Gone Outdoors

What Bait to Use to Catch Walleye

by Cathryn Whitehead

Walleye eat bait fish and other kinds of fish that are smaller than them. Smelt, minnows, shad, perch, alewives and whitefish are often on the menu for walleye. Many people use these fish to catch walleye, along with artificial baits that resemble the fish the walleye eat. The trick to catching walleye is to know their habits in the body of water you're fishing.

Fish in shallow water using a jighead with a nightcrawler in the early spring, when walleye are spawning. A jig with a nightcrawler looks like a small fish to walleye. Pink is a popular color, but try different colors to find out what walleye are biting on.

Fish in deep water in the summertime using artificial baits such as rapalas. Chartreuse, orange and green are popular colors. Walleye often hit on "wonder bread" rapalas that are white with red, blue and yellow spots. Summer is a good time to hand-line with three rapalas about 2 feet apart. The walleye usually hit as you draw the line up from a deep hole.

Use soft plastic baits, such as Mister Twisters on your 1/4-inch jig. Smaller fish won't steal them off your hook as easily as they do nightcrawlers, so you won't have to change bait as often. Bright colors and colors with a lot of contrast like yellow and black are popular with walleye.

Catch walleye with live bait. You can attract walleye to your line by giving them what they normally eat. Yellow and white perch feed on the bottom in the weeds, so walleye bite near the bottom at the edge of the weeds. Shad, alewives and whitefish eat in shallower water 10 feet deep or less, so walleye will come up from the bottom to bite. Put a 2-inch minnow on a jig just heavy enough to go to the bottom and the walleye usually hits as the minnow drops.

Troll with artificial crayfish or imitation nightcrawlers. Walleye seem to like the brown crayfish with yellow, green, orange or chartreuse underneath and plastic worms that are chartreuse or pink.


  • Walleye feed more actively early in the morning, in the evening and on cloudy days.

About the Author

Cathryn Whitehead graduated from the University of Michigan in 1987. She has published numerous articles for various websites. Her poems have been published in several anthologies and on Poetry.com. Whitehead has done extensive research on health conditions and has a background in education, household management, music and child development.