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When you’re fishing through a hole in the ice you’re limited to lures that can be worked vertically.
While I say “limited” it’s hardly a limitation, as there are many lures that are absolutely deadly on big walleye.
Most of them you’ll know, as the proven lures are already household names.
While there are a few standouts, there’s any number of options, and the traditional profiles such as spoons don’t require a brand name to be effective.
If I’m honest, I’ll have to say that live baits will always be my first port of call for trophy walleye. Live baits seem to have the edge when it comes to a sluggish finicky bite.
However, if I’m determined that a particular location will produce, I’ll pull out ‘never-fail’ lure options and fish them aggressively.
Usually, this determined approach results in success, but I may have to go through a few lures to find the preferred menu of the day.
Let’s take a closer look at the best walleye ice fishing lures to choose from.
Which Ice Lures Work Best for Walleye?
This question is as easy or hard to answer depending on your perspective.
On any given day, the most obscure jig head that’s been cast a season too long can work wonders.
The key to effective lure fishing is a little time on your hands and experimentation.
An infinite list of lures exists for curious anglers. The truth is, that there’s a warehouse of shapes, weights, colors, and profiles that will be effective.
With ice fishing, however, we’re limited by type because we’re fishing down a hole, and therefore needing lures that work their magic vertically.
We can use traditional spoons and metal slices, jigs, plugs, vibes, lipless cranks, and crank hybrids, and soft plastics, of all shapes and colors.
Importantly, they have to sink, and they have to produce their best when worked slowly.
While ice-bound walleye will still attack ferociously, they’re a little slow to the dinner table during the frigid winter conditions.
While action is paramount, we still need to consider weight and size.
We want a weight that will get us to the strike zone quickly and we want a size, including hook size, suitable for the target.
If you’re hunting a larger class of walleye, don’t be afraid to select a larger lure. You’ll discourage the smaller fish while focusing on the trophies.
Keep in mind, monster walleye will take your tiny vibe, however, you may struggle with the smaller hooks.
I keep a small arsenal of lures that are proven and get results consistently. I also have several options I’ll try if the bite is slow.
The following list contains the best walleye ice fishing lures. The lure types I’d consider essential for any big walleye hunt.
It’s important to note that metal lures, such as spoons or metal slices needn’t be a particular brand name or top-shelf model.
Also Read: Ice Fishing Walleye Tips
Best Walleye Ice Fishing Lures Reviewed 2023
Last update on 2023-12-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
1. Rapala Jigging Rap
It’s no accident that the Rapala Jigging Rap is ranked highest. If there ever was a go-to big walleye lure, this is it.
I’m not alone here, and this inclusion is far from a revelation. This lure sits in the tackle boxes of every ice angler.
The minnow profile is perfect, with the tail doing the lion’s share of the action work.
Worked with a little effort, the Jigging rap will dart erratically with strong action. Such is its propensity to ’move,’ you may even want to tone it down a little during the colder months.
It can be worked in so many ways, however, ice anglers needn’t do much more than lift, drop and pause, bouncing the bottom if need be, or simply working the strike zone in the water column as shown by your sounder.
Make sure you take the lure well off the bottom, however, a minimum of 3 to four feet depth.
The opposed hook configuration, plus the mid-mounted treble, is possibly one of the reasons that this lure is so successful.
The configuration ensures that attacks from all angles are met with hooks. There’s far less of a chance you will pull the hooks from the walleye’s extra-large mouth.
The Rapala Jigging Rap has quite a selection of colors, and this is where selection can get a little tricky.
Everybody will have their preferred colors, but the jury is still out for me, so I compensate by getting them all.
Considering its proven performance, the Rapala Jigging rap is well placed for the budget angler to carry a stock without hurting the fishing budget.
This is without a doubt one of the best walleye ice fishing lures out there.
- Minnow Profile
- Balanced Design
- Environmental Zinc Weighted
- Standard and Glow Color
- Single Reversed Hooks
2. Rapala Slab Rap
While I love the Jigging Rap, I will often lead with the Rapala Slab Rap as I feel the more subtle action of the Slab Rap is better suited to sluggish Walleye.
