Walleye is well known to be a good eating freshwater fish. Lakes are often full of walleye but are not frequently caught unless they are being targeted. Walleye are known to be low light feeders and feed well at night but they also feed and bite during the day! Walleye can see better and night than any other freshwater fish which gives them an advantage over their prey.
Walleye’s eyes cannot see blue and yellow but can see red and green. This is why most Walleye lures are colored red and green. This does not mean that only red and green lures work as walleye can still see reflections and shading variations from other colors. Water filters out red significantly at depths greater than 20ft. This means that for lures going down more than 20 feet green, black and shiny colors make more sense.
It is recommended to fish for walleye in less than 40 feet of water mainly because this is where most walleye live, including big walleye. Secondly, if a fish is brought up that is short or that is not going to be kept the fish will not get hurt or killed when the swim bladder expands due to the decrease in pressure. When taking scuba certification training it is taught that a 33 feet water depth change results in a pressure change of 1 ATM which ultimately results in the air volume doubling. Walleye swim bladders contain a significant amount of air that can only increase or decreased the amount of gas by diffusing or absorbing gas through their blood. Bring the fish up really slowly might help give the fish time to absorb some of the gas but most fishermen are not that patient. A swim bladder deflating device or a fish descender can help bring the fish back to depth. For walleye, it is much easier to just fish in water that is less than 40 feet deep!
Sometimes people think of walleye as a slow fish that can only eat worms. It is true that walleye are fished slowly but they are an aggressive fish with a mean strike. Adult walleye primarily eat fish such as yellow perch and ciscoes and can be caught using large plugs and stick baits.
Here are the best walleye lures.
Bandit Deep Diver, Best Walleye Lure
The Bandit has a round lip which allows the lure to achieve troll depths up to 27 feet. The lure is 4 3/4 inches long and comes in a verity popular color patterns such as Coconut Candy, Chartreuse Green Black, Green Clown and Red.
This is a go-to lure for many charter boat operations in the Great Lakes. The key is being at the correct depth for the fish. This is controlled mainly by how much line is let out and a small amount by the trolling speed. Precision Trolling sells an app that contains detailed depth charts for this lure and hundreds of other trolling lures and cran baits. Example dive depths for this lure are 3o feet of line is 10 feet down, 90 feet of line is 18 feet down and 195 feet of line in 22 feet down. Typical troll speeds are around 1.7 miles per hour. The lure dives a bit deeper with braided line and shallower with standard monofilament line. If a braided line is being used a four to six-foot fluorocarbon leader is needed. The leader can be tied line to line or with a barrel swivel.
Worm Harness, Best Walleye Bait
Comes in blade sizes 4, 5 and 6. Two hooks for attaching a night crawler or Gulp Crawler.
Berkley Gulp Crawler 4 inch worm.
When I think of walleye fishing I immediately think about drifting or slow trolling worm harnesses. This is a very effective way to catch walleye everywhere. One problem is that nightcrawlers tend to take some abuse. It may get bitten in half, pulled of the hook by smaller fish or fall off when attempting to set the hook. Using a Berkley Crawler which comes in 4 and 6 inch sizes is a good alternative to live worms. Walleye are attracted to the vibrations of the spinner on the harness and there is still a nice scented bait for the fish to find. There are other walleye scents out there that can be applied to lures and plastics but Gulp is the best!
A bottom bouncer is a good way to add weight while using a worm harness. It allows the harness to be kept right near the bottom. When jigging the bouncer off the bottom you can feel if the ground is rocky or muddy. For murky water, a short 20-inch leader can be used. In clear water a 3-foot leader is good. Spinners are also available that attach to the bottom bounces which make vibrations and help attract fish.
There are other ways to suspend a lure above the bottom by using a three-way swivel. This makes it so the bait gets further off the ground while still dragging a weight on the bottom while drifting or trolling. It is a decent alternative if you do not have a downrigger.
The bottom bouncer is a pain to have in the tackle box but is great to have when drifting for walleye!
An Erie Dearie, which is essentially a weighted worm harness. Comes in 5/8, 3/8 and 3/4 ounce sizes.
A not very well known alternative to adding weight to a worm harness is the Erie Dearie. It has the weight and spinner all in one which is very convenient! Simply add a worm, leech, curly tail, swim jig etc. and the bait is ready to be fished.
Stinger spoon, Walleye Trolling Lure
Mixed Veggies Stingray soon. One great thing about spoons is that they all have awesome names like, Mixed Veggies! These come in 3 3/4 and 4 1/4 inch sizes.
The stinger spoon is a lightweight spoon that has great action at the slower trolling speeds used for walleye. Heavy spoons can be run straight out the back of the boat but this is not typically done for walleye unless lead core line is being used to get the lure deeper in the water. The spoon is generally attached to a Dipsy Diver, jet diver or downrigger. There are lots of good spoons out there that are primarily made for trolling for steelhead and salmon. Often time these spoons are bit heavier and trolled at higher speeds. Read the salmon lures for the great lakes page for more information about heavier spoons.
Dipsy diver 3 1/4 inch size zero with a snap release. Typically a 4 to-6 foot leader is run behind the Dipsy.
