The best bait for walleyes just might be a leech on a jig, but what’s the challenge in that? We rounded up the best crankbaits, spinnerbaits, walleye jigs, and jerk baits for fishing on any water in any condition. From tried and true to new and hot, we’ve got the skinny on the only walleye lures you’ll ever need. These are our top 15 picks.
1. Cordell Wally Diver
Cordell Wally Diver Cordell
One of the sport’s legendary lures, the Wally Diver produces big results when cast or trolled. Built with a slender profile designed for a tight wiggle, this bait reaches depths of 20 feet when trolled and teases fish with a vulnerable presentation by sitting motionless when paused.
2. Lindy Fuzz-E Grub Jig
Lindy Fuzz-E Grub Jig Lindy
A soft-plastic, grub-style body offers a slippery, life-like appearance, while the tantalizing marabou tail enhances the display. This, along with a two-color painted eye on the jig head prompts aggressive strikes and entices the fish to eat the whole bait, then hold on longer for greater hook sets. Fish it plain, or tip it with a minnow, crawler or leech.
3. Terminator T1 Spinnerbait
Terminator T1 Spinnerbait Terminator
Impress the ‘eyes with a spinnerbait sporting unbreakable titanium construction, premium ball bearing swivel and a premium VMC® hook. Painted, gold or nickel plated blades made with bevel edges complement the realistic baitfish head design and QuickSkirt changeable premium silicone skirt. Fish this bait over weeds or troll it through trees for suspended walleye.
4. Lindy Slick Jig
Lindy Slick Jig Lindy
One of the most versatile jigs for ice fishing, the weight-forward design and position of the line tie yield a horizontal position in the water, with a realistic profile for presenting a minnow, leech or wax worm. The Slick Jig’s downward-sloping front end makes it ideal for bottom pounding, while jigging action carries it outside the hole to cover a wider area.
5. Strike King Redeye Shad
Strike King Redeye Shad Strike King
Made for shimmying through shallow water, deflecting off cover and ripping through weeds, this lipless crankbait contains free-floating rattles for fish-calling appeal that complements a shad-shaped body with glaring red eyes. Fish it fast to cover lots of water, or vertically jig it when icefishing.
6. Rapala Shad Rap (No. 7 & No. 5)
Rapala Shad Rap (No. 7 & No. 5) Rapala
Cast or trolled, Rapala’s premium balsa body and distinctive shape delivers big results in ultra-slow or super fast presentations. The Shad Rap is hand-tuned and tank-tested for optimal performance sticky sharp VMC black nickel trebles ensure solid connections.
7. Lindy Watsit Jig
Lindy Watsit Jig Lindy
Made to match a diverse array of aquatic forage, the Watsit comes pre-rigged on a color matched Lindy Jig head. Available in 1/16- to ¼-ounce sizes with grubs of 1 ¾- to 2-inch bodies sporting realistic looking legs and split tail design, this is a solid choice for lighter presentations.
8. TriggerX Nightcrawler
Loaded with Ultrabite Pheromones that stimulate walleyes to feed, this 6.5-inch worm looks and moves like the real thing. Effective on a jig, rig or spinner, the Trigger X Nightcrawler’s body shape, action and pheromones are custom-designed to attract walleyes. The ribbed design increases surface area for maximum pheromone distribution, while the bait’s natural biodegradable material breaks down and enters the food chain within weeks.
9. Rapala Husky Jerk
The Husky Jerk Rapala
Perfectly balanced, the Husky Jerk features an oversized lip that gets it down to 20 feet when trolled or up to 10 when cast and retrieved. Neutral buoyancy allows the bait to suspend when paused – just the thing for tempting indecisive fish with a vulnerable meal.
10. Storm Hot ‘n Tot Mad Flash
Storm Hot ‘n Tot mad Flash Storm
A metal lip and erratic, side-to-side searching action make this a go-to choice for walleye trolling. Detailed external scale patterns, classic and UV Bright finish choices and 3-D holographic eyes make the Hot ‘n Tot Mad Flash visually appealing and VMC premium black nickel hooks make it good at latching onto whatever bites.
11. Reef Runner Little Ripper
Reef Runner Little Ripper Bass Pro
A smaller version of Reef Runner’s Ripstick, the Little Ripper’s banana shape and triangular lip create present a unique and appealing profile with aggressive darting, wobbling action that triggers serious strikes. The bait comes fitted with ultra-wide gap Eagle Claw Kahle hooks.