I typically use the larger 2-inch model, and while it’s small, you will still attract interest from larger walleye.
This size will attract fish of all sizes, so if you’re looking for a mixed bag, this should be your go-to.
You can up the hook size a little without impacting the quality of the action, however, don’t overdo it.
I have seen many anglers add natural bait to the hooks with good success.
However, I am less inclined to do this as it will impact the action and often attracts other fish first.
I suggest you use it clean and bait-free. If it’s not working, perhaps go for a lure that has a serious rattle to draw them in from a distance.
There are plenty of colors from which to choose. However, I like the silver-colored slab rap for sunny days as their silver sides project plenty of enticing flashes as it gently flutters.
It mimics a wounded baitfish, or a baitfish casually working the water column for its tiny meals.
The Slab Rap can be worked at multiple depths, but I like to work it in the shallows, occasionally bumping the bottom, kicking up some sediment, pausing, and lifting.
The Rapala slab rap is reasonably priced, so you can pick up a handful of likely colors pretty cheaply.
Grab some oversize trebles so you can adjust to any big walleye you suspect might be working the target zone.
- Minnow profile center line tie
- Designed to fish multiple techniques
- Cast variable depth
- Multi-Species gamefish
3. Bay de Noc Swedish Pimple Jig
I’ve used metal spoons and slices of all brands, shapes, and colors.
Sometimes I’ll feel that a particular brand’s shapes or profiles are irrelevant, and other days I find gold working over silver, and colors producing better than plain models.
I’m also aware that there are plenty of anglers who swear by a particular metal shape and color.
There’s also a large band of ice anglers who swear by the proficiency of the Bay De Noc Pimple Jig.
It’s a jig, a metal slice. In terms of crafting, there’s very little to them.
What we do know, however, is that this traditional, old-school lure is responsible for awesome walleye hauls, and a long list of trophy fish.
If you’re ever in doubt, and can’t work out what lure to use, snap on a Pimple Jig.
There’s truth in tradition, and frequently the simplicity of the old metal slice will pay dividends where more complex profiles fail.
In my experience, metal slices seem to work best when the fish are there in numbers and actively on the chew. In such instances, I feel no other lure works better.
Many anglers add natural bait to the hooks. I have never been a fan of this, as I can’t say for certain what actually attracted the fish.
Was it the lure’s action, or the little bit of natural bait on the trebles?
I’d try adding a little bit of scent before adding bait. In fact, I can’t remember ever adding a piece of bait to treble hooks in adult life.
I like that I can work these jigs at any depth in the water column.
If I’m bouncing all the way to the bottom, contending with structure, weeds, and the like, I will often change the trebles to a single hook to mitigate snagging.
I like the Ham Nickle. The textured surface shoots reflections out in all directions on a reasonably sunny day. Great for calling in action from a distance.
- Huge color and weight range
- Treble hooks supplied
- Works well with a single hook
- Multiple fish targets
- Great for big Walleye
4. Salmo Chubby Darter
Walleye taste fantastic, and many anglers will frequently target fillets for the pan, as opposed to breaking records.
This is where the Salmo Chubby Darter comes into its own. Monster Walleye will have a go at the Chubby Darter, but it’s pretty rare.
Fish it as light as you dare to impart maximum action. Quick rod tip lifts will make the Chubby dart, as it says in the name. This is a highly enticing action, and you can expect an aggressive attack on the pause.
On the drop, there is an equally enticing wobble, which can be sustained on the rise with gentle rod tip work.
When working the shallows, I like to drop it to the bottom, stir a little sediment, then mix up a gentle lift or sudden dart, making sure to keep it well off the bottom, so the fish can see it.
The wily walleye have changeable moods. They’ll hammer a certain action one day, And be a little more circumspect the next.
Mix up your retrieve and cover all bases to ensure you match the feeding moods of the day.
The Chubby Darter tends to be more expensive than other lure options, so if you’d like to try one, yet don’t have the budget for a selection of colors, I will go with plenty of silver as a default.
There are plenty of colors available, and I’ve no doubt they all work somewhere, I just feel the silver is a great generic choice.
