One of the most challenging things about walleye ice fishing is knowing what walleye ice fishing lures and jig colors to use and when – let alone what bait to use.
The reason walleye fishing is so popular, aside from the catch being delicious to eat, is that walleye can be one of the most challenging fish to catch. Walleye are incredibly clever, so you need to know what kind and color lure to use in different situations.
In this guide, we will walk through the best walleye ice fishing bait and lure tips for tip-ups and jigging.
Walleye Ice Fishing Bait & Lures
Oftentimes, nabbing a great catch comes down to knowing your bait and what kind of lures to use. You’re not going to catch a walleye by just sticking a random bait on a hook and dropping it into the water.
If you don’t select the right walleye ice fishing lure, you’ll probably end up with a Northern Pike or Perch. These are a good fight and a good eat, respectively, but not the best of both worlds like hooking onto a nice-sized walleye.
Knowing the behavior and habits of your fish is key to limiting out on your catch with decent-sized walleye a majority of the times you hit the ice.
To help you increase your chances of success on the ice, let’s now dive into what walleye are attracted to in winter ice fishing.
What Walleye Are Attracted To When Ice Fishing
Walleye are particularly drawn to three types of ice fishing lures, including:
- Lipless crankbaits
Let’s take a look at each so you know how best to use them.
If you’ve not had any success and are desperate for a bite, lipless crankbaits offer an aggressive approach to getting the walleye’s attention. Available in a variety of colors for every environment, lipless crankbaits provide a lot of movement to attract the walleye.
Spoons are best served with a pinched minnow head. This helps to make your rod raise up and down about a foot or two. This action piques the walleye’s curiosity and increases your chances of a bite.
Tipping your jig with a minnow is a great way to keep walleye active. Make sure that the minnow is right behind the dorsal fin and you’ll have a better chance of drawing in the walleye.
Best Lure Colors for Walleye Fishing
The best color walleye ice fishing lure color depends on the time of day. If it’s sunny outside it is best to use lures that are brightly colored like yellow, pink, and bright green. If it is not sunny or you are ice fishing for walleye at night, you may want to use more dull colors to not stand out too much from the surrounding environment.
Let’s dive into each situation a bit more.
Sunny, Day Time Walleye Ice Fishing Lure Colors
For sunny daytime walleye ice fishing, stick with flashy vibrant colors to try and attract the walleye. Walleye do not like sunlight, so you are going to need all the help you can get to attract them to bite.
Many seasoned fishers maintain that bright green (chartreuse) is the most effective color to use on sunny days. I have personally start with bright green, even if it is a bit overcast outside.
If the water is shallow, however, pink or red has been known to work quite well at drawing in walleye.
If the water is stirred up, mucky, or just looks dirty, gold can tend to play on a walleye’s suspicion.
Overcast or Night Walleye Ice Fishing Lure Colors
When ice fishing for walleye in low-light environments, such as cloudy weather or ice fishing at night, use equally dull-colored lures. Navy blue, purple, or even black are known to be rather productive in darker settings, so try to stick with like colors to increase your chances of success.
White can also be useful, but you’re likely better off with black or purple. Keep in mind that there isn’t a sure-fire color combination that works 100% of the time. You have to be aware of your environment and the nature of the water to get the best results.
This is why it pays to practice with different colors until you land on the one that works best for that day. And remember, walleye are smart. It’s likely going to take some trial-and-error before you figure out their behavior.
Best Type of Lure for Ice Fishing Walleye
Swimming lures, spoons, and jigs are all effective in drawing in walleyes. If you want the most realistic approach to attracting walleyes, swimming lures are your best bet and make for an excellent choice in walleye ice fishing. And the erratic motion that swimming lures provide in the water is ideal in drawing in walleye.
Spoons are available in many different sizes, making it easier for you to find the right vibration in the water. Their weight variations let you fine-tune your walleye ice fishing experience, so be sure to have plenty handy.
If your water conditions are fairly clear, spoons are likely to be your go-to lure. They are most effective when the water is clear, so keep a few on-hand for such an occasion.
Lastly, jigs are the perfect tool for attracting walleye. Since they are easy to combine with live bait, you have more options available to you to catch the walleye in the icy water below. The key to using a jig to your advantage is to find out how deep it needs to be in order for it to be effective.
As you can imagine, this isn’t going to be the same for all fishing spots. So it’s important to practice a bit until you find the most effective depth.
Best Type of Jig for Ice Fishing Walleye
Underspins and jigheads are both effective for catching walleye. The jighead sports an incredibly strong hook. What’s more, the length of the hook is perfect and very easy to work with.
Underspins, which had somewhat dried out among anglers, have become a big hit as of late for scoring walleye. And thanks to an attached leaf, the underspin serves to attract the walleye and get them active. This leaf provides a flashing effect that arouses the walleye’s suspicion and gets them within range.
You can use the underspin while deadsticking, too. Best of all, if you find that you need the attractive flash that the leaf provides, you can simply clip it off and use the underspin as-is. The hooks on underspins are razor-sharp and will no doubt give you the bite you need.
Best Live Bait for Ice Fishing Walleye
Fatheads, minnows, suckers, and small shiners have all been successful in walleye ice fishing.
But there’s more to knowing what live bait works the best. Without the proper hooking technique, you are far less likely to land a catch.
Regular Hook & Weighted Jigs
For a regular hook or jig, the key is to hook the bait in the dorsal fin. You also want to make sure that the point of the hook or jig is in a forward position. This will ensure that your bait looks completely natural. If you’re in the habit of hooking your live bait through its mouth, you should stop immediately.
Another option is to hook through the tail. The reasoning for this is that it causes the bait to struggle, making for a tantalizing treat to any walleye in the area.
Lures & Spoons
If you are hooking the live bait to a lure, you can try hooking the bait in through the forehead and out through the bottom of the chin. This will cause the bait to be in line with the lure and look to be chasing or one with your lure.
If you’re hooking a minnow head to a spoon, it’s best to start with the entire minnow. Once the minnow is in place, pinch off the head. If you need more bait, pinch behind the dorsal fin. For less bait, pinch behind the gill plate.
The goal here is to leave the bait skin so that it’s visible to the walleye. The movement that it makes in the water makes it look like an attractive prey. As such, you want to always be sure not to use a knife.
A clean, even cut won’t provide the effect you want. So make sure it’s somewhat messy for a better lure. Remember, you’re going for as much natural movement as you can get. Position your lure to deliver a convincing effect and you should see more action come your way.
Jig Rod, Dead-Stick, & Tip-Up Bait Set Up
Depending on where you are walleye ice fishing, you may be allowed to set up two lines. A lot of ice fishers like to use one line for jigging while leaving one stationary with a dead stick or tip-up. For best results, you should try using your dead stick or tip-up with a combination of a live minnow and a bobber. Alternatively, you may use a medium jig.
Use your jigging line to get the walleye’s attention. If they are feeling particularly active, they will likely go for your jigging line. If not, there’s a good chance the walleye will want the live minnow on your dead stick or tip-up.
Either way, you’re presenting them two options and will have a better chance of getting some action.
Walleye Ice Fishing Lure & Bait FAQ
Minnows are a walleye’s preferred food. Leeches, nightcrawlers, or small bullheads are also great options, but walleyes can’t resist a good-looking minnow.
Black, purple, or even white are known to attract walleyes at night. Although their eyes are such that they probably can’t see purple at all during the day, the night tells a different story. Many fishers will opt for purple in dark conditions to try and get the walleye’s attention.