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Walleye Fishing in Muddy Water (With Lure and Color Tips)

Walleye Fishing in Muddy Water (With Lure and Color Tips)

Catching walleye in muddy or murky water isn’t the easiest of tasks, but fishing in such conditions also offers plenty of opportunities. And with the right type of lure and the right colors, you can crush any stained water walleye trip!

As there is low visibility in muddy water conditions, you should use lures that make noise and produce a lot of vibration. When it comes to lure colors, chartreuse, orange, and purple have proven highly effective in catching murky water walleye. 

Keep reading this article to get valuable and practical tips that will help you improve your walleye fishing in muddy water!

Can Walleye See in Muddy Water?

While walleye have relatively good eyesight in low visibility conditions, research has shown that their retinas can only recognize specific colors ranging from orange to yellow and green, as well as a modest recognition of violet.

However, this does not mean that they will see those colors clearly in stained water conditions. It only implies that these colors stick out a little and that the fish can spot them easier in low-visibility water.

The research mentioned above also suggests that the walleye will largely ignore other colors, which explains why so many anglers have difficulty catching them in muddy water.

But as you’ll read in this article, using the right colors, coupled with the right of lures, locations, and fishing methods, can be hugely advantageous in such conditions and will often catch you more fish.

So let’s take a closer look at the actual lure colors that anglers have had the most success with on the water!

What Is the Best Lure Color for Walleye in Muddy Water?

a smaller walleye caught on a fireball jig ready to be landed
Courtesy of Vince Gouin

I did a big online survey asking 200 walleye anglers for their favorite lure color for walleye fishing in muddy water. More than half of them voted for the color chartreuse.

Here is the complete result of the survey:

Lure ColorVotes
Chartreuse51%
Orange30%
Purple19%

It becomes evident that the best performing lure colors for muddy water walleye are the ones that the fish’s retinas can absorb and recognize the best.

Both chartreuse, which is of a strong greenish-yellow, and orange are right in the middle of the walleye’s color spectrum, and a total of 81% of the anglers I’ve surveyed catch most of their fish with these color variations.

This doesn’t come as a surprise, as these are intense colors that stick out even in very dark or stained water, especially if they are fluorescent, which is a preferred lure color feature of many walleye hunters.

The remaining 19% chose purple, which is a somewhat darker tone of violet.

And while this color goes somewhat against the stream, there is a lot of logic to it as well!

Darker colors are indeed harder to see underwater, especially in low-vis conditions, but they also cast a strong silhouette.

And so, it’s not the purple color itself that the walleye seem to spot down there in the dark, but the silhouette it produces. However, one might argue that this particular lure color only works on walleye positioned relatively close to the lure.

So now that we’ve covered color choice, let’s move on to the fishing methods that work best for walleye in muddy water!

How to Fish for Walleye in Muddy Water?

a female angler on a boat holding a big walleye that she has caught on a slow trolled crankbait
Courtesy of Andre Charron

The three most effective ways of fishing for muddy water walleye include trolling, bottom bouncing, and jigging.

All three methods allow you to cover a lot of water, which will help you locate active walleye in murky water conditions.

If you’re having a hard time getting bites, a good tip here is to try out all of them when you’re out on the water.

One method can outperform the other two on any given day, so experimenting with all three of them is your best bet!

But no matter which one, or ones, you choose, make sure to keep it slow!

Troll or bottom bounce as slowly as you possibly can and do your jigging slowly and carefully, and you’ll get those walleye bites!

In low-visibility conditions, the fish can be a little confused, and as they can’t see all that much, they certainly won’t swim and hunt as fast and precise as they’d do in normal conditions.

And so, you are much more likely to get them to take your lure if you don’t rush things! Let them locate your lure and give them a little extra time to strike.

Now, let’s check out some of the most effective lures you can use in combination with these three fishing methods!

What Are the Best Lures for Walleye Fishing in Muddy Water?

Crankbaits

Crankbaits that can be trolled at a slower speed are your best pick for muddy water walleye.

The classic Hot’n Tot comes as close as you’ll get to such a crankbait!

Not only does it perform very well at a slower trolling speed, but it also has a wider wiggle than other cranks.

PRO TIP: Troll the Hot’n Tot at about 1.5-2 mph to get the best action out of it!

And so, it’ll create a lot of movement and vibration underwater without having to go too fast, which is a huge plus for eyes in muddy water!

Additionally, the Hot’n Tot comes in some pretty hot colors for stained water fishing, including orange, yellow, and chartreuse. I think it’s hard to find a better-suited walleye crankbait for these conditions!

Take a look at the Hot’n Tot’s great colors on Amazon and pick up a few for your next walleye trip!

Jigs

a rigged fireball jig tipped with a small minnow for walleye
Courtesy of Andre Charron

Trolling cranks doesn’t always yield the best results in muddy water, and if the walleye are playing hard to get, slowly jigging a 1/4-3/8oz fireball tipped with a live or dead minnow can be absolutely deadly for muddy water eyes!

If live minnows are not allowed on your water, try other live bait options, such as leeches or nightcrawlers.

RELATED ARTICLE: If you’re unsure about your home state’s regulations on the use of live baits, make sure to check out this helpful state-by-state guide that I’ve written on the subject!

Jig that fireball slowly over the bottom and don’t shy away from longer pauses.

Every time the jig hits bottom, it sends out waves of vibration, which catches the walleye’s attention, even from afar. But for the fish to pick up your bait, it often needs to remain on the bottom for a little while.

Usually, it’s during those slightly longer pauses that you’ll feel a knock in your raised rod. Strike as soon as you feel that knock and the fight is on!

I think it’s the combination of natural bait and highly visible jighead that makes the fireball so effective!

PRO TIP: If live baits are off-limits, you can instead use softbaits, such as a Gulp Minnow or a Lunkercity Fin S. They can be as effective as the real thing!

If you want to try out the highly effective fireball jig on your next fishing trip, you can find it on Amazon here

Bottom Bounced Spinner Rigs

a small walleye caught on a spinner rig lying on a fishing net
Courtesy of Julian Drouillard

The third really effective technique for walleye in muddy water conditions is the spinner rig.

Fished in combination with a 1 -1 1/2oz bottom bouncer, the spinner rig is a truly deadly weapon for low-vis walleye fishing!

PRO TIP: Walleye seek out shallower depths in extremely low-vis conditions to use the small amount of light penetrating the water to their advantage when hunting. Shallower areas with a maximum depth of 8 to 10 feet should hence be your first pick.

This method has proven incredibly successful in extremely murky or stained water when everything else just doesn’t seem to cut it.

When visibility underwater is too low, the fish tend to keep close to the bottom, as it pretty much becomes their only point of orientation.

If that’s the case, a spinner rig trolled at a speed of 0.8-1.5 mph is, without a doubt, your best option.

You can pick up a couple of ready-tied spinner rigs and a few bottom bouncers on Amazon

Is Walleye Fishing Better in Muddy or Clear Water?

This is an excellent question that I get asked a lot. I’d always prefer stained or muddy over clear water, especially when it comes to shy species such as walleye.

Stained water offers so much more cover, and predators tend to roam and hunt more freely in such conditions. At least, that’s what I have observed plenty of times over the years.

Sure, it’s not as easy to locate or catch them in dirty water, but if you find the fish and the proper ways to target them, the results you’ll see will almost always be better than fishing in clear water conditions.

RELATED ARTICLE: Of course, you can’t always choose between clear or stained water. Read this article if you want to get helpful tips on walleye fishing in clear water conditions.

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Featured image courtesy of James Worden

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