Fall Fishing In The Rivers: The Adventures Of The Backwater Boys

It’s Fall. The mosquitoes are gone, pleasure boats are in storage, and anglers are in the woods instead of on the water. These are a few reasons fall is my favorite time of the year to go fishing.

As the water temperatures begin to drop, fish sense a change in conditions and respond by feeding aggressively, preparing for the upcoming winter.

Knowing that the lakes would be practically empty, I called up my brother and fishing buddy. We collectively planned a weekend trip to fish a juicy shallow backwater lake located somewhere in Wisconsin.

I wish I could give you the exact location, but that’d be a slap in the face to every angler who already fishes there. Plus, my buddy would kill me.

Fall Fishing Above All

Fishing in the fall provides many options on this trip; our targets would be bass, northern pike, walleye crappie, bluegill, and bowfin.

Instead of focusing on a specific species, we each brought three different rod combos that would be suitable for targeting the fish mentioned above

MyThree Combos
  • 7” Med Heavy Casting combo spooled with 15 lb fluorocarbon line
    Uses: Jigs, spinnerbaits, crankbaits
  • 7 Medium power spinning spooled with straight 15lb braid
    Uses: Finesse jigs, wacky rigs, flukes
  • 5’6” Ultralight spinning rod spooled with 4 lb monofilament
    Uses: Bobber, 1/16 jig, live worms

Let The Games Begin

We are all hardcore panfish/bass anglers who have had success over the years, targeting shallow river backwater lakes. These lakes are home to abundant panfish that go largely unpressured. Anglers do fish these areas, but the shallow depth and keep larger boats away.

It was 7:45 in the morning when my trailer axles dipped into the cold Wisconsin water, dumping my 1998 BassTracker into a lake I’ve been staring at via Google maps for weeks. Alex pulled up the truck, parked it, and then hopped in a 16-foot boat loaded fully loaded with men and fishing gear.

Panfish Please

As I mentioned, we are all true multi-species anglers, but everyone agreed to start things off with larger moving baits like spinnerbaits, cranks, and skirted swim jigs with the hopes to kick the day off with a big fish.

After a missed bite by me, Alex drew first blood with a healthy 2lb largemouth, which throttled his swim jig. In a shallow river or backwater featuring grass or wood, the swim jig seems always to produce. It allows you to swim a bait through open water or grass and then use the same set-up to flip and pitch my jig into fallen trees, brush piles, or docks. Just because it’s a swim jig, that doesn’t mean you can’t drag it or flip it from time to time.

A few moments later, my head snapped back quickly when I heard Alex say, “fish on.” I could see his rod bowed over and his line being peeled off the reel at a pace that made it obvious it wasn’t a bass. Pike and bowfin (aka dogfish) are prevalent in this area; it was a toss-up for what species he had hooked. It turned out to be a rod bending, chatterbait snatching 30+ inch northern pike

With Alex ahead by two fish, Matt and I had to pick up our game and get a fish in the boat. While Matt and Alex fished jigs, I stuck it out with the Googan Squad Zinger, which led me to my first fish, a healthy largemouth bass. 

What In The Walleye?

Matt followed things up with an 19-inch keeper walleye that, to our surprise, inhaled his ⅜ oz swim jig trailed with a BioSpawn ExoPod trailer. Now that everyone had a keeper in the boat, the weight was off our shoulders, and we started to really hammer on fish.

This was a shallow river backwater, which was home to little to no major depth changes. We’re talking consistent depths of 2-3 feet with the occasional deep hole at 6-8 feet deep. The only pattern we developed was to find relatively deep water or wooded areas. If there was a log, a bush, or a dock, there was almost always a fish on it. 

A few of the specific fallen trees were continually producing fish. We would make one pass on a section, catch fish, and then move further down the bank. Then once, the original spot settled back down. We would go back for another pass and fish for bluegill.

In the fall, bass, pike, and dogfish are all looking to feed heavily before winter. One of the most popular items on the fall menu is the bluegill. So, we knew any logjam with bass was also probably holding bluegill.

Keep It Real. Keep It Simple. Keep It Real Simple.

We use the simple bobber, split shot, and small Aberdeen hook rigged onto a light action spinning combo spooled with a 4-6lb pound monofilament fishing line.

Set the bobber roughly 15 inches above the hook, pinch a little split-shot weight 6 inches above the hook.

Tip your hook with half-pieces of redworms and toss that rig as tight to the sunken brush as possible. Slip bobbers allow for more accurate casts and deeper fishing applications, so if you’re fishing deeper brush, try rigging with a slip bobber.

We continued to lay the smackdown on the largemouth and pike between the brush piles for bluegill.

The highlight of the day came when my older brother Matt hooked into what we thought was another nice pike. Instead, it turned out to be a 21-inch largemouth who looked like she was ready to burst at the seams. That twenty-one-inch largemouth probably weighed close to 5lbs, a giant for Wisconsin, and good enough for Matt’s personal best.

All’s Well That Ends Well

We capped off the day with a few more largemouth, and bonus smallmouth. That night we enjoyed a delicious Walleye dinner, and I kept the bluegills fillets for a friend.

The fall is one of the best times of year to be outside, the weather is cooling, and the fish are biting. Please get out and get after it before winter comes. If you don’t, you’ll be wishing you did!

Karl’s Favorite Fall Fishing Baits

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