Catching Walleye: The Best Bait For Walleye on the Market

By: Josh Anderson

October 18, 2022

If you were to ask 50 of the best walleye anglers on the planet what the best bait for walleye was, chances are you’d get a multitude of different responses. Everyone has a favorite walleye bait or different opinion about what the best bait to catch walleye is, and a lot of favorites are simply decided by what an angler is most confident in. So without a lot of experience, it can be difficult to decide what bait to use for walleye. However, there are a few tried and true baits that just flat out work no matter the body of water, and having the right walleye bait can mean the difference between a full live well and going home empty.

Casting for Walleyes

When it comes to casting for walleyes, the options are endless. Time of year is going to be the most significant factor in determining what the best walleye bait is at any given time. In the spring of the year when walleyes are shallow and schooled up it's very hard to beat pitching just a simple jig and a minnow, especially in cold and clear water. A Northland Fireball Jig is perfect for this as it has a short shank that keeps the minnow close and has a place to attach a stinger hook if the fish are light biting. A St. Croix Legend Elite ML spinning rod is an excellent option for this technique. Another bait that works great for early-season walleyes is a Rapala Rippin' Rap lipless crankbait. It’s no secret that lipless crankbaits are an excellent walleye fishing bait, but the action and unique sound of a Rippin’ Rap seems to drive them a little extra crazy. For catching walleye, size 6 is a great go-to. Medium action rods with a fast tip are perfect for using a lipless crankbait as they give the bait excellent action when vertical jigging as well. When it comes to mid-summer walleyes on structure it is very hard to beat a vertical jigging rip bait. It’s hard to beat casting these when there's a pod of fish on a piece of structure. Great options include a Moonshine Shiver Minnow, a Rapala Jigging Rap, and an Acme Tackle Hyper Rattle. An aggressive walleye has a very hard time passing up the erratic action of any of these baits. If you can get away with going with one of the larger sizes, it’s typically a good idea too. It’s hard for a walleye to pass up a big meal right in front of its face. For this technique, you can use the same rod as you would with a Rippin’ Rap, a St. Croix Legend Elite in 7’0 medium with a fast tip, although a shorter rod is sometimes more appropriate when vertical jigging a bait. It's important to have a medium or medium-heavy rod for this so you can pop the bait and give it its optimal action.

Drifting for Walleyes

Drifting can be one of the most effective ways to catch walleyes when conditions are appropriate for it. When walleyes are in the pre-spawn period, drifting across a flat with a jig is a great way to catch them. As stated before, a Northland Fire-Ball Jig works great when drifting with live bait, while a Northland Deep-Vee Jig or Northland Deep-Vee Bucktail Jig gets the job done when drifting plastics. Try letting the bait hit the bottom then constantly giving it short hops while drifting with plastics or bucktail. For drifting live bait, use a lighter jig and hold it just off the bottom or the top of the weeds. St. Croix Legend Elite medium action rods also work great for this technique; however, a longer rod such as a 7’3 - 7’6 can be preferable to keep fish pinned when drifting your bait a long distance from the boat. As the year goes on and the water warms drifting harnesses becomes the dominant technique. Many walleye fishermen like to make their own harnesses and FishUSA has all the components you need to get started. They also carry a massive assortment of pre-made worm harnesses that make just as excellent a walleye bait. Spinners work great drifted between .8 and 1.2 MPH with a bottom bouncer. Another option is a slow death hook, simply tie the hook on a piece of fluorocarbon line and run a 6-foot snell to a bottom bouncer and the hook makes the crawler spin which is absolutely killer for walleyes.

Trolling for Walleyes

What is the best bait for walleye trolling? The options are slightly less broad than when drifting or casting, but still pretty extensive. Berkley Flicker Shads, Rapala Shad Raps, and Walleye Nation Creations Shaky Shads are excellent options when fish are feeding on smaller profile baitfish, such as in many smaller natural lakes. For Great Lakes walleye trolling big minnow profile baits are the way to go, such as Berkley Flicker MinnowsWNC Reaper CrankbaitsRapala Down Deep Husky Jerks, and Bandit Walleye Deep Divers. A summer walleye tip: always troll these crankbaits 2+mph in the heat of the summer. Slow down to as low as 1.2mph in colder weather months. Crankbaits can be trolled with lead core, flatlined, or with snap weights. Harnesses are also a deadly walleye bait in the summer and can be trolled with a bottom bouncer, snap weight, or lead core. Inline weights are great for trolling over a basin or keeping your bait suspended, while bottom bouncers are the deal around rock bottom. For best results use the lightest unpainted weight you can get away with to give your bait optimal action and keep the fish focused on your bait.

Next time you’re on the water give these techniques a try and you’ll put more fish in the boat!