Fall’s Moonlit Walleyes
Oct 12th, 2022 by Keith Worrall
Modified Oct 12th, 2022 at 12:48 PM
By: Dr. Jason A. Halfen
The cooling waters of October draw large numbers of walleye into the shallows to feast on bountiful baitfish in advance of winter’s arrival. One of the most enjoyable and productive ways to target these toothy predators is by trolling shallow-running crankbaits under the light of the moon. These tips will help you put more moonlit walleye in the boat this season.
Pick your spots. Day in and day out, my favorite fall walleye trolling runs have some sort of weedy cover nearby. Lush summer weedbeds die back in the fall, making it easy for marauding walleye to slide into the weeds and pick off perch, shiners, and other baitfish trying to hide there. Focus on weed edges; frequently, the outside, deep weed edge is the most productive, but often, the inside edge can be even better as fishing pressure tends to be focused elsewhere. As long as there are some green weeds present, walleyes will be there too. As the water cools dramatically later in the fall, decaying weedbeds become less important than rocky shorelines and points.
Pick your baits. I choose trolling lures based on water temperature. Early in the fall – when water temps are in the 60s – high-action lures with a relatively compact profile are the most important tools in my toolbox. With perch serving as the primary shallow forage for walleyes wherever they swim, the LIVETARGET Yellow Perch Jerkbait is a great option for the start of trolling season. Choose the Metallic/Gloss finish for bright, moonlight nights and the Natural/Matte pattern for nights when clouds obscure the moon. If your lake has a significant panfish forage base – a common situation on many stocked walleye lakes – the shallow-diving LIVETARGET Sunfish Crankbait also deserves some time in the water. Later in the fall, include longer, suspending lures in your trolling spread. The shallow-diving LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt Jerkbait has a provocative wobbling action that is perfect for cold water conditions and includes a deep-knocking rattle for extra attraction on moonless nights.
Create a complete tackle system. Night trolling for fall walleyes is a high-precision enterprise that demands dedicated trolling tackle and rigging. Begin with a 7’6” to 8’6” casting rod with Medium power and Moderate or Moderate Fast action. Graphite construction will ensure that you can read the lure’s action – and quickly detect weeds, mussel shells, or pine needles that foul hooks – with a quick glance at the rod tip. Add a medium-capacity line counter trolling reel filled with 20-pound-test TUF-LINE DOMIN8 braid. This ultra-thin diameter, eight-carrier braided line minimizes water resistance and allows lures to dive deeper on less line. Sensitive DOMIN8 braid also transmits lure action perfectly to the rod tip to make lure monitoring quick and easy. Add a Mustad Duo-Lock Snap, and your trolling tackle configuration is complete.
Watch your speed. Quiet propulsion in shallow water, either from a smooth EFI kicker motor or a powerful bow-mount electric trolling motor, is the key to moonlit walleye success. Since the water is cool – and getting colder by the day – it’s important to pull baits at a speed that correlates with the water’s temperature. Early in the fall, you can get away with trolling those Shad Raps at speeds close to 2 mph. However, trolling speeds should fall into the 1.6 to 1.8 mph range as soon as the water cools into the low 60s. Late in the season, when most anglers have winterized their boats and headed for their deer stands, productive trolling speeds are typically 1.4 mph or even less.
Fall is prime time for walleyes. Plug in those navigation lights, strap on your lifejacket and grab a thermos of hot coffee, because it’s time to chase walleyes under the light of the October moon!