November 01, 2017

The annual Lake Erie Walleye Fall Brawl fishing derby is taking registrations and this year the grand price is a Warrior 193 fiberglass fishing boat! Even better this boat is fully equipped with a 200 horsepower Evinrude E-Tec G2 Outboard, Cisco Fishing Systems track and rod holders and Lowrance Electronics. A boat, motor, trailer and accessory package worth over $70,000 is going to be awarded to the angler who catches the biggest walleye during the 2017 Fall Brawl.

Registration for the Walleye Fall Brawl is just $30 and anglers can sign up online by visiting¬† It’s important to note that a strict rule associated with the Fall Brawl is that to qualify for the grand price or the many cash and product prizes, everyone fishing in the boat when a fish is caught has to be officially signed up.

Jake Romanack holds up a couple, “Fish Ohio,” class walleye taken on Lake Erie during the fall. The later in the fall an angler targets walleye the bigger and heavier these popular fish become. November is prime time for chasing these Great Lakes giants. Author photos

That’s right, if three guys are fishing and two are signed up and one isn’t no one in that boat is eligible to win cash or prizes as part of the official rules of the Walleye Fall Brawl. This unique derby format is fair and makes sure everyone ponies up the $30 registration fee. Make sure your fishing buddies are signed up and clearly understand the contest rules.

“Last year we had about 1600 individuals sign up for the annual Walleye Fall Brawl,” says event coordinator Frank Murphy. “This year we expect that number to double thanks to Warrior Boats, Cisco Fishing Systems and Lowrance Electronics stepping up to offer an amazing grand prize package. We have also added a “youth division” to the 2017 event.”

The Walleye Fall Brawl is a big fish derby and the official weigh station is Erie Outfitters at 5404 Lake Road, Sheffield Lake, Ohio 44054. The telephone number at Erie Outfitters is 440-949-8934. To be eligible fish must be caught in the Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York or Ontario waters of Lake Erie.

Day Trolling

Fishermen can compete in the Walleye Fall Brawl using any legal sport fishing technique. Overwhelmingly however, trolling with crankbaits has been the most popular fishing presentation. Popular crankbaits for walleye trolling in Lake Erie during daylight hours include the Reef Runner 800 series, Rapala Deep Husky Jerk No. 12, Rapala Taildancer TDD11, Bandit 5/8 ounce Deep Walleye, Bay Rat Long Extra Deep 5.5, Berkley Flicker Minnow No. 9 and No. 11 and the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow DD 7/8.

All of these lures are diving minnow style baits that are designed to reach the most common fishing depths ranging from 15 to 30 feet deep. The majority of anglers who are trolling these crankbaits are also using inline planer boards like the popular Off Shore Tackle OR12 Side-Planer to cover more water and also to target boat shy fish.

Night Trolling

Trolling crankbaits after dark is another popular method that Walleye Fall Brawlers use to target trophy sized Lake Erie walleye. Night trollers use some of the same crankbaits as day time trollers, but shallow diving stickbaits are important lures among anglers fishing the night shift. Some of the most popular stickbaits or shallow diving minnows include the Smithwick Perfect 10, Rapala Husky Jerk 12 and 14, Rapala No. 18 Floating Minnow, Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow Floating 5/8 ounce and the Bandit Shallow Walleye 5/8.

All of these shallow diving stickbaits are ideal for targeting walleye feeding at or near the surface. As with day time trollers, inline planer boards play a critical role in targeting night shift walleye. In order to monitor their boards better in the dark, most anglers use small Cyalume light sticks taped or zip-tied to the planer board flag. A few commercially produced battery operated planer board lights are also available for those anglers interested in customizing their boards for night fishing. A lot of anglers also suggest adding a couple strips of Coast Guard approved reflector tape to their boards so they are more visible at night. Adding reflector tape to both sides of the board makes it much easier for other anglers to spot planer boards on the water.

Snap Weight Trolling

A growing number of trollers are also using Snap Weights to get their diving minnow and stickbaits to deeper depths. The Off Shore Tackle Snap Weight Kit comes with an assortment of 1/2, 3/4, 1, 1.5, 2 and 3 ounce size Guppy Weights and four OR16 Snap Weight Clips and split rings. The beauty of Snap Weights as inline sinkers is they can be placed anywhere on the fishing line between the lure and rod tip.

Most anglers let out their favorite crankbait about 25 feet and then attach the Snap Weight onto the line. More line is then played off the reel to achieve target depths. When a fish is hooked the angler simply reels in the fish and Snap Weight until the Snap Weight is at the rod tip and can be quickly removed from the line.

A quick, easy and effective way of getting crankbaits to deeper depths, Snap Weights are very popular trolling aids among Fall Brawlers.

Lead Core Trolling

Using lead core line is another trolling option suitable for getting crankbaits to deeper fish. Lead core is a sinking line that is most often fished as a segment of lead core sandwiched between a 25 foot leader of fluorocarbon line and 200 yards of monofilament backing line.

A common Lake Erie lead core set up consists of three colors or approximately 90 feet of 27 pound test lead core line. The lead core is rigged with a 25 foot leader of 15 pound test fluorocarbon line and 200 yards of 12 to 15 pound test monofilament line as backing.

The lure, leader and all the lead core is played off the reel and then an inline planer board is attached to the backing line. Because lead core is a sinking line, most anglers use it as their inside board lines that are designed to target deeper fish. This set up allows more shallow running middle and outside board lines to be pulled right over top of the lead core without tangles.

Trolling Speed Matters

The Walleye Fall Brawl gets started on October 20 and runs until December 3. Late in the fall slower trolling speeds routinely produce the best results. Once the water temperature dips below 50 degrees most anglers are slowing down their trolling speed to 1.5 MPH or slower to trigger bites from lethargic, but still actively feeding walleye.

Cold Water Means…REALLY BIG FISH!

The Walleye Fall Brawl could be won on day one of the 2017 event, but odds are the biggest fish of the event will be caught much later in the season. As the water temperature of Lake Erie drops, walleye are triggered into a last minute feeding binge aimed at securing critical protein before the onslaught of winter. This feeding binge is necessary to help develop the egg mass growing inside adult females.

The later in the season a walleye is caught, the more egg mass that is developed and the heavier these fish become. This is precisely why lots of anglers put in extra time during the last week of the annual Fall Brawl.

Don’t Forget to use Scent

In cold water walleye are lethargic and prone to follow lures before striking at them. Adding scent products to crankbaits is a good way to set up a natural scent stream in the water that encourages reluctant walleye into biting.

Pro Cure’s Super Gel is a popular scent product designed for hard baits that consist of dehydrated and ground up bait fish that are in turn mixed with a sticky and odorless paste. The gel formula insures the scent stays on hard baits. Most fish scents are liquids that wash off almost as quickly as they are applied. Pro Cure Super Gel produces a strong scent stream for up to 30 minutes before it needs to be reapplied.

Pro Cure Trophy Walleye is a popular formula among fall walleye trollers on Lake Erie. Other Super Gel formulas that are natural and effective scent products for cold water walleye trolling include the Alewife, Herring, Minnow and the Smelt formulas.

Summing it Up

The annual Walleye Fall Brawl takes place from October 20 to December 3. Registration is just $30 and anglers this year have a chance at winning a $70,000 fully rigged Warrior 193 fishing boat. In addition to the grand prize there are thousands of dollars in cash and product being given away at this year’s Fall Brawl.

Perhaps the coolest thing about the Walleye Fall Brawl is it keeps anglers fishing right up to the bitter end of the season. Everyone loves to fish for trophy walleye and the Fall Brawl adds a little more incentive not to winterize that fishing boat until after December 3.