Arguably one of the most popular techniques jigging for walleye is also one of the most versatile.
Walleye jigging can be done year round even in the summer heat when walleyes retreat to deeper waters.
But the term jigging is so much more than just vertical jigging as this is what most anglers will think off once you mention a jig.
Of course when winter comes and the ice has formed a safe enough thickness ice fishing with a jig really comes into it’s own.
In this scenario a jig head topped with some kind of bait light a worm, leech or minnow and fished very slowly really produces big fish as walleye will be less prone to chasing a fast moving jig.
Jigging for walleye involves lowering a jig head with either a soft plastic body or tipped with bait down to the depth where walleye are holding and then adding some life into the jig by twitching the rod tip.
There is a huge selection of walleye jigs available and each jig head will have a specific use.
Sounds extremely simple but it’s easy to get wrong!
The first step is to locate the fish at the right depth. Local knowledge trumps all so if you are fishing a new water try to ask around and see where they are likely to be holding depending on the time of year and where about they are in their spawning season.
A fish finder is one of the most important piece of walleye tackle that you can have on any boat.
And learning how to read it is crucial to both find the fish and understanding the types of structures and bottom below you.
Vertical jigging for walleye is probably the most simplest form of fishing that you can do.
Locate the fish and their depth and then lower your jig down to them.
Life is added to the jig by twitching your rod tip vertically.
The classic round head jig is the go to choice for this presentation as it usually has a 90 degree tie in point that allows it to hang horizontally in the water.
It’s usually all too tempting to just drop your jig directly down onto them.
I’ve found better hook up rates by making short casts to about a yard beyond the edge of the pod and either dragging or bottom hopping the jig back towards the boat and the pod of walleyes if they are holding on or near the bottom.
This gives the jig a more natural horizontal element to it’s movement instead of just straight up straight down.
If they are holding at a mid-height depth then you just jig back into the pod allowing your jig to fall in a very controlled manner.
Never allow your line to go slack by dropping your rod tip too quickly.
Instead jerk it upwards quickly while then slowly and in a controlled manner lowering the jig back down.
Keeping some tension in your line allows you to sense a bite, you will more often than not get that bite as the jig is falling so it is important to have feedback coming through the rod tip from the line at all times.
Dragging a jig for walleye involves casting out your jig and allowing it to sink to the bottom.
Then using a slow lift of the rod tip pull the jig vertically and then allow it to fall back down.
The action is much slower than bottom bouncing which is described below.
Dragging a jig means not allowing too much vertical height to be gained, rather more horizontal distance with each jig.
Dragging has one major drawback in that you will get snagged up a lot more often as the hook is being constantly pulled across the bottom.
It is very good however when walleye are holding just off of the bottom and are not keen to chase a normal walleye lure or fast moving jig.
The above is how to drag on a lake where you are targeting walleye in a very specific area.
On a river you can drag by drifting it slowly downstream which is essentially back trolling with a jig in fast moving currents or to troll up stream at a very slow speed in very light currents.
The jig is normally at least 30 feet out behind the boat and you need to maintain a speed and jig head weight that allows the jigs to slowly move across the bottom or no more than a foot off of the bottom.
You can do this allow gravel lines and specific contours that run in the direction of the flow of the river.
Bottom hopping a jig involves casting the jig out and allowing it to touch the bottom. You will know it has touches as your line will start to bow.
Once on the bottom use a short sharp lift of the rod tip and then allow the jig to hit bottom. After it falls you will have to reel in a small bit of line as the jig will start to move towards you with every lift of the rod.
When bottom hopping there are usually two mistakes that are commonly made.
The first is to lift your rod way to high up to an almost vertical position. This high a lift will result in the jig rising as much as 6 feet upwards and then dropping down from this height again.
The second is to lift your rod too slowly so that you basically end up dragging the jig along the bottom.
The solution to both of these issues is to use a shorter snappier lift of only one or two feet.
This shorter lift keeps the jig no more than a foot or so off of the bottom allowing the walleye to really home in on it.
Minnows and leeches work great as a bait when bottom hopping.
Jigging is most definitely a light line technique and it requires the correct gear to really excel at it.
A good walleye jig setup will need a light spinning rod and reel and a low stretch line such as braid or fluorocarbon for the main line.
Monofilament is not a good choice as it has a certain amount of in built stretch to it. You do not want any stretch in your system as you will loose feedback and sensitivity and you will also slow down your hook-set.
Both braid and fluoro have a lot less stretch in them than mono. If you are using braid as a main line then use a six foot length of fluoro as your leader, jigging is a light presentation technique and braid is just too visible to run straight to the jig head.
A 6 ‘ or 6’6″ spinning rod with a medium/light power rating and a fast action is the correct choice as a walleye jigging rod.
If is crucial that you have a rod with a fast action.
A moderate action rod starts to bend in the middle portion of the rod blank making it less sensitive at the tip.
A fast action rod will start to form it’s natural bend in the top one third of the rod towards the tip.
This makes for much better feedback from the rod and allows you to put a lot more precise jigging action into your jigs.
A fast action will also allow you to set the hook much quicker than a moderate action.
A size 2500 spinning reel for walleye is just right to balance out the rod above. A high quality reel should be seen as an investment and if looked after will last many years of service, rods on the other hand can and do break more easily.
Fishing jerkbaits for walleye allows you to over a lot of water when either casting or trolling.
Whereas a crankbait has a very aggressive diving lip and a more stout body a jerkbait is generally considered any long slender bodied minnow imitator.
They have a less aggressive swim action than a standard crankbait.
Some anglers will describe these types of lures as stick baits, unfortunately that term can mean different things to different people.
For me a jerkbait is a shallow diving stick bait or minnow imitator that needs the rod tip to be twitched and “jerked” to add a lot more life into it’s action.
There is also a slight pause between twitches that allows the jerk bait to suspend or float in a stationary position for a moment.
That twitching is deigned to make the lure dart and twitch from side to side in a fairly random manner.
It replicates a small bait fish stopping and starting as it darts from side to side.
