When I first started going on fishing trips my tackle bags looked like I had raided Bass Pro Shops, Sail and Cabela’s right before we headed out. I am talking a large tackle bag with 6 trays plus a side bag full of plastics, bottom bouncers and bait rigging gear. Really this was what I was used to fishing with in Southern Ontario, so I brought what I thought I needed. And there is nothing wrong with that if you can drive right up to your lodge or cabin. But big BUT if you are paddling into a remote campsite or flying in you will probably want to be more selective. Think of it this way the extra weight you have packed in your tackle bag could mean one less case of beer or bottle of Baileys for your coffee. Today I would be confident to fish any Northern Ontario lake with the following 5 lures.
Black and Gold Hot n Tot
This lure is a walleye magnet especially when fish are holding tight to structure, even better if it’s a rock bottom. Basically, I like to let out around 40 – 70 feet of line and just start trolling. A perfect troll means that every few feet I can feel the lure crash into the bottom, bounce and then continue to dig back down. Early in the troll I will be changing speeds and altering my path to get a sense of what the fish want.
White Jig and 4 Inch Pink Grub
Being honest I have struggled with the jig. IMO it takes some confidence and feel to fully trust it. On the other hand, my 5 of my top 10 walleyes have all been caught on a 3/8-ounce jig with a 4-inch grub. I almost always add some meat to my lure – mainly a chunk of night crawler but that’s a preference not a rule. This tactic has shined big time when walleyes are relating to underwater humps or steep breaking shorelines. Sometimes its an anchor on the right depth game, other times we drop the bait straight down and let the drift pull us across key depths. A few things to keep in mind: You need to be on the bottom so use enough weight to feel it and dropping a marker buoy or a waypoint on key depths or structure will really help.
Purple Crawler Harness and Bottom Bouncer
This is the money lure for me. I can still remember being out with a guide on the Whalesback Channel when I first learned this technique and we caught more walleye in a day than I had in 5 years combined. This is another trolling move. General rules will say you want 1 ounce of weight per 10 feet (personally I use a 2-ounce bouncer almost exclusively). The key is to keep the bait at a 45-degree angle. Speeds can be affected by current or bouncer weight but overall, I am trying to keep the boat moving along at 1 to 1.4 MPH. A #4 Colorado blade 2 hook harness with a nice chunky night crawler has done me well. But so, have many other combinations – Indiana blades, butterfly blades, single hook, slow death hook, fluorescent colours, metallic finishes all have a place. For a fly in I am bringing at least 30 harnesses with me.
Rapala J 13 - Gold Fluorescent Red
Yes, another trolling lure. On most of my trips I am fishing a brand-new lake (see blog post How to Scout A New Lake) so one of my goals is to cover water relatively quickly. The J 13 is a big meaty lure that dives well and runs true. This colour seems to shine in tannin stained lakes. In terms of depth this bait works best in depths from 4 to 10 feet deep. Like the Hot n Tot, I find a lot of bites happen just after the lure careens into some form of cover and by the time the slack eases off its just the wait of the fish. On one trip my brother slayed them with this lure on a bottom bouncer. Basically, connect your main line to the bouncer and then run a 6 to 8-foot leader off the bottom bouncer to the J 13. One thing I love about this
lure is that pike seem to love it as much as the walleye.
Rapala Husky Jerk Size 12 – Tennessee Shad
One of the more versatile lures in this list, the Husky Jerk can be trolled, casted, fished fast or slow. This bait has really shined for me in low light conditions when walleye is shallow. If the fish are relating to a relatively small structure, I will cast but if they are feeding across a large flat I might troll. If fish are a in a more neutral mode but relatively shallow (say less than 10 feet) casting the HJ and giving long pauses in between pulls can be super effective. One fly in trip in Algoma we had a big front move through which put the fish into neutral. After trying a few different tactics, we were stopped off a large reed bed and I grabbed my rod with the HJ and cast it right up into the reeds, after a few cranks of the reel I stopped to fix my jacket, and wouldn’t you know when I went to reel again - fish on!
So those are the top 5 walleye lures for me. I love my selection (because I am conceited lol) because I can fish fast, slow, deep or shallow with many of these lures. So, those 5 lures give me a ton of options when you factor in things like depth, retrieve speed, rigging and action. My guess is most people trying a trip for the first time will bring 30 lbs of tackle (like I did) but I think you will find as time goes by and your experience level goes up you can really rely on just a few lures. They may not be my choices and that’s fine, but chances are you won’t need nearly as many as you thought.
PS - I am NOT sponsored or affiliated with any of these products - but I am SO open to it