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Fishing | January 25, 2024
September 22, 2023
If you’re looking for tips on choosing the best lures to catch walleye, this article is for you. Walleye are an adaptable predator, and will pursue many different types of prey in various habitats. This behaviour, along with the fact walleye can be fickle at times, means anglers should own an assortment of different baits to be prepared for whatever the day brings. With this in mind, here’s a list of the best lures for walleye and some things to consider when choosing baits.
In this article, you will discover the best walleye lures:
Generally, most crankbaits have either a shad or minnow profile. It’s a good idea to own some of both to cater to walleye preferences based on their chosen forage.
You’ll also want to have crankbaits in different sizes. There are no hard and fast rules, but generally progressing from small to larger cranks is a common tactic as the fishing season advances. For example, use a 2- or 2.5-inch Rapala Shad Rap when casting for spring walleye in shallow water, a 3-1/2 inch Berkley Flicker Minnow for trolling summertime walleye relating to 18 feet, and a Rapala Down Deep Husky Jerk in the fall for walleye feeding deeper than 20 feet. These examples also demonstrate the importance of owning a mix of shallow- to deep-diving crankbaits to run your bait at the depth where walleye are feeding.
In addition to the three lures referenced above, other popular walleye crankbaits are the Berkley Flicker Shad, Cotton Cordell Wally Diver, Rapala Tail Dancer, Reef Runner Deep Little Ripper, Storm Hot ’N Tot, and Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow Deep Diver.
Another one of the best trolling lures for walleye is a spinner rig. Specific features can vary from one spinner to the next, but the basic anatomy remains the same — there’s a blade for creating walleye-attracting flash and vibration, some beads, and at least one hook.
Spinner rigs are excellent for trolling and drifting live bait. Worm spinner rigs typically come with two hooks, but single hook versions are good for rigging a minnow or a leech. You can also skip live bait and use a scented soft bait instead, such as a Berkley 6-inch Gulp! Nightcrawler instead of a real worm.
When walleye are relating to bottom in summer, it’s tough to beat trolling a juicy nightcrawler worm on a floating spinner rig (e.g., Northland Mr. Walleye Crawler Hauler) on a bottom bouncer sinker. In instances when walleye are suspended higher in the water column, use an inline keel weight or clip-on weight ahead of a spinner.
Your spinner collection should include a mix of different blade shapes. Willow, Colorado, Indiana and butterfly blades are just four shape options. A few spinners to consider are the Compac Floating Worm Harness, Invasion Willow Leaf Fishing Rig, Jig-A-Joe Pami Rig, and Northland Float N Spin Fishing Rig.
Jigs are walleye fishing essentials. These weighted hooks are an ideal delivery system for getting a live minnow, leech, or worm into a walleye’s strike zone. A jig head is also excellent for fishing various soft baits, including swimbaits, minnows, worms, and grubs (see sections below for more details). The Berkley Essentials Round Ball Jig, Jig-A-Jo Round Jig, Kalins Google Eye Round Jig, Northland Thumper Jig, VMC Neon Moon Eye Jig, and Z-Man Finesse EyeZ Swimbait Jig are great options for walleye.
Jigs dressed with hair and feathers are also some of the best walleye baits. These durable jigs can be fished on their own. Or, tip a dressed jig with live bait or a scented soft bait for even more fish-catching appeal. Examples of these are the Judd Walleye Hair Jig, Mepps Bucktail Hair Jig, VMC Bucktail Jig and Hot Skirt Glow Hair Jig.
Popular for ice fishing, gliding jigs also catch walleye from spring to autumn. The baitfish profile and natural swimming action of these baits make them great for snap-jigging walleye from sand and mud flats. They’re also excellent for vertically jigging deep offshore humps and rock piles.
The Rapala Jigging Rap is a long-time favourite. Other options are the Acme Hyper-Rattle Vertical Jig, Freedom Tackle Turn Back Shad, Northland UV Puppet Minnow, and Rapala Jigging Shadow Rap.
Jigging spoons and blade baits catch walleye year-round from lakes and rivers. Snap-jig either of these baits off bottom and you’ll get bites if walleye are around. Heavy vibrations, fluttering falls, and flashy visuals are key characteristics of spoons and blade baits.
Blade bait choices include the Freedom Tackle Blade Bait, Heddon Rattling Sonar, Johnson Thinfisher, and Rapala Rap-V. Two great walleye spoons are the Berkley Vibrato and Northland Macho Minnow.
The Rapala Rippin’ Rap, Strike King Red Eye Shad, and other types of rattling, lipless crankbaits can trigger hard strikes from big walleye. These lures can be hopped along bottom like a jig. Cast and retrieve a lipless crankbait on a flat or over the top of a weed bed when walleye are hunting baitfish up shallow and you’re sure to put fish in the net.
Soft-plastic swimbaits are also one of the best lures for walleye. In addition to an alluring baitfish profile, a swimbait’s tail kicks during the retrieve, producing a lifelike swimming action and ample vibration.
Owning swimbaits in sizes between 2 and 5.5 inches will cover you for many walleye scenarios from spring to autumn. Some stellar swimbaits for walleye are the Berkley Power Swimmer, Keitech Easy Shiner, Jackall Rhythm Wave, Megabass Dark Sleeper, Storm Searchbait 360GT, Strike King Rage Tail Swimmer, X-Zone Swammer, and Z-Man Slim SwimZ.
No soft-plastics collection for walleye is complete without minnow profiled baits featuring a forked tail, like Berkley’s Gulp! Alive Minnow and Berkley PowerBait Minnow. These baitfish lookalikes are excellent at catching walleye when rigged on a jig, a drop-shot rig, or a spinner rig.
Twister tail grubs are another can’t-miss soft plastic for walleye. Producing plenty of action and vibration, grubs can be worked along bottom or fished with a steady, swimming retrieve. Mister Twister makes several, including the Meeny, Curly Tail, and Double Tail. The Berkley Gulp! Minnow Grub and YUM Walleye Grub are two others.
Straight-tail plastics, like Jackall’s i-Shad, as well as various worms, like Berkley’s MaxScent Flat Worm and Z-Man’s Hula StickZ, are also good finesse offerings to have. These can be fished on a jig head or a drop-shot rig.