Walleye Fishing Tackle – How to Get Started!

Walleye Fishing Tackle

This article will cover walleye fishing tackle. Walleye are one of the most popular game fish species for anglers fishing the northern United States and Canada. They thrive in cold, clear water. The Great Lakes and clear, deep northern lakes offer prime habitat. Walleye are fun to catch and are considered one of the finest eating fish anywhere!

walleye fishing tackle and lures

Anglers fishing for walleye have success using several different techniques. Casting, drifting, trolling, and ice fishing all produce walleye. Each type of fishing requires slightly different tackle. In this article, the tackle and equipment will be thoroughly covered.

Anglers can read a comprehensive article on walleye fishing in this link.

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The best walleye fishing tackle consists of a light trolling rod and matching reel with a line counter. This is the outfit that the majority of anglers will use when fishing for walleye. Plugs, spoons, and live bait can be trolled successfully for walleye. This is a versatile and effective walleye fishing combination.

Best rod and reel combinations for walleye fishing

There are several different types of rods and reels that anglers can choose from when walleye fishing, depending on the type of fishing being done. Spinning rods, light baitcasting rods, and trolling rods all serve a different purpose when walleye fishing. In most cases, a rod with a stiff backbone is not desired, a rod that is a bit softer works better. Walleye often take a bait or lure lightly and they also have a soft mouth. A more limber rod will help anglers hook and land more fish.

walleye fishing tackle and lures

Spinning rods and reels for walleye fishing

Anglers who prefer to cast or drift with artificial lures and live bait will do well with a medium light spinning rod and reel. A 7′ to 7 ½’ rod with a medium action and a 3000 series reel is an excellent all round combination. In some fishing situations, a ‘fast” action rod is preferred. This really is not the case with walleye. In most situations, a rod that is a bit softer and more limber is better for this type of fishing.

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Spinning rods are versatile and are a great choice in many walleye fishing situations. Anglers casting light jigs and other lures will do that well with a light spinning outfit. They are also fine for drifting and very light trolling. Anglers trolling with larger lures or in deep water will do better with conventional tackle.

Baitcasting rods and reels for walleye fishing

A light baitcasting, or conventional rod and reel certainly has it’s place in walleye fishing. These are versatile outfits that can be used to troll plugs and spoons, vertically drift a crawler harness, and cast larger lures to shoreline cover. The only thing they realll are not suited for is casting light lures.

walleye fishing tackle

Trolling rods and reels

Trolling is an extremely popular and effective technique used by anglers when walleye fishing. This is an efficient technique that allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of fish. Walleye are often found in schools or scattered about in a fairly small area. That means that there are a lot of places that walleye are not! Trolling covers both area and the water column very effectively.

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While spinning rods can be used to troll for walleye, conventional tackle is a much better choice. Special rods and reels that are designed to troll are available at a reasonable cost. The reels have line counters, which is an excellent feature that allows anglers to know exactly how far back behind the boat the lure is running.

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Walleye fishing terminal tackle

Many walleye anglers fish with live bait. A live nightcrawler on a Lindy Rig has produced a bunch of fish over the years. Slow trolling or drifting a nightcrawler on a special harness continues to be an effective technique. It is also fairly easy to do. Minnows and leeches are also effective walleye baits.

Nightcrawler harness

Every walleye anglers should have a selection on crawler harnesses in the tackle box. These rigs have multiple hooks and a spinner to attract fish. The Berkley walleye rig has different blade choices to match the water conditions. Silver works well in clear water while gold is better in murky water or low light conditions.

Lindy Rig

The Lindy Rig is another rig that every walleye angler should have. These were designed years ago by the best walleye guides up north. They are used to present live bait on bottom structure without snagging due to the sinker shape. The rig can also be purchased with a float, which raises the bait up a but off the bottom.

Erie Dearie

The Erie Dearie is a walleye fishing legend. It has been around for decades and is fairly easy to use. Anglers can drift or troll very slowly and a half of a nightcrawler is added.


Some walleye anglers prefer to put their own rigs together, either using harnesses or tying up their own rigs. Also, fishing conditions will require different sized weights. Here are a couple of sinker choices that are fairly snag free.

Bottom bouncers are similar to the Lindy Rig, except that they are usually used when trolling. The weights bounces off the bottom, walking over rocks and structure, while the lure or bait swims behind. This rig is effective with both live bait and artificial lures. Anglers can adjust the weight based on speed, depth, and current.

Trolling gear for walleye fishing

Anglers who troll for walleye can get pretty serious about their gear. Obviously, trolling can be as simple as dragging a diving plug behind the boat. However, serious trollers use various devices to present multiple baits and different depths and spreads. These include planer boards, downriggers, and Dipsey Divers.


