Whenever Walleye anglers bring up a subject on the controversial subject of fishing for them, one of the most common things mentioned is the disagreement about what the best Walleye fishing lures are.
Since they are toothy, bloodthirsty, and aggressive predators, you have so many different anglers telling you different viewpoints on the subject. This leads to more questions than it does answers.
Do you use crankbaits, soft plastics, jerkbaits, spinners, or something else? Unfortunately for everybody, one will tell you one thing and someone else will tell you another thing. Everybody has a right to stick to their favorite baits and never even give a try with anything else.
That is certainly fine however, anybody that regularly fishes understands that they may be limiting their own success by refusing to try a new lure. The best of the best things to throw is not technically defined in any game and fish magazine or tackle store catalog.
Because of this, the definition is usually defined when it has met certain criteria. For instance, the best Walleye baits are generally hard-bodied as well as minnow-shaped, although many will also hit leeches, nightcrawlers, and similar soft plastics.
To better help you out when choosing a lure, we have created a list of what we believe to be some of the very best at it. All of the lures on this list have been carefully studied with time on the water and with consistency, have provided versatility and effectiveness in all bodies of water we have tried.
How To Choose The Right Walleye Lure
There are a few reasons why you would try some baits over others. Knowing exactly what makes the Walleye tick is the key to maxing out on your limit or not getting a single nibble all day. They are especially unique because they have so many different things going for them. For instance, they are aggressive in much the same way as Largemouth Bass.
This means they will chase a variety of different things. They have a long slender body that is shaped like a torpedo and is built for speed. They also have a mouth of teeth that they rip prey apart with, similar to Pike or Muskellunge. Their vision is also pretty good for a fish. Related to the Yellow Perch, you need to understand that they love to inhabit deep water if available.
If you can properly understand what to throw and understand the reasons behind it, you can very easily train yourself to become a master of catching the species. Nothing is set in stone and everything fails at one point or another. It is not an exact science, but there are some things you should keep in mind before you even think about going to catch some on a rod and reel.
1. Consider Their Aggression – If fish could talk, the first one to likely recite the words “get out of my house” would be this species. With a mouth full of razor-sharp plated teeth and a thirst for blood with a bad attitude to match, they are abruptly aggressive as a part of their survival tactics. This means you can get them to react when they don’t want to eat. It is more of a “get away from me before I bite you in half” sort of scenario. Use their attitude to get them to bite more. Throw crankbaits, trolling plugs, and other reaction lures that can take many bites from those teeth without ripping apart or breaking apart.
2. Utilize Realism – Reaction baits are all well and good for many situations when fish have a higher metabolism and elevated blood temperature. What happens in colder water though? What happens when you are fishing water so clear that it looks safe to drink?
The short answer is to utilize realism in your lures. Using highly detailed and realistic looking or moving baits in the clearest of waters is often best. This will encourage much bigger fish to have a go at your bait and you may find it works better when they are sluggish and lethargic.
The vision they have is pretty good and Scientists have hypothesized that they see a wide array of color patterns. If the water is cold or extremely clear, try to stick to the best-looking baits in your tackle box. Throw soft plastics if you can or use jerkbaits or jigs with realistic colors and actions.
3. Fish Deep Water – Every good angler worth his weight in tungsten or lead sinkers knows that you should always try fishing deeper water first and save the shallows for last. Even in ideal conditions, many prefer deeper water in contrast to the shallows. Even in ideal conditions where the sun is almost nonexistent in broad daylight, you may still find the fish from 20+ feet below the surface or even more.
If you are fishing for trophies to hang on a wall mount or a great photo, it may prove beneficial to fish deep enough to get where the fish are. Use ones that dive deeply or use enough lead weight to get your rig in the strike zone. It is hugely important not only for catching big fish, but any at all. Depth control is something you need to be aware of.
1. Lipless Crankbaits
We have found after much experimentation that lipless crankbaits are one of the absolute best if not the best artificial lures to catch Walleye anywhere in the world. Why might this be the case exactly? Well, for a few reasons. Lipless cranks are great for a few really good reasons and these are what make us choose it as the top choice. First of all, is versatility. You can cast them and just straight retrieve them back to the boat at a moderate pace to nab fish all year long and more so in the Spring. You can bust Walleye with lipless crankbaits in warm weather.
