonus fish because we are chasing down fat walleye that are on deep water structure.
Allow the fish a few minutes to run with a large minnow before setting the hook. A quick strike rig eliminates the wait because of the small trailer treble hook.
The Laser hook from Eagle Claw works great in this set-up. Another neat twist is the addition of pork. Add a piece of Uncle Josh pork on a large hook and fish in the same manner as minnow.
A jig and pig or a jig and pork can be used in place of a minnow and a slip sinker. This set-up is versatile and should be used in any depth fished.
• No. 5, boat control is a must.
This is where my trolling motor comes into play. Keep the batteries fully charged because wind is common during late fall. Watch your graph and use the zoom. My unit easily tracks the bottom and blows up the smallest detail. The unit is old and inexpensive, but the zoom feature is the key.
From now until the freeze, think outside of the box and enjoy some of the finest fishing of the year. Schools of walleye are often located near the Holland pier suspended four-to-eight feet down. Cast or troll above these schools for arm-jarring action.