There are five basics you need to know to catch trout. And while even experienced anglers get skunkedTo be skunked means to not catch any fish. some of the times, these five basics will show you how to improve your fishing skills so that you’ll catch more trout most of the time! Whether you are new to fishing or have some experience, these tips will help you fish better.
There are many variations that affect fishing such as geography, weather, fishing pressureFishing pressure means how crowded a fishing spot is. A spot that is fished all the time by many anglers is said to be pressured., trout species, whether trout are wild or stocked. Everything in this article is going to help you deal with whatever situation your faced with. Trout behavior changes constantly. The following information will help you catch more trout most of the time.
Five Steps for Catching Trout:
- Use several kinds of lure & bait
- Weather & water visibility help you choose best lures to use
- Water temperature affects lure choice and depth
- Trout species you’re trying to catch affects lure choice
- Know how to read the water & weather, you’ll know where the trout are
The reason why you will be more successful is because trout preferences can change. Knowing different ways to catch trout will help you adapt to changes and catch more fish. So the first thing this article will teach is all the best ways to catch trout.
Best Lures and Baits for Catching Trout
There are several kinds of luresA lure means an artificial bait. and baitsBait generally refers to something that is or was alive. that you must know how to fish with. The following is a list of lures and baits that I have used to catch trout most of the time. You don’t need to bring them all every time you go fishing. But having a selection handy is helpful.
List of the Essential Lures and Baits for Trout
- PowerBait Trout Dough
- PowerBait Floating Mice Tails
- Fishing Spoons
- Inline Spinners
- Soft Bait
- Live Worms & Salmon Eggs
- Fly Fishing
Catching Trout with Dough Bait in Lakes, Reservoirs & Ponds
Berkeley PowerBait dough is perhaps one of the most popular baits for catching stocked rainbow trout in ponds, lakes and reservoirs. Not recommended for streams or rivers. It doesn’t work as well for wild trout, holdover troutA holdover trout is a trout that was planted the previous year and has reverted to a wild state. or stockedStocked trout, also known as planted trout, are trout that are raised in captivity specifically for being fished or sold at a supermarket. brown trout, but it works great for catching stocked rainbow trout because dough bait resembles the pellets they were fed at the trout hatcheryTrout are grown in large tanks in a trout hatchery, sometimes referred to as a trout farm.. The reason why dough bait works for catching stocked rainbow trout is because rainbows are naturally open to sampling something that looks like food. The reason why dough bait does not generally work with brown trout is because brown trout look for swimming or wiggle movement in their food, something dough bait doesn’t do.
How to Use Dough Bait
Dough bait is a floating baitA bait that's meant to float 8 to 18 inches from the bottom of the lake or reservoir. This puts your bait in front of a trout's face, right where you want it.. The most popular brand is PowerBait. It’s offered in many colors and scents. You don’t need more than two or three colors. I’ve tried so many colors and styles that in the end, I think you could probably get away with just one color. I’ve caught rainbow trout with garlic scented, sherbet, rainbow, chartreuse, fluorescent orange, and white. The common method for fishing a dough bait is on a slip sinker rig.
Slip Sinker Rig
A slip sinker rig for trout consists of a 1/16th ounce to 1/4 ounce bullet weight on your main line. Then you thread a small plastic bead onto the line, followed by a barrel swivel to the end. On the other end of the barrel swivel you attach your 12-18 inch leader with the fishing hook. The weight will be able to slide up and down the main line but will stop at the bead. Sometimes trout are even closer to the bottom so you can shorten your leader as short as eight inches. On the other end of the swivel attach about 12 to 18 inches of 2 pound test to 6 pound test mono line (2# to 6# test). This is called the leader line, or more commonly it is simply called the leader.
The dough bait must float about 12 to 18 inches from the bottom of the lake. The reason is because planted trout are raised in shallow hatchery tanks. Stocked trout are accustomed to swimming 12 to 18 inches above the bottom and they continue to do so after being planted in a lake, pond or river.
At the end of your leaderA leader is a length of fishing line to which you attach a hook. The other end of the leader is attached to your main fishing line via a swivel. The leader can be thinner or thicker than your main line. This helps you adjust your line to fishing conditions & conserve your main line. you can attach the thinnest and smallest treble hook you can find. Don’t worry about a trout bending your hook. Bent hooks rarely happen and when it does it’s not the hook’s fault. Bent hooks are almost always the angler’s fault for setting their drag too tight.
