Mastering the Art of Ice Fishing: Walleye Lures That Work Wonders

Learn about the best lures for ice fishing walleye, including live minnows, dead minnows, jigging lures, and more. Understand the importance of adapting your lure selection to the behavior of walleye under the ice.

Walleye, the elusive and highly sought-after game fish, becomes a prime target for ice anglers as lakes freeze over. To outsmart this intelligent species, one must delve into the world of ice-fishing lures specifically designed for walleye.

This comprehensive guide will explore the best lures for walleye ice fishing, offering insights into their design, application, and effectiveness.

Key Takeaways:

  • Discover the most effective ice fishing lures for targeting walleye in the hard water season.
  • Learn about the unique features and applications of various lures to enhance your ice fishing success.
  • Understand the importance of adapting your lure selection to the behavior of walleye under the ice.

The Essentials of Walleye Ice Fishing Lures

When the water transitions to ice, walleye behavior changes, and so should your tackle box. The best baits for walleye ice fishing are those that mimic the natural prey of walleyes in winter conditions.

Live baits or small lures that produce subtle movements can be incredibly effective, as walleyes often become more lethargic in the cold. Custom jigs and minnow heads are staples for many successful ice anglers.

Jigging Raps: A Winter Classic

Jigging raps have become synonymous with ice fishing for walleye. Their unique tumbling action entices walleyes to strike, even on the slowest days.

When fished correctly, jigging raps can simulate a wounded baitfish, triggering an aggressive response from otherwise passive fish. It's essential to master the technique of jigging to maximize the potential of these lures. Our favorite jigs are:

Rapala jigging rap
Rapala jigging rap
Rapala jigging rap

Its Clever design creates a lot of movement in the water and can attract walleyes from afar.

Northland Whistler jig
Northland Whistler jig
Northland Whistler jig

It can create a lot of noise due to its integrated 'propeller' like structures. This jig is the best choice if you like to tip it with a minnow or other live bait.

With a heavier minnow hooked across its head, you can create a hopping effect to attract walleyes better

Flutter Spoons: Flash and Attraction

Flutter spoons are another favorite among ice anglers targeting walleye. Their falling action and flash can draw walleyes from a distance, making them an excellent choice for fishing in deeper water.

The key to using flutter spoons effectively is to let them drop on a slack line, allowing them to shimmer and attract attention as they descend through the water column. Our favorite one is:

Clam Leech flutter spoon
Clam Leech flutter spoon
Clam Leech flutter spoon

This is an old favorite among ice anglers. Designed to mimic the movement of a leech in the water, it never fails to attract hungry walleyes.

Rattle Spoons: The Sound of Success

Rattle spoons come equipped with a built-in rattle system or rattle chamber that produces sound to attract walleyes. The noise can be particularly useful in stained water or when fishing for walleye that are spread out over a large area.

Rattle spoons can be jigged or simply left to quiver near the bottom, waiting for a curious walleye to investigate the source of the sound. Our favorite is :

Northland buckshot rattle spoon
Northland buckshot rattle spoon
Northland buckshot rattle spoon

This spoon is designed to create a lot of noise and vibration in the water to attract walleyes. And it will resemble a baitfish to fool the walleyes. Its reflective metal body, available in 3 colors is suitable for fishing in all kinds of water conditions.

Lipless Crankbaits: Versatile Vibrations

Lipless crankbaits are not just for open water; they can be deadly for walleye ice fishing as well. Their tight wobble and loud rattle system can entice walleyes to strike, even when they are not actively feeding.

These lures work well when jigged aggressively to trigger bites from fish that are on the move.

Yo-Zuri 3DS Minnow Suspending Shallow Diving Crankbait
Yo-Zuri Diving Crankbait

Yo-Zuri Minnow Suspending Shallow Diving Crankbait

This is a versatile lure that can be used in almost any application, including casting and yo-yoing it mid-water column. Their horizontal suspension ability and life-like resemblance make them well-loved among many anglers.

Live Baits

Live minnows are one of the top baits for walleye and are most commonly fished with deadsticks or for tip-up fishing. While live minnows tend to perform better for catching walleye, dead minnows can also be used, either presented passively with a deadstick or jigged actively up and down along with a jigging lure to attract fish.

