Best Walleye Lures
Whether you're releasing all of your catches, or keeping a few for the table, walleye are a beautiful species that are a lot of fun to fish. They are relatively common and put up a good fight, making them a favorite target of many anglers.
Regarding the cooking aspect, when it comes to table fare, few fish have as good of a reputation as the walleye. Flaky, tasty, and succulent, walleye meat is a top choice for anglers all across Canada and the northern United States.
As we mentioned, walleye are not only great eating, but they’re also a lot of fun to catch! To hook these prized fish, you need know-how, patience, and the right tackle. While many walleye anglers use live baits, the species is often caught on artificial lures as well. If you want to fill your live well with fat, appetizing walleye, there are a few lures that you should have in your tackle box.
Understanding the Walleye
Before we dive into the best walleye lures, it’s worth taking the time to review walleye behavior and characteristics. Whether you just purchased your first fishing rod or have a lifetime of walleye fishing experience, understanding the walleye will help you put more flaky meat on the table.
The outstanding characteristic of a walleye is the large, sensitive eye. They are built to see well in low-light settings, including twilight, nighttime, cloudy days, and murky waters. This means that most walleye are caught early in the morning and late in the evening. It also means that cloudy days can be very productive, while sunny days will generally require deeper fishing to reaching areas where the light is low. Windy days can also be productive, as the chop will keep the sunlight from penetrating into the depths.
Walleye also have an excellent sense of smell. This makes them suckers for live bait or scented lures. Any of the lures we mention below can be enhanced with live bait minnow or a scented spray.
Now that we’re refreshed on their biology, let’s look at the best walleye lures for your tackle box...
- L. Crank
- Casting or trolling
- Various shad color schemes mimic prey fish
- Maintains steady depth
- Good action
- While it performs well in cover, the unprotected treble hooks make it a little more susceptible to snags
- May need to have a few different types on hand depending on conditions
Similar to when you're fishing for bass, starting with a crankbait is never a bad idea, as you can cover a large range in a short amount of time. Even if you aren't successful with many strikes, narrowing your focus for areas to cast can play a pivotal role.
The Rapala Shad 07 Crankbait is excellent because the appearance is similar to prey fish commonly found in walleye habitats. You can get many different types of color schemes, some with subtle variations, and others that are much different like chartreuse (better for cloudy days or murky water).
Rapala is a reliable brand for walleye lures and their crankbaits are well-liked by many anglers. They provide good action while easily maintaining a steady depth, making it a nice lure to work with.
Overall, we would recommend this crankbait when casting or trolling, in and around cover, and anytime you want to cover a large area to gain a sense of where the walleye are residing.
- Large range of depths
- Effective color scheme
- Extremely versatile
- Internal ball bearings produce rattling sound
- More difficult to maintain consistent depth
- Even less protection for snags
- Sometimes better in cold water, making them a little more specific
We find lipless crankbaits are also quite versatile, and the Strike King Red Eye Shad is an excellent lure for walleye. The representative color scheme and red eye will immediately catch the walleyes' attention.
The action is a bit different from a lipped crankbait in that it's generally a bit tighter and faster. This can serve two advantages. First, it more closely mimics prey fish that are injured or otherwise vulnerable, making them extra attractive to the walleye. Second, they provide a more suitable action for colder water, so if you're fishing in these conditions a lipless crankbait could be a perfect choice.
This crankbait also has rattles inside to help grab the walleyes' attention. They compliment the tight wobble action and when bounced off cover and other objects, they are simply irresistible to walleye.
Overall, we would recommend a lipless crankbait if you want a crankbait for any depth, or to even try jigging with it a little bit without having to switch up gear. They also work well in cold water, and more generally, anytime you want to cover a large range in a relatively short amount of time.
- Reasonably versatile
- Lots of variations available for different conditions
- Easily snagged
- While they can work in many different conditions, they are better suited for clearer conditions
- Usually a little less effective for smaller walleye
Spoons have proven to be one of the more timeless lures for walleye with well established designs and color schemes proving to be very reliable. In the combo pack above, many different effective color schemes are provided which allow you to have something for almost all situations.
Similar to shad cranks, spoons are meant to mimic prey fish, instead of attempting to look exactly like them in appearance, spoons are meant to elucidate a more instinctive reaction from the walleye. The spinning and wobble action combine with the shimmering reflection of light closely resembles wounded prey fish attempting to escape, making it near impossible for the walleye to resist.
Spoon lures come in many different color schemes, which is important, because they mainly rely on sight, and more specifically, "first impression" sight. In clearer conditions, a metallic silver, white, red, and the classic colors work well. In murkier conditions, try something a little more on the gold side, as well as brighter color schemes in general like chartreuse.
Overall, we recommend spoon lures on clear days, ideally warm water, when you want to cast a decent range around some cover, or when you want to alternate long casts with vertical jigging near a ledge or other type of drop.
