Walleye fishing is a matter of bait, mood

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Lake Erie
Lake Erie, one of the world's top walleye destinations.

I think my brain is on overload after sitting through a piece of Lance Valentine’s college level course on walleye fishing. This guy knows more about walleye behavior, stuff that serious walleye anglers can use to turn fishing into catching, than anyone I’ve ever met and I’ve rubbed shoulders with a lot of top rated guides and charter operators.

Indeed, Valentine, the Michigan-based creator of Walleye 101, is all he is reported to be, a professor of walleye information.

And profess he does, in hour-after-hour of non-stop chatter, good, understandable chatter that leads students with small bites of finding active fish tips garnishing those tips with the “how” with the “why” until the whole plate is full and palatable.

In the mood

Lance Valentine walleye fishing seminar
Lance Valentine’s walleye fishing seminars are interesting, fact-filled and fun. Anglers in attendance who don’t catch more fish more consistently just weren’t listening. (Submitted photo)

First off is Valentine’s insistence that we all spend way too much time fishing for walleye that aren’t in the mood. Instead, he suggests that we invest a great deal of our day in a search for active walleye that are more likely to be feeding before wetting lines. Of course, that chapter is about what to look for and for the most part, it’s about finding bait, the same thing walleyes are searching for. Find bait and you’ll find walleye, is Valentine’s core belief but it isn’t all that simple. It’s an effort in balancing maps, sonar screens, weather conditions, water conditions, and a smattering of other factors.

“There lots of factors that we can’t control but we need to use those things to find our active fish,” he said.

Around bait

Inland lake walleye, active and feeding walleye, the fish most likely to bite, are always going to be around bait, generally minnows, which are most likely to be found around the plankton that forage such as minnows feeds on which is moved around by wind. It’s been known for a long time that wind is key, but there is more to it than simply chasing the wind-blown shorelines.

“I rely more on the wind direction of the past day or two because when wind direction changes it takes several hours at best, maybe even more, to move the bait and of course, the hungry walleyes,” he said.

Searching for bait

When talking about big, open water where current, light and depth is more important than shorelines and underwater structures, it’s a matter of searching for bait. Find bait and you have found active walleyes, is the lesson in short.

“Walleyes feed up and that never changes,” insisted Valentine, as he eased from finding active fish to catching them.

“They have to see it, not smell it and not hear it,” Valentine said, adding that fancy colors don’t mean anything except to the fisherman who is attracted to them.

How they see

According to Valentine (who fishes 200 days every year, most of which are involved in teaching others how to be successful), since the sight pattern of walleye is above them, they only see the bottom and lower parts of a lure.

“Give me about six proven colors and a couple variations of them and that’s all I need in my tackle box, “he said.

Valentine’s favorite lure colors are silver with orange belly, Fire Tiger, dark purple or black, Pink Lemonade, white, and gold with orange belly.

Contrasting color

Besides color, he suggested that contrasting colors on a lure are every bit as important.

“The colors on the top of a lure catch fishermen while colors the fish see catch fish,” he joked.

Other factors

He also said it’s his well-tested opinion that lure color plays a prime part only when everything else is right.

Valentine holds several classes in Michigan and Ohio, including brief, off-season classes, as well as intense, hands-on weekends during the season.

Check www.walleye101.com for opportunities to interact and learn from him.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.

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