- Variable Depth
- Multiple colors
- 2 x treble hooks
- Holographic designs
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5. Sebile Vibrato
The Vibrato is an oddball of a lure. In many ways it defies categorization. Is it a jig? Metal slice? A vibe, or a hybrid of some kind.
There’s a treble at the head and tail with the line connection mid-way on the spine. It can be cast and worked like a lipless crank, trolled, and in the case of ice fishing, jigged.
Its weight and size make it ideal for any part of the water column with the exception of the topwater.
A series of gentle upward pulses imparts an irresistible action that walleye can’t resist.
You can pause, let the lure rest, and add a simple rod shake to deliver compelling quivers that mimic a baitfish in distress – a prime target.
It’s best to be on guard during the drop, as the delicate flutters broadcast quite a distance ensuring opportunist predators will attack as it sinks.
The Vibrato has a strong robust construction, with a through wire connecting all anchor points.
This makes it an ideal choice for a larger class of fish. Keep in mind you may wish to swap the trebles for larger single hooks for chasing monster walleye.
There’s a reasonable color selection, although I find the Nat Shiner to work best with its shimmer-inducing vibration.
Great for sunny days, the Nat will work its shimmery magic just as well in the deep holes and channels as it will in the shallower waters.
It’s a little more expensive than similar profile metals, however, there’s not much out there that’s similar. The Sebile Vibrato is a unique lure and proven on big walleye.
- Flutters on the fall and vibrates on the pull
- Twin treble hooks
- Multiple colors
- Can be worked with multiple techniques from jigging to trolling
Also Read: Best Ice Fishing Lures For Pike
Frequently Asked Questions
What Size Lures are Good for Ice Fishing Walleye
The rule of thumb suggests bigger lures for bigger fish. If you want to target big walleye exclusively fish a #9 and be patient.
The beauty of a larger lure is you’ll limit your by-catch, such as perch or smaller walleye.
Big lures catch big fish, but you must persist, as the action will be a little slower.
Having said that, smaller fish will take impossibly large lures, and big fish will take smaller presentations.
If you want to hedge your bets and target whatever is biting then #2, #3 and #5 make a great choice.
When considering weight, the rule of thumb should always be as light as possible for the conditions.
If there’s no wind and current, and you’re not fishing deep, keep the weight to a minimum.
Use only as much weight as you need to get to the target zone in a reasonable time, and keep it there.
How do you Target Walleye Ice Fishing?
Local knowledge and research are your best weapons for targeting walleye, or any fish for that matter.
Use your knowledge from last season, or if you’re in a new place talk to locals or get some info from a local tackle shop.
Locals can give you details such as lures’ lure colors, techniques, and times. A five-minute chat with a local can be the difference between a bumper session and nothing.
Short of local knowledge and a sounder, select locations based on structure, such as drop-offs, channel edges, and other such structures.
Depths can vary from surprisingly shallow to surprisingly deep, with all depths offering potential throughout the winter.
The rule of thumb, however, is walleye will group in deeper water when the temperature drops mid-winter.
In early winter, check the shallows around weed beds and mudflats where their favorite meals forage.
As the spring approaches, and the spawning season. Try the shallows again with inlets being an ideal point to start.
Just as the ice is walkable is the best time to clean up on walleye hunts. Their appetites are voracious and they’ll attack just about anything that moves.
Fish as shallow as 4 feet, and you’ll be stunned at the monsters cruising around these shallows.
By the time we’re in the depths of winter, you’re looking at a depth of 30 or 40 feet or more.
This is when your lure selection becomes a little more critical. They’re slower, not as hungry, and require that little bit more enticement.
Bathymetric maps are often readily available and can be very handy when the fish have moved out to deeper locations.
What is the Best Color Lure for Walleye
There are as many “best colors” as there are walleye anglers. The preferred color is variable, seasonal, and can change within a session.
Color is often impossible to advise. Use the basic rules of darker colors for murky waters and lighter more natural colors for clear water.
Whenever I’m unsure, I ask a local, go through my colors in an experiment, or match the hatch with a focus on anything that delivers reflection.
When the water is murky, I’m a little less selective and will try anything that has darker, deeper colors, preferably with reflective features that will shoot flashes of light out to hungry fish.