Autumn ushers in a variety of hot walleye bites, and one of the easiest to tap is the shoreline troll. Best of all, it’s largely overlooked on most lakes.
“In a typical fall, water temps slipping into the high 40s fire up daytime feeding frenzies sometime from mid- to late October into November,” says veteran guide Jon Thelen. “And this trolling pattern centers on fish moving into shallow water to feed.”
Thelen targets forage-rich shorelines that lure hungry walleyes into depths of 10 feet or less. Textbook structure includes gravel and rocky banks. If a smattering of still-green weeds remains, so much the better.
The baitfish buffet varies from lake to lake, but can include fall-spawning ciscoes and tullibees, plus heat-seeking shad, yellow perch and numerous minnow species. Even potato chip panfish left without shelter following the demise of fair-weather weedbeds are fair game.
Spread the smorgasbord out over a mile or more of shore and the stage is set for epic trolling action. “Walleyes fan out and cruise these shallow feeding areas,” says Thelen. “Trolling crankbaits is a great way to put fish in the boat fast.”
Crankbait options abound, but Thelen favors two distinct styles. “Tight-wobbling, deep-bodied baits like Lindy’s Shadling offer the right mix of profile, flash and rapid, machine-gun thumping to attract fish,” he says. “And the Lindy River Rocker, which has a wide, rocking wobble, gives me something most fish haven’t seen before. It’s a great choice for standing out from schools of baitfish.”
Both baits are connected via a snap to 10-pound mono mainline, which is paid out in generous amounts of up to 150 feet. “Line-counter reels are helpful for duplicating successful letbacks, but since we’re talking shallow water, it’s pretty easy to simply let the lure tick bottom, then reel up five or six cranks to get the right running depth,” he says.
To add a bit of extra action to the presentation, Thelen orchestrates a nearly non-stop series of rips and pauses. “The irregular cadence often turns followers into strikers,” he grins. Often, it’s just the ticket to making the shallow trolling bite pay off in spades until winter puts an end to the autumn bonanza.