Jerkbaits are ultimately about imitating the movement of bait fish that walleye are prone to feeding on or to force a predatory strike.
You can drag them behind a boat on a long line at a constant speed or cast them in close to cover or other natural structures and twitch the rod tip to add extra life.
Early season means a slower speed, whereas when water temps hot up a fast speed will help to force a predatory strike out of more active walleye.
They have a fairly shallow diving depth unless you are using a jerkbait that is specifically designed for deeper running.
Casting jerkbaits really allows you to mix up the type of retrieve and swim action that you put into the lures.
When trolling chances are the swim action will remain fairly constant unless you are trolling in a zig zag like pattern or adding a twitch to the rod tip.
However, when using a cast and retrieve method you can pause the jerk bait for a slow count and then continue.
Twitching the rod tip on the retrieve is also very effective and this is commonly how bass anglers would use a jerkbait.
Like fishing any stick baits for walleye making the lure moves in a fairly random pattern will actually make it look a lot more natural.
Jerkbaits won’t dive much more than 5 or 6 feet when retrieved so it is a perfect technique to use when you know that walleye are holding at these types of depths or just below them.
Unlike trolling a crankbait such as a Shad Rap for walleye a jerk bait still needs some action put into it by twitching the rod tip.
So to get the best results you need the rod in hand when trolling to add that extra bit of movement into the lure.
When trolling at slower speeds you can pull the rod tip forward and then drop it back to the starting position again.
This will make the jerk bait swim forward quickly and then stop suspended in the water, this pattern then continues over and over as you troll.
More often than not you will get a strike as the lure has stopped and is sitting there suspended in the water.
For most anglers tolling means deep water only, however trolling for walleye can and should be done at a variety of depths.
It really all comes down to fine tuning the running depth of your lures to match where in the water column the walleye are holding.
Clearly the use of a fish finder is a massive advantage in this regard.
In shallower waters trolling a jerk bait is best done over an even bottom, so think sandy bottoms or gravel beds.
Also Read: Sauger vs Walleye
You can also troll along weed lines and break point in the shore line.
Deep water trolling when running jerkbaits is at it’s best during the summer months when walleye move to greater depths to escape the summer heat.
Early season walleye when water temps are under 60 degrees a slower trolling speed is best at roughly 1 to 1.5 mph.
Once the temperatures start to rise and walleye become more aggressive they will happily strike a lure when you are trolling around 2 mph.
Of all of the jerkbaits available on the market today the Rapala Husky Jerk is considered the go to classic walleye jerkbait.
Rapala hand tune all of their lures for a near perfect swim action. The Husky Jerk has a brilliant slow roll or wobble that makes it look really natural as it swims through the water.
It is one of the best suspending jerkbaits for walleye and works well in a variety of situations and locations.
Clearly most anglers will know that a trolling rod and reel is best suited to just trolling if you are looking to cast jerkbaits then you need a light enough setup to allow you to get a decent casting performance.
You can use a light spinning setup preferably a 7 foot walleye rod as it will allow you to get some decent casting distance when compared to a shorter 6 or 6’6″ rod.
In the early season I prefer to use monofilament as you are usually moving the jerk bait at a slower speed and mono has some in built stretch to it that acts as a shock absorber, which will make the action less pronounced.
Once you water temps pick up and walleye are more aggressive then I switch to braid as the main line always with a fluorocarbon leader.
Both fishing lines have little or no stretch when compared to mono so the swim action becomes a lot more aggressive and it has a bit more life to it as it moves through the water.
Fishing a Rapala Shad Rap for Walleye is one of the most effective ways to target walleye whether that’s trolling or casting it can produce when other methods fail.
The initial release of the Shad Rap was a massive success and as a result they became like gold dust until Rapala could finally satisfy demand by ramping up their production facilities.
The original orange crawdad was a clear winner with walleye anglers in either a #5 or #7.
And it is considered one of the all time great crankbaits for walleye.
The modern day range includes a variety of sizes and colors and there are jointed, RS(heavier plastic version for casting) and a shallow running models too.
They are used primarily to force a strike from the walleyes predatory instincts particularly when they are feeding on smaller baitfish.
Fishing a Shad Rap for walleye is done either on the troll or by casting in and around drop offs, weed lines and shore break points.
When trolling you can run them out from 50 to 100 feet, depending on the size of Shad Rap and how thin your line diameter is you can get to roughly 16 feet down which is at the upper limit of their diving capacity without adding weight to your system.
There is also a shallow running model that has a different lip on it allowing you to troll in shallower waters along a shore.
Also Read: Walleye vs Sauger
Casting towards structures on a lighter spinning rod and reel can be a great way to handle shallow walleye as sometimes shallow water trolling can result in a lot of snags depending on the bottom contours.
You can also vary the retrieve to run them at varying depths, and a lot of time you will find that they get hit just after you slow down the retrieve.
There is a model called the RS which is made from plastic and not the original balsa wood, it is heavier and so cast better especially on windy days.
The original orange crawdad, gold, firetiger and perch have been the most reliable color of Shad Rap for decades.
Although the best approach to color selection is to try and match what kind of baitfish that the local walleye are used to feeding on, the four colors above are always worth tying on.
A size #5 or #7 are the most productive for walleye. The larger sizes will run deeper but to get down past 10 feet or so you will need either lead core line, inline weights or the use of a down-rigger.
The #5 will run to about 4 to 6 feet in depth with roughly 100 yards of line out when trolling.
A #7 will run as deep as 10 feet anything beyond that will require the use of change of trolling setup as mentioned above.
Casting and trolling will have different walleye tackle requirements.
When casting any large treble hook lure I prefer to delay the strike a little. This can be achieved by using a rod with a more moderate action or switching from braid/fluoro back to monofilament as it has a certain degree of natural stretch in it when compared to the other two types of lines.
Whilst this is true for larger heavier crankbaits, just like a lighter jerkbait for walleye Shad Raps are not that heavy so to get a decent casting performance braid is actually a better choice.
With really light braid it can be quite limp and you run the risk of tangling those treble hooks mid-flight.
