Eric Olson's 3 Proven Techniques to Catch Fall Walleyes in Rivers

Eric Olson

by Pros4- 1Source's Dave Landahl

Eric Olson, fishing pro holding up a fine river walleye he caughtEric Olson has been swinging walleye rods for years as a tournament pro. He loves chasing those golden toothy critters and has developed quite a skill set over the years winning at the highest level including an MWC championship.

Point is, this cat knows a little bit about walleye fishing. Especially rivers. This G. Loomis and Shimano pro is from Red Wing, Minnesota right on the mighty Mississippi River. Ya sure hope he has a clue about river 'eyes.

"Rivers are always changing," said Olson. "During the fall months, that is especially true. Walleyes start to migrate toward wintering areas. Water temperatures drop, water usually fluctuates. But with the right approaches, fall can be one of the best times to catch walleyes in rivers."

Olson has a variety of approaches for catching walleyes out of rivers, but he's sharing his three favorites; dragging jigs, stacker rigs and trolling crankbaits.

Dragging Jigs for Walleyes

"I use the dragging approach for walleyes that can range from being in a negative feeding mood all the way to active fish.

SS300-250"I use a lightweight jig, like a 1/16-ounce with crawler on it. I drag it slowly downstream. Use a weedguard, too, if you have them. That helps to keep snags to a minimum."

Olson targets a variety of cover from sand flats to main-channel rocks.  Pretty much almost anything but the snaggiest cover.

Stacker Fishing Rigs

"When the fish migrate during the fall, they vary their depths frequently," said Olson. "This can make them difficult to find at times. This is when I use the stacker rig.

rapala flat rap
The Rapala Flat Rap's triangle lip enhances action while letting it deflect of timber, rocks and other obstacles.

"This rig is essentially a three-way swivel, a 10-inch dropper line attached to a bell sinker, then a leader with a lure tied to it. Of course, the weight of the sinker varies on conditions. I generally use a weight ranging from two up to five ounces.

"I find this rig allows me to fish up and down a breakline in the river in a variety of current conditions from light to heavy. I like to fish it diagonally upriver.

"I use either a Floating Rapala minnow or a Rapala Flat Rap as the first bait tied to approximately a 26-inch leader. I then tie another leader off the same length off the first bait with another lure. Even though the action of the front bait is often sort of dead, it leads to a significant number of hookups."

Olson uses baitcasting gear for this setup.

"I feel the baitcasting gear is best for this approach," said Olson. "It allows you to keep in better contact with the changing bottom depths with one hand and allows for easier adjustments than you'd have with spinning gear. It's a personal choice."

Trolling Crankbaits Maximizes Your Time

Shop the Rapala Jointed Shad Rap fishing lure at
Rapala Jointed Shad Rap

"Finding fish is sometimes just a matter of covering water," said Olson. "Get your baits out in the water and moving. It can be that simple. Most of us have limited time on the water, so trolling crankbaits is an effective method to maximize our time.

"I'll use leadcore or Sufix 832 braid to troll. Trolling upstream at three miles per hour isn't necessarily too fast. You need to adjust to what the fish want. Faster speeds are often the ticket.

"My favorite crankbaits to use are the Storm Smash Shad Crankbait or the Rapala Jointed Shad Rap in size 4 or 5.  These should cover most of the depths you'll be trolling up to 20-foot depths."