Downriggers are clever devices that were basically invented by Great Lakes anglers to effectively troll in deep water. They are a bit more complicated, but anglers can very closely monitor the depth that the lures are presented at. Downriggers can get quite expensive and are available in electric or manual models. All serious walleye anglers who troll will use them at one time or another.

Planer boards

Planer boards are devices that take the line off to the side of the boat. This results in anglers covering a wide swath of water. It can be tricky trolling with boards, particularly in choppy water. However, it is very effective, especially in shallow water.

There are two types of planer boards, clip on boards and “big boards”. Clip on boards are simply clipped onto the main line, then removed as the fish is reeled in.

Big boards are fixed to the boat and have clips that release the line when a fish hits.

Dipsey Divers

Dispey divers are clever little devices that can take a lure down as well as off to the side. It works a bit like the bill on a diving plug. It has a clip that releases when a fish strikes. They are best used in calm water when trolling slow with small to medium lures.

Top walleye fishing lures

Many walleye anglers fish for them using artificial lures. There are several advantages to this, with the primary one being that anglers can cover so much water in a much shorter time. This applies to both trolling, drifting, and casting. Since most walleye are caught on or near the bottom, the classic shoreline casting as one would do with bass is less effective.

The three most effective walleye fishing lure styles are jigs, spoons, and plugs. Jigs are a hook with a weighted head which gives it action. The tail is usually plastic, but can be natural or synthetic hair as well. Spoons are curved pieces of metal that imitate bait fish. Plugs are mostly made of plastic and are designed to dive down to a particular depth. They mimic bait fish, craw fish, and leeches. All three can be cast, jigged, or trolled, though jigs are not trolled as much as spoons and plugs.


There are many manufacturers that design and sell jigs and jig and grub combinations that will catch walleye. In fact, there are way too many to cover. Instead, three proven walleye jigs will be highlighted. These are the VMC Moon Eye Jig, Northland Thumper Jig, and Lindy Fuzz-E-Grub jig.

VMC Moon Eye jig

The VMC Moon Eye Jig head is a quality jig head. It has a strong thin hook, a keeper that helps hold bait and soft plastic grubs on the hook, and a brightly colored head. It is an excellent all round jig head to use with a soft plastic grub or a live bait.

Northland Thumper jig head

The Northland Thumper jig head is an excellent jig head with an added feature; a spinner blade. This blade adds extra flash and vibration. This jig head can be used with a live bait, but is most often used with a grub body of some sort.

Lindy Fuzz-E-Grub jig

The Lindy Fuzz-E-Grub jig is an excellent “finesse” lure for walleye when conditions are tough. It combines the jig head, grub body, and hair tail all in one unit. It has an excellent action when worked slowly. The lure can be tipped with live bait as well.

Bass Assassin

There are countless fine soft plastic baits on the market, and they will all produce. A good approach is to check with local tackle shops to see what produces in area waters. Bass Assassin makes a line of excellent 4” soft plastic swim baits in a variety of colors.


Spoons are excellent walleye fishing lures! A spoon is basically a curved piece of metal with a hook. The shape and size of the spoon determines the action. Long slender spoons have a tight wiggle while wider spoons have a slow wobble. Silver and gold are the most popular finished, but painted lures work well, too.

As with all walleye fishing lures, there are many productive spoons that anglers can choose from. Once again, local tackle shops can provide the best information as to what spoons are productive. There are a few spoons that have proven themselves over time to be consistent effective lures for catching walleye. These include Acme Kastmaster, Luhr Jensen Krocodile, and Michigan Stinger spoons.

Best plugs for walleye fishing

Plugs are excellent walleye lures. While they can be cast out and retrieved, most are trolled out behind a boat. The lip size and design will determine how deep it will dive and the action it produces.

There are many excellent plugs that anglers can use to catch walleye. Rapala Husky Jerk, Reef Runner Ripstick, and Bandit Walleye plugs are all very productive. They can be purchased in a variety of sizes, colors, and depth that they run.

In conclusion, this article on walleye fishing tackle will help anglers choose the proper tackle and gear need, which will result in more success.







Jim Klopfer

Capt Jim Klopfer has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. He grew up in Maryland, fishing the Chesapeake Bay waters. Capt Jim has been creating an writing articles about fishing for decades, contributing to many regional and national publications. He also lives part time in the North Carolina mountains where he fishes for trout and other species. Capt Jim Klopfer is a wel rounded angler with 50 years fishing experience, and he loves to share what he has learned with other anglers!

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