Right Baits for Walleye Fishing

By: Daniel Eggertsen

Walleye are toothy fish that will strike at virtually anything placed in front of them. Live bait and plastic baits are equally effective in making this happen. It really comes down to a matter of personal preference for anglers. Where one may prefer to use only live bait, another may stick with plastics.

Then there will be the anglers who fall in between the two and use a little of each. There are ups and downs to both types of baits. Either is effective in latching walleye onto the line. Let us start out with live baits.

Bait presentation closely resembles that of live small fish like minnows. Walleye have a difficult time telling the difference between these and actual small fish swimming in front of them. Another desired effect of live bait is placement. In most cases, live bait casts so that it falls right in front of a walleye who may be hanging out in medium water depths. The sharp falling action towards the bottom instantly catches the walleyes attention.

When using live bait, match it up with a plain or colored hook. The colored hooks have number 6 or number 8 finishes. Add a colored bead to a plain hook or use a snell and a sinker to create a bare-bones rig with the live bait. Create a Stealth Rig using a sinker or spinner that will have live bait sitting up off the bottom surface floor. When all else fails, pull out a live bait rig. In times of desperate need, even the pickiest walleye will take a bite.

As for what types of live baits to use, let the walleye be the judge of that. Logic deems using small baits in the spring and larger baits in the winter. Walleye however do not follow logic. The best course of action is to stock a bait box with a wide variety of live bait options. There is no way to tell what walleye prefer on any given day until an angler is out on the water actively seeking the fish out.

Basic thinking is small minnows in the spring. Bring in leeches and night crawlers during summer months. Move towards medium to large size minnows as fall approaches. Winter should bring up the use of larger baits to mimic the slower movement of walleye. Walleye will do what they prefer. There is nothing keeping a walleye from snatching up a night crawler in the middle of spring.

Now let us move on towards plastic baits. This bait type quickly navigates its way through the water allowing an angler to cover more water surface than live baits would. Although plastic baits are year round tools, they are the most effective in warm months. This is when the water temperatures start to rise that coincides with the increase in walleye activity. Walleye are feeling frisky and up to a good chase when the water is warm.

Select jigs with quarter and three to eight ounce heads for warmer waters. Eight ounce heads apply to other situations but are the most effective in summer months. When chasing walleye out of cabbage weed locations, use the bullet shaped heads found on foxee jigs. Here is where the eighth ounce bait heads figure into the picture. This jig bait type navigates through the weeds causing walleye to strike once the jig sticks in the brush. Launch the jig/tail combo out over the weed tops and let it sink toward the deeper edge.

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