Several weeks ago walleyes were easy to catch trolling crankbaits back in the running sloughs and casting cranks on main river structures like wingdams and closing dams.
anglers had less success once the annual influx of eelgrass started coming down the River. Patience, frogging around to different spots and sometimes a barrel swivel 18 inches up the line above the crank allowed many folks to enjoy continued success.
Then the river saw precipitous rise far up into the ‘action’ shade, within a couple feet of ‘minor flooding’ pushing many folks away from the River…at least when it comes to fishing.
A fall rise is a common occurrence on the Miss. We see high water in October at least 4 years out of every decade. When it shows up, walleyes and other fish don’t leave the system–they simply adapt.
Rivers don’t ‘ turn over’ like lakes. But fish experience definite changes in feeding patterns when water temperatures dip into the mid-50’s, this is especially true in those years when we see a fall rise.
The movement all comes back to the predator/prey relationship. Understanding this relationship is the MAJOR KEY to angling success on any water. It is especially relevant on the Immortal River.
Baitfish like shad and river shiners are the primary forage for almost all gamefish species in the Upper Miss from mmid-September until ice shows up.
When the river is running belly full, baitfish don’t have the gumption to hang around areas with heavy current like wingdams and closing dams.
With water temperature slowing their metabolism, baitfish move to where its easiest to find THEIR prey: current seams and structural breaks, usually in 8 feet of water or less.
To my mind there is no better lure under these conditions than a Rat-L-Trap. You can effectively fan-cast a main river point or current seam in 5 minutes or less. run-n-gun to a dozen likely spots and you’ll eventually find the fish. Once you do, anyone with time on the water can think of several more spots with similar habitat parameters.
On pool 9 where I spend a sinful amount of time, the killer lure when fish are holding in 3-7 f.o.w. is an ‘oxbow” pattern Rat-L-Trap, although recently I’ve stumbled across another color which may prove to be even more effective. For now, I’ve gotta hold this color variation close to the vest. If the fish jump on this pattern more than my faithful oxbow next spring, you’ll read about it here.
As waters continue to cool into the upper 40’s it will be time to ease into a swimming presentation with Kalin grubs and Moxie tails fished essentially on the same seams and breaks fish are holding in now. From that point the presentation will morph into dragging 3 ways, vertical jigging hair…and my personal favorite:blade baiting with the Echotail, most notably my Teddy Cat.
Back to the Rat-L-Trap for a minute. I’m forever amazed on how few fisherman have heard of a floating Rat-L-Trap. This lure has been around for decades. I’ve fished it for at least 25 years. When fish are back in the weeds I like throwing the old school red head/white body floating Trap. When fish are holding in less than 4 f.o.w on rocks I go with the Echo 1.75 squarebill which came out in 2014.
To my mind there is no better bait on the planet when chasing pike back in the weeds than the red/white floating Trap. There are times when the toothers show some preference for a Custom Carter Shaker chatterbait, swim jig with a substantial trailer or oversize chartreuse/orange Northland tandem spinnerbait –but most of the time I throw the red/white.
Last week Bill Lewis Lures CEO Wes Higgins humbled and honored me by officially designating the red/white floating Rat-L-Trap as the ‘Red Head Uncle Ted. How cool is that?
We all leave a legacy as we pass through this life. To an old-school fisherman, having your name on an old-school color scheme is far beyond SWEET.
In my father’s day, every tackle box in North America had at least a couple red/white lures. today not so much. My Dad was one helluva river Rat and fisherman. He had far fewer fishing tools than we have today. But he still caught a pile of fish…many on that ol’ red & white.
When it comes to life on the River, betting against an old guy is seldom a good idea.