Walleye fishing is a popular pastime and a competitive sport, with record catches weighing in at over 20 pounds in some cases. They’re also a very sought after fish for the dinner table and taste delicious, although you don’t need to aim for a monster in this case, something around 16 – 20 inches should be more than enough.
Since there are plenty of walleyes out there, they might even become a staple dish in a survival situation. However, they’re different to other fish and traditional methods and baits may not always fool or interest the wily walleye. So what’s the best way to catch them?
You will certainly need the best walleye lures if you’re to have any chance of bringing one home for supper. However, it’s important to know what you’re up against so below we’ll talk a little more about walleyes, how to understand them in order to outsmart them, where they commonly dwell and the different types of lures you can use to catch them out.
Finally, we’ll review seven of the most popular lures on the market.
What to Know About The Walleye?
Before we discuss the best lures for walleyes, it is important first to understand the walleye, as it behaves slightly differently to other popular fish such as bass. With an understanding of how the walleye behaves combined with a great lure, you’re bound to have consistently good results. Some key characteristics of the walleye are listed below;
- The walleye is color blind
- It has very good eyesight in low light conditions
- It has keen hearing
- It has a poor sense of smell
The fact that the walleye is color blind helps us enormously when choosing the best lure for walleye fishing. It is able to see the red/green spectrum of colors, but nothing else. Keeping this in mind when choosing a lure go for shades of green, as the walleye perceives this best.
Despite being color blind, or perhaps as a result of being color blind, the walleye is able to see exceptionally well in low light conditions, and as such will choose these conditions in which to hunt its prey, as it has an advantage over most other fish. Consider fishing for walleye at dawn, dusk or even at night for best results.
The walleye also uses its superb sense of hearing to gain an advantage over its prey, which is why it is particularly good at hunting in muddy waters. This can work to your advantage too, since using a rattling or vibrating lure is likely to attract a catch, even in murky conditions.
Beware though and try to stay quiet, as they will also hear you stomping around a mile off and will not be overly tempted to come over to investigate.
Finally, the walleye doesn’t have a great sense of smell, or at least it doesn’t use it as a primary sense for hunting prey. This is worth noting if considering using live bait to gain an advantage in murky, less clear conditions.
Where and When to Catch Walleye
Walleyes are common throughout North America, with larger specimens in the Northern states and Canada. As a freshwater fish, you will find them in many of the Great lakes, and a great many of the smaller natural lakes, as well as rivers and streams.
Generally, in warmer weather they are more likely to be deeper underwater where the water is at a more suitable temperature for them, sometimes as deep as 40 – 60 feet, depending on the area and climate. For instance, in the far North, even in summer they may not dwell much deeper than 10 feet, simply because the water is still at an ideal temperature for them.
As the weather cools they will venture into more shallow waters. They can be fished all year round, even in icy temperatures. It’s always worth doing your homework and researching the climate and water temperatures of the area you will be fishing.
If there is a natural shelf in a lake or river, with steep sides, walleye are likely to dwell beneath the steep slope, however, they don’t often hunt here, but will hunt in shallower waters nearby. As stated previously, they are most likely to hunt at dusk or dawn and will stick to deeper waters on sunny days, in particular, if there is a lot of traffic on the water, preferring to hunt at night.
Different Types of Lures
Now that we’ve had a look at how a walleye operates best, let’s take a look at some of the different lures with which to best catch one.
- Soft plastic lures
Crankbaits: are amongst the most common lures used by walleye anglers, and most will have a selection in their kit. They simulate typical baitfish and come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and weights. Using a crank bait is as simple as casting your line, and cranking it back to you.
The depth the lure is designed to work at is of particular importance, and this is defined by the size of the lure, and the “bill” or “lip” at the front, generally, the larger and flatter this is, the deeper it is designed to sink. It is worth carrying a small selection as a beginner, with lures designed to work in varying depths.
Spoons: are a fairly old fashioned and simply designed lure, generally, as the name suggests, shaped like a spoon. Due to this shape, they tend to wobble in the water, mimicking a wounded baitfish, with the movement also reflecting light to add to the effect. They come in a variety of shapes and colors.
Spinners: work, as the name suggests, by spinning a blade, or blades, in order to reflect light and create a vibration, thus luring a hungry predatory fish over, especially one with good hearing such as the walleye.
Jigs: are another popular type of lure, consisting of a lead or tungsten head for weight and a hook. There are many subtypes including soft-bodied, floating, etc and some of the most effective are designed to vibrate.