A thin light wire hook is best. The thinner diameter of a thin hook is able to penetrate more easily. Additionally, a fine diameter hook is easier to float than a heavier hook. Some anglers use an extra fine dry fly hook which is easiest of all to float. It’s easiest to use a treble hook because the dough bait tends to stay on longer.
The last step to fishing with a dough bait is to cast it out. You don’t need to cast very far, trout swim surprisingly close to shore! If you cast too hard the force of the cast might cause the dough bait to fly off. So gently lob the bait out, set the pole in a rod holder and wait.
What is a Floating Mouse Tail?
Floating mice tails are a soft plastic worm with a circular head. Although they are meant to be fished as a floating lure, they can be fished several different ways. It’s popular in California but less well known elsewhere around the country. Floating mice tails are manufactured by Berkley PowerBait and their formal name is Berkley PowerBait Floating Mice Tails.
Floating mouse tails are a soft bait that PowerBait claims is infused with their secret formula scent. That may be, but I’ve soaked the same bait for days, reusing it to catch trout after trout. I’m positive whatever scent was on it was gone and it still caught trout! In fact, the more torn up and raggedy the mouse tail becomes the better it works! A couple bags of these lures can last several seasons.
How to Use PowerBait Floating Mice Tails
The way to use a floating mouse tail lure is the same way as with dough bait, with a slip sinker rig. The only difference is that you must use a thin diameter single hook (never a treble). The best hook size is in sizes 12 to 16.
A thin diameter size 12 hook is a good all around size. If you need to hide the hook then a size 14 is a good compromise. When the water temperature makes it difficult to float the mice tails try a size 16 hook.
Size 16 hooks work great for catching trout of all sizes. But a size 12 hook is easier to work with whether threading a worm or unhooking a trout.
An important tip about slip sinker fishing with mice tails is that while stocked rainbow trout love it, brown trout do not.
Different Ways to Use Floating Mice Tails
Mice tails are versatile lures. They can be fished in different ways. Thus, if fish aren’t responding to a bait that’s floating 18 inches from the bottom you can try something different. If the trout have a preference for a lure that’s moving you can still use the mice tails.
Brown trout and rainbow trout response well to lures that are swimming. You can do a slow to medium retrieve of your mice tail lure and catch both rainbow and brown trout. This has saved the day for me on hot summer days when the air was still and the trout weren’t biting.
Jigging for Trout
Here is a great way to catch trout. Tie a single hook (not a treble) directly to your main line. Then add a split shot about six to 18 inches above the floating mouse tail. Now cast it out and retrieve it slowly, giving it a subtle jiggle now and then. Pause now and then during the retrieve to let it sink then resume reeling it in. This way of fishing a mice tail drives all trout species crazy.
Brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout all respond positively to a split shot jigged mice tail. Split shot jigging a Berkley mouse tail is a way to catch trout on warm summer days when the fishing becomes difficult.
Definition of Fishing Spoons
Fishing spoons (also known as Casting Spoons) are metal lures. They come in a variety of shapes but they all do the same thing, which is to imitate a fleeing bait fish. Fishing spoons can be cast out and retrieved or trolled from a boat or kayak. They come in metallic finishes as well as in colors, including UV reflective colors.
Must-have Fishing Spoons for Trout:
- Thomas Buoyant
- Mepps Little Wolf
- Lure-Jensen Super Dooper
- Acme Little Cleo
Why do Fishing Spoons Work?
Fishing spoons movement trigger a trouts automatic response to chase it down and try to eat it. Spoons that feature a shiny metallic finish will flash in the sunlight. The flash resembles a panicking school of small fish and attracts trout from a distance.
What are the best color spoons for catching trout?
You don’t need a wide variety of colors and finishes. All you need to know is that metallic spoons work on sunny days and don’t work on overcast days. On overcast days try using painted spoons. Bright colors are useful during periods of low light or in dark colored water.
The best colors for catching trout with spoons depends on how sunny or dark it is. When visibility is low try a spoon that is brightly colored. Spoons with contrasting color schemes work regardless if the day bright or dark.
List of Best Colors for Fishing Spoons
Spoons for Sunny days
- Genuine silver plate
- Genuine gold
- Combinations: chrome/blue chrome/red and Silver/Gold
Spoons for Dark Days or Dark Water
- Fluorescent colors
Inline spinners are great lures to use for catching trout. The reason they work is because fish can see and hear them. Inline spinners create a flashThe flash created by the metallic finish blades are said to represent scales of a fish flashing in the water. and also create a churning sound in the water. Trout can hear the spinner blades from considerable distances.