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Other Options

Silver Streak Rattle Streak Spoon
Silver Streak Rattle Streak Spoon

Small Lures for Subtle Strikes

Sometimes, the best lure for walleye ice fishing is the smallest one in your assortment. Small lures can be particularly effective when walleyes are biting lightly or when targeting jumbo perch and panfish that often share the same habitat. Tiny jigs tipped with a minnow head or plastic can be just the ticket for coaxing a bite from finicky fish.

A minnow attached to a jig
A minnow attached to a jig

Custom Jigs: Tailored for Success

Custom jigs offer ice anglers the ability to fine-tune their presentation to match the conditions and preferences of walleye. These lures can be dressed with natural bait or synthetic materials to create a more enticing offering. The right custom jig can make all the difference when walleyes are scrutinizing every detail before committing to a bite.

Tip - The best idea is to hook a small minnow vertically through its head to keep it more in line, and this will give more action than hooking it horizontally.

Some Other Considerations for Selecting Lures for Walleye

You just cannot pick up your ice fishing gear and head out for walleye ice fishing without thinking strategically because walleyes are very picky when it comes to taking the bait. They will test it out using different methods before taking the bite. See the video to understand what I mean:

So there are some other considerations that you need to keep in mind:

The Role of Line Twist in Lure Performance

A line twist can be the bane of any ice angler's existence, especially when using lures that have a spinning or tumbling action. To prevent line twists, it's crucial to use a high-quality swivel or to regularly let your line untwist by dropping your lure to the bottom and giving it some slack. This simple tip can save you from lost fish and frustration.

Optimizing Lure Color and Reflectivity

If you’re fishing during the day, it’s recommended to use brightly colored lures that walleye can see even in low light if you’re fishing in cloudy water. If you’re fishing in clear water during the morning or the evening, it’s recommended to use lures with more natural colors.

When targeting walleye beneath the ice, the color and reflectivity of your lures can be as critical as the lure type itself. Walleye, known for their keen eyesight, are often attracted to lures that mimic the natural iridescence of prey fish.

In murky waters or during low-light conditions, such as at dawn or dusk, bright colors and reflective surfaces can make the difference between a strike and a miss. Lures like the flutter spoon, with its flashy sides, can catch the light and draw in aggressive fish from a distance.

Conversely, in clearer water or on bright, sunny days, more subdued colors that blend with the natural environment may be more effective. This is where a jigging rap or a lipless crankbait in natural hues can excel. These lures can provide a more subtle presentation that won't spook wary walleye.

It's important to have a variety of colors in your tackle box to adapt to the changing conditions and preferences of the fish. Experimenting with different shades can lead to surprising results and help you uncover the perfect combination for any situation.

Mastering the Art of Cover and Depth in Ice Fishing

Understanding the relationship between cover and depth is crucial when targeting walleye beneath the ice. Walleye are known to associate with various types of cover, such as submerged structures, drop-offs, and weed lines, which provide them with ambush points for prey.

By using ice fishing lures walleye are attracted to, and presenting them near these areas, anglers can significantly increase their catch rates. It's important to experiment with different depths, as walleye can be found at various feet below the ice depending on the time of day, water clarity, and available forage.

To effectively target walleye at different depths, anglers should consider the weight and sink rate of their lures. Heavier lures like slab spoons can quickly reach deeper water where walleye may be holding during midday. Conversely, lighter lures are ideal for shallower waters, especially during dawn and dusk when walleye move up the water column to feed.

By adjusting the weight of the lure to match the depth and cover where walleye are likely to be, anglers can present their baits most enticingly, leading to more successful ice fishing expeditions.

Strategic Lure Placement and Movement

Understanding the behavior of walleye and their prey is essential when determining where to place your lures. During the fall, walleye often move to shallower waters to feed on whitefish and other lures that mimic these species can be particularly effective.

Placing your lure at the right depth is crucial; walleye tend to stay close to the bottom, so a rattle spoon or jigging rap that can be worked slowly along the lakebed can be irresistible to these predators.