Soft plastic lures: have an advantage over other types of lures as they feel more natural to a biting walleye, who will generally not pull away as quickly as his friend who has just bitten into a hard lure. There are many options available, various colors and shapes such as baitfish, insects, grubs and other popular walleye meals, and some are even scented.
A Review of Seven of The Best Walleye Lures
Cotton Cordell Wally Diver Lures
Type of lure: Crankbait
Weight: (¼ oz) or 3⅛”(½ oz)
Specific Features: Six hooks, wounded baitfish movement, can be cast or trolled
Best use: A fantastic lure, best suited to trolling between 6 – 8 feet deep
Description: Cotton Cordell Wally Diver Lures is a lure that over the years has reached legendary status, and has remained at the top of the tackle box for many anglers. It is the lure that anglers will go back to time and time again and has proved its mettle in a wide variety of conditions.
The design, which replicates a baitfish, is very sleek and comes in a huge range of colors designed specifically to attract walleyes, with the more popular colors being greens and blues. The wobble and movement produced by this lure also play their part in driving the walleyes crazy and dragging them in and onto your line. It’s most effective at depths between 6 and 8 ft.
Many anglers are happy to use this straight out of the box, and a good many of them have had very productive days fishing. In fact, it’s hard to find anything wrong with this lure, it’s almost foolproof in its ease of use, it looks good and is effective against a wide variety of fish aside from walleye, in a both lakes and rivers.
Lindy Fuzz-E Grub Jigs
Type of lure: Jig
Weight: (¼ oz)
Specific Features: Soft plastic grub style body, two pack, lifelike marabou tail
Best use: Jig fishing at the lake
Description: The Fuzz-E-Grub jig combines the classic jig style lure with a soft plastic grub style body. The look is fairly realistic, and the shiny, slippery appearance, along with the slower moving, ultra-flexible marabou tail certainly seems to attract aggressive attacks.
Several reviewers have said that the walleye really do go for this lure, and they don’t just bite, but chomp it up. Being soft-bodied, the unsuspecting walleye that bites is also more likely to chew for a little longer than with a harder more traditional lure, giving you more time to reel it in.
The jig can be used as it is, or live bait can be added, with some anglers claiming that the combination of this jig and a live minnow is irresistible to walleye, and has kept them chomping at it for over 20 years.
Available in a whole spectrum of colors, and weights from 1/16 oz – ⅜ oz, this is suitable for a variety of scenarios and works just as well in murky waters as it does in clear waters.
Related products: Lindy Fuzz-E-Grub bodies
Terminator T1 Spinnerbait Colorado/Oklahoma
Type of lure: Spinner
Weight: ⅜ oz
Specific Features: Titanium construction, premium hook, realistic flash and color
Best use: Great for angling in muddy or murky conditions
Description: Terminator T1 Spinnerbait Colorado/Oklahoma, Nickel/Gold Blade is more than just a spinnerbait, in that it combines the use of two different types of blade, with a titanium baitfish replica head and replaceable silicon skirts. This combination of light reflecting materials and color, along with the hum of the blades and the wiggle of the silicone skirt makes for a great lure that many a walleye will be tempted by.
The head is strong and will last for many years, and is great for ripping through any vegetation that might slow down or even snag other types of lures. The lure is particularly effective in muddy waters, due to the hum produced by the spinning of the blades.
It is this thump and hum that will initially attract a hungry walleye, long before it can see it, and it claims to produce 47% more vibration than other spinnerbaits.
The silicone skirt is easy to change if needs be, without having to buy a whole new lure.
Reviewers have only success stories and good things to say about this lure, with many mentioning that the quality is very high, and that the lure is very durable, and will last up to five times longer than other popular spinnerbaits. It is rare, but not unknown for some parts to snap, but these are easily replaced.
Lindy Slick Jig
Type of lure: Jig
Weight: 1/32, 1/16, ⅛, ¼, 3/16, ⅜, ⅝ oz
Specific Features: Bug imitation, sized for ice and open water fishing, weight forward design
Best use: A fantastic lure for ice fishing
Description: The slick jig is designed to excel in ice fishing conditions. The weight forward body is designed to imitate a tasty bug, and the banana shape helps it to move away from the fishing hole. The line can be tied to various parts of the jig depending on how you want it to work.
For example, the knot can be tied at the rear, to encourage the jig to sink down and hit the bottom, disturbing the debris, which is sure to bring over some hungry walleye.
It’s an easy jig to handle and set up and has proven its use time and time again, with many anglers having hauled home large loads of walleye.