You can also wait until Summer and Fall before making a long cast, letting it fall and reeling it in as fast as you possibly can for savage and aggressive reaction bites. They are especially great search and find baits too. With internal rattles, a baitfish profile, an annoying sound, and a color that matches the natural food, they are especially great at fishing faster and producing consistent hookups.
Lipless crankbaits are reaction lures. You can use lipless cranks to fish areas of water more quickly and move around the water body to locate fish much quicker. You can also troll them at low and high speeds which can be especially productive in deeper water bodies such as the Great Lakes. Unlike traditional lipped crankbaits, these can be fished by ripping them free of grass as well as getting them down as deep as you want them to go.
You can also use it as one of the greatest searches and find baits on the market. Designed by Kevin VanDam, the world’s best bass angler, this lure has exactly what one would need in a lipless crankbait.
A great selection of colors, VMC brand treble hooks, flat sides, a baitfish profile, a great rattle chamber, and a highly exaggerated red-colored eye to add sparkle.
2. Deep Diving Crankbaits
The next choice to consider after a lipless model of crankbait is a deep diver. Long, lean and mean, deep diving crankbaits are often ideal because these fish just love to inhabit deep water. Anywhere from 20 to 60 feet! If you really want to hook up with some nice keepers, you have to get the lure down deep enough not only for the fish to see it, but also to make them want to give chase.
When they do decide to make the commitment, having two exposed trebles on the belly and tail will drastically increase your hookup ratio because the mouth on these fish is slim. They prefer biting down instead of engulfing the entire meal in one bite. Those teeth are for a reason and it isn’t to scratch their scales when they start itching either. This is why trolling deep divers works so well.
The further you go down in the water, the less sunlight penetrates. Because of this, deep divers are usually equipped with a lip that makes the lure misbehave so they can find it. Even though they have a great colored visionary sight picture, it is not entirely impossible for them to still have trouble finding food when it doesn’t vibrate or move a ton.
Deep divers will help you get down deep enough to where the fish are, help you hookup easier, and even hold up better than softer lures because of those teeth. When you throw them, you are likely in the deepest water. Start off with colors that match the natural food, however brightly. For example, if the primary food is Shad, don’t throw a Shad color which is gray and black. Throw a solid chrome metallic pattern or silver instead.
Our Top Pick: Bandit Deep Diving crankbaits are specifically designed for fishing Walleye. These come in a plethora of different color schemes and patterns such as electric zebra, peacock, clown, and fire tiger.
These colors are more than enough to cover any situation you should come across. Aside from that, they are equipped with 3 extremely sharp black nickel-plated treble hooks.
The lure itself has a plastic body which is capable of resisting those teeth. Also, the lips on these are extremely long which allows for unmatched diving capabilities in the deepest waters.
3. Hard Jerkbaits
It is extremely hard to find a fishing lure that will perform better than a hard plastic jerkbait under clear water conditions. The jerkbait got its name by the way it is meant to be fished. With slack in the line, the angler is supposed to jerk the rod, slash it, and really swing it aggressively from side to side.
Then, the extra slack is taken up by the reel. Never is the reel moving the bait. In the clearest of scenarios, there exist two fishing lure categories that work the best in these conditions. Those are the soft plastic swimbait and the jerkbait.
If you are after some jerkbait Walleye from the Great Lakes (Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie), you must remember that the invasion of the Zebra and Quagga Mussel since 1968, have caused them to multiply in number and filter the plankton out. This made the water extremely clear. It also caused algae blooms that made the Great Lakes water unsafe to drink. Even to the point where visibility is 20+ feet down in certain spots.
That means especially on sunny days, you want one of the most real looking offerings you can get and the ones you should use now may be different from the ones that caught fish before the shellfish invasion. The Great Lakes now have an abundant supply of Round Goby added into the mix which is what Walleye prefer to stay away from but will still eat because of availability.