Moreover, the way you move your lure can significantly impact its attractiveness to walleye. A slow, methodical jigging motion can be effective, especially in colder water when fish are less active. However, if you're wondering why the fish aren't biting, try varying your retrieval speed or adding more aggressive jerks and pauses.

Sometimes, a sudden change in the lure's movement can trigger a walleye's predatory instincts, prompting an immediate strike. Remember, the key is to mimic the erratic movements of a wounded baitfish, which often proves too tempting for walleye to resist.

Tackling Deeper Water with Slab Spoons

Slab spoons are designed to reach the depths where walleyes often lurk during the winter months. Their heavy, compact design allows them to sink quickly, getting your lure in front of fish without delay. When jigged, slab spoons produce a seductive flutter that can trigger strikes from walleyes patrolling the deeper zones of a lake.

The Advantage of a Treble Hook

Many ice fishing lures come equipped with a treble hook to increase the chances of hooking a fish. The multiple points of a treble hook can catch walleyes that are nipping at the lure or striking tentatively. When using lures with treble hooks, it's important to keep them sharp and to adjust your hookset technique to ensure a solid connection.

Rattle Chambers: Adding Acoustics to Your Arsenal

Lures with built-in rattle chambers can be a game-changer on the ice. The sound produced by these lures can travel through the water, piquing the interest of walleyes that might otherwise ignore a silent offering. Rattle chambers can be particularly effective in murky water or when fishing at night, as walleyes rely more on their lateral line to detect prey.

Ice Hole Management for Optimal Lure Performance

The condition of your ice hole can impact the performance of your lures. Keeping your hole clear of ice and slush ensures that your lure moves freely and that you can detect even the lightest bites. Additionally, a well-maintained hole allows for better visibility, which can be crucial when fishing for walleyes.

The Impact of Weather on Lure Selection

Weather conditions can significantly influence the activity level of walleyes and, consequently, the effectiveness of different lures. On bright, sunny days lures that produce flash and vibration may be more successful, while on overcast days, glow or UV-enhanced lures might be the key to catching wary walleyes.

Matching Lure Size to Prey

Walleyes are opportunistic feeders, and their preferred prey size can vary throughout the winter. Observing the size of baitfish or other forage in the area can guide your lure selection. Matching the size and profile of your lure to the natural prey can increase your chances of convincing a walleye to strike.

The Role of Rods in Lure Presentation

The type of rod you use can affect how your lure is presented to walleyes. A rod with the right action and sensitivity will allow you to impart the desired movement to your lure and detect subtle strikes. Investing in a quality ice fishing rod can make a significant difference in your ability to present lures effectively and land more fish.

Experimenting with Assorted Lures

Walleyes can be unpredictable, and what works one day might not work the next. Having an assortment of lures at your disposal allows you to experiment and adapt to the walleyes' preferences. Switching between different types, sizes, and colors of lures can help you dial in the most productive pattern for any given day.

Understanding Walleye Behavior for Lure Success

To choose the best walleye ice fishing lures, it's essential to understand walleye behavior under the ice. Factors such as light levels, water temperature, and forage availability can all influence walleye activity. By aligning your lure selection with these behavioral patterns, you can increase your success rate on the ice.

FAQ Section

What is the best color for walleye ice fishing lures?

The best color can vary depending on water clarity, light conditions, and walleye preference. Generally, natural colors work well in clear water, while brighter colors or glow lures are effective in stained or dark water.

How deep should I fish for walleyes during the ice fishing season?

Walleyes can be found at various depths depending on the time of day, weather, and lake structure. They are often caught in deeper water during midday and shallower areas during low-light periods. Use a fish finder or experiment with different depths to locate active fish.

Can I use live bait for walleye ice fishing?

Yes, live bait such as minnows can be very effective for walleye ice fishing. They can be used alone or in combination with lures to add scent and movement to your presentation.

Final Thoughts

Ice fishing for walleye requires a strategic approach to lure selection. By understanding the nuances of walleye behavior and the unique features of various lures, ice anglers can enhance their chances of a successful catch.

From jigging raps to custom jigs, each lure has its place in the hard water angler's arsenal. Remember to adapt your tactics to the conditions, maintain your gear, and always be willing to experiment with different lures to find what works best.

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