It's not autumn yet, but it's getting closer. You can feel it in the air. Now is a good time to think about some things you can do to take advantage of the great fall fishing opportunities that exist across the Midwest.
The fall season provides perhaps the best opportunity for catching numbers of big fish. Sure you can catch a big one before it spawns in the spring, but fall fish are preparing for winter by bulking up, so they're hungry. They're thinking about eating, not about spawning. That makes them more susceptible to an angler's presentation.
As with any fishing, the key thing is to fish where the fish are. I've caught walleyes in the fall in 2 foot of water on wind-blown shorelines, and in 30 feet of water on deep humps. Same thing's true with largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, muskies, and crappies.
Keep moving until you find them. If you suspect them to be in deep water, some sonar work will pay big dividends. The 798 Humminbird sonar that I use has a color display that really exposes fish holding on deeper structures.
Remember that in the fall, big baits catch big fish. It's more efficient for a gamefish to eat one big meal instead of several smaller ones. Therefore, big baits are the way to go.
If you're after largemouth, try a Reed-Runner spinnerbait with a big blade and tip it with a big trailer, something like a four inch Power Grub. If a slower presentation is desired, go with a rubber legged Jungle Jig with, again, a bulky soft bait trailer like a five inch Power Hawg or Sabertail Tube. Make sure the jig color contrasts with the trailer color.
If walleyes are the quarry, try a Roach Rig or Fire-Ball jig tipped with a redtail chub, one in the five inch range, maybe even a little bigger. When it comes to fall walleyes, a redtail is hard to beat. Don't crowd them in the minnow bucket, and keep them aerated.
We always take at least three or four dozen redtails on the water with us in the fall. To make sure they stay lively, we keep them in a Frabill Aqua-Life Bait Station. If there are any left at the end of the day, they're just as lively as they were when the day began with this minnow bucket.
Make sure you're using fresh, strong line in the fall. Too many anglers use the same line they've used all spring and summer, and things usually work out OK. But knowing that the odds for hooking a truly big fish are better in the fall should be incentive enough to spool some new line on just in case the line you're using has a nick. Your line is the only thing keeping you stuck to the fish: Use good stuff.
There are lots of reasons to go fishing in the fall. The colors can be spectacular, the crowds are gone, and the big fish are eating. If you keep the above ideas in mind, you'll be on your way to taking advantage of these fall fishing opportunities.