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Best Bait for Walleye Fishing

It only takes one time catching a good-size walleye to get hooked yourself. Whether fishing in open water or ice fishing, walleye are a targeted species because of what they bring to the table as a gamefish: Ferocity, aggressiveness, strength, stamina, and intelligence. 

walleye caught with live bait

It is fair to say that any species that lives in the water has ended up as a meal for a walleye, depending on the stage of development the fish is in. Adult walleye do, however, have their preferences.

Here are the most popular live baits for walleye and why they are so popular. 


Leeches are popular with predatory fish because they move around a lot. Movement is easy for fish to spot and target. They are also natural in color, so do not look suspicious to a wary fish.

leech in pond water

Threading a leech onto a hook is simple, and they are easy to keep alive, even on hot days. You can find them in just about any body of water, buy them online, or some bait shops sell them.


Worms will work with walleye almost as well as leeches. Their movement is also key for fish to spot. Like leeches, they thread to a hook well if they are large enough. Worms also attract other fish, which can serve as a beacon for walleye.

nightcrawler worms

For walleye, you want larger-sized worms. You can find them in your backyard. You can also buy them from online sources or any store that caters to fishing.


As good as leeches and worms are, minnows are even more effective with walleye. Fish them by drifting, use a bobber or use a minnow rig to allow movement but hold them in place. If there are walleye nearby, they will be on the minnow before you know it.

minnows in a creek

Match your minnows to the surroundings you will be fishing. You can buy them at bait shops. You can trap them but check local laws first.

Small Perch

Walleye love perch, as do just about every other gamefish. In some states, however, you cannot use them as bait. Check the state laws where you are fishing. If it is legal, you have an almost guaranteed-to-work walleye bait.

small yellow perch

Perch live in walleye territory and usually are numerous. You will need to catch your own, though, to use perch as bait.


Crayfish are also a very popular food choice for walleye. It is not uncommon to find half-eaten crayfish inside a walleye’s stomach. Crayfish move around year-round, even in winter.

crayfish bait

Occasionally, you can find a store that sells crayfish, but your best bet is to trap your own.

Final Thoughts

It does not matter whether you are fishing lakes or rivers; walleye love live bait. The key is to match the appropriate live bait to the local environment.

If you do that, the five live baits mentioned above are as close to sure-things as an angler will get when it comes to catching walleye. Of course, lures will work in some instances as well!

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