A stiffer fluorocarbon leader of roughly 3 feet will help to reduce this risk significantly.
You can use a medium power, fast action walleye rod of roughly 7 feet in length. A 7 foot rod will give you a better casting distance than a shorter 6 or 6.5 foot rod that you might be used to for jigging.
When trolling for walleyes with a Shad Rap a good line choice is Suffix 932 Superline braid with a fluorocarbon leader is the way to go.
Braid will be much thinner and a thin line will allow you to get the best possible depth out of a crankbait.
It is also super sensitive so if you Shad Rap has been fouled on anything you will notice the lack of vibration and can reel it in for a clean.
A line counter reel is always a good choice as once you find the correct running depth you can repeatedly let out the same amount of line time and time again.
Trolling spoons for walleye allow you to cover a lot of water in a quick amount of time. Spoons are generally designed to be trolled fast but you can slow troll them in the right situations.
When trolling for walleye there are generally two choices; out in deep waters or closer inshore specifically targeting structures or drop offs.
In the height of summer when walleye are out in deep waters escaping the higher temperatures I like to run four rods with spoons on all.
Two spoons running deep and two running at mid-height. This can give you the best coverage, of course a fish finder is a massive advantage in these situations.
Once you find the depth they are suspended at then you can adjust your other rods to match.
When they are congregating in shallower waters I look to target them along drop offs, deep pockets, sand banks and break points on the shore line.
Although on the surface trolling spoons for walleye may seem pretty simple however there are a few key elements to get right some of which you will only figure out through trial and error on your local waters.
Almost every lake will fish a little different due to the temperatures, depth and the structures of the bottom.
So try not to look for any hard and fast rules that you may find online, as ever local knowledge is generally best.
That being said the basics will still be the same no matter where you are fishing.
Thick, heavy casting spoons are usually not what you want to use although they can still work.
Flutter spoons for walleye are the top producers as they are designed to run at speed.
The only drawback is that their light weight and thin profile means they have no natural diving capabilities of their own so once you are at depth your rigging needs to help set the running depth.
Trolling a spoon for walleye is pretty simple, let out your line behind the boat at the correct speed and then cover water where walleye are known to hold in.
Nothing in life is simple.
Once you start to troll at anything beyond the 15 to 20 feet range you really will need to employ either a down-rigger, planer boards or some kind of weighted trolling rig to help fine tune the depth your spoon will run at.
Planer boards also allow you to run a lot of lines at a wide distance from the boat.
My personal favorite when running four lines is to have the two widest also running out the longest.
This allows a hooked walleye two never really get near your shorter run lines that are out the back on down-riggers.
The simplest rig when trolling with a spoon is to attach a swivel to your main line and then a leader length of roughly six feet of fluorocarbon to a link snap link.
Spoons need swivels in the rig as the can twist your line up in only a matter of minutes especially if you are trolling fast.
This is best when trolling in shallower waters and the amount of line you have out and the speed at which you are trolling is the only real way to fine tune your running depth.
Once you hit deeper waters as mentioned above you need planer boards or down-riggers.
You can also run a three way rig with a spoon running off of the back and a deep diving crankbait running off the bottom.
Shorter spoons that are in the 2 to 3.5 inch seem to be the best size spoon for walleye.
When using walleye trolling spoons size really does matter in fact I would say it matters more than color.
Larger salmon or lake trout spoons are just that little bit too big.
The only issue with using the 2 inch spoons is that you will have to deal with hooking into a lot of smaller fish, small walleyes, perch and even juvenile northern pike.
In my experience 3 inch spoons hits the sweet spot you get less bites but those bites will be higher quality and more targeted to decent sized walleye.
The best color spoons for walleye will be silver, gold, five of diamonds and a bright contrasting pattern.
Whilst gold and copper might be the most consistent base color spoons on Lake Erie, on somewhere like Saginaw Bay silver can often be the dominant color choice when trolling spoons.
When we talk patterns ever angler has his favorite but ultimately I think it comes down to contrast more so than the exact choice of color.
Contrasting colors give the walleye something to really chase and stand out from the background.
Every day is different so on your first troll of the day set a variety of colors and see what works.
Trolling is not jigging and the types of tackle you use is entirely different. Pulling heavy walleye lures on planer boards or down-riggers needs a setup that is able to handle a lot of pressure all day long so your lighter jigging setup just won’t cut it.
A good walleye trolling rod with a medium or medium/heavy power rating and a high quality trolling reel.
Personally I favor a line counter for most trolling work but they are not crucial.
There are a lot of different ways to catch walleye and unfortunately that means tailoring your walleye tackle and gear to the specific technique you are using.
Trolling gear will be useless for ice fishing and a jigging setup won’t work be strong enough when using divers and down-riggers and vice versa.
If you fish for walleye year round then you will end up fishing one of the major techniques at a specific point:
Walleye tackle is quite diverse owing to the fact that there are several entirely different techniques that have very little crossover between the types of fishing gear that is used.
Your tackle will ultimately change with the seasons in some form or another.
Jigging for walleye is one of the most popular techniques. Whether that’s using small spoons or walleye jigs the tackle really needs to give you the most feedback possible through the rod.
Most walleye rods for this style of fishing will have a fast action, a medium/light power rating and be roughly 6.5 feet in length, this is a pretty standard walleye jigging setup.
A fast action means that the natural bend in the rod will start higher up in the top one third of the rod blank.
This means a quicker snappier jig action and a lot more feel is transmitted from the line to the rod.
Fishing line will either be fluorocarbon or braid as your main line and a fluorocarbon leader or roughly six feet.
Monofilament is a bad choice when using walleye jigs as there is too much natural stretch in it.
That added stretch is kill the sensitivity of the rod as you loose a lot of feedback.
When ice fishing the gear changes completely over to very short and light rods. A long rod is a hindrance when fishing over an ice hole.
When choosing an ice fishing line for walleye it is better to to stick to the specialty ice fishing lines that are designed specifically for it.
You need a line that is extremely abrasion resistant and one that stills remains pliable even in very cold temperatures.
