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Looking Back On A Fishing Legend

Last month, 80 of the finest walleye anglers visited Dunkirk for the 2022 Championship Professional Walleye Trail. The PWT Championship showed to the world why Dunkirk Harbor is the Walleye Capital of the Northeast with monster daily limits, great weather and first-class hospitality.

In the coming months, a TV special will air on several outdoor channels and streaming platforms, which will give the world a little peek into what the eastern the basin of Lake Erie has to offer.

We were able to sneak a few minutes with several anglers to discuss the fishing, but there were a handful that I was able to sit down and catch-up; Keith Kavajecz was one. Keith and I had met many years ago while in the area pre-fishing for an upcoming tournament and filming.

Keith Kavajecz grew up in Wisconsin and is a lifelong angler, but really honed his walleye fishing skills on the Mississippi River between Minnesota and Wisconsin. It was there that Keith worked on his now famous “two-rod” vertical jogging technique and developed his light-line stinger hook presentation. Being a computer programmer and systems analyst served Keith well as he used those skills to analyze fishing data and unlock the secrets into a successful walleye fishing career.

Keith, is a “Legendary Angler” inductee into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and a past co-host of the popular The Next Bite TV show. Kavajecz has been featured in publications including In-Fisherman, North American Fisherman, Walleye Insider, Fishing Facts, Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, Sports Afield, and Bass & Walleye Boats to name a few. He is a book author and is featured on many walleye videos.

Keith has been fishing for over a half-decade and tournament pro full time for 22 years. Keith has qualified for 2011 FLW Championship, three-time AIM Championship qualifier, 1991-2008, 18-Time In-Fisherman PWT Championship Qualifier, he is one of two PWT angers to qualify for 18 of 19 championships, 2003 In-Fisherman PWT Top Gun Award Winner, 2002 In-Fisherman PWT Champion, 2002 In-Fisherman PWT Top Gun Award Winner, 1998 North American Walleye Anglers – Angler of the Year and has qualified for each of the PWT Championships.

“Fall is the time for bruiser-sized walleyes, especially on Lake Erie. During the time I was hosting Next Bite, we would generally schedule TV and video shoots on “Big Water” in the fall just to capture on video, the thrill of landing lots of big walleyes from the cold waters on Lake Erie or the other Great Lakes,” shares Kavazecz.

“There are two particular patterns that develop this time of year,” continues Keith. “The daytime bite on crankbaits and a night time bite on crankbaits. There are no guarantees for success, but for some great walleye catches this could be your best opportunity before next season.”

“During the fall of the year you will find the fish roaming the basin 4-5 miles off shore,” states Keith. “If the air temperature is still warm and the water temperature is above 50 degrees, the walleyes will most likely be suspended. Once the water temperature falls below 50 degrees, the fish tend to relate to bottom.”

The pattern takes a different turn when the sun goes down on these late-season walleyes. The walleyes will move from the basin to feed along the transition break, usually around the 20-foot mark and about a mile off the shore. The best lure for these conditions is a larger shallow running stick bait. Run the baits in the 6-to-8-foot range. Fish are suspended and spooky, planer boards are essential.

“While you may be accustomed to long trolling passes on Lake Erie in the summer, the passes you will make in the fall are a quarter-mile to half-mile long. It is important to be able to cover water to find the fish. I like to use Off Shore Tackle’s OR-12 Side Planers to get the baits out to the side of the boat. Since these boards are balanced perfectly, they can be trolled at a wide range of speeds,” concludes Kavajecz.

We then discussed the big question for trollers, speed. The proper speed is critical for this bite, typically 1 to 1.75mph. Using big-lipped, big profile cranks, such as the Berkley Flicker Minnow. This versatile bait can be trolled fast in warm water, which gives the lure more of a “kick” in the action. In the early spring and fall, when the water is colder, it can be trolled slow, giving it more of a “roll” in the action, which entices the fish to bite.

Fishing Lake Erie during the fall can be an exciting time. Whether its monster walleye, huge smallmouth bass, salmon, lakers, jack perch or many other species that call the Eastern Basin of Lake Erie their home, your freezer will be filled with tasty Lake Erie fish.

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