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Published Mar. 14, 2022

Before you can head down the road of choosing the best walleye lures to fill your tackle box, you have to understand that walleye lure selection differs substantially from other species. For most bass anglers using anything but artificial lures is not acceptable. Whereas walleye anglers routinely use crawlers, minnows, and leeches as well as crankbaits, jerkbaits, and glide baits. This mix of artificial lures and live bait creates a ton of tackle options. You get even more lure options when you add in that walleye anglers often split their time between trolling, casting, and drifting. 

Over my 20-year professional angling career, I’ve tried and caught fish on nearly every walleye lure option, and from that crop, I’ve picked six of the best walleye lures. These lures are all versatile baits that cover the most common walleye fishing conditions.

Best Walleye Jig: Northland Fire-Ball Jig

Northland Fishing Tackle

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Key Features

  • Compact
  • Great color selection
  • Oval head to cut current
  • Weight: 1/16 to 1 ounce
  • 1/0 and 2/0 hooks available 

Why It Made the Cut

The Northland Fire-Ball Jig’s wide range of sizes makes it a versatile jig, and with smart features like a short shank wide gap hook for rigging large live bait and good hooksets, it’s a go-to walleye lure for pros.  

Pros

  • Sizes to fit every situation
  • Great color selection
  • Very versatile

Cons

  • A quality, but not premium hook

Product Description

If I had a nickel for each professional walleye tournament top 10 finish the Fire-Ball Jig has accounted for, I could easily retire. Due to the success and popularity of the original Fireball, Northland has since added standup and long shank models to accommodate nearly any jigging situation. However, if you are looking for versatility, the original is still the best all-around jig.

The original Fire-Ball’s design allows you to fish it effectively with few issues. The head design cuts current but does not snag easily, while featuring a very wide gap hook to more easily rig large live bait and increase hookups. If fish are short striking, there’s an eye behind the head that allows for a stinger hook to be attached. 

Best Spinner: Northland Baitfish Float’n Spin

Northland Fishing Tackle

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Key Features

  • Holographic finishes for flash
  • Foam float
  • Two needlepoint hooks for short strikes
  • 60-inch leader 
  • 14-pound test leader 

Why It Made the Cut

If you can only have one spinner for walleye fishing, go with the Northland Baitfish Float’n Spin. It’s a versatile spinner that covers most situations and is made with quality components. 

Pros

  • Extremely versatile
  • Really good color selection
  • Good components

Cons

  • No quick-change clevis for quick blade swaps

Product Description

The Northland baitfish blades have been legendary for years for their fish catching combination of flash and vibration. The addition of a float is not so common and provides a lot of color, but most importantly, flotation. The buoyancy helps keep the hooks from dragging the bottom and damaging the hooks and bait. 

Walleye anglers are very particular about their spinner rigs. The Northland Baitfish Float’n Spin is a top choice because it’s extremely versatile and allows anglers to carry less tackle but still be covered in a variety of situations.

Best Glide Bait: Clam Tikka Mino

Clam Pro Tackle

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Key Features

  • Sizes available from 1/16 to ⅞ ounce
  • Holographic and super glow colors
  • Hook Size: #10, #12, and #14
  • Constructed from zinc
  • Built-in fin

Why It Made the Cut

Glide baits have taken the market by storm over the last few years. These lures were only known as ice fishing lures in the past, but we have since learned they work for walleye, bass, and any gamefish year around. With many models on the market, the Tikka Mino seems to have a slightly different action thanks to the all-zinc body.

Pros

  • Can be fished year around
  • One-piece design nearly eliminates breakage
  • High-end finishes at a reasonable price point

Cons

  • Most models could use one size larger treble hook

Product Description

The effectiveness of glide baits is widely known, as is their tendency to have the rear plastic fin to break off. The Tikka Mino solved this by molding the fin out of zinc and making it part of the main body. No tuning or breakage means better performance and less money spent. You can jig the Tikka vertically ice fishing style or cast it out and work it back. The latter method has been very successful for picking off fish in open water with forward-facing live sonar.

Best Cold-Water Crankbait: Rapala Husky Jerk 

Rapala

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Key Features

  • Lengths: 2 ½, 3 ⅛, 4, 4 ¾, and 5 ½ inches
  • Running depths from 4 to 8 feet
  • Weight: ⅛ to ⅝ ounce 
  • Suspends in cold water
  • High quality VMC terminal and hooks
  • Good color selection

Why It Made the Cut

The Rapala Husky Jerk works just about everywhere and nearly all serious walleye anglers have it in their box. 

Pros

  • Suspends perfectly 
  • Reasonably priced
  • Available in shallow and deep models in several sizes
  • Runs true out of the box

Cons

  • Quality construction, but basic finishes are not as eye-catching as many of the minnow baits on the market

Product Description

Ask ten serious walleye anglers what their go-to crank is for cold water, and at least nine will say the Husky Jerk. Adding to its cred is that while many walleye lures only work well regionally, the Husky Jerk just seems to work everywhere and is in the tackle boxes of every walleye angler I know. Available in sizes from 2 ½ inches all the way to 5 ½ inches to cover nearly all situations. Additionally, there are three deep-diving sizes for trolling.

While the Husky Jerks action has caught plenty of fish in warm water, it excels in water less than 50 degrees because it perfectly suspends. Most suspending lures just slowly rise, but the Husky Jerk trully suspends and will not rise. The shallow divers cast well, and run true enough to slow troll or can be fished deeper compliments of a snap weight. Deep divers run true for trolling and just seem to work when other lures will not.

