How to Catch Walleye Without Live Bait or Lures

Smiling fisherman sitting in a canoe on a Minnesota lake holds up a walleye
Ernest Grey

I love to test new fishing gadgets and share my opinion.

Walleye fishing can be an exciting and rewarding experience, and while live bait and lures are commonly used, there are alternative methods that can be just as effective. In this guide, we’ll explore how to catch walleye without live bait or lures, using techniques that are beginner-friendly and don’t require fancy equipment. We also have a separate guide for professional anglers who is willing to spend money here: Best Walleye Lures for Professionals.

Methods for Catching Walleye Without Live Bait or Lures

Jigging with Soft Plastics

Jigging with soft plastics is a versatile and effective method for catching walleye. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Gear: You’ll need a medium-light to medium-heavy spinning rod, a spinning reel, and jig heads with soft plastic bodies.
  2. Technique: Cast your jig near underwater structures like rocks or drop-offs. Let it sink to the desired depth, then use a slow, rhythmic motion to bounce the jig along the bottom.
  3. Additional Tips: Walleye are often more active during low-light periods, such as dawn and dusk. Experiment with different colors of soft plastics to see what they prefer.

Blade Baits

Blade baits are metal lures with a vibrating action that can be irresistible to walleye. Here’s how to use them:

  1. Gear: A medium to medium-heavy spinning or baitcasting rod and reel combo is suitable for blade baits.
  2. Technique: Cast the blade bait and let it sink. Then, retrieve it with a steady, medium-speed retrieve while occasionally jerking the rod tip to create vibrations.
  3. Additional Tips: Blade baits work well in colder water, making them a great choice for early spring or late fall walleye fishing.

Trolling with Harnesses

Trolling with harnesses involves using spinner rigs to entice walleye. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Gear: You’ll need a trolling rod and reel setup, along with a bottom bouncer or planer board to keep your rig at the desired depth.
  2. Technique: Slowly cruise over areas with known walleye populations, trailing a harness behind your boat. The harness consists of a spinner and a few hooks with bait.
  3. Additional Tips: Adjust your trolling speed to find the right presentation depth. Worms or minnows are popular bait choices for harnesses.

Please also check our guide on how to troll for walleye.

Drifting with Worm

Harnesses Drifting with worm harness rigs can be highly effective for walleye. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Gear: Similar to trolling, you’ll need a medium-heavy spinning or baitcasting rod and reel, along with a drifting sock or drift anchor to control your boat’s speed.
  2. Technique: Drift over walleye territory while presenting a worm harness. This rig typically consists of a spinner blade, beads, and hooks baited with nightcrawlers.
  3. Additional Tips: Pay attention to the direction of the wind and current to ensure a natural presentation. Keep the bait close to the bottom.

Vertical Jigging

Vertical jigging is a method where you drop your lure directly beneath your boat and jig it up and down. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Gear: You’ll need a medium-heavy to heavy spinning or baitcasting rod and reel combo. Electronics like fish finders can be useful for locating walleye.
  2. Technique: Position your boat over known walleye structures and drop your jig to the bottom. Then, lift and drop it in a rhythmic fashion to mimic prey.
  3. Additional Tips: Pay close attention to your sonar or fish finder to spot schools of walleye. Adjust your jigging speed and rhythm based on their preferences.

Final Thoughts

Catching walleye without live bait or lures is not only possible but also a rewarding challenge. The methods outlined here are beginner-friendly and can be highly effective when targeting this elusive species. Remember to follow safety guidelines, respect fishing regulations, and practice catch and release to contribute to the conservation of walleye populations. So, grab your gear and head to your favorite walleye fishing spot to try out these bait and lure-free techniques. You might just reel in your biggest walleye yet!