12. Koppers Live Target Crawfish
Koppers Live Target Crawfish LiveTarget
Whether you’re ticking the tops of weeds, bumping wood cover or clanking off rocks, this ultra-realistic crawfish imitator has the looks to tempt hungry walleye. Available in crankbait, squarebill and deep diving models, the Live Target Crawfish features incredibly detailed body molding with equally intricate coloration and protruding red eyes just like a real mudbug.
13. Mepps Black Fury Spinnerbait (Size#3)
A good choice for clear water, overcast days, night fishing or heavily pressured waters, this bait’s black blades accented with bright dots presents eye-catching appeal without spooking fish with excessive coloration. The blade rotates close to the body for mid-depth retrieves, while the fully dressed gold-plated treble bolsters the appeal.
14. Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler XPS Jig Spin
Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler XPS Jig Spin Bass Pro
When walleyes suspend or hold near the bottom, fire down the XPS Jig Spin and watch the fish react to the flash and vibration of this bait’s willow leaf blade. Rig the XPS Jig Spin with a soft plastic or live bait.
15. Northland Fishing Tackle Forage Minnow Jigging Spoon
Northland Fishing Tackle Forage Minnow Jigging Spoon Northland Fishing Tackle
This miniature jigging spoon’s molded metal body features Northland Fishing Tackle’s lifelike Holographic Baitfish-Image™ design for the flash and flutter that mimics a crippled minnow. A good bet for ice fishing or open waters.
Where to Throw Your Favorite Lures to Hook Big Spring Walleye
At this time of year, finding walleyes is usually the hardest part of catching them. But if you tailor your search methods to the water color and temperature, you’ll be on the biggest fish of the season in no time.
Spring can be the most rewarding time of year to fish for walleyes, but it’s also the most challenging. On the Great Lakes and across the Upper Midwest, for example, the two biggest problems are stained water from monstrous winds and icy water temperatures––a result of melting snow pouring into lakes from feeder rivers and streams.
How Does Stained Water Change Walleye Behavior?
Dirty water, typically a few degrees warmer than clean or off-color water, provides baitfish with warmth and visual cover from predatory fish. However, years of guiding experience has taught me that it is very difficult to catch any fish in what often amounts to a muddy mess. Inversely, the gin-clear water that takes on an almost Caribbean blue hue is nearly void of life, due in part to its cooler temperature.
Between the two is chalky water, which is off-color enough to hold a decent population of baitfish yet provides enough visibility to allow walleyes to feed. It’s the key to catching big fish in the springtime.
Chalky water can be hard to find since it doesn’t usually cover a large area, but it’s not as difficult as it used to be. Instead of driving around aimlessly in search of optimal water color, you can use new marine electronics to find critical clues such as temperature breaks.
You can also use available satellite images on the internet to narrow down the hunt for the best places to fish. The satellite images are especially useful given the speed with which water clarity changes–not only day to day, but hour to hour. It is not uncommon to make a trolling pass and then head back for another, only to find that the same area has changed to a completely different color, either cleaner or dirtier. Armed with this water-eliminating information, further pinpointing the fish-holding water becomes a simpler process.
How to Find the Spot to Catch More Walleye
Professional walleye angler Joe Okada of Fitchburg, Wis., has spent his adult life as a walleye guide and tournament angler, fishing more lakes in a year than most of us will fish in a lifetime. This experience has taught him some simple tricks for getting on big spring fish.
Look for Weeds:
Emergent weed growth indicates the first sign of new life in many lakes and a tip-off to nutrient-rich areas that attract and provide cover for baitfish. This is also a signal that the water temperature is optimum.
Find Major Points:
Points hold fish virtually year-round, and can actually act as underwater barriers that keep cold water from rushing back into warmer, more sheltered bays. Hydraulically, they behave similarly to the way wing dams force warmer water toward main channels in rivers.
Watch for Discharges:
Culverts, water discharges, or power plants can provide the warmest water on the lake. These easy-to-spot locations are a great place to fish, especially early in the spring, when general water temperatures are still very cool.
Note the Water Clarity:
Water that is extremely dirty makes for a small strike zone. Instead, look for that in-between water–the chalk.
Pay Attention to Direction:
The north to the northwest side of the lake will always warm fastest because this section has more direct sunlight. It will be several degrees warmer on average.
Walleye React to Wind:
A constant flow of water can have a river-like effect on a small lake. It delivers plankton for baitfish to eat, which causes walleyes to follow. Wind-blown points and bays promote food delivery and also provide enough chop to cover your tracks and keep walleyes from spooking in shallow or clear water.