The Best Walleye Lures to Help You Catch Your Limit

Load your tackle box with these top baits

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Walleye are some of the best-eating freshwater fish in North America, and catching them cna be a bit tricky if you don’t know what lure to use. Fear not, my friends, as we have assembled some of the best walleye lure options that you should have to help you limit out. On top of that, we’re throwing in our best tips on how to use these lures, all in an effort to help you catch some ‘eyes. While you may want to swap in color variations to better match your local water conditions, these are some of the best walleye lures on the market to help you catch your limit. Good fishin’!

Cover image by Derrek Sigler

Best Walleye Lures

 Salmo Freediver SDRapala Shad RapClam Tikka
editors choice
Depth:9-40 feet8-15 feetVaries

Best Walleye Lures at a Glance

  1. Salmo Freediver SD
  2. Rapala Shad Rap
  3. Clam Tikka Jig
  4. Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow
  5. Northland Pro Walleye Crawler Harness
  6. Rapala Husky Jerk
  7. Berkley Fusion 19 Tungsten Fishing Jigs

Salmo Freediver SD – Editor’s Pick Stickbait

Salmo Freediver
The best of the best for deep-running walleye lures from Salmo. Photo by Derrek Sigler
  • Style: Stickbait
  • Depth: 9-40 feet
  • Colors: Multiple
  • Trolling: Yes
  • Casting: Yes
  • Jigging: No

Salmo makes some of the best walleye baits you will find, and the Freediver SD is the best of the best when it comes to super deep-diving baits. You can troll these babies down to 40 feet! Then you add in the amazing action and the perfect amounts of flash and rattle, and you have an amazing walleye lure.

Pro Tip: For walleyes holding in deep water, like during really hot weather, or during the day, these are hard to beat. I troll these lures on big water and like the brighter colors with metallic flecks for some added flash. As a side note, they work great for salmon and trout, too.

Rapala Shad Rap – Best Crankbait

The Rapala Shad Rap is a great all-around walleye lure. Photo by Derrek Sigler
  • Style: Crankbait
  • Depth: 8-15 feet
  • Colors: Multiple
  • Trolling: Yes
  • Casting: Yes
  • Jigging: No

The Shad Rap from Rapala is widely considered one of the best walleye baits going thanks to the shape and action of the lure that does a really great job of imitating a baitfish. These are balsa-wood baits that float, and come in several diving depth configurations to cover just about every walleye fishing situation. The shape of the bait gives the Shad Rap a distinct wobble that is hard to beat. It can be cast or trolled, and the wide, and I do mean WIDE, range of colors and patterns available makes this a lure that every walleye angler should have at least a few of.

Pro Tip: My favorite for ‘eyes is the Shad Rap SR-9, a 3-½ inch bait that runs 8-15 feet deep. I like the brightest neon colors for dark, overcast days and nights on turbid water, and natural patterns for overcast days on clear water. I troll these baits more than cast them, and on big water, like Michigan’s Saginaw Bay, I have run them on leadcore to get a little more depth when the fish are holding tight.

Clam Tikka – Best Active Jig

Clam Tikka
This jig adds some movement to your bait.
  • Style: Jig
  • Depth: Varies
  • Colors: Multiple
  • Trolling: No
  • Casting: No
  • Jigging: Yes

Jigging live bait or artificial soft plastics over suspending fish is a classic way to catch walleyes and the Clam Tikka is a cool and productive lure to get it done. It is a vertical jig with a treble hook on the belly and a single hook on the tail. The tail has a v-notch fin that has the jig glide to the side on the descent.

Pro Tip: Find a school of walleye and tip this jig with a minnow or leach. Drop it down and give it a couple of 6-inch flicks, letting the jig dance around. The hits will be soft, but let the fish run with the jig a little before setting the hook. I would use a 7-½ foot medium-light spinning rod and keep the bail of the reel open to let the fish run some.