The majority of walleye ice fishing lures will be jigs as vertical jigging or a light bait rig is your best option.
If you like to cast lures out from bank when walleye fishing from the shore or if you like to stop your boat and cast at structures or deep cover then either a good spinning setup or a casting setup is needed.
You can use the same rod and reel as you do for jigging, the only issue is that it may not be able to handle really big lures.
A medium power rod with a fast action in either a spinning or baitcasting variation works just fine.
When walleye trolling the constant drag puts a lot of strain on your gear especially if you are running down-riggers or planer boards.
Both add a lot of pressure to your line albeit in different ways.
A good trolling rod and reel is essential particularly if you like to troll deep.
When trolling spoons for walleye for example you may do so at great depths and at a faster speed than other types of lures which will put a lot of pressure on your gear.
When shallow water trolling you can use a lighter setup and I see quite a few anglers using a spinning reel but personally speaking I find spinning reel too awkward when trolling.
Line counter reels are a nice to have but not essential.
With so much variation in walleye fishing gear available a beginner might be a little overwhelmed.
The best bet is to choose one summer technique and an ice fishing setup if your intention is to fish year round.
Using a jig is probably the easiest tactic to master when you are starting out. You can also use the same tackle for casting lighter lures.
Across the United States and Canada, walleye is considered to be one of the most popular game fish species.
It’s a fish that’s built for speed, agility, and stealth—all of which combine to make this one of the most sought after species for serious anglers looking for a challenge.
If you’re planning on trying to catch your first walleye, there are some specific things you need to become familiar with in order to ensure the best chance for success.
Walleye, also known as “yellow pike,” is a fish that thrives in the lakes and rivers throughout the upper portion of North America.
Walleye are known as ferocious fighters, which is one of the main reasons why so many anglers go after them on a year-round basis.
They can grow to be more than 20 pounds and are well-known for being excellent table-fare. Walleye have a pronounced dorsal fin and very unique “golden” color pattern that make them fairly easy for any angler to quickly identify.
The name “walleye” comes from the fact that these fish have unusually opaque, cloudy-looking eyes.
The fish has an overly-large mouth that’s full of razor-sharp teeth which aid in the walleye’s aggressive feeding habits and make them the perfect ambush predator in many of the waterways they inhabit.
Before you begin your walleye fishing adventure, the most important thing you’ll need to take care of is getting the proper fishing license.
Like any other popular game fish species across the world, you’ll need a fishing license and will also usually have to get a specific permit or stamp that allows you to harvest walleye at different times of the year in many states.
If you’re planning to fish in your home state, you’ll be able to purchase a fishing license at an affordable rate.
However, if you plan to travel to a different state, or country, in search of the best walleye fishing areas, you’ll need to purchase an out-of-state license that allows you to fish and harvest your catch without legal penalties.
It’s very important to do your research and make sure you’re abiding by all of the legal guidelines related to walleye.
A quick online search for the local area you plan to fish will usually get you headed in the right direction and you’ll likely be able to purchase your license online before ever leaving the house.
Walleye can be caught year-round, even in the frigid winter months in the northern United States and Canada.
Like most other game fish species in North America, the best time to fish for walleye is during the late spring and early summer when fish are shaking off the winter freeze and becoming more active in their particular feeding grounds.
Just about any natural lake or river in the northern portion of the United States or Canada will be home to a decent population of walleye.
It’s up to you as an angler to determine exactly where you’ll be fishing before you ever leave your house.
Doing the right amount of research on the particular body of water you’ll be fishing at will pay off big dividends.
There are plenty of resources online in the form of articles, Youtube videos, and even smartphone apps that help you pinpoint the best possible locations for catching walleye.
Here are a few common areas where you can expect to catch some ‘eyes:
When it comes to walleye fishing, the question of “when” is just as important as the question of “when” to fish.
As many seasoned anglers know, walleye fishing can be tough at times, and can also be plentiful at other times. Knowing just how to fish each specific weather condition is key to becoming a successful walleye angler who can find the fish and land them anytime of the year.
As we’ve stated above, walleye are ambush predators, so they’ll seek to take advantage of low-light situations such as dawn or dusk at any given waterway.
Fishing in mostly shallow water where you’re more likely to find bait fish is the best strategy for fishing early in the morning or late in the evening.
Old fishermen will attest to the fact that a “bluebird” day is often the worst time to fish. That is to say, when the skies are totally cloudless, the fish are less likely to feed and will often stay in the depths longer to avoid being seen by their prey.
Overcast days are great for walleye fishing. If you’re fishing on an overcast day, simply look for the area where you might find baitfish or other potential walleye meals.
Odds are, if you find what the walleye likes to eat on an overcast day, the walleye are not far away.
According to most experienced walleye anglers, a spinning rod and reel combo is best. Spinning combos will allow you to adapt to a wide variety of different fishing methods when it comes to walleye.
A medium-light action rod will allow you to cast many different lures that attract a walleye bite.
These fish are known for being somewhat timid when it comes to actually biting some types of lures, but once they have bitten the hook, there is no denying that the fight is on.
Spinning combos also allow you to “jig” your lure up and down when you’ve found a great location and walleye are biting the unique “up and down” motion.
Many anglers will use a rod that’s specially tailored to the style of fishing they plan to do. It’s not uncommon for an angler to have a trolling rod, jigging rod, and a simple spinning rod ready to go at a moment’s notice just in case one method isn’t working. But we’ll get more into those tactics soon.
Most setups and walleye gear is lighter than the equivalent bass setup.
Note that the best jig rod for bass will be much too heavy than a purpose built walleye jigging rod as the types of jigs and the areas you will be fishing them in for the two species are very different.
Knowing what lure is best to use for walleye fishing really comes down to understanding what these kinds of fish are eating during a particular time of year.
Certain lures and setups will allow you to cover more water and “find” fish more easily than other types of bait combinations.
Here are some of the best baits and lures for walleye fishing:
Trolling is a great way to locate walleye, especially if you’re fishing at a body of water that you’re unfamiliar with. If you want to troll for walleye, you’ll want to be set up with a longer rod and slightly heavier line that can withstand the pressure of your lure being dragged around the lake or river.