Spinner lures are a good choice on low visibility days because of the sound they make. They are also recommended for sunny days because they are easy to see plus they make noise.
Best Inline Spinner Lures for Trout
- Panther Martin Original Spinners
- Rooster Tail
- Blue Fox Vibrax
- Mepps Plain Aglia
Panther Martin, Blue Fox and Mepps Aglia feature a blade style called a French Blade. A French blade is wide and provides lift, like the wings on an airplane. This lift makes it easy to get the blades spinning, even on a slow retrieve.
All three spinner lures are can be retrieved slowly. This is good because it allows you to fish the lure from top to bottom with a slow retrieve. Trout like a slow retrieve because it represents an easy to catch meal.
Additionally, the Panther Martin and Blue Fox spinners feature genuine silver and gold plate. Genuine silver and gold plating reflect the most lightThe most reflective metal finishes are silver, gold, copper, brass and nickel, in that order., far more than nickel plating.
The Panther Martin spinner is the most well known brand. But the Blue Fox and Mepps spinners work just as well. I have used all these brands and recommend them for all trout species.
The Worden’s Rooster Tail is one of the best inline spinners. The blade on a Rooster Tail is called a willow blade. Willow blades are not as wide as French blades and do not provide as much lift.
The secret to fishing a Rooster Tail spinner is to fish it with a fast retrieve. A slow retrieve will cause the blades to not spin well, if at all. Always fish a Rooster Tail on a fast retrieve to get the blades spinning.
A Rooster Tail works because it represents a fleeing bait fish. The fast retrieve stimulates a chase response in trout. This response is sometimes called a reaction bite.
Best Inline Spinner Colors
The Panther Martin silver plated spinner with a yellow body and red dots is a good choice. Another one is the model with a gold blade matched to a black body. Blue Fox and Mepps sell similar silver and gold plated blade spinners. These are all recommended for sunny days.
High contrast blade and body colors work well for bright days as well as for overcast days. During bright days in clear shallow water, muted colors will help avoid spooking trout. Pick a fluorescent or high contrast color scheme for overcast days.
Some may swear by a particular color scheme and there may be something to it. But always keep in mind that lure color is mostly for attracting attention. Some colors resemble food, but not most of them. After all, how many insects do trout eat that are bubblegum pink?Bubblegum pink works great for attracting the attention of rainbow trout. Choose your colors for attracting attention and don’t feel you need a lot of them. You don’t.
Size and speed of retrieve are more important than color. color attracts attention. Size and speed fool the trout into believing your lure is alive.
So what’s the best inline spinner color? The answer depends on visibility and weather.
Best Inline Spinner Sizes
All the manufacturers have different sizing models. The first three sizes (usually size 0, 1, & 2) are ideal for trout. These generally correspond to a weight of 1/16, 1/12, 1/8, & 1/6 of an ounce.
A quarter ounce is the largest recommended size. This size works well for windy days when a little more weight is needed for casting. It’s also a good choice for low visibility conditions.
Inline Spinners You Need for Catching Trout:
- For sunny days, your best bet are gold plated spinners from 1/16th to 1/8th ounce.
- For low visibility conditions select fluorescent spinners from 1/16th to about 1/4 ounce
Recommended Inline Spinners
Try the Panther Martin Deadly 6-Pack for Trout. The set has everything you’ll need for a day on the water and they cost less than if purchased individually.
I’ve been using soft lures to catch loads of trout. And even though it’s one of the best lures I use, not many anglers seem to know about it.
This is a great trout catching technique to use on lakes, reservoirs and rivers. Using something different allows you to show the trout something they’ve never seen before. Trout are curious and open to experimenting as long as the lure behaves like food. Small soft baits are lifelike and resemble typical things trout eat. They are an ideal lure to use.
Why Panfish Soft Plastic Lures Work
Trout eat things that behave like food. It doesn’t have to look like food, it just has to move around like food. Soft pan fish baits are soft. The water current causes them to move around like they’re swimming.
How to Use Soft Baits for Trout
The first way most kids learn how to catch fish is with a bobber and a worm. It’s a halfway decent way to catch trout with a little adjustment.
Change the bobber style and you’ll be able to cast epic distances. In fact, you’ll even be able to catch trout when everybody else isn’t.
The best way to fish a crappie bait under a bobber is when there’s a current or when there’s wind. Both create a little chop on the water that make the bait come alive.
