Local pro offers guide to walleye fishing

Ross Robertson’s work on trolling for walleye was decades in the making and is filled with his secrets.
Ross Robertson’s work on trolling for walleye was decades in the making and is filled with his secrets.

Ross Robertson is not an author who likes to occasionally use his spare time to go fishing.

Robertson is a professional fisherman who has spent most of the last two decades perfecting many of the subtle nuances of his craft, and he thought this was probably a good time to write some of this stuff down.

He is a somewhat reluctant author, so the native Toledoan’s first book could also be his last. Or it could be just the opening volume in a collection of angling texts — fishing is that fickle a business.

Robertson’s book addresses one very specific topic. It is not going to tell you how to make fabulous wealth working from home, it’s not going to change your love life, help you lose 50 pounds, and it won’t make the list for Oprah’s Book Club.

But if you are a walleye fisherman, it will provide relief from a lot of headaches, prompt a few smiles, and make those “so-so” days out on the lake transform into “oh-my” kind of days.

Robertson’s book also lacks a cutesy title — one of those that make you wonder what the heck it is about, such as “Fifty Shades of Grey” or “Chariots of Fire.”

He called it Walleye Trolling because that’s what it is about —– all 148 pages loaded with photos, detailed illustrations and point-by-point procedures to follow if more fish and bigger fish are on the agenda.

And in the walleye fishing ranks, trolling, or tracking down monster fish in open water, particularly Lake Erie, is where Robertson has earned his reputation as one of the best.

“With Ross, you get a feel for so many of the little things,” said Curt Niedermier, Robertson’s editor and collaborator on the book.

“Ross wants to help grow the walleye fishing community and he knows that helping people catch fish is the most critical element in that process.”

Robertson is a Whitmer grad who learned much about the subtleties and secrets of walleye fishing on Lake Erie from local legends Jim Fofrich, Sr., and Jim Fofrich, Jr. The 33-year-old Robertson grew to love the lake at an early age and has been making his living through tournament fishing, guiding, and promoting fishing products since graduating from college.

When he decided to chronicle some of the most important aspects of covering a lot of water and exposing your bait to as many walleye as possible via trolling, Robertson had already seen some good fishing books, and more than a few really bad ones.

“I don’t think today’s fisherman wants to read a novel, so we wanted to have plenty of useful information, side-bar tips, and illustrations,” he said. “If you want to be a better fisherman, you get all the best information you can put your hands on, but we didn’t want to make this thing 500 pages. We made it concise, and reader friendly.”

When Robertson was hit with the notion to put his catalog of walleye trolling knowledge down on paper, Niedermier was the ideal partner for the ambitious project. A native of Seneca County and an Ohio State grad, Niedermier had been handling Robertson’s magazine stories for several years as an editor at FLW Outdoors.

“From working closely with Ross, I knew he was a high energy guy who never had a shortage of information about proper fishing techniques,” Niedermier said.

“When he gets going on a subject, I think it’s better to just let him rattle on, and then try to boil it down so people can understand what the heck he is talking about.”

The duo decided to self-publish the book to save on up-front costs, and then Robertson spent most of last winter describing in the written word the techniques he uses, and those of other pros.

“I’m not a great technical writer, but I felt like I knew enough about how to put things together and organize it to do this,” Robertson said. “Many times, I spent 10 hours a day just hammering through it, so even though technically, this took a year and a half to write, realistically, it’s taken a lifetime to gather the information.”

Unlike many other how-to fishing or hunting books, Robertson’s Walleye Trolling digest is not simply a compilation of his knowledge and experience with the topic. In a rare move for any pro, he left the ego out on the lake and brought in many of his top competitors on the walleye fishing circuit to add their expertise in areas of individual strength.

There is a section on bottom bouncers by pro Mark Brumbaugh, a section on identifying big-fish patterns by pro Bruce Sampson, comments on the future of walleye fishing from icon Al Lindner, and a section on trolling crank baits with pro Brett King.

“We tried to get an all-star cast, and I think we were successful at that,” Robertson said. “Regardless of who you are, you want to hear from the best at each specific type of fishing, so we went out and got the best. Ultimately, I ended up using a lot of friends in the book, but not because they were friends, but because they were the best at what they do.”

Robertson also realized very early on that by compiling a bible on walleye trolling, he was essentially giving away many of his secrets.

“My competition heard about the project and they were asking me when the book was going to be out,” he said.

“By now, they’ve already bought it and that’s a flattering deal, but the book really is for the average fisherman who just wants to know more about how to do this the right way. There’s a lot of demand for this type of education.”

Robertson said the difference between catching walleyes with weight-forward lures and catching them via trolling is significant, so the book has the potential to provide immediate results.

“Casting weight-forward lures is a skill, while trolling is a system. We present the system, and there is nothing in the book that was not well thought out and premeditated. I don’t want this to come out the wrong way, but I feel like I can make you a better fisherman with trolling.”

Robertson said the book comes out at a time when he is confident in his skills and his knowledge of the walleye game, and wanted to share that bank of data with other fishermen.

“I had an old-school fisherman tell me once, many years ago, that ‘you ain’t done it long enough’ to understand what worked and what didn’t,” Robertson said.

“He said it would take time, and not to rush things, and he was absolutely right. Now, I think I’ve done this long enough to understand what he meant. Your success as a fisherman is due to a lot of other people helping you along the way. I want to make sure to get that across with this book.”

WHERE TO BUY THE BOOK: Ross Robertson's "Walleye Trolling" book is available at the http://www.bigwaterfishing.com. The book is pictured on the left side of the home page, with a "Shop" tab. The book sells for $24.95.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.