Want to know a secret? You don’t need a huge collection of ice fishing lures to catch walleye. In fact, all you need are a couple baits from each of the five lure categories below. Own these and you’ll be setting hooks all day long.
Every year rattle spoons fool hundreds of walleye. I’ve lost count how many I’ve caught on a Northland Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon.
Rattle spoons do more than a traditional straight spoon. Sure, they juke and jive, flash and tumble, but equally potent is the sound from the rattle chamber. The combination of movement, flash, and sound attracts walleye extremely well. Ditto when it comes to eliciting strikes from onlookers.
Other picks: Clam Pro Rattlin’ Blade Spoon, JB Lures Rattling Varmint, and VMC Rattle Spoon.
High-action, bent spoons
There are straight spoons like the rattle models above, and there are high-action, bent spoons. You should own both. Why? Walleye can prefer one over the other.
A bent spoon has a more erratic action than a straight one. The wider and lighter the spoon, the slower it falls. Drop-speed is an important factor for triggering hits.
Longer hang-time in the water also makes these lures good attractors.
Other picks: Acme Little Cleo, Custom Jigs & Spins Slender Spoon, Freedom Lure Minnow, Mepps Syclops Lite, Northland Buck-Shot Flutter Spoon, and VMC Tumbler.
Let’s give credit where credit is due, the Rapala Jigging Rap has been icing walleye for decades. These lures look and swim like a baitfish, which is why they’re so potent at catching walleye.
Jigging moves are straightforward. Lift the lure to make it dart upwards. Then, let it fall on semi-slack line. This causes it to drop in an arc like a dying baitfish, before it comes to rest. Pause, then shake. This is the basic recipe for catching walleye on jigging minnows.
More picks: Acme Hyper-Glide, Custom Jigs and Spins Rotating Power Minnow, LunkerHunt Straight-Up Jig, Northland Puppet Minnow, Rapala Jigging Shad Rap or Snap Rap.
Darters and lipless crankbaits
For simplicity sake, darters and lipless crankbaits can be grouped together. Their stocky, horizontal minnow profiles and actions are more similar than different.
One good pick is the Salmo Chubby Darter. It darts when lifted as well as wobbles and glides on the drop. Plus, it has oodles of micro-moves when lightly lifted, quivered, and twitched.
Lipless crankbaits fish in much the same way. A series of short rod twitches is all it takes to get the bait swimming and activate its rattles. Cranks fall differently from one model to the next so experiment with line tension on the drop. Light shakes are gold for triggering hits from onlookers.
More picks: Clam Psyco Shad, Lindy Darter, Livetarget’s Golden Shiner, Jackall TN/60, Rapala Rippin’ Rap, and Yo-Zuri Vibe.
Blade baits and cold-water walleye go together like ice cream and apple pie. These lures also have a minnow profile, but produce a different action and sonic frequency than darters, cranks, or jigging minnows.
One pick is the Sébile Vibrato. This unique bait cast spells on walleye – turning fussy fish into ravenous predators. Damiki’s Vault is another blade with a strong following. My buddy and big-fish guide, Eric Haataja (www.wibigfish.com) frequently hauls in big ‘eyes on this blade.
Less is more with blades. Lightly twitch or lift it to get it vibrating, then pause, let it sink. Shakes and light flicks are good too.
More picks: Bass Pro Shops XPS Lazer Blade, Johnson ThinFisher, and Reef Runner’s Cicada
The lure categories above contain many proven ice fishing baits for walleye. Don’t be caught without them.