The 7 Best Walleye Lures of 2021

The top artificial baits to help you land a prize-worthy walleye

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TRIPSAVVY-best-walleye-lures

Chloe Jeong / TripSavvy

The Rundown

Best Overall: Cotton Cordell Wally Diver Lure at Amazon

"The most legendary walleye lure of all time."

Best Crankbait: Rapala Shad Rap at Amazon

"It’s excellent for casting and trolling and delivers results whether it’s fished at ultra-slow or super-fast speeds."

Best Suspending Jerkbait: Rapala Husky Jerk at Amazon

"This pick is perfectly balanced to run true whether you’re casting or trolling at any speed."

Best for Ice Fishing: Clam Drop Tg Jig at cabelas.com

"It's high-carbon hook sets reliably and slices through water cleaner than lead lures."

Best Blade Bait: Johnson ThinFisher at Amazon

"This lure can also be jigged vertically, allowing it to repeatedly swim back down through the strike zone. "

Best Soft Plastic: Berkley PowerBait Rib Worm at Walmart

"Berkley claims that fish are 18 times more likely to hold onto the PowerBait Rib Worm than with other soft plastic lures."

Best for Trolling: Storm Hot ’N Tot MadFlash at Amazon

"This lure harnesses erratic side-to-side searching and diving action, making it ideal for trolling behind a boat."

There are many different ways to fish for walleye, with the best method for any given day depending on variables such as topside weather, time of year, temperature, and water clarity. Each fishing technique has its own optimal lure type. For example, a weighted jig is an ideal choice for ice-fishing in winter, while a spinnerbait is a good option when fishing amongst feeding walleye in areas of dense cover.

Read on to see our picks for the best walleye lures available.

Best Overall: Cotton Cordell Wally Diver Lure

Cotton Cordell Wally Diver Lure

Amazon

What We Like
  • Mimics a variety of forage species

  • Sits motionless

What We Don't Like
  • Not as many weights as other options

Lauded by many experts as the most legendary walleye lure of all time, the Cotton Cordell Wally Diver is a proven classic that deserves a place in every walleye fisherman’s tackle box. Designed to be cast or trolled right out of the box, its baitfish shape mimics a variety of forage species, making it ideally suited to freshwater systems all over North America. The lure’s slender profile allows for the tight wiggling action needed to trigger big bites; but when you stop reeling, it sits motionless for an irresistibly vulnerable presentation.

There are two sizes to choose from 2.5 inches or 3.37 inches. The smaller lure dives to 8 feet on the cast or 11 feet when trolled, while the larger version can reach 11 feet on the cast or 18 when trolled. Whichever size you choose, two sharp treble hooks ensure that when the walleye strikes, you’re guaranteed an effective hook set. The Wally Diver comes in many different color patterns designed to appeal to walleye feeding instincts, including fluorescent red/black, chrome blue/black, and chartreuse perch. 

Colors: 22 | Weight: 0.25 or 0.5 ounces

Best Crankbait: Rapala Shad Rap

What We Like
  • Great for casting and trolling

  • Quality-tested

What We Don't Like
  • Lightweight affects casting distance

There are literally hundreds of different walleye crankbaits on the market, many of them tailored to perform best under specific conditions. However, the Rapala Shad Rap stands out for its versatility. It’s excellent for casting and trolling and delivers results whether it’s fished at ultra-slow or super-fast speeds. The SR07 model linked here has a running depth of between 5 and 11 feet, which you can control by altering the speed of your retrieve. The lure is hand-tuned and tank-tested to ensure that it stands up to Rapala’s reputation for superior quality.

Made from premium balsa wood, the lure has a detailed paint finish in a range of proven fish-catching patterns. Some of these (like shad, bluegill, and perch) are incredibly realistic; while others (like purpledescent and hot tiger) are designed for optimum visibility in stained waters. Choose the pattern best suited to your local fishing conditions, then revel in the effectiveness of the natural baitfish profile and wounded minnow action. All sizes feature a diving lip and two sharp VMC black nickel treble hooks.

