Live bait for walleye

Yesterday was the last day on the ice for me this season.  The fishing wasn't great but I am glad I was able to make it out (and back in).  I heard the ice blew out this morning.  Talk about taking it down to the wire!  Now that the ice is gone, it is time to start thinking about fishing on the soft water.

Fishing on soft water for me means walleye fishing.  I fish for bass once in awhile and go out for perch a few times in the spring and fall but most of my trips in the boat are after ole marble eyes!  I don't know what it is I like about walleye (besides the taste) but I have a hard time firing up the boat motor unless I am after eyes.

As I have said many times on this site, I am definitely not a pro fisherman by any stretch of the imagination.  I only started walleye fishing a few years ago.  Although I won't be winning any pro tours this year, I have learned some things along the way.

Since my mind is focused on walleye lately, I thought it would be good to go over the different live baits for walleye that anglers use.  This article will be old news for most of you but hopefully somebody starting out might gain something from it.


Live bait for walleye

Night-crawlers -  When using worms to catch walleye, use full night-crawlers.  When using night-crawlers, try trolling crawler harnesses, pulling 3 way rigs or drop shotting a big ole crawler on a single hook.  Another simple method is using a crawler under a slip bobber.  This is a deadly tactic when the fish are biting lightly.  

I find the best time to use night-crawlers are after a heavy rain.  Night-crawlers work at all times of the year but after a rain they seem to work best.  After a rain, fish are cruising looking for worms that have washed into the river or lake.

Minnows - Another no-brainer but I know anglers that waste their time using small perch minnows fishing for walleye.  I don't doubt that a walleye would hit a perch minnow but when fishing for walleye you might as well go big or go home.  I like to use big minnows when going for walleye.  Ask your local bait-shop what type they recommend.  The same tactics listed for night-crawlers work for minnows as well.

You can also use a partial piece of a minnow to give a jig-head with a plastic tail a little extra oomph.  To do this, thread the plastic lure on to the hook and then put a minnow head or chunk of minnow between the plastic bait and above the barb.  Sometimes this is enough to trigger the bite.  Try this in the early spring.

Leeches - In my opinion, the nastiest live bait option for fishing for walleye but they work.  Try using leeches in the summer when fishing for walleye.  Walleye love to hammer leeches in the summer.  The best way to present leeches is under a slip bobber but I am sure they can be used with any of the other presentations that work for walleye. 

When using leeches for walleye, you may want to wear a pair of gloves (I know I do!).  I don't consider myself much of a wimp when it comes to handling nasty things on the water but I do not like hooking a leach on a hook.  Trust me, bring some gloves.

Which live bait to use when?

This is a hard question to answer because any given day all three of these options have the potential to catch fish but the general rule of thumb amongst walleye fisherman is minnows when the water is cooler in the spring and fall and night-crawlers/leaches when the water warms.  

For me, normally the bait I have with me they were biting the day before and the one I don't have they are biting that day.  Oh well, as they say... that is why they call it fishing and not catching.


This bad-boy hit a nightcrawler on a crawler harness.
Have fun this year!






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