Best All-Around Crankbait: Reef Runner

Reef Runner

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 Key Features

  • Length: 4 ¾ inches
  • Weight: ⅝ ounce
  • Max diving depth: 28 ft
  • Unique hunting action
  • Curved banana style profile
  • Works on almost all walleye waters

Why It Made the Cut

The Reef Runner is a rare lure that works in warm and cold water as well as just about anywhere, which is why it’s my pick for the best all-around crankbait

Pros

  • Hundreds of colors available 
  • High landing percentage 
  • Bare naked color patterns work in gin-clear waters where other cranks will not

Cons

  • They need to be tuned frequently due to their hunting action

Product Description

The Reef Runner has to be one of the most imitated and copied lures of the last twenty years because of its ability to catch fish under a variety of conditions across the walleye belt. Many walleye anglers are surprised that the Reef Runner can be slow trolled at .8 mph during the cool water periods or effectively fished at speeds nearing 3 mph in the summer. It is one of the few lures that just always seems to work.

A walleye with a Reef Runner lure in its mouth
The reef runner can be cast or trolled to catch walleye throughout the walleye belt. Ross Robertson

The curved body and lip design cause the bait to hunt, creating a built in bite triggering action that catches fish. However, this does come at a price, and the Reef Runner tune needs to be checked frequently. While the original 800 is the most popular, you can also buy a smaller 3 ½ inch version. Both sizes also are offered in a shallow model for casting or when less depth is needed.

Best Lipless Crankbait: Rapala Rippin Rap

Rapala

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Key Features

  • Length: 2 ½, 2 ¾, and 3 inches
  • Weight: 5 1/16, ½, and ⅞ ounce
  • Large selection of colors 

Why It Made the Cut

The Rapala Rippin Rap has been fooling walleye since its inception and it works through the ice or in open water. 

Pros

  • Draws fish from a distance
  • Fishes a variety of depths
  • Can be cast out and worked or vertically jigged
  • Large variety of sizes and colors

Cons

  • Can be a hot or cold presentation

Product Description

In order to make it to a list of best walleye lures it needs to work under a variety of conditions. Lipless cranks can be burned over a shallow flat or weed bed or slowly reeled and bounced over a deeper rocky bottom. The Rippin Rap is versatile enough to even be ice fished or fished vertically in open water. Additionally, the load rattles do wonders for calling fish in and getting bites in off-colored or dirty water. The huge selection of colors and variety of sizes allows you to find just the right one for almost any circumstance.

FAQs

Q: What colors are best for walleye?

Preferred colors for walleyes can greatly differ as you travel to different regions of the country. In lakes with dark water, colors such as gold or glow colors can excel, whereas colors such as purple and pink are considered the go-to in the cleaner waters of the great lakes. However, if I had to choose one combo, it would likely be chartreuse and orange as it works as consistently as anything. When the water color and forage change make sure you change your lure color with it.

Q: What colors do walleye see at night?

Color preferences definitely change from lake to lake as does if you have a full moon or dark, cloudy night. One of the best things you can do to increase your night fishing odds is to have a lure that has good contrast. A dark back with light sides helps provide more contrast and make the target easier to pick up. Doctoring up the eyes with a little glow paint and maybe even a couple of small prism tape strips down the side never hurts either. 

Q: Do walleye hit spinnerbaits?

Bass anglers will definitely tell you that walleyes will hit spinnerbaits, but you can’t catch them on what you don’t throw. A spinnerbait looks like a dying baitfish and can easily be fished around heavy cover. For decades, anglers in Nebraska and the Dakotas have been quietly using spinnerbaits for walleyes. The difference is that they troll them on leadcore or braided line and fish them deeper than what a spinnerbait is traditionally fished. 

Things to Consider When Choosing a Walleye Lure

Some of the best walleye waters can be found in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs—primarily across the upper Midwest and the Dakotas. These greatly different bodies of water create the need for a variety of lures to be used. Current, water depth and temperature are all factors that cause our tackle bags to grow when walleye fishing.

A man in an orange jacket holding a walleye on a boat
If Robertson could only choose one color for walleye it would be chartreuse and orange. Ross Robertson

While it is important to make sure you have an ample selection of colors in your jig selection it is maybe more important to have a variety of sizes. Having a weight heavy enough to be able to fish vertically in a river is extremely important, as is having one light enough to pitch along rip rap or a weed line. This philosophy is the same when compared to crankbaits or crawler harness sizes. Many days downsizing a crankbait or blade size just a touch is the difference between a fish fry and an empty cooler.

While most will admit it is fun to have all of the fancy colors and finishes, the right size and weight is what really makes the difference at the end of most days.

Final Thoughts

It is very easy to get locked into just one lure or presentation, but when you look at the most successful walleye guides and tournament anglers, they tend to have one thing in common, they don’t play favorites and are very good at a variety of tactics. Make sure to have a good selection of lures in a variety of categories to avoid finicky walleyes.

Some walleye anglers primarily only fish live bait, while others will only use artificial. In order to consistently catch fish through the seasons and with changes in weather, it is wise to make sure you have a good selection. In many cases lures can be a delivery system for both. Jigs and crawler harnesses can be used effectively with either live bait or artificials and in some cases, both. 

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