Don’t move too fast and pay careful attention to your rod tip as walleye tend to “chew” on their meal a bit before really engulfing them.
Trolling is considered to be the most enjoyable form of walleye fishing by many anglers because you can sit back and enjoy the ride while you wait for a bite.
Fishing for walleye from the shore is often just as productive as being out in a boat. In fact, many hardcore walleye anglers prefer to fish from the shore during the early spring when the larger-sized walleyes will be out to play.
If you want to try your hand at shore fishing for walleye, be sure to get a good pair of waders that will keep you high and dry.
You’ll want to be stealthy, but not too shy. Look for areas where shallow shorelines lead to deep water corridors that will be used by mature walleye.
Find and locate an area where walleye are staging, or hanging around some kind of underwater structure. Vertical jigging is best when you come across any underwater structure or ledge where walleye tend to sit and wait to ambush their prey.
Jigging for walleye is a great tactic during the cooler weather in early spring or late fall before many lakes freeze over.
If you plan to do some jigging, be sure to get the right lure and use steady, methodical motion to jig your bait up and down across cover.
You can also experiment a little with this method and see if the walleye you’re fishing for prefer a faster or slower-moving bait.
Perhaps one of the most unique forms of walleye fishing is ice fishing. This is due to the fact that ice fishing is virtually non-existent in the warmer climates of southern North America.
However, ice fishing can be a great tactic for catching your limit on walleyes when the temperatures are below freezing outside.
Ice fishing can be done with a wide variety of baits and lures. Despite the water surface being frozen, the behavior and feeding pattern of walleye will remain largely unchanged until the temperature drops to a very cold level.
Ice fishing for walleye is very similar to jigging in many cases as anglers will slowly and methodically “jig” their lure or bait up and down in an effort to entice a bite.
Using lipless crankbaits, spoons, or jigging minnows are all solid, go-to baits for ice fishing and are known to be among the best winter-time baits for walleye.
Walleye is among the most popular game fish species for plenty of reasons.
Hopefully, you can arm yourself with these tips and strategies that we’ve mentioned in this article to get a head-start on your first walleye fishing trip.
One great thing about walleye fishing is that there is a distinct community of walleye fishing enthusiasts.
Many times, more experienced walleye anglers are always willing to share useful tips and lend a hand to an aspiring walleye fisherman.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and good luck on your next walleye fishing adventure!
A good walleye jig setup requires a rod, reel and line combo that can transmit the maximum amount of feedback back through the rod and into your hand.
A well balanced setup is key to adding the best action to your jigs whilst allowing you to detect even the faintest of strikes.
You need a rod that has a lot of sensitivity, the right reel to balance your rod and a low stretch line that can transmit as much feedback from the jig head back to the rod.
Most walleye anglers will use a spinning setup and either braid or fluorocarbon as the main line.
Sensitivity is key when using a jig and a light, crisp rod that is well balanced is key to get the best action into your jigs.
When jigging for walleye all day a heavy unbalanced rod will do nothing more than tire your arm out.
Look for a rod with a medium/light power rating and fast action and roughly 6 to 6’6″ in length.
Rod action describes where on the rod blank the bend in the rod will start to form once some pressure is applied to it.
A more moderate action will have the bend start in the middle of the rod whereas a fast action will start to bend in the top one third section towards the rod tip.
Most walleye rods will have a fast action as it gives you much better feedback, a snappier cast and will also allow you to set the hook quickly.
A high quality rod needs good reel and with reels it’s often a case of you pay for what you get.
A size 2500 spinning reel should be able to hold 120 yards of 10 lbs fluorocarbon or 120 yards of 20 lbs braid.
A heavy reel is definitely a poor choice as jigging demands that you are constantly moving the rod tip all day and if your reel is too heavy then you will have an unbalanced jig setup.
One of the best walleye spinning reels is the Shimano Stradic Ci4+ which is one incredibly smooth casting reel.
Understanding that eliminating as much stretch from your line as possible is one of the best ways to figure out what makes a good walleye jigging setup.
The best walleye fishing line for jigging is either going to be braid or fluorocarbon
Monofilament comes with a natural stretch in it that is just not suitable for jigging with.
You need a line with low stretch as any action you put into the rod tip needs to be transmitted down through the line and into the jigs movement.
There is not much point in buying a light weight rod with a nice responsive tip only to loose the responsiveness because of your line stretching too much.
Braid is a great main line but you must use a fluorocarbon leader as braid is very visible.
Fluorocarbon can be used as a main line, normally in the 8 to 10 lbs range.
Most walleye fishing tackle requires a low stretch line with the exception of crankbaits as larger treble hook lures work better with a slightly delayed strike.
There is a massive range of walleye jigs available and the for a beginner it can seem overwhelming.
The best walleye jigs are usually round headed jigs with a wide gap on the hook.
There are lots of different shaped heads to choose from. Round heads, stand-ups, floating heads and swim heads to name but a few.
And a lot of plastic lures and baits that can be added to them.
Many anglers will often be confused between Sauger vs Walleye given that they do look very similar.
But what exactly is the difference between Sauger and Walleye and how do you tell them apart?
Knowing how to tell them apart is important as different waters will have separate limits for both Walleye and Sauger and you may well end up keeping more of the limit of one of these species by mistake.
Walleye and Sauger are two of the more popular freshwater fish species that are found throughout most of the United States. These two fish have lots of similarities and many anglers have difficulty telling them apart.
We’ve compiled this article to help establish some of the differences between walleye vs sauger and detail some of the ways you can tell one from the other.
Some states may have a significantly lower limit for sauger than for walleye.
Both fish are members of the same family of fish referred to as Perch or Percidae.
Main visual differences between Sauger and Walleyes:
Sauger are generally smaller, have larger dark blotches on their body and spots on all of the spines on their dorsal fin.
At first glance, these two fish might appear to be the same species. Their overall body shape and coloration is very similar, which often leads to even experienced anglers having trouble telling which type of fish they have on the end of their line.
