What Is the Best Walleye Hook Size? (3 Things You Need To Know)

PUBLISHED 25 JULY 2021

by Bill Laney

Every year millions of anglers target walleyes in the lakes and rivers of North America, making them one of the most popular game fish.

But in order to catch walleye successfully, it’s important to use the best techniques and the right tackle. And one of the most important components of every walleye fishing rig is the hook, though it rarely gets the attention that it deserves.

In this article we’ll go over the best hook size for walleye, and discuss how it applies to different types of hooks, baits, and walleye fishing techniques. 

What size hook should you use for walleye?

The best all around hook size for walleye fishing is a size 2 to 6 single hook, or a size 8 to 10 treble hook. In some cases it’s better to use smaller hook sizes, since walleye can be shy biters in lakes with a lot of fishing pressure, and often respond better to smaller finesse presentations.

On the other hand, if you’re specifically targeting trophy walleye over 10 pounds, it may be better to use slightly larger hooks, since that will help you to land more fish. A big walleye can actually straighten a small hook out completely, although this happens quite rarely (especially if you set your drag correctly, and take the time to tire out a big fish before bringing it to the net).

What kind of hook should you use for walleye?

The 3 best hook types for walleye are:

  • Octopus hook
  • Treble hook
  • Slow death hook

In addition to these three main types, you can also use circle hooks, which tend to generate a better hook up rate since they basically result in the fish hooking itself.

Now let’s look at the best sizes to use for all of these hook types when fishing for walleye, so you can decide what to choose for your purposes.

See also: Lindy fishing (complete guide)

Octopus hook size for walleye

The best size octopus hook for walleye is 2, 4 or 6, which works well for fishing with minnows, leeches, and nightcrawlers. Downsizing to a smaller size 6 can be effective when dealing with finicky walleye that are hook shy.

Octopus hooks are the most commonly used hook type for walleye fishing, and they work particularly well for live bait presentations. With leeches, it’s best to use a size 4 or 6 octopus hook, and to pass the hook through the thick sucker at the end of the leech, which allows it to wriggle around freely in the water.

When using live minnows for walleye, you can either hook them through the upper lip, or just behind the dorsal fin with a size 2 or 4 octopus hook. If you’re using large shiners or chub, you may want to go up to a size 1 or even 1/0.

If you’re using nightcrawlers, you can either thread a whole worm onto a size 2 octopus hook, or you can thread a 2 inch worm fragment onto a size 4 hook. When using worms, it’s usually best to use bait keeper octopus hooks, which come with several additional barbs on their shank, as this prevents the worm from sliding down the shank and bunching up into a tight ball at the end.

Treble hook size for walleye

The best size treble hook for walleye is 8 to 10, though you can also use size 12 to or 14 trebles with small minnows or when trying to catch finicky walleye. When you’re using treble hooks it’s important to keep in mind that they are automatically heavier and more bulky than single hooks, which tends to slow down your live bait, and also looks more conspicuous in the water. 

For many live bait presentations, you actually don’t need to use treble hooks, and will have no problems hooking walleye with a sharp single hook. The main exception to this is when using a stinger hook on a spinner rig, in which case a treble is always best (more on that below).

Hook size for walleye jig

The best walleye jig hook size is 1 to 1/0, though you can also go with a smaller #2 hook on finesse jigs and lightweight presentations. If you buy your jigs at the tackle store, they usually don’t allow you to choose between different hook sizes, and the hooks of ready-made jigs tend to be on the small side. But if you pour your own jigs, that’s a great opportunity to use bigger hooks, and you may find that they improve the hook up rate. 

Stinger hook size for walleye

The best walleye stinger hook size is 10 to 12, though you can also use size 14 with smaller bait presentations, or size 8 for targeting trophy walleye. A stinger is a treble hook that is attached with a short piece of line to your main bait presentation, in order to trail just behind it during retrieval or trolling.

Stinger hooks are designed to catch fish that just nip at the back of your bait without fully committing to eating it, and are a great option if you experience a lot of short strikes, or notice subtle bites that don’t result in the fish getting hooked. 

Stinger hooks are almost always treble hooks, and are most commonly used with spinner rigs trolled for walleye with live bait, though they can also work great when used with jigs and swimbaits.

What size hooks should you use for a crawler harness?

The best walleye crawler harness hook size is 2 to 4. Some anglers like to use a size 2 hook at the front of the harness, and a 4 at the back, since the smaller one is harder for walleye to spot in the water (when they follow your bait and decide whether to commit to eating it). 

You can even tie 3 hooks in tandem for a walleye worm harness, which can be a good option when using a big nightcrawler (though another option is to use 2 hooks to rig the crawler, and a third one as a stinger, trailing just behind the crawler). 

See also: How do you rig a slow death rig?

What size hook should you use for walleye ice fishing?

The best walleye ice fishing hook size is 2, 4 or 6, and as a rule of thumb it’s better to use smaller hook sizes than you would during open water season. The reason for this is that walleye feed less aggressively in winter, and as a result take more time to look at your bait before they decide to eat it.

If you’re fishing with tip ups, the best size treble hook for walleye tip ups is 10 to 12. However, if you want to release the fish alive, it’s much better to use single hooks, and personally I like to use size 4 or 6 circle hooks with walleye tip ups, since the fish don’t get deep hooked, even if you miss the flag going up, and are slow to pull in the fish. 

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