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Fall River Fishing Below the Dam
 By Ross Grothe
The fall is a great time to get to a river near you and catch some walleyes as they start to move up towards the head of the pools or start staging along the various breaks as they head towards the dams.  River walleyes bite all year, if you know where to look and how to fish for them.  In tailrace areas below the big locks and dam systems, drift fishing is the method of choice for most anglers.  Concentrate on keeping the boat near places where the current changes, such as eddies and current
breaks.  Watch for moving water; it will contain baitfish and fish washed through the dam system.  The bigger fish hang out at the edge of the current, where it takes less energy for them to hold in place, and it is an ambush place for bait that floats by.  Keep an eye out for rock formations under the surface; these edges might also hold a few lunker walleyes. In the fall of the year the turbidity of the water subsides and walleyes are more visually stimulated as they see food floating by the slack
water areas.  This is not to say that all walleyes see their food before they strike and in some cases they strike more out of vibration and smell than they do from visual identification. One reason that I like to use jigs while fishing for fall walleyes in a river system is the control an angler has.  Vertically jigging for walleyes gets my blood pumping and believe me on those cool crisp fall days, when it would be nice to be on shore burning a campfire, Iíll take the tug of a walleye before I go to shore.
With the proper head design and weight, jigs are the most versatile of all river techniques, from the shallowest flooded cover to the deepest, fastest current.  The majority of river fishing with jigs involves either slipping the current or drift fishing the current breaks.  The presentation is a simple lift-drop-pause method of jigging, raising the jig some 3 to 6 " as you slip downstream.  The jigs that I prefer to use are Northland Tackle Fireball jigs because of the rounded head.  The rounded head allows the jig to bump along the bottom and not get hung up in snags or brush.  If you are as vertical as possible the jig will stand up allowing the hook to be exposed away from the floor of the river.  When you tip the jig with a fathead minnow the minnow stands up and looks like it is trying to pick up the jig.  As the minnow struggles against the weight of the jig it sends out wounded signals and the natural scent attracts the walleyes and allows them to hang on just that much longer.  If the walleyes seem to be just biting the tails off the minnows the Northland Tackle Fireball offers an additional eye so you can easily attach a stinger hook.  The stinger hook is a great addition in the cold waters
of fall and spring. Colors of the jigs should be bright in dingy water.  Colors such as fluorescent orange, chartreuse and my all time favorite gold are great for fishing those fall walleyes.  Anytime that you can bring attention to your bait it will help you up your odds for catching those fall walleyes.
Weights may range from 1/8 to 1/2 ounces, but usually stay with the weight that is the lightest so you have contact with the bottom.  River walleyes have a tendency not to suspend as much as the walleyes in the lake and you donít have to worry about missing a strike zone that is in
the fish column.  I will tip my jig with some plastic if I want to slow down the rate of fall, but current usually fights gravity faster and defeats the purpose of vertical jigging. In tailwaters, jig fishing is a little tougher than live bait rigging for fish. Youíll need heavier equipment for this type of fishing.  Go
with 10 or 12 pound test Stren Fishing Line Sensor and a stout Quantum rods and Reels Fish with the best fishing pole.
Your rod should be stout enough to take the abuse of freezing temperatures, yet sensitive enough to feel the 1 pound sauger that just took your minnow.
Fall fishing on the Mississippi is just getting underway.  When you get tired of the TV or your mother ? in ? law pick up you rod and hitch up your boat and do some fishing below the dams.
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