Top Lures for Catching Walleye
Walleye are Canada’s favourite and most popular species to fish for, and for good reason – they are plentiful, put up a decent tussle and taste delicious in the pan. There are literally hundreds of lures on the market to catch this fishes’ attention, (and the curiosity of the angler), but there are a few tried and true methods that will always put a limit in the boat. Try this back-to-basics approach to walleye fishing and be prepared to have your rod pulled this year.
Jigs The number one choice of walleye anglers everywhere has to be the jig, as it accounts for a large number of fish that are caught annually. It is a simple bait to fish, and it provides a presentation that is close to the bottom structure where walleye forage.
A round, lead-headed jig is the most common, and can be tipped with a number of different options. Some of the more popular are plastic grubs, twister tails and shad bodies, as well as live minnows, worms or leeches. If the fish are inactive, or if you are experiencing a cold-front condition, your best option is to tip with live bait. If the fish are in an aggressive mood and the water is warm, oftentimes a plastic body will suffice.
Choosing the right weight of jig head can often be a game of experimentation, although there are a few general rules to follow. For water less than 10 feet, a 1/8 jig will get the nod most of the time. This can be bumped up to a ¼ oz. jig if the conditions are very windy and you are having trouble maintaining contact with the bottom. Water between 10 and 25 feet are best fished with a ¼ oz. jig, and should be upgraded to a ½ oz. jig head for water over 25 feet deep.
Maintaining contact with the bottom is the key to catching walleye, and experimenting with different lifts, and drags of the bait, will upgrade your catch significantly.
Crankbaits When it comes to realism and matching Mother Nature, nothing compares to the magic a crankbait exhibits. These lures shimmy, dive and look just like the real thing, and are hard to beat as a proven walleye producer.
Choosing a crankbait can be difficult, but there are a few points to keep in mind when specifically targeting walleye. Pick a thin-profile bait that averages between three and five-inches in length. Stay away from the short stubby baits that are generally used for bass, as the walleyes natural forage species is typically thin and long. Choosing a bait with built-in rattles can help a walleye hone in on your lure, and will produce sound that can be beneficial in murky water. Colour combinations can be endless, but the rule of thumb is to present a natural coloured bait when faced with clear water, and turn to brighter colours when fishing stained or deep water. My best success has come on the natural perch and baby bass finishes, as well as chartreuse, red and green. Experimentation is the key in deciding what the resident walleye prefer.
Cranbaits can be used in both casting and trolling applications, and it is best to carry an assortment of each for different situations. When casting, try to keep the bait close to the bottom, occasionally bumping the rock structure, while slow trolling is your best bet when pulling a lure behind the boat.
Spinners Spinners are an old staple of the walleye angler, and they continue to still catch fish. They are a versatile lure in that they can be cast or trolled, and exhibit flash and sound characteristics that walleye seem to love.
The standard size spinner to throw for walleye is the # 3, although upgrading to a # 4 can be beneficial if the water is very fast moving or murky. Tipping the treble hook with a piece of worm will produce a scent trail that can garner strikes from inactive or skittery fish.
Some of the better-known brands of spinners are manufactured by Mepps and Blue Fox and are available in a multitude of colours. Black, silver and chartreuse are my top three producers and have become my “go to” baits when faced with tough conditions.
Round up some walleye this year by relying on the three baits I have discussed. There are many types of bait out on the market, but utilizing these three “proven winners” will have you netting plump walleye all year long.
By Justin Hoffman