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Big Walleyes from the Bank

Better from the bank?

Many areas provide quality fishing access to anglers who don’t own boats. Often, though, these seem like bonuses, where shoreline anglers “also” can enjoy fine opportunities. The fall walleye night bite contrasts this notion. In many places bank fishing or is substantially better than boat fishing and provides outstanding big-fish opportunities.

On autumn nights walleyes push surprisingly shallow to feed. Moving tight to the shore in many lakes and onto bars at the heads of holes in river, they get in spots that would be difficult to work effectively from most boats and where navigation could be treacherous after hours. Anglers who work from the shore, or occasionally by shallow wading, but still on foot, can fish key zones very thoroughly.

In rivers, the last shallow water before the head of a deep pool and the slope down into the pool make up a key area. In lakes, shores adjacent to inlets, flats on both sides of points, riprap banks and jetties all have good potential to produce walleyes on autumn nights.

The total approach is simple, and you need not carry a bunch of equipment. Beyond a rod and reel and a landing net (not critical but helpful for landing big fish from the bank), everything you need will fit in a small backpack. A box of Smithwick Rogues and Bomber Long As in a handful of colors will cover your lure needs. Beyond that, the most important things are pliers and a dependable headlamp. If you plan to keep fish, you’ll also need a stringer and a measuring tape to make sure fish are legal to harvest from the waters you are fishing.

Keeping gear minimal makes it easy to walk the bank as you fish or even to hop in the car and move to a different access. That said, work spots thoroughly and be patient. Feeding walleyes cruise along shorelines, so fish that weren’t in an area you’ve already worked might still come through.

The lure presentation is as simple as the gear. Cast, crank down and reel back fairly slowly and steadily. The walleyes zero in on the sound and the movement, and erratic jerks do more to spook them than to prompt strikes. An occasional slight pause will sometimes trigger a bite. If you can kick your lure off bottom without getting it hung or bogged down in vegetation, that’s even better.

Cast to as many angles as is practical, based in part the nearness of other shoreline anglers, even making some casts almost parallel to the shore to work the shallowest zone.

Bites might be light, just feeling mushy, like your lure hit weeds or mud. If in doubt, set the hook with a short snap of the wrist. Be ready when you do, though. Walleyes react with more vigor than they are known for when hooked on jerkbaits in shallow water!