Dipsy divers perform two functions. Dipsy’s bring the lure deeper and off to the side of the boat. How far to the left or right they will go can be adjusted by rotating the base-plate of the Dipsy. Dipsy Divers come in three sizes 3/0 mini 2 1/4 inches, 0 small 3 1/4 inches, 1 large 4 1/8 inches and 3 magnum 4 7/8 inches. These can reach a max depth of 20 feet, 40 feet, 70 feet and 100 feet respectively. Depth is primarily based on the amount of line let out but troll speed is a factor. Typically these are all trolled at speed less than 2.5 mph. Braided line will go deeper than monofilament line. This is a good way to get spoons, stick baits and worm harnesses to deeper depths!
Jet driver by Luhr Jensen. This diver is adjustable to reach depths of 10-40 feet.
Jet divers send the lure straight down behind the line. These can be used with a pole sitting in a rod holder or on outrigger lines on the planner boards. This is a good way to get spoons, stick baits and worm harnesses to deeper depths.back to menu ↑
Blade Bait, Best Walleye Jig
Heddon Sonar 431 Blade bait, 1/2 oz.
This is a classic lure that has been catching fish since the 1950’s. This can be vertically jigged or cast and retrieved. This attracts walleye by vibrations caused by the jig fluttering as it moves through the water. Typically it is jigged by quickly pulling the bait off the bottom and then allowed to flutter back to the bottom slowly.back to menu ↑
Husky Jerk for Walleye
Firetiger deep diving husky jerk 4 3/4 inch.
The deep diving husky jerk is similar to the bandit and is also used by many walleye charter boats in the Great Lakes. It can dive to a depth of 20 feet when trolling and 10 feet while casting. It is neutrally balanced in the water and can be paused during the retrieve. It also has a loud rattle which is good at attracting walleye.
Glass Purple Sunfire Husky Jerk size 08 3 1/2 inch length with a rattle.
The Husky Jerk is a great lure for Northern Pike but is also a great lure for walleye. It can be trolled on a Dipsy Diver, jet diver or downrigger. It can also be cast in shallow water when walleye come to nearshore and shoals to feed in late fall, winter or early spring. This crankbait will work near shore at night when the water is still cold in the shallow depths.
Trolling techniques for Walleye, downriggers and planner boards
The planer boards allow two or three lines to be let out away from the boat on each side. This greatly increases the chances of catching fish!
Otter boat planner boards with reels and clips.
In case you are not familiar with the “art” of having 10 poles out while trolling I will go through the basics.
To get lines away from the boat to catch fish near the surface planner boards are often used. If a large offshore ocean boat was fishing outriggers are used that can slide lures off to the side of the boat. This is an advantage because a wider area is fished and ensures that the boat is not scaring away the fish near the lure. For smaller boats, without outriggers, the best way to do this is with planner boards. Lines from the planner reel is attached to each board that floats on the top of the water and have angled fins that pull the boards far out on each side of the boat. A shower curtain slide is placed on the planer board line. A fishing pole that has the line let out behind the boat to the desired length is then clipped on to the shower curtain. As more line is let out from the fishing pole the lure travels down the planer line off the side of the boat. When a fish bites the line is released from the clip and the shower curtain slides to planer board to be collected at the end of the troll.
Cannon Uni-Troll 10 manual downrigger.
Downriggers are a great way to set a lure to an exact depth. The rigger has a depth counter on it plus the ball can be viewed on the fish finder when trolling. When marking fish at a certain depth just bring the ball 3-15 feet above that depth. Now the lure is at a good depth to be catching fish! Generally, the lure is run 3 to 10 feet behind the downrigger ball. If this distance is to short the ball might scare fish. If the lure is sent to far back slack in the line when the lure is released gives the fish time to get off the hook.
Cannon stacking downrigger clips allow for a second line to be fished on a single weight. These release clips are not super strong which is good because walleye troll speeds are slow and smaller fish are frequently caught. If the conditions are wavy and rough the line might release prematurely. Twisting the line so it is twice a thick before putting it in the clip allows for a firmer grasp of the line which helps prevent the line for releasing prematurely.
Stacking clips for downriggers are awesome and I will explain how to use the clips to set two lines on one downrigger. First, the downrigger is lowered for example 10 feet after the first line set. The swivel clip then goes around the downrigger wire and one of the padded clips attaches to the wire. A second pole line is let out about 5 to 30 feet and then attached to the second padded clip. The downrigger is then set to the desired fishing depth. Now a second pole is down exactly 10 feet above the rigger depth. This is a very effective way to be able to fish four different depths using two downriggers. This is lots of work but if fish are not being cautch there is plenty of time to set lines. If there is to much action simply set one lure on each downrigger.
How to catch Walleye
In summary, the best baits for trolling for walleye are deep diving plugs, stick baits and spoons. For drifting for walleye worm harness and flutter jigs are the way to go. This is exceptionally true in the great lakes and deep lakes. For certain lakes finding structure is important, other-times walleye are schooling at certain depths. Don’t forget to watch the fish finder close and adjust the depth of the baits accordingly.
Thanks for visiting Global Fishing Reports. I hope these suggestions help you catch more walleye!
If you have any suggestions for top walleye lures and baits, leave a comment below!