Jigging For Walleye Ice Fishing (Everything You Need To Know)
UPDATED 18 MAY 2023
by Robert Ceran
Jigging is by far the most effective ice fishing technique for walleye, since it works well with lures that are designed to be fished vertically in one location.
This is exactly what you need for ice fishing for walleye, as you’ll lower your lure straight down through an ice hole, and the only lure action you can generate with it is by jerking or twitching your rod tip up and down.
That being said, there are a lot of subtle variations and nuances to this fishing technique when it comes to walleye ice fishing, and knowing these will help you catch more fish.
In this article we’ll show you how to use jigging for walleye to catch more fish through the ice.
Walleye ice fishing jig setup
Let’s start by covering the setup you’ll need for jigging for walleye under the ice:
- Rod: 30” to 36” medium power ice rod
- Reel: size 1000 spinning reel
- Main line: 6 to 10 lb test fluorocarbon or braid
- Leader: 12-18 inch 6 to 8 lb test fluorocarbon
- Swivel: small size 8 or 9 swivel tied between the main line and leader
Using a longer ice fishing rod helps to increase the range of motion you can give to your jigging lure, and also helps to provide more backbone and flex when it comes to fighting big walleye.
The only reason to use a shorter ice rod is if you’re fishing inside a shelter.
Braided main line has almost no stretch, which gives you maximum sensitivity in terms of being able to feel the movements of your lure, as well as being able to detect subtle bites.
Less stretch also helps when it comes to setting the hook. But if you use a braided main line, always use a fluorocarbon leader, since that has lower visibility in the water.
Using a swivel between your leader and main line is important to avoid your main line getting twisted by the movements of the lure.
Walleye jigging lures for ice fishing
When it comes to lures for walleye jigging, there’s a huge variety available on the market, but these can be broken down into 3 main types of jigging lures:
- Jigging spoons
- Jigging raps
And while you can still find a huge variety of sizes, shapes, and colors in each of these categories, having a few good lures in each category will allow you to get started.
After you find some that perform well for you, take it from there by getting additional colors and size variations to experiment with.
Now let’s look at each of these jigging lure categories in more detail.
Walleye ice fishing jigs
Jigs have been around for many decades, and in the past have been the most common type of lure used for walleye fishing (both for ice fishing and open water season).
This has changed over the past few years, as jigging spoons and jigging raps have entered the stage, and are currently gaining in popularity.
However, you should always have some jigs in your tackle box, as they are the most versatile lure for walleye ice fishing, due to the fact that they can be readily baited with live or dead minnows, or with a minnow head.
So, on days when 100% artificial lures aren’t getting a lot of bites, switching to a baited jig head can end up putting more fish on ice.
What is the best ice fishing jig for walleye?
The best all around ice fishing jig for walleye is a colored tungsten jig head baited with a minnow head.
Tungsten is more dense than lead, which gives you more control over jig movement in the water, and this also allows you to work with smaller finesse jig heads when the fish are finicky.
A great option is the Clam Drop Jig, or the Northland Whistler Jig, which uses a propeller to attract walleye.
What size jig is best for walleye ice fishing?
The best size jig for walleye ice fishing is between 1/16 and 1/5 ounces for shallow water (under 20 feet), and 1/4 to 1/3 ounces for deeper water (over 20 feet).
You may also want to choose the larger sizes if you’re working with big bait fish. And always keep in mind that tungsten jigs are more dense, so you’ll be able to use larger sizes without spooking the fish.
Best color jig head for walleye ice fishing
In clear, shallow water and in bright light conditions, it’s best to use beige, grey or green jig heads, which look more natural to walleye.
But in low light conditions, it’s better to choose brighter, flashy colors such as chartreuse, glow yellow, or glow orange.
Always keep in mind that you should experiment with colors, especially when the bite is slow. The mood of the fish can change a lot over a single day.
Jigging spoons for walleye
In recent years, jigging spoons have become the most popular lure type for walleye ice fishing.
They come in several varieties that are ideally suited for attracting walleye to your ice hole, either by generating sounds or movements in the water.