Yo Zuri Crystal Minnow

Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow
One of the flashiest stickbaits on the market, the Yo-Zuri is great for overcast weather.
  • Style: Stickbait
  • Depth: 3-5 feet
  • Colors: Multiple
  • Trolling: Yes
  • Casting: Yes
  • Jigging: No

The Yo Zuri Crystal Minnow is one of the better all-purpose stickbaits on the market. You can buy these in a deep-diver version, but I am really fond of the regular shallower running model that averages 3-5 feet. These baits have a rattle and a super distinct wobble, mixed with some truly flashy color options that make them really attract fish like crazy.

Pro Tip: While these can be trolled, and I’ve had luck doing so, I really like casting these baits so I can jerk and rip them to give some added wounded-baitfish action. I like the 3-½ inch floater that I can work and then let rise some, just like a dying fish. I have had some great luck twitching it, letting it rise a little and then reeling in a little. I get hits as I reel, as the walleye thinks it is getting away.

Northland Pro Walleye Crawler Harness – Best Live Bait Troller

Lindy Crawler Harness
Trolling a crawler harness is effective and covers a lot of water.
  • Style: Crawler Harness/Live Bait
  • Depth: Varies
  • Colors: Multiple
  • Trolling: Yes
  • Casting: No
  • Jigging: Possible

Live bait is hard to beat sometimes and a crawler harness trolled behind a boat is one of the most effective ways to catch walleyes some days. The Northland Pro is a personal favorite just because it uses great components. It comes with a #3 Colorado blade for added thump and a speed clevis so I can swap out the blade if need be.

Pro Tip: I like slow trolling a live crawler using these rigs, and I started using washed crawlers after seeing a buddy try it. You basically wash the crawlers in cool clean water and then store them in damp newspaper. It gets the dirt out a little more and increases the scent trail.

Rapala Husky Jerk – Best Suspending Bait

Rapala Husky Jerk
The best thing about the Husky Jerk is that is suspends, giving you a cool option when fishing walleyes. Photo by Derrek Sigler
  • Style: Stickbait
  • Depth: Varies, Suspending
  • Colors: Multiple
  • Trolling: Yes
  • Casting: Yes
  • Jigging: No

The Husky Jerk from Rapala is very similar to Rapala’s original balsa wood stickbaits, except that it is made from plastic and suspends rather than float or sink. It also has rattles in it that add a layer of vibration and noise to the allure of the lure. The suspending part of the action is what makes it a great addition to this list. These baits are available in a wide range of colors and in different models that dive to different depths.

Pro Tip: Being a suspending bait, I like to run these and then stop them, letting them sit for a moment or two before restarting the presentation. This can mean I either stop the reel or the boat. This is a trigger for a strike by walleyes and is very effective.

Berkley Fusion 19 Tungsten Fishing Jigs – Best Vertical Jig

Berkley Tungsten Jig
Don’t be afraid to get the unpainted jig and then use your own paint scheme to match your water conditions.
  • Style: Jig
  • Depth: Varies
  • Colors: Multiple
  • Trolling: No
  • Casting: No
  • Jigging: Yes

When it comes to a “standard” vertical jig, you may think that one is as good as another, but there is a secret you need to know. Most pro walleye anglers will use a tungsten jig over a lead-based jig. Why is that? Tungsten is denser than lead, and is non-toxic. Being denser, the jig can weigh the same but actually be smaller in diameter, which is better for weary fish. Being non-toxic means you’ll never have to worry about any issues with local regulations on some waterways.

Pro Tip: Use a bigger minnow than you may think you need and slow work your way toward where fish are schooled. Bigger, more aggressive fish will come to your bait in an effort to keep it away from the competition.

Best Walleye Lures Comparison Table

Walleye Lures StyleDepthColorsTrollingCasting
Salmo Freediver SDSalmo Freediver SDStickbait9-40 feetMultipleYesYes
Rapala Shad RapRapala Shad RapCrankbait8-15 feetMultipleYesYes
Clam TikkaClam TikkaJigVariesMultipleNoNo
Northland Pro Walleye Crawler HarnessNorthland Pro Walleye Crawler HarnessCrawler Harness/Live BaitVariesMultipleYesNo
Rapala Husky JerkRapala Husky JerkStickbaitVaries, SuspendingMultipleYesYes
Berkley Fusion 19 Tungsten Fishing Jigs Berkley Fusion 19 Tungsten Fishing Jigs JigVariesMultipleNoNo

How to catch walleyes

I have been fishing for walleye for decades and have had the pleasure of fishing with many seasoned professionals, too. The best way to catch a walleye is to go fishing and try different things. The first walleye I ever caught was by accident. I was fishing for bluegills and something kept stealing the leach I was using for bait. So I rigged it up a little differently and when I felt the soft hit the walleye is known for, I set the hook and reeled in a nice fish.