- Excellent in heavy cover
- Great for walleye close to the bottom
- Very customizable
- Less prone to snags, especially when used with trailers.
- Not overly versatile
- Can't cover a large range - a little more specific
- Requires patience and more experience with technique (never too late to learn, though)
Spinning jigs are excellent for walleye when you need something to reach greater depths, the walleye are buried deep in cover, and you are casting in fairly tight areas.
When you find the walleye are sticking close to the bottom, especially in and around heavy cover, we would definitely recommend using a spin jig at any depth. The subtle yet erratic action of the vertical jigging combined with the shimmering spin of the blade will entice any sized walleye, especially in cover.
Shad color schemes work well for the jighead, as well as basic colors like white. In darker conditions or in much deeper water, you can choose a more simple dark color for contrast like black. If you think you need a little extra flare to get the walleyes' attention, try something like chartreuse.
Furthermore, jigs are great because not only are they already ideal for dropping into heavy cover, but if you add bait to the hook you can further improve your chances of success. Whether it's using a nightcrawler worm, short worm with a bit of tail whip, a rubber skirt, or a plastic crawfish, there are many options available for optimizing your bait.
Overall, we would recommend spinning jigs anytime you're attempting to reach great depths, in and around vertical ledges and drops, dropping into heavy cover, or trolling if you have an appropriate trailer.
- Additional scented attractant
- Many different color schemes
- Great component for jigheads
- Excellent for vertical jigging
- Less versatile
- Scent can wear off over time
- While a great addition to jigheads, it makes it a little more difficult to set the hook
Plastic bait is never a bad choice especially if it comes with a scented attractant, which the Yum F2 walleye grub bait does have. There are a variety of color schemes available, but we usually find a simple pumpkin color, white, black, or a two-tone black and green works best.
Plastic baits can be cast alone when weighted, or they can be added to a jighead for an optimal setup for vertical jigging in heavy cover. Even further, use a spin jighead with a plastic worm and the lure essentially become irresistible to walleye.
We would recommend a plastic worm when trolling, vertical jigging, or alone with short casts. They are an excellent addition to jigheads, which makes them an essential bait to keep in your tackle box. So while their applicability is slightly more limited, they are very effective in certain situations.
The Best Walleye Lures: What You Need for Your Tackle Box
Arguable the best walleye lure, the crankbait can be used to fish in deep areas where other baits can’t reach. These hard-bodies lures come in numerous shapes and sizes, but they generally have a rounded body, two treble hooks, and a bill, which pushes the lure down, forcing it to dive. The larger the bill, the deeper your crankbait will dive, so if it’s sunny, you may want to select the largest bill possible. These lures are also used extensively by anglers trolling for walleye, as the bill keeps them suspended at a consistent depth.
Small Jigs with Feathered Tail
Large walleye will often go for surprisingly small lures, including light jigs with a fuzzy, feathered tail. These lures can be cast and retrieved, but they are also useful for vertical jigging. In a deep lake on a hot day, drop a few brightly-colored jigs with a piece of worm, leech, or even manufactured bait. If a walleye is in the area, he’ll have a hard time resisting a strike.
While spinnerbaits are more common for bass and northern pike, they should not be overlooked when it comes to walleye. Fishing a spinnerbait over weeds and shady structure could entice a walleye to come out of hiding. These are probably more effective in shallower waters, as they won’t reach walleye hiding in deep lakes and reservoirs. While bass anglers often want the largest spinnerbait possible, walleye will regularly strike smaller lures. And remember, spinnerbaits are excellent for walleye when tipped with a worm.
Soft Plastic with Twister Tail
Soft plastics are probably the most versatile of all lure types. Made to mimic everything from worms to crayfish, a soft plastic can be used in nearly any setting, including walleye lakes. A soft plastic worm with a twister tail will drive a walleye crazy, and when you tip it with a worm or minnow, you have a combination that few walleye can resist.
Lipless lures are different from traditional crankbaits in two important categories. First, without the bill to push them down, they swim much shallower, often staying about six inches to a foot below the surface. Second, they dance a lot tighter, closely simulating how a small fish will swim in cold water. This make them effective choices for early spring and late fall walleye fishing in low-light scenarios.
Another top choice for vertical jigging, the spoon lure can be used to entice walleyes that are sitting tight in deep pools and underwater valleys. There are spoons that will flutter, spin, and dance, creating small flashes of light off their metal bodies. This action is meant to resemble an injured or dying baitfish, which triggers a walleye’s feeding instinct.
Stickbaits have a lot in common with crankbaits. You could even argue that a stickbait is just another type of crankbait. Brushing that aside, stickbaits are very effective for attracting shallow-water walleyes. When trolling an area too shallow for traditional crankbaits, a stickbait can be one of the best walleye lures possible. The rattle attracts attention, while the vibrations and swim pattern make it look like an injured fish, driving a sharp-eyed walleye crazy.
With these baits, you’ll not only have a great time fishing, you’ll be the household hero when you’re frying up pounds of walleye!