Best Tackle for Catching More Walleye

By Jessica Graham

As spring approaches, Iowa fishermen pack away ice fishing tackle and prepare for spring fishing and walleye spawning. As water temperatures warm, walleye feed heavily to prepare for the spawn. During this time walleye hardly eat at all and then after their spawning period they are ready to replenish again. For this reason, timing, lure selection, and lure presentation are key elements to successful walleye fishing.

According to the Iowa DNR, walleye spawning occurs when water temperatures in Iowa are between 42-54 degrees. States to the north, such as Minnesota, claim walleye spawning occurs during slightly cooler weather. Studies in southern states have found water temperatures need to be slightly warmer to initiate spawning. As the water is warming walleye begin feeding in preparation for spawning. During the spawn, walleye in lakes head towards shallow water. They like having a sandy or gravel base to lay their eggs. Once the fish have spawned, anglers can find walleye around wind blown rocky banks trying to invoke an aggressive strike from walleye. After spawning, walleye are filling up again on minnows, shad, as well as insects to replenish calories.

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Walleye fishing is an art in which you have to consider a myriad of variables. Spawning cycle, lure presentation, lure color, lure size are just a few things to factor. Lures that seem unstoppable one day, might not be successful the next. For this reason, anglers need to have a well-stocked tackle box with different lures and sizes to match the mood of the fish.

When anglers start having a successful streak of catching walleye, Dave Machinski from Maynard’s Tackle LLC says to “find out what works, and keep doing it”. For this reason, the hydro jig is available in 8 different sizes so anglers can match the correct size of bait for the correct time of the year. Different weights and sizes will help fishermen experience successful walleye fishing through out the whole year. One of Maynard’s most successful jigs, the hydro jig, prides itself on helping anglers adapt to a walleye’s preference all while boasting a strong, high-quality hook. The strength and reliability of the hook is what makes this jig exceptional. Tournament fishermen recognize this importance and keep coming back to the hydro jig.

Most walleye fishermen will have at least one Erie Dearie lure in their tackle box. The lure has been among the best selling world-wide walleye lures, gaining popularity its success on Lake Erie. The Erie Dearie should be used all season for walleye in Iowa. When fishing lakes after the spawn, walleye will head towards deeper water. Anglers will probably have to add weight to fish deep lakes with the lure. The lure is recognized world wide and according to Erie Dearie’s owner, Dan Ross, the jig is “tried, true, and trusted; it doesn’t fail”. The Erie Dearie is easy to fish, and can be used casting and retrieving, or used while drifting and trolling. This makes it easy for new fishermen or kids to use. The lure has been popular for over 60 years, and there is still a place in every walleye fisherman’s tackle box for this lure today.

Another lure that is commonly used by walleye fishermen across the country are the crankbaits produced by Reef Runner. Reef Runner has a shad based crankbait, the .44 Mag that dives up to 30 feet. It excels when trolled on braided line. Another lure that has shown success in Iowa is the Cicada crankbait. Although cicadas emerge every year, in 2021 billions of 17 year cicadas will emerge. The periodical cicada will emerge across Iowa. You can be sure several of these end up in the water and will be favorite of many fish, particularly the walleye. It is especially critical that fishermen have cicada crankbaits ready to be fished this spring and summer. If you do not already own the Reef Runner cicada, add it to your tackle box. You will be certain to have a phenomenal experience this spring and summer with the 17 year large cicada hatch.

A family owned Iowa company, B-Fish-N Tackle which is a subsidiary of Custom Jigs & Spins, understands about fishing Iowa waters. They are dedicated to creating a soft-plastic lure that can withstand several strikes from walleye. The two best walleye lures recommended by company spokesperson Walt Matan are the Moxi and the Pulse-R lures. The Pulse-R is a top seller for the company. It has a large ringworm body with a paddle tail. The lure itself has a lot of motion and generates a lot of strikes from walleye. The Moxi lure has a long curly tail and is a favorite reliable plastic to fish. The plastic lures are paired with the company’s H2O jig heads. The jigs have a wire keeper that holds the plastic tight to the head. This helps keep the plastic intact despite the plethora of hits on the lures.

Rapala has a lure that is a reliable and all around good fishing lure, the Shad Rap. The design of the Shad Rap resembles several different baitfish. It has a wounded minnow action while traveling through the water and provokes walleye to attack. This crankbait is excellent for casting and for trolling, and is adaptable for variable speeds.

One of the most research driven companies, Berkley, has two proven baits for walleye success. The Hit Stick is a shallow diving minnow. Over 200 proto types were created and tested in their flowing water sysystem over 10 years to come up with the perfected Hit Stick minnow. It is made of a durable plastic to keep from getting water-logged and to maintain the integrity of the lure. The hit stick has world-wide success and for that reason, over 20 colors are available (including 4 new colors for 2021) in several different sizes. The shallow diving minnow works great for generating predator strikes during spawning.

The other bait from Berkley that you must have in your walleye tackle box is their Spy Bait lure. This is the bait senior project manager Daniel Spengler suggests using when walleye are not biting. The key to using the Spy Bait is to cast and retrieve, keeping the rod at the 2 A.M. position and use a slow and steady retrieve. You can also pair it with a sweep and pause action to get the natural flutter as it falls into the strike zone. The natural minnow profile action makes it perfect bait for the predatory walleye. Daniel Spenglers states “it’s now going to be a staple in my tackle box”, and it should be in yours too.

Spring walleye can be difficult to catch. For that reason, you should have an assortment of tackle in a variety of sizes to entice walleye. Fish rocky coves and banks for spawning walleye, and deeper areas after the spawn. As Walt Matan from B-Fish-N Tackle says, “The worst weather days can be the best fishing days, and the night bite can be even better”.