10 Best Crankbaits For Walleye Fishing of All Time
June 14, 2013
Crankbaits are undeniably deadly weapons for walleye fishing, and many factors merit careful consideration when selecting the best of the best. For the purposes of this piece, we'll focus on deep-bodied, lipped baits (as opposed to slender minnowbaits, a story we'll save for another day). Such designs excel at imitating shad, bluegills, and other stout-profiled prey, but also trigger strikes from 'eyes focused on perch, bullheads, and more svelte baitfish.
While literally dozens of cranks are worthy of scrutiny for the Top 10 list, we wanted to include baits that shine in a variety of applications, so you can match top picks for various presentations.
Along with these recommendations, keep in mind In-Fisherman's golden rule of crankbait selection as you choose baits for your own personal walleye fishing adventures. Focus on key characteristics, in order of importance. First, get the depth right or everything else is moot. Next, in order, the bait must work at the right speed and retrieve (or trolling) cadence, offer the right action, and exhibit the proper profile and color-pattern combination.
A versatile utility player, the Hornet can be idled along slow and steady, for a subtle shaking action, or fast-tracked for wild, erratic thumping. Either way, the bait's near-bulletproof, high-density foam body stands up to plenty of hard hits from hungry 'eyes. Of the four sizes, the 1¾-inch #4 is a favorite. The floating option is great for trolling — whether pounding bottom in three feet of water on a short lead behind a planer board, or when you need to dredge the depths across a summer mudflat. The sinking version, meanwhile, is perfect for snap-pause casting cadences, and for counting down to deep structure. salmofishing.com
This is a great big-bite bait, thanks partly to its size and profile. But also credit the amount of commotion it creates — due to water displacement and its medium-pitched but nonetheless raucous rattle. Think power trolling for aggressive summertime fish, plus classic fall scenarios such as casting and trolling baitfish 'œexit areas' or main-lake reefs. While it yields a rather tight wiggle overall, the top of the back tilts wildly, and the tail also produces a lot of action. Of the three lip options available on the 3¼-inch Rattsler, the VLL (very long lip) is most walleye centric, covering depths of 10 to 20 feet. sebileusa.com
Cotton Cordell Wally Diver
Sometimes pigeonholed as a trolling bait, the Wally Diver also shines for casting. I especially like the suspending version when spicing things up with twitches, pauses, and pulls. The bait's stock action is best described as moderately tight, and has closed the deal with countless 'eyes over the years. The lineup offers several sizes from 2½ to 3¾ inches, plus a jointed model. The deepest-running non-jointed Wallys dive up to 20 feet on the troll and 15 on the cast, making it a great diver for a wide range of applications, from weededges to breaks and the tops of sunken islands. lurenet.com
Bomber Model A
For casting riprap banks, wing dams, and other rocky structure, the venerable Model A has few equals. One of the main reasons is the bill's sweeping action, which more times than not bounces the bait out of harm's way. If not, a little slack often helps back it out of box canyons. The hard-wiggling action is key, too, to targeting active walleyes prowling relatively shallow rocks. Six sizes and 15 stock colors offer plenty of options, but the 6A and 7A, which are 2 1/8 and 2 5/8 inches long, and dive 6 to 10 feet, collectively, can handle almost anything. bomberlures.com
Berkley Flicker Shad
More than just another shad in the school, the Flicker features an 'eye-catching action that combines top-to-bottom roll and side-to-side wiggle, complemented by a unique front-to-back motion. Run one next to the boat and you'll see what I mean. Five sizes let you target everything from skinny water to depths of about 15 feet on standard monofilament. The bait trolls well, but it's a great casting option, too. In 2010, Johnnie Candle and Dave Noble won the Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit World Walleye Championship casting Flicker Shads into current breaks on the flood-swollen Mississippi River. Candle credits the bait's slow-rising characteristics for being able to fish a stop-and-go retrieve without it rocketing to the surface on the pause. It also has a high-pitched rattle, which is a plus in and around cover, and when fishing mudlines or other low-vis environments. berkley-fishing.com
Storm Original Hot 'N Tot
Another bait with a long history of putting walleyes in the boat, the Original Hot 'N Tot — produced from the original molds, sporting a metal lip — offers a wild and erratic, side-to-side action. While it's not exactly my first bait of choice in cool water, it's absolutely lethal for trolling aggressive walleyes during the summer. Available in 2- and 2½-inch sizes and 23 colors. Expanding the lineup, the Hot 'N Tot MadFlash version brings external scale patterns, 3-D eyes, and flashier finishes to the table — including four UV Bright options. stormlures.com
Although the original Shadling had its followers, the new version, released several seasons ago, elevated the bait to Top 10 status. A joy to cast or troll, it holds its tight-wiggling action at speeds well above the typical walleye pace of 1 to 3 mph, and hits depths to about 13 feet unaided. A rattle adds to the attraction, but holographic, baitfish-inspired finishes such as Natural Perch and Purple Smelt are a real score, especially in clear conditions. Available in #5 and #7 sizes (2 7/16 and 2 7/8 inches, respectively) and 21 finishes, at last count. lindyfishingtackle.com
Koppers LiveTarget Threadfin Shad
Admittedly, my love of baitfish biology helps explain my affinity for many of Koppers' realistic cranks, including the Threadfin. Like the rest of its kin, its shape, lifelike flashy finish, and amazing head and pectoral fin detail make it a great candidate in clear water. But the Threadfin raises the bar with an extra-tight wiggle. Said to mimic a fleeing shad, it also does a fine job triggering strikes on lakes well outside the Shad Belt. Plus, it suspends, opening the door for stop-and-go cadences when a steady retrieve won't cut it. Two size options, the 2½-inch S65M and 3-inch S75M. Both cover the 5- to 7-foot range without assistance. livetargetlures.com
Rapala Shad Rap
An iconic walleye crank, the Shad Rap performs so well, in such a wide variety of duties, that anglers have scooped up more than 2 million of them since its debut. You can throw it on light spinning tackle in shallow water, troll it deep behind a leadcore tether, or fish it in just about any manner in between. Four sizes are available, with the 2-inch #5 and 2¾-inch #7 staples of the walleye trade. Add the shallow, glass, plastic (RS), and jointed versions to the mix, and the family's got most applications covered. rapala.com
Reef Runner Rip Shad
Yes, these baits are notoriously needy of tuning, both when new and while on the job. But when you get it right, the Rip Shad's subtle wobbling action is worth the effort. This, coupled with a bit slimmer profile than many shad baits, makes it a great addition to the arsenal. Both the 200 and 400 series have a place in the walleye world, but neither are speed-trolling candidates, especially the 200. One last tip, don't limit them to trolling. Savvy smallmouth fans catch tons of 'eyes on Rip Shads while hunting bronzebacks. reefrunner.com