The walleye and sauger are both built with a very similar shape and profile. This is mostly because they are both members of the Percidae family. This fish family also includes other freshwater species like perch, pike, and others.
The walleye and sauger are so similar that there are actually instances in which both of these fish can reproduce a hybrid species that’s known as a “saugeye.” The saugeye are a naturally-occurring hybrid that are found in bodies of water that have healthy, stable populations of both sauger and walleye.
In the following sections, we’ll discuss the sauger and walleye in greater detail, as well as some of the major differences that both species have when compared to one another.
Walleye are one of the more distinct freshwater fish that are found throughout most of the United States and Canada. They are mostly known for having very vibrant, colorful bodies and large eyes. In fact, the walleye draws its name from the fish’s awkward, forward-facing eyes as it seems to have a “wall-eyed” look.
This distinct eye structure helps the walleye to have more adept vision than most other fish species. Walleye use their eyesight to locate prey like perch and bluegill along the shallows of various freshwater lakes and rivers where they live.
Depending on what part of the country you’re in, you might find walleye that have a very dark coloration, or a lighter one that is pale-green or even emerald in color. It is these darker-colored walleye that are most often confused with sauger as their complexions are very similar in many ways.
Walleye are known to be native to the Mississippi River system and areas around the Great Lakes, as well as the Midwest region. In recent decades, they have been introduced to other sections of the country such as the Northwest and even as far south as Texas and as far east as the states along the Atlantic coast.
Sauger are a species of freshwater fish that are incredibly similar to walleye in many ways. However, they are two distinct species and they each have specific characteristics and habits that set them apart from one another. Sauger are not as widespread as walleye, but you can be certain that where you find these fish, you will almost always find walleye in the same waters.
These fish have a virtually identical body shape and profile when compared to the walleye, but there are some distinct differences that can be noted which you can use to tell them apart from one another.
Sauger typically live in bodies of water that have a flowing current instead of large lake and reservoirs where the water lacks a current.
While it is true that sauger prefer to live most of their lives in rivers and large streams, they often migrate and might find themselves in lakes that have a current flowing through them, or a river feeding into the reservoir.
These fish are extremely strong swimmers and anglers often note that a small sauger will fight and pull on their line as hard as a sizable largemouth bass or other similar species.
Since sauger are at home in fast-moving rivers, they are proficient swimmers. This is mostly the reason why they are so powerful and capable of putting up a significant fight against an anglers’ rod and reel.
They are found in river systems that stretch from Montana and Wyoming eastward to New York and parts of Canada. Non-native populations of sauger can be found in various river systems and large reservoirs throughout the southeast all the way out to Colorado and even Idaho.
Walleye are known to be capable of growing much larger than sauger. They are both predatory fish that will devour almost any type of freshwater bait fish and small creatures that they can catch in the bodies of water where they live.
If you catch a fish that resembles a sauger, but is well outside of the normal size range, you can usually be certain that it’s a walleye.
The average walleye tends to grow to about 22 inches in length and typically weighs up to about one pound. Walleye, like sauger, are made with a very slender body that’s torpedo-shaped and allows them to swim with great acceleration and speed. In the right conditions and with an ideal diet, walleye are known to grow to immense sizes compared to the sauger.
Warm-weather climates tend to be more favorable for walleye to grow to their full potential and reach trophy sizes. The current world record walleye is listed as a 25-pound behemoth that also measured 41 inches in length. This fish was caught in 1960 in Old Hickory Reservoir, which is just east of Nashville.
The size limits of the sauger is vastly different from walleye as these fish never reach the massive size that walleye are capable of growing to. Sauger tend to grow to be around 12 to 14 inches when they reach full maturity—even in the best conditions. A trophy-sized sauger is typically considered one that exceeds 15 inches.
Sauger are not as large as walleye, but that doesn’t mean that these fish are necessarily small when compared to other freshwater fish that are in the same family. In the best conditions and environment, sauger usually reach a weight of about 12 ounces. Any sauger over one pound is usually considered to be a trophy-sized fish.
The world record sauger is listed as an 8-pound 12-ounce monster that was caught by an ice fishing angler in 2013 in North Dakota. These fish are known to be extremely feisty and a sauger that tips the scales at more than 2 or 3 pounds will certainly put any anglers’ drag to the test.
There are a few distinct ways you can tell these two species apart. By learning these traits and characteristics, you will be well-equipped to distinguish which type of fish you have caught.
The walleye’s tail is known to be colored in a similar manner compared to the sauger, but there’s one specific difference. The tail of a walleye will have less vibrant color towards the end of the tail. The very tip of the tail around the edges might often have very little color at all, making it appear transparent.
The tail of a sauger, however, is uniform throughout and has color from one end to the other. The sauger’s tail is also a bit smaller than a walleye of the same size, but this is usually something you wouldn’t notice unless you had two specimens of the same size side-by-side.
The walleye’s dorsal fin is another point of identification that you can use to quickly determine what type of fish you’ve caught.
Walleye have a dorsal fin that usually features a dark, black-colored splotch near the back end of the dorsal fin, as well as toward the top of the fin. The dorsal fin does not have the same transparent appearance that the walleye’s tail should have.
A sauger’s dorsal fin is slightly different in that it has a greenish color that will be speckled with green or brown spots. There will be no black splotches on the dorsal fin of a sauger as you will always find in that of the walleye.
A walleye’s body color might be somewhat similar to that of a sauger, but there is often one very notable difference. The body of a sauger will usually have dark black-colored splotches across its body. These splotches might often appear to look like stripes or even similar to a camo-pattern in some cases.
Another way you can quickly identify the fish you’ve caught if you’re not quite sure if it’s a walleye vs sauger is the cheeks. The cheeks, or sides of the head, of the sauger will have a rough feel that should be easily noticeable while the cheeks of a walleye are very smooth and won’t feel rough.
Using these differences and identification points, you should now have a solid understanding of both walleye vs sauger, as well as enough information to identify the two. Both species are a lot of fun to catch and they also offer a very sweet, flaky meat that is one of the more desirable when compared to other freshwater fish species.