When you present something like this with a minnow-shaped body, a Shad pattern, and a wounded baitfish movement, you may max out on your limit off of one jerkbait. Jerkbaits may just get more bites in clear water because they look very natural to these individuals who have a great, colored, vision. Learning how to fish with jerkbaits is something you should become familiar with.
Our Top Pick: The Rapala Husky Jerk is the best jerkbait that we have found for this species. These jerkbaits are suspending models which means that they will float back up when at rest which can be deadly in cold water.
Aside from that, the Husky Jerk also contains a rattling chamber with a very aggressive and noisy rattle. We love it because it looks and moves naturally. It also comes in colors like Perch, minnow, Shad, and other effective patterns.
4. Soft Plastic Jerkbaits
Some of the wariest fish can be sought out of refuge by properly fishing a soft plastic jerkbait. While it is a completely different lure configuration in comparison to a harder jerking lure, the concept remains the same. You do a lot more than just tie on a lure and start casting. Since they are soft, they are also rather pliable. This makes these a great choice in clear and cold water.
The lure swims and moves naturally on most rigs. It is also a chewy and more natural feeling offering when the fish quite literally sinks its teeth inside. You can rig soft plastic jerkbaits in many different but effective ways. One of the most common approaches is the Texas rig because it can be rigged completely weedless and thrown into the nastiest of greenery such as vegetation, trees, and vertical structures.
Probably the most well known of the available jerkbait rigs is to use a screwlock hook. It is basically another Texas rig with the added advantage of being able to screw the hook into the nose of the bait to prevent the lure from ripping off. You can also throw jerks on the drop shot rig for when fish are suspended or holding near to cover. You can even just mount a body on a jighead before applying aggressive the aggressive slashing. It looks exactly like a wounded or dying minnow.
Our Top Pick: Our favorite soft jerkbait is brought to you by Zoom. The Super Fluke is quite a versatile and realistic lure for Walleye, Pike, Largemouth, and even Smallmouth. The long and thin profile is perfect for your clear water fishing.
You get a very soft and realistic body that moves with the slightest of rod movements. You can use it to fish everything from topwater to the very bottom. You can Texas rig it with a 3/0 EWG worm hook or nose hook it to use on a drop shot. It also makes an incredible trailer.
5. Paddle Tail Swimbaits
When you need a soft lure that has unmatched realism, especially in very clear and cold water, look no further than the paddle tail soft plastic swimbait. Soft swimbaits are some of most realistic fishing lures known to man. They come in every size, color, and action available which is enough to imitate absolutely anything in the body of water where you fish. Some even claim paddle tails are Walleye candy.
Paddle tail swimbaits have an incredibly real baitfish profile and a uniquely designed tail that thumps side to side as it is retrieved. Depending on which one you use, the tail will come in slightly different configurations because every lure manufacturer has one that supposedly works better than all the others for whatever reason.
The paddle tail swimbait will adequately get aggressive fish to come out of cover and attack them. The most common way to fish swimbaits is to cast it out where you believe Walleye are hiding and real it in very slowly. As the water catches on the sides of the uniquely designed tail, it bounces side to side and it looks like it is swimming or evading predators.
Our Top Pick: The best and most versatile paddle tail that we have found is the Big Bite Bait Suicide Shad. Unlike many other paddle tails, this one uses extremely durable plastic yet it is soft enough to get great action out of.
You can very easily Texas rig it to make it weedless so you can throw it in the thickest brush and vegetation where the big ones are. Also, they come in many realistic colors like Yellow Perch, Shad, and other patterns.
To Sum It All Up
If you are after this vicious member of the Perch family, having the best Walleye fishing lures in your arsenal can greatly improve your success. Regardless of what you decide to throw to catch them, it is always fun regardless. In many different situations, you may need to use different baits or different approaches to take more of them on artificials.
Even so, we believe absolutely anybody can be successful on the water if they know what to use and when. Catching these predators on artificial baits has something tied to it that many people just don’t get when they use live bait. You can be successful if you try. To get you started, try some of the lures!
Do you agree with our list? Leave a comment below in a reply so we can hear what you have to say. You may very well help us catch more fish too!