What Strength Fishing Line Is Best For Walleye Ice Fishing?

UPDATED 29 JANUARY 2021

by Bill Laney

If you’re getting ready for walleye ice fishing season, it’s time to choose the right pound test line to get the best results.

The best pound test line for walleye ice fishing depends on the presentation you’ll be using. For finesse techniques with small spoons and jigs you can go down to 2-3 lb. For regular sized walleye lures and live bait, 4-6 lb is ideal. For large swimbaits, rattle baits and extra large live bait, you can go up to 8-10 lb.

Choosing the right pound test line for walleye can be extremely important, especially if you’re fishing in clear waters that get a lot of fishing pressure. In cases like that the fish tend to be finicky, and are easily spooked by a line that’s too heavy.

In addition, you also need to balance your line strength with your reel, rod and lure to get the optimal performance out of your combo. That’s why it’s good to have several rods and reels to take along on your ice fishing trip, so you have both lighter and heavier options to cover all scenarios.

See also: best rod and reel combo for walleye ice fishing.

Finally, you also need to keep in mind the average size of walleye that you’re expecting to catch. For regular ‘eater’ size walleye, you can use a much lighter line than if you’re hunting double digit walleye. If you’re a beginner, it’s probably best to start with a setup on the lighter side, and then upgrade to a heavier line later if you think there’s a need for that.

Choosing the right pound test line to fit with your lure size

Here is an overview of the line strength to choose, depending on your technique & lure:

  • Small spoons & jigs (for finesse techniques): 2-3 lb fluorocarbon
  • Regular size walleye spoons, jigs & live bait: 4-6 lb fluorocarbon
  • Large rattle baits & swimming baits: 8-10 lb fluorocarbon

Especially when the water is clear, walleye are known to be finicky biters, and so you may have to choose smaller lures and finesse applications. In that case 2-3 lb fluorocarbon is the best choice, since that has the lowest visibility compared to braid and monofilament.

See also: what are the best baits for walleye ice fishing?

Some people are worried that 2-3 lb pound test is too weak to fight big walleye, but this is rarely the case. In fact, I’ve successfully landed many 30 inch walleyes on 3 lb line, though you need to make sure you have a good reel, and that the drag isn’t set too tight. This allows a big fish to pull the line off your reel when it needs to, and you can tire it out after a while without problems.

Walleye don’t usually put up as much of a fight as big trout or pike, and so are easier to land on light tackle. In that case, you might ask, isn’t 8-10 lb test overkill for walleye? Well, 8-10 lb line puts you on the safe side in case you hook a trophy sized fish, and it’s also strong enough if you hook another fish species that’s bigger or stronger than walleye.

Choosing the right pound test for ice fishing when targeting big walleye

On many lakes, the average size of walleye is rarely bigger than 18 inches, and in cases like that you can use 3-4 lb test line without problems (even 2 lb will do fine in most cases). However, if you go ice fishing in places like Mille Lacs or Lake Winnipeg, which are famous for double digit walleye, you may want to upgrade your line strength to a 6 or 8 lb test line, so you don’t lose that trophy size walleye after you hook it.

See also: what depth to ice fish for walleye.

Choosing the right line for walleye if there’s a chance of running into pike or muskie

It’s quite common that the same lure presentations and baits used to catch walleye also attract northern pike and muskie on some lakes. If you know there’s a good chance of hooking either of those species, it’s definitely better to choose a line that’s on the stronger side, probably at least 8 lb or even 10 lb test. You may also want to use braid as your main line, with a fluorocarbon leader. 

Keep in mind that this is a compromise solution, since 8 lb test is a little on the weak side for catching big pike and muskie, but on the other hand you don’t want to scare the walleye away with a line that’s too heavy, since walleye tend to be more finicky biters compared to pike and muskie.

If you do land a big fish, be it walleye, northern, or muskie, make sure you check your line for damage by running it through your fingers close to the lure. Especially pike and muskie can easily damage your fluoro, and if that happens you need to cut off that part and re-tie your lure again.

Final remarks

In summary, the ideal line strength for walleye ice fishing depends on your lure size & presentation, and on the expected size of the walleye you’re going to catch. 

If you’re a beginner and not sure about all these details yet, the ideal pound test line to choose for walleye is 4 lb fluorocarbon. That’s light enough to fool many of the finicky biters, yet still strong enough to handle the majority of fish you can expect to hook.

Hungry to learn more? Take a look at our in-depth beginners guide on ice fishing.

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