A Saugeye is a hybrid between a Walleye and a Sauger which gains some attributes from both of it’s parents.
They get the same skin tone on their body complete with dark blotches from the Sauger and the same lower white streak on the lower half of their tail fin.
The name Saugeye is often confused with Sauger and it’s an easy mistake to make.
Cross breeding is quite rare and most anglers will rarely if not ever hook a Saugeye.
Although jigs are pretty simple lures, choosing the best walleye jigs for any given location, weather scenario or season is not always as simple as it first seems.
A jig is nothing more than a hook with a weighted head.
There are thousands of possible variations once you account for the different types of walleye jig head shapes, sizes, floating, stand up and weedless plus dressed jigs, soft plastics, dead bait, live bait, etc……..
And that’s before you even choose a color!
Learning the basics of what type of jig head does what will give you a solid grounding in how and what to choose.
Sure, you can tie on any old jig for walleye and hope for the best but if you want to increase your hook up rate then a little bit of knowledge goes a long way.
There are generally two types of eyes used with walleye fishing jigs, the traditional 90 degree tie which is used primarily for vertical jigging and the forward tie which is better suited to bottom jigging.
Different types of walleye jigs:
Ultimately the style of walleye jig head you choose should be determined on where in the water column you are targeting walleye.
The all time best walleye jig ? Certainly the most popular!
The Northland Fire-Ball is responsible for many trophy walleye and is sure to be seen in just about every walleye anglers tackle box.
They come in a decent range of colors and in a range of sizes from 1/16 oz to 1/4 oz jig weights.
One key design aspect of the Fire-Ball jig is the second eyelet behind the jig head. You can attach an under-spin willow blade or add a stinger hook for when walleye are biting short.
The round head design and 90 degree tie point makes them best suited to vertical jigging.
The hook has a pretty wide gap so it can cater to a lot of different types of bait.
The VMC Neon Moon Eyes are a great walleye jig to use in low light scenario’s.
They have big heads with a very distinctive painted 3D holographic eye that walleye can home in on.
The hooks are razor sharp and they also come with a bait keeper barb that helps to stop you live bait or soft plastic from slipping off the hook especially if you are getting a lot of strikes.
The Slurp from Northland is purposely designed for use with soft plastics. The jig head has a minnow shaped design with the tie in point on the top.
They also have to bait keeper barbs positioned about a third of the way down the hook shank to help keep your plastics on the hook.
These walleye jig heads will work best with grub, shad or minnow style soft plastic imitators and are generally fished in a very proactive manner i.e you need to keep them moving to get the best life possible out of the tail of the plastic.
Although not strictly a jig head what walleye jigging lures list would be complete without a mention of the famous Rapala Jigging Rap?
They are the best hard-bodied jigging baits for walleye ever invented and can be fished in a variety of different ways not just vertically.
You can of course fish them vertically as they were designed to do but they work equally well when pitched or dragged.
The work really well when jigged in an aggressive manner in summer temps and also when used in winter out on the ice.
The are a very popular walleye ice fishing lure as they can attract fish in from a distance to your ice hole.
Fishing a jigging rap for walleye can be done vertically, pitching or dragging.
The all time classic Lindy Fuzz-E grub is part soft body grub part marabou jig and walleye absolutely love em!
These will work really well when walleye are proving to be lazy.That marabou tail adds a lot of life like movement into the back of the jig.
They come in a pretty decent variety of colors and sizes.
I have now switched over to these almost as a full time replacement for the more traditional walleye hair jigs that have been popular for a very long time.
Selecting the right walleye jigs will ultimately be determined by where in the water column you are looking to target walleye.
Most anglers will learn this through experience. Below we have listed the main types of jigs for walleye and where the are best used.
Of course a lot of anglers will stick to the more traditional round style of jig head but knowing and understanding the other types is crucial to really get the best out of your walleye fishing.
Round headed walleye jigs are the most popular and are generally quite usable in most situations.
I tend to favor these when vertical jigging for walleyes as more often than not the tie in point will be at a 90 degree angle to the hook shank.
They will generally have a long hook shank so they can be used for soft plastics and bait.
Stand up jig heads are best suited to when you need to keep the gap of the hook off of the bottom.
There are a variety of different shapes but they all result in the same thing; the jig standing upright or at an angle with the gap of the hook pointing upwards as opposed to horizontally.
When you are using a soft plastic with a tail and you want to put a long pause into your jigging so that the jig will stay on the bottom for an extended period a stand up jig head for walleye is best
A stand up jig head keeps the tail upright(and potentially moving) and also keeps the hook in an ideal orientation so as to maximize the chances of hooking the walleye solidly.
Floating jig heads allow you to suspend your jig off of the bottom. They can be used when bottom bouncing to help keep you bait or jig suspended a few feet above the bottom.
You need to be careful when adding anything to the hook as too much weight may kill the inbuilt buoyancy.
Some anglers will actually inject air into a night-crawler from an empty syringe to help keep the jig head floating.
Hugely popular in the bass fishing world walleye anglers have been slow to truly embrace these types of walleye fishing jig heads.
However, the smarter anglers have really caught on to just how good fishing with a weedless hook can be in and around weed or submerged trees or stumps.
Basically any location that has a lot of snags is now a lot more accessible when you use a weed-guard on your jig head.
Under-spins add an extra element of both flash and vibration from the blade. The blade type is usually a slender willow blade.
They are really good when using bait that may not have a lot of movement in it.
Bladed jigs heads really work best when you are moving the jig in a more horizontal manner rather than a strictly vertical jigging
A good walleye jig setup will use a spinning rod and reel and a low stretch walleye fishing line.
A good walleye jigging rod will have a fast action that allows you to not only put a lot of life into the jig but also get a lot of feedback through the rod tip so that you can feel as much as possible what is going on at the jig.
More than any other type of walleye lures jigs require a line with
Mono has too much natural stretch in it so that just leaves braid and fluorocarbon.
If you are choosing blade as your main line then you should use a fluorocarbon leader.