Flutter spoons have a curved blade, which causes them to wobble and flutter sideways when lowered in the water column.
Combined with their silver coloring, this fluttering motion generates flashes of light that attract walleye to come in and investigate more closely.
Rattle spoons come with a small rattle chamber attached to the spoon.
Usually this contains two small metal beads that collide with each other and create a clicking sound when you move the spoon up and down in the water.
This sound can be extremely effective to get nearby walleye to come in close to check out your lure.
Best color jigging spoon for walleye ice fishing
Depending on how clear the water is, you’ll want to use more subdued, natural colors in bright light conditions, and more bright, flashy colors in low light conditions.
But if the water is stained, or if there is thick snow on the ice, you can use bright colors at any time.
Jigging raps for walleye ice fishing
Jigging raps are lures specifically designed for vertical fishing, which makes them an ideal option for walleye ice fishing.
Most of them have a flat, horizontal tail region that forces them to move sideways in the water column when you lift up your rod tip.
As a result of this, they can produce the erratic behavior of a wounded baitfish, which walleye seem to find irresistible.
How to use a jigging rap for walleye ice fishing
The best way to use a jigging rap for walleye ice fishing is to fish it close to the bottom, and use rapid and aggressive jigging movements of your rod to give it the erratic darting and jerking behavior that jigging raps are famous for.
You don’t want to make the mistake of fishing it too slow, but every now and then it’s good to pause it for a second, since this is often the moment that walleye strike.
What size jigging rap should you use for walleye ice fishing?
In shallow water under 20 feet, use a size #03 or #05 jigging rap (3/16 and 5/16 ounces, respectively), and in deeper water over 20 feet use a size #07 or #09 jigging rap (5/8 and 7/8 ounces, respectively).
The larger sizes are necessary to get your jigging rap down to the right depth fast enough.
How to jig for walleye ice fishing
When it comes to jigging for walleye ice fishing, the most important rule is to always keep your lure moving.
This is essential, since you can’t rely on the movement of a live bait to attract walleye, but instead have to rely on the action of your lure on its own.
The biggest mistake that many anglers make is that they don’t move their jigging lure enough under the ice (probably because they’ve heard so much about walleye being finicky biters).
But in actual fact, the more you move your lure, the better your chances are of getting bit. So get in the habit of snapping up your ice fishing rod tip 3 to 4 feet at a time, which produces big jigging movements of your lure.
Pro tip: If you see a fish on your flasher sonar marking your lure, try to pull up your lure a couple of feet to get the fish to follow it. If it does, jig it in place for a few seconds, and then start pulling it up again.
Often this is the moment that you’ll trigger a strike, as you’re forcing the fish to commit to the lure before it’s gone.
When using flutter spoons, regularly pull them up 2/3 of the way up to the surface, and then drop them back down.
That way, when the spoon falls back down, it produces the characteristic wobbling movement that creates flashes of light underwater, and helps to call in walleye from all around.
Finally, lower your lure all the way to the bottom every now and then, and let them drop directly on the bottom.
This kind of “thumping” produces a sound and stirs up mud, which can help to call in walleye to investigate.
Jigging tips for walleye ice fishing
- Pound the bottom with your lure: Lower your lure all the way to the bottom every now and then, and let it drop directly on the bottom. This “thumping” movement produces some sound and stirs up mud, which can help to call in walleye to investigate.
- Vary your jigging cadence: As mentioned above, exaggerated, aggressive jigging movements can help to attract walleye, but sometimes this technique doesn’t produce bites. So try to vary your cadence (especially when you see a fish marking your lure), by ‘bouncing’ or ‘jiggling’ your lure in place, or by pausing for a second between snapping the lure up and down.
- Sweeten your lure with a minnow head: If the walleye bite is slow, the scent of a wounded baitfish can help to get a walleye to commit to eating your lure, and the best way to accomplish this is by baiting your hook with a minnow head. This works very well with jigs and jigging spoons, but not so well with jigging raps, since it tends to block their action in the water.