Walleye tend to be most active in the early morning and right at dusk, as well as at night. When the sun is high, they head deep and are less likely to feed. My teenage son caught his first walleye in mid-day while we were pike fishing, but the cloud cover was so dense that the ‘eyes were still active.

Prepping live bait

Big Minnows
Use bigger minnows for live bait when looking for big walleye. Photo by Shutterstock/CLPMedia

I first learned to use big minnows for walleye when fishing with Dennis Foster, a walleye tournament pro based out of South Dakota. He used minnows I would normally use for pike and showed me that walleyes are not afraid to go for bigger bait. He said that the bigger, more aggressive fish in the schools got that way because they sought out the larger food sources. It made sense, especially when we started catching big fish and lots of them.

Another pro, Jay Frolenko from Michigan, showed me how he preps nightcrawlers. “Most nightcrawlers are sold in a container of dirt,” Frolenko said. “You wind up getting it all over your hands when the crawler excretes it as you’re rigging them. If you rinse the nightcrawlers fully in cool, clean water, to the point they dump out the dirt, then you can store them in damp newspaper before you fish with them. This helps leave a better scent trail in the water and from my experience, the fish grab them and are less likely to let go.”

Washed Crawlers
Washing your nightcrawlers helps create a better scent trail when fishing for walleyes. Photo by Shutterstock/Sharkey

Walleye Lure FAQs

Where do I find walleyes?

Walleyes tend to school over rocks and other cover and near deeper water drop offs. The fish will move to that deeper water during the height of the day. Look for points and other outcroppings, too. Good marine electronics and/or a lake chart will help.

How deep do you fish for walleyes?

It depends upon where the fish are, the time of day and the lake itself. Just keep in mind that deep fish will need to be brought up slowly, so as to avoid the fish getting the bends, or the loss of their eyes.

What colors do walleye see best?

A walleye’s vision peaks in the orange-red-green parts of the spectrum. Biologists believe they see wavelengths shorter than green and longer than orange-red, but not well. The fish also have better eyesight in low-light conditions, so keep that in mind, along with water color, when picking lures.

How I researched

The author with a South Dakota Walleye. Photo by Andrew Johnson

How I researched this article is – I went fishing. I know, it’s a tough job and someone has to do it, right? It’s the sacrifices I’m willing to make for you, my readers. In all seriousness though, it’s actually correct. I went fishing a lot over the course of my life, and I’ve caught a lot of walleye. I also know a lot of guys who spend even more time fishing for walleyes and some even do so for money. I asked them what works. I asked local bait shop owners what works. A lot of it is trial and error, and believe me, there have been some errors. I have fished for walleyes just about everywhere they exist, too, which was hard, but a lot of fun. I suggest you do the same. It’s worth it.

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Derrek Sigler

Derrek Sigler has been a professional outdoor writer for more than two decades since earning his Master’s Degree in creative writing with a thesis about fishing humor. But if you ask anyone that knows him, he’s been telling fishin’ stories since he was old enough to hold a pole. He has written for Cabela’s and served as editorial director for Gun Digest books. Over the years, he has also written for Petersen’s Hunting, North American Whitetail Magazine, Wildfowl, Grand View Media, and has worked with Bass Pro Shops, Hard Core Brands and Bone Collector. Successful Farming had him write for their magazine and he has appeared on their TV show to discuss hunting and ATVs on multiple occasions. He writes about the things he loves – hunting, fishing, camping, trucks, ATVs, boating, snowmobiles and the outdoor lifestyle he enjoys with his family in their home state of Michigan and more as they adventure around North America.

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