What Do Walleye Eat? ( Fishing Bait they Love )

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walleye fishing

Walleye, also called the yellow pike, is a fish found in the northern states of the US and Canada.

This species has sharp teeth that give it a ferocious look and a bristled dorsal fin to aid in movement.

However, its standout characteristic is its shiny eyes that reflect light, making it a nocturnal predator. 

They like feeding at dawn or dusk and hardly swim during the day unless there are overcast conditions.

The question is, what do walleye eat?

Walleye fish are predators so they primarily feed on smaller fish and other sea creatures. Such creatures include leeches, minnows, nightcrawlers, and worms. 

From an angler’s perspective, however, live bait isn’t enough to capture walleye. You can also use artificial baits, such as crankbaits, grubs, paddle tails, soft plastics, etc.    

What do Walleye Eat?

If you intend to capture walleye on your next fishing expedition, you’ve come to the right place.

Below is an insight on the best to use when you want to catch these species.


During the transition from summer to autumn, walleye usually migrate from the shore towards the deep sea, especially the larger and older fishes.

This is the best time to use leeches as bait, as they are better suited to survive the conditions than their alternatives.

The most common type of leeches are ribbon leeches and tiger leeches.

Both species are readily available in most bait shops, and they usually range from two to eight inches long.

Alternatively, you can find leeches in rivers and lakes.


Most anglers prefer minnows over other live baits when fishing for walleye.

While you can get a catch using these small fish at any time of the year, they are most effective towards the end of spring, when the water is neither too hot nor too cold. 

Additionally, walleye spend most of their time near the shore as summer approaches.

You will find them in saddles between islands, emergent, and submerged weed edges, near river mouths, and tips of points during this period.

This is the ideal time to use minnows as bait without spooking the fish. 

It’s worth noting that you might experience some problems when casting a jig and minnow combination.

Specifically, you are likely to find it hard to keep the bait hooked.

To avoid this, stick the hook through the minnow’s mouth and attach a soft plastic on its tip.

The plastic prevents the hook from backing out, ensuring that you cast your fishing line without fear that your bait will fall off. 


Like minnows, nightcrawlers can help you catch fish throughout the year, regardless of the season.

However, they work best when used in warmer waters and during summers. 

Moreover, nightcrawlers are affordable and versatile. This explains why many fishers carry them in bulk during fishing trips, especially in the deep seas. 

For the best results, combine a bottom bouncer sinker and a two-hook nightcrawler harness.

Generally, larger nightcrawlers increase the likelihood of taking home a bigger haul. 


Crankbaits are hardened lures with a lip that submerges them deeper into the water when pulled.

Most models resemble baitfish. When it comes to walleye, shad-style crankbaits are the most effective. 

Most anglers use crankbaits alongside planer boards when trolling to spread several lures simultaneously.

This equipment also protects the lures from the commotion caused by the boat’s motor as it travels on the water. 

If you like fishing in shallow waters, then crankbaits are a must-have.

They are excellent at spotting walleye, after which they use slip bobber rigs for a more targeted approach.

Even better, they can help you catch other species like bass and pike. 


Sometimes, other baits might not work for you when you want to capture walleye.

 This is where spoons come in handy. The two main types of spoons used for catching walleye are flutter spoons and jigging spoons.

Flutter spoons give you two options – you can cast them themselves or attach them to a trolling rig. Notably, they don’t mimic any live bait.

On the other hand, jigging spoons look like injured or dying minnows.

This is because they have a narrow and heavy design intended to lessen the time it takes them to reach the target. 

Paddle Tails

Paddle tails are highly effective when targeting schools of baitfish.

That said, they are primarily helpful during summer and the first few weeks of autumn, as this is the time when most baitfish flourish.

The problem with using paddle tails is that you often end up with a mixture of several species.

To avoid this, try using tails with natural colours like shard, smelt, and pearl. 


Grubs are probably the best artificial bait available in the market. They have natural colours like black, brown and white.

Moreover, they have a chartreuse-tipped tail, which disguises them in stained water when combined with the mentioned colours. 

If you’re a beginner, it’s advisable to use smaller grubs that don’t exceed three inches in length. Pair them with sinkers in the ¼ to 1/8 ounce range. 

You can use grubs on the boat or off the dock.

Even better, they cover more ground than live bait because you can cast and retrieve many times without fears that your minnow, leech, or worm will die. 

Wrapping Up

Although they don’t put up a fight like other large species, the challenge of finding the right bait for capturing walleye makes the experience exciting.

However, it’s wise to consult experienced anglers before setting sail, as these fish often prove difficult to catch. 

Nevertheless, the tastiness of walleye makes the extra effort worthwhile.

You can increase the number of fish you catch using a combination of live and artificial baits mentioned in this post. 

Lastly, it is essential to exercise caution when fishing for walleye. This is because these species have sharp teeth that can cause injuries if you mishandle them.

Ensure that your kids don’t get too close to the mouth. More importantly, always carry an equipped first aid kit on your fishing expeditions.