It is considered poor form to brag on your own bird dog. But this unattractive faux pas is hard to resist when the dog can hunt.
Baseball icon Yogi Berra provides some degree of validation with his quip, “If you can do it, you ain’t braggin’.” This column isn’t about bird dogs or pro ball in empty stadiums with Foley artist crowd noise piped in. It’s about fishin’.
This weekend is liable to be the last best weekend of the entire year with near-perfect weather and water temperatures almost ideal for catching fall walleyes. Deer, upland game and waterfowl hunters may opt for these pursuits instead of fishing this weekend, making it easier to find a spot at the boat ramp.
There are several productive methods for hooking river walleyes in the fall: vertical jigging, pulling three-way rigs and pitching plastics.
Vertical jigging is a personal favorite because the bite is like a happy slap in the face.
Hair jigs, rattling jigging spoons and blade baits are the most effective lures for vertical jigging. My favorite is the blade, partly because no livebait is needed to enhance the presentation—and my name is on a truly effective one.
Blade baits have been catching river walleyes since the 1950s when the Heddon company introduced a minnowesque piece of metal with two treble hooks dubbed the “Sonar.” Back in the day, monofilament line was new technology. Many eye-chasers were still using no-stretch braided Dacron line, with no inkling that no stretch “superbraid” would become the line of choice for vertical jiggers again in the 1990s in a trend which continues to this day.
Fishers learned early on that attaching the line to lure was most efficient with terminal tackle called a “snap.” This should not be confused with a snap swivel, which is a better choice when pulling three-way rigs because the swivel part minimizes line twist. But when vertical jigging, the swivel part is just unnecessary hardware between fisher and fish.
The original Sonar had three holes in the top where a snap could be attached, with each hole resulting in slightly different presentation. Some blades have just a split ring for snap attachment. Echotail blade baits have five.
My signature series Echotail is called the Teddy Cat because the color scheme approximates a willocat. This little bullhead-like baitfish puts riverine walleyes in attack mode like no other bait.
In-Fisherman magazine called the Echotail “the Swiss Army knife of blade baits” because this lure has multiple places to attach hooks. For vertical jigging, I’ve found attaching the snap to the second hole back from the head, with a lone treble hook in the furthest back hole on the lure’s bottom the most efficient with the structural bottom changes in rivers, especially Rock River.
Presentation is simple: Find a minimum depth of nine feet and let the current carry you along this depth contour using the trolling motor to make minor adjustments, snapping the rod to rip the lure up from contact with the bottom then allowing it to flutter back down like a vulnerable baitfish.
“Going with the flow” provides ample opportunity to drink in the wonders of nature around you on what may be the last pleasant weekend of an otherwise awful year.
Most strikes occur when the lure is fluttering back down toward the bottom. The happy slap in the face provided by a walleye willing to dance is much better than the general kick in the butt 2020 has been to the USA.