The 6 Best Lures for Walleye

Success catching walleye can be captured with live or artificial bait. Read on to learn which baits help increase your odds.

Walleye are one of the most chased after fish in North America. Those teeth, stripes, and large dorsal fins make them an easily distinguishable fish when out on the water. Walleye average around 22 inches and 4 pounds, making them a fun adversary on the other end of the line. They are also some of the best table fare from North American waters. Being one of the healthier options with high levels of omega-3’s [1]. It’s no wonder it is such a pursued fish. 

What we have done is compiled a list of the best live and artificial baits for walleye. With this list, you should be able to have great success on the water. Let’s take a look at the best lures for walleye. 

Live Baits

If you’re a beginner or new to fishing for walleye, you can’t go wrong with live bait. It is easy to get attracted to using artificial baits because of the fun associated with using them. Do not let that distract you from the effectiveness of live bait. No artificial lure can match the real thing. Live bait is also a fantastic option if the fishing has slowed and your artificial lures are not producing much. Switching to live bait can get those wary fish to strike when nothing else can convince them. 


You may want to get minnows that are slightly larger than these

Minnows are such an effective live bait for many different species, especially walleye. Walleyes use their sight to target prey. This makes minnows an enticing option for them. It is important to match the minnows with the natural prey of the walleye. For instance, shiners, suckers, and chub are the target of walleye in most waters. Make sure to target these types of minnows to increase your chances for success. It also helps to increase the size of your minnows if trophy fishing or going after larger fish. 4 inch minnows and larger will be great for this purpose. 


Nightcrawlers and red wigglers are popular worms for fishing

Like minnows, leeches and worms are very effective for walleye. They provide a ton of movement which draws in the walleye as well as any other bait. Leeches are much easier to keep alive than minnows as well. They are not as sensitive to the temperature and can stay alive on the hook for an extended period of time. This is a huge advantage when fishing with live bait as that movement is critical to attracting and enticing a bite from the most wary of walleye. Be aware that leeches and worms are a favorite of other species of fish as well. So if fishing in a body of water that contains different species, you could be in for a mixed bag. 

Artificial Baits

When fishing during the best times and active times of the year, artificial baits may be a great option. Artificial baits are a much more involved type of fishing and can be very rewarding. Each type of artificial bait listed below has its own technique and effective strategy. Take the time to master each of these types of baits, and you will have some great days chasing walleye. 

Soft Plastics

Soft plastic minnows and worms are the most popular choices

Soft plastics mimic the action of most live baits. The live bait cannot match the durability of the soft plastics however. Multiple fish can be caught off a single soft plastic, making it much more cost effective than live bait. Soft plastics can also be combined with other types of lures listed below, such as jigs and spinnerbaits. As mentioned when discussing minnows, make sure to match the natural forage in the water. Use natural colored plastics most often, but do not be afraid to branch out with bold colors and see what results you can get. 


Willow blade spinnerbait in white/chartreuse

Spinnerbaits can be very effective for walleye thanks to the flash of the blades. As we know, walleye use their sight to target prey. The flash of the blades mimic baitfish and catch the attention of walleye within sight. If looking to improve the spinnerbait setup, do not be afraid to try a crawler harness. This allows the angler to attach a nightcrawler to the spinnerbait. Imagine a bait that combines movement, flash, and scent. That is what can be achieved with a spinnerbait and crawler harness. Spinnerbaits can also be fished a variety of ways, whether it is fast or slow. Be sure to try different techniques when chasing walleye as one may prove to be more efficient on any given day. 


This bass jig offers a look that most walleye have not seen

Jigs are the most popular bait used for walleye. They can also be one of the most confusing baits for walleye. If there is a main rule to remember, it is to match the size and shape to the bait you’re using. Smaller jigs allow live bait to move. Larger jigs can be necessary for soft plastics as they allow you to securely attach the artificial bait. If using live bait, it is advisable to use fireball style jigs. These jigs do not have a lead barb at the base of the jig. They also have a wide gap and short hook shank. This allows the hook and jig to have a more subtle appearance, which makes the live bait the focal point. Experiment with different jigging techniques to find those that are most effective in the waters you fish.  


This shad crankbait can be useful in an area heavy with baitfish

Crankbaits may be the most simplistic bait on the list. There is no need to attach anything at all to the crankbait. It can just be tied on and casted. They are a great option for trolling with a planer board. Trolling can be very effective during the summer months for walleye. Try deeper diving crankbaits (10+ feet) during these times. Trolling is not the only way that crankbaits are effective however. They are great for fishing the shoreline. The wobble they exhibit is very attractive to walleye, and can be deadly when retrieving from a rocky outcropping or point. Try using natural colored crankbaits that match the natural forage in the water. When the walleye bite is hot, don’t forget to tie on a crankbait and cover a lot of water. 

Walleye fishing is one of the most exciting types of fishing we can do as anglers. It can be as equally frustrating. When in doubt, make sure to tie on baits that match the natural forage in the water. Don’t be afraid to switch to live bait if the bite slows. Good luck out there!

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