Fall is a great time of the year to be fishing for walleyes. The leaves are turning, the water and air temperatures have dropped, and the walleyes are feeding. No other presentation will find more fish faster and eliminate “dead zones” than trolling. If you have the right gear, you can easily fill your livewell with some nice fish.
This time of year, the walleyes have moved deep. I usually target the basin of the lake, generally 30 to 40 feet, or when the bottom turns to mud. To get my crank baits down that deep I like to use leadcore line. This method works great to get any size crank bait down to the basin where the big fish roam. Leadcore comes in 100-yard spools and is colored so that every 10 yards (30 feet) is a different color. A good rule of thumb is that your crank bait will dive five feet per color of leadcore you let out. So, if you let out five colors, your crank bait will be diving at least 25 feet.
While trolling, you can make sharper turns with the boat when pulling leadcore because the line follows the boat much better than mono or braid. It is important to know that if you slow your trolling speed, the leadcore will sink and your crank could end up dragging on the bottom of the lake. The opposite happens when you speed up; your lure will rise in the water column and could result in pulling that lure out of the strike zone of the fish. I’ll adjust the boat speed to move my lures up in the water column to avoid snags if I’m marking timber on the bottom.
I like to use my 10’6” and 6’ Scheels Outfitters Xtreme Trolling series rods. The action on these rods is great because you can easily tell if your crank is running good our fouled up. Depending on how many people are in my boat, I’ll use two 10’6” rods on each side with the 6’ shorty rods out the back of the boat. The leadcore line that I like to use is the 18-pound Sufix 832 Advanced leadcore with a twenty-foot ten-pound braid leader. I like to use a 20 foot leader because as I’m reeling in the fish, I want to make sure that the knot that connects my leadcore line to my leader line is in my reel when I’m fighting the fish by the boat. This will insure that the weakest part of my setup is spooled into the reel and will not break.
There are many different lures that I like to run with leadcore. I like to look at profile and action over color. The first lure that I like to try is the new Rapala Shad Dancer. This is a bait that has a shad profile with a thumping tailing action, like the Rapala Tail Dancer. I will also pull the classic Rapala Shad Rap. This lure has been around for years and always produces. It has a more subtle action and can be trolled fast or slow. This lure comes in 6 sizes and I’ll use the number 5 all the way up to the number 9. The other bait that I like to use is the Rapala Down Deep Husky Jerk. This lure has very loud rattles inside, making it much easier for the fish to hear from a distance.
I’ll let the fish tell me which profile and action they want. Start out with each angler fishing with a different lure. Once you find the lure that most of the fish are hitting on, switch all rods to that lure. Make sure to try different sizes and then go to different colors. Light doesn’t penetrate that far into the water, so color isn’t always the main part of the fishing strategy to look at.
Now is one of the best times of the year to get the trolling gear out and in the water. The walleyes are hungry and there is still plenty of open water season left.