I can’t believe it’s that time of year already, we’re approaching early fall and that means one thing…FALL BITE. Yes, walleyes will know that winter is coming soon and will start to put on the feedbags. I used to do A LOT of hunting each fall, but I find myself fishing more and more with the abundance of opportunities for good fishing. With that being said, I have a walleye tournament at Prairie Knights Casino coming up and I thought I’d break down how I prepare.
WALLEYE TOURNAMENT LOCATIONS
Everyone prepares for walleye tournaments differently, but for me I take kind of a mathematical approach, especially when fishing big bodies of water (in this case, Lake Oahe in North Dakota – roughly 30 miles in the boundaries). I break the lake down into sections and each time out I try to fish everything possible inside of each. The tricky thing about the fall bite, is the fish at times can be ANYWHERE! I’ve found them under 10 feet in some places….40 feet of water in others. The key is finding the right fish.
As it sits today (September 5th), the water temperature is 67 degrees. With cooler temps in the forecast and 17 days of it possibly ahead, one can only guess where the temp will be then. As mentioned earlier, the lake is around 30 miles in length give or take. That’s A LOT of shoreline to cover, not to mention fishing off the river channel throughout the system. The main forage base is smelt and gizzard shad, with some young of the year whitebass and crappie mixed in. The key is figuring out where the baitfish are at, and usually the fish are not too far away. To find these hidden gems takes patience. You’re going to be using and trusting your electronics to tell you what you need to know. Only then, should you even worry about wetting a line, in my opinion.
WALLEYE TOURNAMENT TACTICS
Once you figure out where you can find baitfish and of course, fish marks, it’s time to figure out how to bring them up to the surface. For us, it boils down to 3 presentations:
- Trolling for walleyes
- Live Bait rigs/Slow Death rigs with both crawlers and minnows
- Jigging Raps
Now if you know Lake Oahe, you know that it’s a lake full of FLATS. There is miles and miles of shoreline and at times, featureless on the bottoms. With that being said, I do A LOT of trolling in this system. Simply because I feel it’s the most efficient way to cover water when finding aggressive walleyes.
When we do find large pods of fish that won’t take the crankbaits, I will then mix it up and slow it down. If the bottom isn’t snaggy I usually start with live bait rigs of various kinds (depending on using worms or minnows). The walleye tournament is scheduled right around the time where minnows can be very effective and crawlers start to turn off. So we’ll have to be prepared for both. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll sit on top and use jigging raps. I haven’t used jigging raps in tournaments yet, but I feel we’ll be using them a lot in the upcoming weeks. It’s ability to turn on non-aggressive fish is amazing.
With all that being said, the camping spot at the launch is booked and the boat is organized and clean. In other words, I’m ready for some hardcore pre-fishing! When it all boils down, I hope we cash a check or I’m hoping a top 10. I find tournaments to be about the experience, not money. If you think you’ll get rich fishing walleye tournaments…I got some bad news (it ain’t easy). So wish the TEAM RYG boat luck!