Although dead-sticking with natural bait can be extremely effective when out on the ice sometimes you need a bit of action or vibration to get walleye to bite.
The best walleye ice fishing lures tend to produce an injured bait-fish action. Jigging for walleye is most definitely one of the most productive methods of snagging a winter walleye out on the hard-water.
Some of the best walleye lures can be used year round even in the depths of winter. Trolling with a harness rig is pretty much finished once the ice starts to form, but your summer walleye jigs can be used during winter.
Action, vibration and a flash of color are the most important attributes of a good ice fishing lure for walleye.
There are generally three types of lures that are most effective:
All of which require a jigging action to add some life, vibration and flash into them.
A common technique is to put a small piece of natural bait on one of the treble hooks. This also adds some scent onto your lure which is often overlooked when ice fishing for walleye.
A small night-crawler, minnows or leeches can work wonders on a small spoon or jig head.
This really was a toss up between the Jigging Rap and the Bay de Noc below as to which would be first in our list of the best ice fishing lures for walleye, but the Jigging Rap wins it just by a whisper.
The Jigging Rap has been producing fish for the past thirty years and shows no sign of slowing down with age it is a type of jig that can also be categorized as a swimming lure due to it’s lifelike swim action.
And it is just as effective in summer as in winter. If you are ever stuck trolling a harness and seeing no results, find a few walleye on your depth finder and start jigging with a Jigging Rap!
For walleye you can use up to a size #9 although that would only be on the largest of waters where you know there are big walleye lurking.
A good approach is to start with a size #5 and see what is biting. Color wise I always try to “match the hatch” as they say. If there is a healthy population of small perch in the waters you are fishing then start with the classic perch pattern.
Otherwise the classic silver is a safe bet.
The all time classic walleye ice fishing spoon the Bay de Noc Swedish Pimple is responsible for catching literally thousands of walleye down through the years.
It is the go to flutter spoon for many walleye fishermen. It’s swim action imitates an injured minnow or other small bait fish.
Fishing a Swedish Pimple is very simple drop it to the bottom or just off it, reel in some slack and then jig it with vary different twitches and pauses of your rod tip.
It flutters on the drop and and emits a lot of flash that can pull in walleye from a long distance especially in low light scenario’s.
You can add scent easily to the treble hook using a head or tail of a small minnow or shiner.
A lot of anglers will go o far as to replace the treble hook with a single or dropper chain.
Size wise look at the number #3 or #4 in a variety of colors. A good place to start is with a more natural gold or silver and it that is not producing switch to one of the more flashier artificial patterns.
The Sebile Vibrato as is part flutter spoon part swimming jig and it sure does produce. Another all time classic ice fishing lure for walleye.
It is best worked with shorter, snappier twitches of the rod tip rather than with long powerful strokes. These shorter twitches done in batches of two or three with a brief pause between give it a very distinctive movement through the water.
Allow it to rest on the bottom for a brief count of two or three seconds and then start again. A lot of the time you’ll actually get a strike when it is at rest on the lake bottom.
A classic jigging spoon with a rather chunky body the Slender spoon from Custom Jigs and Spins is simple but certainly effective.
Unlike a lot of other flutter spoons the Slender spoon is actually quite wide at the head and thinner at the tail. This shape gives it quite a pronounced fluttering action as they fall through the water.
Walleye love them and they are best jigged with a slower action given the width of the body. Again it is to imitate an injured minnow so start with more natural colors and start from there.
Although it may look pretty similar to the Jigging Rap above the Rapala Snap Rap has a much more pronounced swim action. This ice lure can be fished in almost the same way as the Jigging Rap but you do need to be a bit more form with your jigging action to get the best out of it.
It has a beefier tail fin than it’s more popular cousin and has a more slender body. These design differences means that it has a different swim action.
They tend to sink much quicker and are more suited to deeper jigging work. The Snap Rap is also useful in larger open water jigging.
A jigging spoon with a difference as the name suggests the Northland Buck-Shot Rattle spoon have a built in rattle that helps draw in walleye from far under the ice.
A very basic jigging spoon but with addition of the inbuilt rattle it can be a top performer when other spoons seem to fail.
The patterns are also top notch with the gold/perch being one of the best ice lures for walleyes of all time.
Size wise look for the 1/16 or 1/8 of an ounce as the go to sizes.
You can fish these off the bottom with a nice rhythmic jigging action. Some of the patterns are glow in the dark so if you are ice fishing for walleye at night then make sure to have a small selection of these excellent walleye ice spoons in your tackle box.
Another walleye ice lure that has an inbuilt rattle the Lindy Darter Rattling is pretty similar to one of the most successful lures of all time the Salmo Chubby Darter.
They are great in darker waters where the walleye need the added attraction of a little bit of sound to help with the strike.
They have a slightly slower action and sink rate than some of the other lures listed above, so they are not really suitable for really deep walleye jigging.
There are a few main types of lures for walleye ice fishing. They will of course vary by size shape and color depending on the brand that you buy.
With a seemingly endless choice of walleye fishing tackle available in can be a little overwhelming.
Once you have a small selection of each lure you can be pretty sure that you have almost every situation covered.
You don’t need a massive tackle box full of lures, just a decent spread of colors and types.
Start out with a couple of each of the lures from out list above. Those lures are considered all time great walleye ice jigs and you can be sure that on any given day one if not half of them will definitely produce.
A common addition to any of these lures is to add some form of natural bait to one of the hooks.
Most of these lures worth by giving out a flash, vibration and/or a rattle or a combination of all three.
However, you can really increase your chances if you add a small bit of bait to the hook.
Natural bait has a scent that will increase the chances of a walleye investigating your lure.
Night-crawlers or a minnow head are the two most popular choices to use.
Just be aware that if you add too much bait to the hook it will affect the swim action of the lure so you need to be really careful to only add just enough.
When using minnows the most common practice is to only use the head of the minnow.
With the right walleye ice fishing rod and reel and ice fishing line you can have a pretty good jig setup that will not cost the earth.
A good selection of lures is worth the investment.