by John Kruse, November 03, 2019
You’ve heard of schooling fish, but how about a school for walleye? Yes, that’s a thing and it’s now being offered in Washington State. The Pacific Northwest Walleye School is the brainchild of Johnnie Candle. Candle is a guide who lives at Devils Lake in South Dakota, arguably one of the best walleye fisheries in the nation. In addition to being a guide Candle is also a tournament angler, competing in various walleye circuits around the country. He’s pretty accomplished in this regard. In 2010 he won the Master Walleye Circuit’s World Championship.
Most anglers of Johnnie’s stature would be content to fish tournaments, guide clients and present seminars during appearances for sponsors at sportsmen’s shows during the winter months. However, Candle has a strong desire to share his fishing knowledge with others beyond the sportsmen’s show circuit.
Candle started doing this with his guided fishing trips on Devil’s Lake, where he not only helped clients catch fish, but taught them skills they could take home with them and use after their day on the water. Johnnie realized a day really wasn’t enough to teach everything he wanted to share and that’s where he came up with the idea of a 3 ½ day walleye school.
Initially offered in the Midwest, Johnnie Candle offered his first Pacific Northwest Walleye School last October in the Tri-Cities, teaching student anglers of all ages how to catch walleye out of the Columbia River. This October, Candle offered this regional school at Eastern Washington’s Potholes Reservoir and the basecamp for the event was MarDon Resort.
The concept behind the school is novel. Johnnie Candle explains most anglers attend seminars during sportsmen’s shows and then wait weeks or months before trying to put that knowledge, much of it now forgotten, to use. At Walleye School, Candle and his staff of local pros teach strategies and techniques in the classroom. Then, they immediately go on to the water to apply the lessons they just learned. By employing this strategy anglers retain the knowledge much better.
The students bring their own boats and electronics to the school. Candle and his pro-staff jump on board the student boats to give them personalized instruction based on what they want to know. They also help the students get the most out of their boats as well as their sonar and GPS units to help them catch fish.
At this month’s Pacific Northwest Walleye School, thirteen anglers spent $695 each to attend from Thursday the 17th through Sunday the 20th. The fee included not only the instruction, but also lodging at MarDon Resort, three meals a day at the Beach House Café there, moorage for boats, ice and even bait.
I was lucky enough to attend the Friday morning session of Walleye School. The student anglers were an interesting bunch. Twelve were men, one came from as far away as Indiana, another from Oregon, and the rest from various locations around Washington State. Some of them had a good amount of walleye fishing expertise, others not as much, and one had not caught a walleye before (but did that morning)!
After breakfast and a quick classroom session we headed to the docks. I tagged along with Johnnie Candle who went out with Paul Phillips from Omak and Mike Monahan from Indiana. Candle spent the first hour with them demonstrating how to use the fish finder and GPS unit to locate walleye. The second hour was spent teaching the two how to fish spinner worm harnesses behind bottom walker weights. It was very informative and I learned several new tricks from Candle. These tricks worked too. In short order Paul Phillips had a walleye in the boat using this new found knowledge.
We headed back to the marina after our session and changed boats. Johnnie now boarded an 18-foot Hewescraft set up for Columbia River salmon fishing. Johnnie spent some time teaching this angler how to adapt his boat and motors so he could be successful fishing for walleye. One thing Candle suggested, based on the layout of the boat, was to troll plugs for walleye. Candle spooled a reel with lead core line and taught him and I how to fish plugs with this weighted line to get deep where the walleye are located in the Fall. Within one minute of this plug reaching the bottom we hooked a fish and reeled it in. That’s what you call rapid, positive reinforcement! As for my day at Walleye School? The biggest lesson I learned is the tuition spent here is a great investment if you want to become a better angler.
Johnnie Candle will be offering his Pacific Northwest Walleye School at MarDon Resort again next year though a date has not yet been set. Find out more at www.johnniecandle.com
John Kruse – Host and producer of Northwestern Outdoors and America Outdoors Radio
www.northwesternoutdoors.com and www.americaoutdoorsradio.com