Colors: 26 | Weight: 0.12, 0.5, 0.25, 0.31, 0.37, or 0.56 ounces

Best Suspending Jerkbait: Rapala Husky Jerk

What We Like
  • Quality-tested

  • Has neutral buoyancy

  • Has a rattle chamber

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note lure didn't match picture online

Like all Rapala lures, the Rapala Husky Jerk is hand-tuned and tank-tested. It’s fitted with two or three VMC black nickel treble hooks (depending on the model) and is perfectly balanced to run true whether you’re casting or trolling at any speed. What makes it stand out from other jerkbaits is its flawless neutral buoyancy, which allows it to hang suspended in the water when paused. This gives the appearance of an easy target that even the most reluctant walleyes are hard-pressed to ignore.

The lure also features a rattle chamber that emits sound waves that can be picked up by the fish’s lateral line. This helps to trigger bites in even the dirtiest water. Depending on size, the lure has a running depth of 4 to 6 or 4 to 8 feet. Choose from three different superior finishes (metallic, glass, or natural) and a series of deadly color patterns such as baby bass and blue minnow. 

Colors: 24 | Weight: 0.12, 0.25, 0.37, 0.43, or 0.62 ounces

Best for Ice Fishing: Clam Drop Tg Jig

Clam Pro Tackle Drop Tg Tungsten Jig

Courtesy of Cabela's

What We Like
  • Dense

  • Slices water better than lead lures

What We Don't Like
  • Not as many colors as other options

Constructed of 99.7 percent pure tungsten, the Calm Drop Tg Jig are denser than lead lures, affording a smaller profile and a higher sensitivity to generate more hookups.  The round ball jig comes with a 90-degree Japanese Mustad Ultra Point 2x Strong Long Shank high-carbon hook that sets reliably and slices through water cleaner than lead lures, which allow for precise control when you drop the lure and start to jig. They come in eight different colors and five different sizes, ranging in weight from 0.06 of an ounce, sold in packs of four, all the way up to a two-pack of 0.37-ounce lures.

Colors: 8 | Weight: 0.06, 0.12, 0.18, 0.25, or 0.37 ounces

Best Blade Bait: Johnson ThinFisher

What We Like
  • Adjustable retrieval

  • Has a rattle chamber

What We Don't Like
  • Hooks could be better

Blade baits are ideal for use at the beginning of winter when falling temperatures cause baitfish to die off in large numbers. They capitalize on this natural event by mimicking the action of a struggling fish. The Johnson ThinFisher boasts a realistic profile, an oversized eye, and true-to-life colors ranging from black gold to chartreuse pearl or purple tiger. Another key feature is the lure’s adjustable retrieval, which takes the form of an easy-change snap that can be attached to three different tow points—one for a high-speed retrieve with a light vibration, one for a slow-speed retrieve with a wide vibration, and one medium retrieve in between the two.

The lure can also be jigged vertically, allowing it to repeatedly swim back down through the strike zone. However you choose to use it, a sonic rattle chamber attracts predatory fish by sending vibrations through the water. Once they’re triggered, twin black nickel treble hooks help to translate a strike at the end of the line into a trophy fish on the bank.

Colors: 9 | Weight: 0.5, 0.25, or 0.18 ounces

Best Soft Plastic: Berkley PowerBait Rib Worm

Berkley PowerBait Rib Worm

Courtesy of Bass Pro

What We Like
  • Built with PowerBait formula

  • Ribbed body

What We Don't Like
  • Smells

With 15 lures per package, Berkley’s PowerBait Rib Worm has been a go-to for legions of walleye anglers with an affection for a soft plastic lure. Built with the brand’s PowerBait formula—a process that’s been developed for more than 25 years to perfect the smell and flavor of the plastic worm—assures that even the most finicky of fish will take notice, with a ribbed body to increase the scent releases. This means that the fish is more likely to take a bite—and then another, so you have more opportunities to set your hook. In fact, Berkley claims that fish are 18 times more likely to hold onto the PowerBait Rib Worm than with other soft plastic lures. They come in different colors, each with a modest amount of eye-catching speckle pattern, and measure in at 4 inches.

Colors: 9 | Weight: Not listed

Best for Trolling: Storm Hot ’N Tot MadFlash

What We Like
  • Has side-to-side searching and diving action

  • Realistic look

What We Don't Like
  • Not as many weights as other options

This lure harnesses the famously erratic side-to-side searching and diving action of the original Storm Hot ’N Tot lure and boasts the same mold dimensions and distinctive metal diving lip. Like the original, these features make Storm’s Hot 'N Tot MadFlash upgrade ideal for trolling behind a boat. What makes the newer lure special, however, is its range of innovative fish-catching colors. These include a detailed external scale pattern and come in classic, chrome, holographic, or UV finishes.

