For years, longtime walleye tournament angler Marty Glorvigen has lived for ink-black nights during fall’s new moon. That’s when spawning ciscoes push up onto shallow rocky points en masse, followed by walleyes that gorge upon this pre-iceup feast. Glorvigen would follow, too, trolling shad-style crankbaits, banging them into the rocks at 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 mph.
The approach often worked—but failed almost as often.
“The only time I could catch many walleyes doing this was when they were really active--feast or famine. It was one of those things that haunted me,” he laughs.
So it was one October night a few years ago. After about four hours of trolling traditional crankbaits, he hadn’t caught a single fish. In desperation, he picked up a bass rod he happened to have on hand and tied on a Strike King King Shad, a sinking segmented “flexbait” that looked extremely similar to the lake’s native ciscoes.
“I started trolling it just like a normal crankbait, banging bottom—and nothing was happening. But then the bait got stuck, so I backed up the boat and popped the rodtip to free the lure. That’s when I saw my line take off. It was a 5 ½-pound walleye.”
Noting the bait’s fluttering fall at the time of the strike, Glorvigen changed his approach, crawling the boat along at about 1 mph, while sweeping the rod forward and then letting the sinking lure fall back on slack line.”
“It was totally unbelievable. I started catching one walleye after another, and they would just smash it.”
Glorvigen continues to test and tweak this pattern, and his findings lead him to believe action plays a bigger role in triggering these fish than a stationary bait’s resemblance to the preferred forage.
“This goes one layer deep from the whole predator-prey, match-the-hatch stuff. I truly believe this bite is centered around the fact that this type of lure not only matches the hatch—it matches the motion of what’s actually triggering walleyes to bite in this situation—a dying cisco falling out of the school.
After coming upon this pattern, Glorvigen put it to the test on other waters with strong cisco populations using other segmented such as the Strike Pro Phantom, and it came through in those fisheries as well.
The lesson is one anglers can put to work whether they fish walleyes or wahoo: Just because you decipher the predator-prey connection, the work doesn’t stop there. To ensure consistent success, anglers must also predict what specific prey will trigger an attack from neutral to negative fish, and then create a presentation that matches that. It could mean imparting a different action to the lure, or choosing a lure style that does so. In the case of Glorvigen’s fall night-bite walleyes, it was both.