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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 types. A weighted jig is an ideal choice for ice-fishing in winter, for example, while a spinnerbait is a good option when fishing amongst feeding walleye in areas of dense cover. In this article, we look at best lures to use if you're catching walleye, ranging from crankbaits to blade baits and soft plastic lures.
Best Overall: Cotton Cordell Wally Diver Lure
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 1/2” or 3 1/8”. The smaller lure dives to eight 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.
Best Crankbait: Rapala Shad Rap Fishing Lure
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 five 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.
Best Suspending Jerkbait: Rapala Husky Jerk Fishing Lure
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. Amazon reviewers attest to the Husky Jerk’s effectiveness in catching not only walleyes but a variety of other freshwater species. Depending on size, the lure has a running depth of four to six or four to eight 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.
Best for Ice Fishing: Lindy Slick Jig
The Lindy Slick Jig is a versatile ice-fishing jig specifically intended for targeting walleyes in subzero conditions. Its unique weight-forward design maximizes the lure’s glide, allowing it to swim outside your ice hole to increase your coverage area (and your chances of attracting a bite). It also helps the lure pound the lake floor, stirring up debris that attracts bottom-dwelling walleyes. Another clever feature of this lure is the line tie, which is positioned so that the hook point stays primed for a solid hook set. It also enables a realistic profile for presenting walleye baits such as minnows or leeches.
There are 10 color patterns to choose from, including green glow, golden shiner and rainbow. Each one features an iridescent shimmer that effectively mimics baitfish scales and helps to increase visibility in the low-light conditions of an ice-bound lake. Although this jig works best for ice-fishing, larger sizes can also be used with great results for targeting walleye on the cast or while vertically jigging in open water.
Best Blade Bait: Johnson ThinFisher Bait
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. Amazon reviewers love 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.
Best Soft Plastic: Berkley PowerBait FW Power Grub Fishing Bait
According to respected tackle company Berkley, their corkscrew-shaped PowerBait FW Power Grub delivers best-in-class action at even slower speeds than competing brands. These soft plastic lures are available in two or three-inch sizes and boast a bulky body that makes it easy to rig them for a number of different fishing conditions and techniques. They are especially effective when jigged vertically for suspended walleye and come in a resealable multi-pack of 15.
The Power Grubs are impregnated with Berkley’s exclusive PowerBait formula, an irresistible scent and flavor that has been developed over 25 years to encourage fish to hold on 18 times longer. This gives you plenty of time to feel the bite, set the hook and reel in your record walleye. Color options include black, firetiger, pearl white and pumpkinseed. Some colors are enhanced with glitter pieces that reflect the light to increase visibility and trigger even more bites.
Best Spinnerbait: Rapala Terminator T1 Spinnerbait
Spinnerbaits are relatively tangle-free, and as such are the ideal lure choice for aggressively feeding walleye in areas with plenty of cover. The Rapala Terminator T1 Spinnerbait pairs its quality titanium construction with a premium ball bearing swivel and a VMC black nickel hook for ultimate longevity. Its dual blades are designed to displace large amounts of water, creating the strong vibrations needed to trigger ferocious strikes. Choose willow/willow blade shapes for the fastest retrieval speeds, or willow/Colorado shapes for added sonic transmission (perfect for stained waters).
The blades are either painted or gold or nickel-plated, depending on which model you choose. All blades are bevel-edged to give off a more convincing baitfish flash. This is complemented by the lure’s super-realistic metallic baitfish head and the natural action of the interchangeable premium silicone skirt. After deciding on your preferred blade shape, choose a 1/2-ounce or 3/8-ounce weight in colors that range from gold shiner to hot tip chartreuse and silver shad.
Best for Trolling: Storm Hot ’N Tot MadFlash Fishing Lure
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 Rapala’s 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” version and a larger 2 2/2” version. The former has a running depth of between five and 14 feet, while the latter runs between seven and 20 feet.