Choose options such as blue chrome orange, chartreuse purple shad, or iridescent ghost flash. All patterns come with 3D holographic eyes for an ultra-realistic look that proves fatal for unsuspecting walleye; in addition to two VMC black nickel treble hooks. There are two sizes available: a smaller 2-inch version and a larger 2.5-inch version. The former has a running depth of between 5 and 14 feet, while the latter runs between 7 and 20 feet.

Colors: 27 | Weight: 0.18 or 0.37 ounces

Final Verdict

It’s hard to beat the Cotton Cordell Wally Driver Lure (view at Amazon)—this best-in-class option is considered the classic lure for freshwater systems, whether you're casting or trolling. It comes in two sizes, each with two sharp treble hooks and in a host of color patterns to help match the typical feeding species in your local waterways. But if you want to mix it up a bit, consider the Rapala Husky Jerk Fishing Lure (view at Amazon), which boasts natural buoyancy that allows it to hang suspended when not moving to lure bass into hitting an “easy” target. It can be used for either cast or troll fishing and includes a rattle chamber to create vibrations. It comes in three sizes with a max running depth of 8 feet, as well as various finishes and a series of color patterns.

What to Look for When Shopping for Walleye Lures

Type

A jig set-up is typically the best rig to capture the elusive walleye, but the specific lure you use should correspond to the typical live feeders in the water where you’ll be fishing. Check with a local fish shop to find out which lure types—soft plastic worms, suspended jerkbait, blade bait, etc.—are performing well, and select accordingly. Note as well that most walleyes spend most of their day at depths of anywhere from 15 to 30 feet, only moving into the higher water columns to feed. At dusk and dawn, they gravitate toward shallower waters. So take that into account as well when selecting lures by depth rating.

Size

Walleyes can grow up to 30 inches long and weigh more than 10 pounds, so select a lure that can handle the big guys. For jig heads, the optimal size range from 0.06 ounces to 1 ounce. For jib body lures, go with ones between 3 and 5 inches long. Spoons weighing between 0.5 ounces to 1 ounce can be used, with 0.75-ounce hitting the sweet spot.

Color

Start with more naturally colored lures like silver, gray, and white—especially when using crankbait. But you can opt for flashier colors (red, pink, or bright green) to catch a walleye’s attention in darker, murkier waters. Lures with iridescent shimmers also effectively mimic fish bait scales to amp visibility in low-light situations.

FAQs

Are lures different if I’m fishing off a boat versus shore casting?

Yes, in most cases, whether you’re on the shore or riding in a boat will largely dictate how deep the water might be, with deeper depths off a boat and more shallow waters off the shore. Crankbaits cover both options, while bottom-bouncers and heavier lures with large depth ratings should be selected for boat fishing.

How should the seasons influence which lure I should use?

Though walleyes can be caught year-round, spring is typically when they start to spawn as the water warms. They become very aggressive at this time, so almost all lure types will work. As the water heats up in the summer, the fish go deeper, so go with lures that have a 30-foot depth rating, especially if you’re trolling. If you’re lucky enough to spot a school of walleyes, swap to a jig set-up with a spoon or soft rib worm lure. Fall is typically the most challenging, as the fish feeding is starting to slow, so go with smaller lures that will slow down in the water. And in winter, when fishing on ice, go with a lure designed specifically for ice fishing.

I’m new to fishing for walleyes. What’s the best place to start?

Troll fishing is a relatively easy, reliable way to catch walleye—select slow to moderate diving lures when fishing around weeds, rocky shorelines, and reefs. In the summer, go with a lure rated to go deeper (up to 30 feet). Then, after you’ve landed a few, consider trying a jig lure set-up.

Why Trust TripSavvy?

The contributors to this story have spent decades reviewing and testing outdoor products. In researching the products selected for this round-up we consulted pro and amateur anglers to gain insight into lure performance, lure categories, and the specific lure’s advantages and drawbacks, supplementing that input with reviews provided by both experts in the field as well as confirmed customers.

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