Some people have issues with the durability, in particular with the smaller jigs, and have complained that the hooks are prone to breaking after hooking three or four fish. However, the majority of people have happily used this jig time after time.
The “green glow” color is particularly good for catching walleye, and the addition of live bait will increase your chances of a bite. While it is best used for ice fishing, it has also had good results in other seasons on the open water.
Strike King Red Eye Shad Tungsten 2 Tap
Type of lure: Crankbait
Size: 2 ⅜”
Weight: ½ oz
Specific Features: Lipless crankbait, tungsten sound chamber, 3D eyes
Best use: Fantastic for fishing in murky conditions / tournament conditions
Description: Strike King Red Eye Shad Tungsten 2 Tap is a well-established crankbait, used by many professional and competitive anglers. It features a tungsten sound chamber in the head of the lure, which gives a far duller rattle than usual, and as such is more appealing to walleye.
The craftsmanship is a marvel, and the way the lure is designed to swim down – or at least give the impression of swimming – ensures that this lure stands out from other lipless crankbaits. It is available in a wide range of paint jobs and looks incredibly lifelike as it swims down to the depths, with light reflection working exceptionally well.
In murkier conditions, the sounds produced by the tungsten weights will more than make up for the lack of visibility.
It’s a good bait to use year round, and you will generally catch something when using it, whatever the weather. It is well made, and features premium hooks and realistic 3D eyes, and the weight ensures that casting your line is as easy as it can be. A fantastic lure that can be used straight from the box with minimal effort.
Related products: Red eyed shad ¼, ½, ¾ oz, Red eyed shad silent series
Rapala Husky Jerk 12 Fishing Lure
Type of lure: Crankbait
Size: 4 ¾”
Weight: 7/16 oz
Specific Features: Rattlebox, long casting, suitable for trolling and casting
Best use: Great for bigger fish and open water fishing
Description: Rapala Husky Jerk 12 Fishing Lure has many happy fans who rave about its success in larger bodies of water. It is a good lure for both casting and trolling and features 3 sets of high-quality triple hooks. The design replicates a baitfish, as does the movement, which is sure to entice many hungry walleyes to your line.
The rattlebox ensures that your lure will be heard when visibility is not so good, and will also appeal to walleyes not in the immediate vicinity. While it has its followers and anglers who swear by it, it seems it’s a hate it or love it lure, and for some anglers it’s very difficult to use.
They find it tends to snag on plants, rocks etc and a few people have commented that they’ve lost the lure before they’d even caught anything on it. It seems to work better at depths between four and eight feet and isn’t fantastic at the bottom of the lake due to its snagging issues.
Despite its problems, this lure seems to work well for many anglers who will return to it time and again.
Lindy Watsit Jig
Type of lure: Jig
Size: 1 ¾, 2”
Weight: 1/32, 1/16, ⅛, ¼, 3/16 oz
Specific Features: Two pack, profile matches many types of prey, soft body
Best use: Generally a good jig for clearer/good conditions
Description: Lindy Watsit Jig is a simple but very effective jig, and works well on its own or with live bait attached. The body is designed to imitate many types of walleye prey, such as crayfish, hellgrammites or baitfish, and the vibration from the six small legs induces a feeding reaction, through water displacement.
The thin tail softly sways as well, mimicking prey further. There are 18 different colors and patterns, suitable for catching several types of fish.
Happy anglers report that this jig is capable of out fishing live bait in the exact same spot, making it understandable why this is such a popular lure. It works well in waters up to 12 feet deep, and is capable of breaking through plants without snagging. Walleye will snap it up aggressively, as it represents everything they are after in a meal, so be prepared to haul them in quick!
Reel Them in!
Now that we’ve looked at the characteristics of walleye fish, and have a better understanding of how they live and hunt, as well as the various lures we can use to catch them, it’s just a case of choosing your lure, or indeed lures. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, rather, a selection of varying lures is often very useful in order to be prepared for whatever conditions you might encounter.
Just remember to do your homework with regards to where you wish to fish, and buy the appropriate lures for the location and climate. For instance, if in you plan to fish in a large natural lake on a very hot day, you will want to take with you lures that are capable of sinking to lower depths.
If however you fancy a spot of fishing down by the river, and it is a bit murky, consider a lure that is capable of producing noise. For ice fishing, a smaller jig might work best, designed specifically for that purpose.
So, whether you’re fishing for sport, relaxation or in a survival situation, you should now be armed and ready to catch walleye whatever the weather.
Do you have any tips for catching or cooking walleye? Let us know below.