TOP 5 RAPALA HARD-BAITS FOR WALLEYE AND HOW TO FISH THEM
Each year minnowbaits and shad hard-baits catch thousands of walleye. Whether you’re a fan of trolling, prefer to cast or do both, we offer the best walleye lures on the market. Here are five hard-baits every walleye angler should own.
Developed in 1936, the Rapala Original Floating Minnow remains a reliable walleye bait. Popular sizes are the 3-1/2” (F09) with a running depth of 3 to 5 feet and the 4-3/8” (F11) or 5-1/4” (F13), each with a 4 to 6 foot running depth. The Original Floater comes in dozens of colours, including several High-Definition Live Series patterns.
Casting an Original Floater to shorelines, flats, bays and points near shallow rock and gravel spawning sites is tough to beat in spring. The lure’s tight action on a twitch-pause or swim-stop retrieve is perfect at triggering bites from cold-water or neutral walleye. In summer, try these same spots at night from the boat or the bank, using a slow, steady retrieve.
The Original Floater is effective when trolled. Flat-lined it catches shallow walleye from a range of habitats. It’s also a reliable pick to troll on Sufix lead core line.
This lure also shines on a 3-way rig at any depth. Tie a 12” to 36” dropper from a 3-way swivel to a bell sinker (2 oz or heavier). To the other eye add a 4’ to 6’ leader of 8- to 10-pound Sufix fluorocarbon tied to a F07 to F13. Affix the mainline to the last swivel eye and bounce the rig over points, contour breaks, flats and humps, keeping the main line at a 45-degree angle.
Scatter Rap Minnow
Every walleye angler deserves a 4-3/8” Scatter Rap Minnow. Rapala’s revolutionary Scatter Lip gives this bait an erratic, evasive swim. It will veer sideways with sudden bursts of speed, then return back to centre, before darting off to the other side again, like a baitfish trying to escape a predator. It’s unpredictable and it drives walleye wild.
The Scatter Rap Series may very well be the easiest lures to fish. Ever. Cast it out and reel it back to the boat. That’s it. The Scatter Lip adds all the strike-triggering action needed. Speed up and it gets more erratic. Slow down and its evasive sweeping action is minimized, a perfect tempo when walleye are fussy and don’t want to chase.
And, for anglers fond of twitching and snapping minnowbaits, rest assured the Scatter Rap Minnow bait will perform flawlessly at fooling walleye with this retrieve.
Flat-line trolling a Scatter Rap Minnow is straightforward. Test it boat-side to decide how erratic you want it to move, then cast it behind the boat and start trolling. With a 6 to 9 foot running depth, it’s perfect for walleye feeding zones in the 8 to 12 foot range like flats, outside weed edges, points, rocky shoals and humps.
In situations where walleye suspend high over deep water and are spooked by boat traffic, pulling a Scatter Rap Minnow behind an inline planer board is a good strategy. Fish for dinner is a done deal with this set-up!
Is it any surprise that the company responsible for one of the best-selling, balsa minnowbaits, also makes the most potent balsa shad-profiled crankbaits? Shad Raps are legendary among anglers worldwide, with the 5 to 9 sizes being popular for walleye.
Casting 5 to 7 sized Shad Raps around points, shallow shorelines and vegetation is a reliable approach for spring walleye. The tight action of these lures will also catch neutral walleye in shallow to mid-depth areas in summer. Come fall, upsize to 8 and 9 sized Shad Raps. Cast deep weed edges, rocky points and breaks.
Trolling Shad Raps catches walleye all season. Short-line trolling 5 and 7 sized baits along early season weedlines and shallow flats is a reliable way to boat spring and summer walleye.
Speed trolling is another tactic. Ever pull a size 5 Shad Rap at 3 miles-per-hour? The results can be amazing.
Deep Tail Dancer
When walleye go deep, a Deep Tail Dancer hooks ‘em every time. These banana-shaped, rattling baits have serious tail-swaying swagger and deliver loads of thump and vibration that attract walleye from far and wide. The size 7 (2-3/4”) dives to 15 feet, while the new size 13 is 5-1/4” and plummets to 40 feet. The size 9 and 11 models cover 20 and 30 foot ranges.
Bank anglers love Deep Tail Dancers, especially at night. These baits cast far and their wide, tail-kicking action is easy for walleye to locate in reduced light. Piers, break walls, rocky points, culverts, sand drop-offs and lake or river inflows are prime nighttime walleye spots. Generally, a slow and steady retrieve is best.
A Deep Tail Dancer is a troller’s best friend. These lures catch walleye from drop-offs, bars, deep points, humps and deep flats. Ditto when walleye are pelagic and chasing baitfish in the Great Lakes and basin in inland lakes. Typical trolling speeds begin around 1.5 miles-per-hour for cold water conditions.
This balsa lure swims with a silent, aggressive, hard-thumping sweeping tail action, similar to a Tail Dancer, but in a shad profile. Hence the "Shad Dancer" title. Available in 2” and a new 1-1/2” size, each runs between 7 to 10 feet - perfect for infiltrating mid- to shallow-water walleye hangouts and rilling-up strikes all season long.
Weighting 5/16-ounces, the 2” Shad Dancer casts far for a balsa bait. This is handy for quickly covering shallow and mid-depth flats, working shorelines and along break lines.
Casting the lure up onto a shallow shelf at a 45-degree angle and then retrieving it down a drop-off is another reliable presentation.
The Shad Dancer performs flawlessly when trolled for walleye in 6 to 12 feet. It can be speed trolled like a Shad Rap. And when walleye move shallow to feed in lowlight and night, slowly weaving a Shad Dancer along shorelines, over weed tops and along breaks will deliver steady action.
Don’t be caught without Original Floaters, Scatter Rap Minnows, Shad Raps, Deep Tail Dancers or Shad Dancers this season. Quite simply, they’re Rapala’s quintessential quintet of walleye lures.
Thinking about vertical jigging for walleye this spring? Check out this article on how to fish popular Rapala jigging baits: Cast A Rapala Jigging Bait? You Betcha!