116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
On my almost daily fall fishing forays I am looking to check three boxes: many bass, a big bass (or two) and an edible walleye.
Many bass provide many bites — the definition of “action,” perhaps the main reason anglers enjoy their sport.
A big bass provides the addictive excitement that makes outings memorable.
Edible walleyes provide a wholesome, tasty meal that rivals the best restaurant fare.
While the state considers black bass and walleyes edible, allowing on interior rivers the daily harvest of three black bass of at least 12 inches in length, I and most anglers of my acquaintance, in appreciation of their sporting qualities and recognition of their dependence on natural reproduction, consider them more valuable alive than dead.
Natural reproduction is less important with walleyes, which are stocked as fingerlings in interior rivers, where the state authorizes a daily bag limit of five walleyes of any size. I release all walleyes in the summer, when the flesh of stringered fish deteriorates rapidly in the warm water. In the cooler waters of spring and fall, I keep walleyes between 14 and 20 inches, with those smaller released to grow up and those larger released to mature into trophies.
That bass and walleye cohabit in the same waters in Iowa’s interior rivers is one of life’s happy coincidences, as is each species’ susceptibility to the same lures.
Bass and walleye relish crayfish, especially in the fall, and will readily strike crankbait imitations, which I always carry but seldom use. Releasing fish entangled in a pair of treble hooks consumes too much time when the fish are biting and is dangerous to fish and angler.
As the water cools in autumn, I prefer a tungsten jig tipped with a soft plastic simulation of a minnow, grub or worm. When either bass or walleye ingests the jig, the signal transmitted to the angler is the same — a “tick” or “toink” that travels instantaneously, like a pulse of electricity, from jig via braided line and graphite rod to angler hand.
This is the surest bite of the angling year. Unlike, for example, the spring and summer top water bite, which often results in as many misses as hits, the fall jig bite is almost fool proof. If you feel it, they’ve got it. Set the hook and stand by for action.
Because bass and walleye live together, feed on the same forage and hit the same lures, an angler seldom knows what fish is on the end of the line until it shows itself.
The hookset tells you a lot about the size of the fish. A robust hookset will often yank a small fish out of the water, while a big fish barely budges, staying deep and pulling the tip of the bent rod toward the water. The hookset, however, tells you nothing about the species.
While a hooked walleye typically stays deep and shakes its head, the pound-for-pound faster, stronger and more athletic bass often tips its hand with frantic runs, powerful surges and suspense-ending breathtaking leaps.
On all my recent outings I have checked at least one box and on several occasions have checked two. With good luck and good weather, it’s just a matter of time until I check all three.