But if the water is calm you can still give the tip of your rod a subtle wiggle to impart movement. Trout ignore objects that are floating by. The way to interest trout in your soft bait is to wiggle it a little, making it look like it is alive. So if the waves or current aren’t cooperating, use your rod tip to impart life to the lure. The wiggle fools the trout, provoking an attack response.
Best Bobbers for Fishing
The first problem with bobber fishing is the bobber. Round bobbers are the worst kind of bobber to use. The better bobbers are longer than they are wide. These thinner bobbers can transmit nibbles better and can be cast for greater distances. Get rid of the red and white round bobbers.
A popular bobber is the Adjust-a-Bubble. You can fill it with water and get it to weigh about a quarter ounce. That’s a good weight that’ll cast far, further than a conventional bobber.
I like bubble bobbers because you can adjust how much it weighs by how much water you fill it with. For example, bubble bobbers can be filled lightly to minimize the splash when landing. Or you can make it heavier for when you need to cast it further out or against a wind.
Adjust-a-Bobbers are a little pricey though. A cheaper bobber that works just as well is called a Foam Weighted Bobber. The only downside to a weighted bobber is that you can’t adjust the weight. But it casts ok against the wind. Whichever bobber you choose, it’ll be a better choice than the round bobbers.
Worms, grubs and salmon eggs are a tried and true easy way to catch trout. It’s best to dig up your own worms or grubs becaues buying them is more expensive than lures. But they’re a good choice if you rarely go fishing or are fishing with kids.
In general you want to have a worm that’s no longer than three inches long. You can use big fat nightcrawlers, but in my experience the smaller one work best. Trout generally eat bugs that are a quarter inch to one and a half inch long. So a fat six inch nightcrawler is kind of overkill. Smaller worms tend to catch more trout for me. Feel free to experiment.
How to Fish with Worms, Grubs, Waxworm and Mealworms
Now that you’ve chosen your worm, grub , or “waxwormA waxworm is the caterpillar larvae form of a moth. If you can't find them at the bait shop try the local pet supply store, where they are sold as lizard food. you can hook it with whatever kind of hook you want however a standard bait hook works great because it has a “keeper barbA keeper barb is a set of barbs on the long part of the hook that will help keep your bait from sliding off.” on the shank that will help keep your worm on the hook. Any hook will do except those small short shank egg hooks. The egg hook shanks are too small and ineffective for this purpose.
Waxworms and mealworm work great because they resemble food that trout eat. Garden worms work especially well after a rainstorm.
4 Ways to Fish with a Worm, Grub or Salmon Eggs
- Under a bobber
- With a split shot 12 inches or more above the worm
- Slow retrieve on the bottom of a river or lake
- Retrieved yo-yo style by lifting the rod tip then allowing the worm to gently fall
Stick baits/Hard Baits for Trout
Hard bodied lures, called stick baits, jerk baits and hard baits, work great for catching aggressive trout. Use lures from 2 inches to five inches, with around three plus inches being the best all around size.
Minnow shaped lures are the most effective but I’ve caught many trout using various other shapes like shad and the Storm Original Wiggle Wart. The key is to use baits that are between two to four inches in length. While I’m certain there’s always the oddball trout that will chase a six inch lure or a fat Wiggle Wart, our goal here is to catch trout most of the time. Nevertheless, it’s fun to mix things up now and then and show the trout something they’ve never seen before.
Best Hard Bait Colors
For sunny days when the fishing is hard, I like a color that Rapala and Owner make hard baits with see-through bodies. Rapala calls them Glass. They are tinted with a variety of colors and patterns. The sun shines through them and illuminates them like a light. Many pro bass fisherman like to sandpaper the paint off their lures to achieve a similar effect. The transparent baits work great for trout!
What are the best hard baits for trout?
Maybe the question should be what hard baits don’t work for trout. Here is a list of my favorite hard baits for trout.
Rapala Husky Jerk
My favorite colors are Firetiger, Glass Pink Clown, Glass Blue and Glass Perch. Husky Jerks cast far and can be trolled. They cost about six dollars each.
Owner Cultiva Mira Shad
This is not a well known lure, but they’re a hot lure in Northern California. The bait shops can barely keep them in stock during fishing season. Best size is 2 inches (1/8th ounce). My favorite colors are Pink Passion, Flame, and Brown Trout. Cast them or troll them. They cost about $8.99 each.
Berkley Cutter 90+
These lures are 3.5 inches long and feature an aggressive left to right frantic searching pattern. They cast well and come in some interesting colors. I like Pearl color and Black Silver.
Luck E Strike RC STX
This lure is an oddball recommendation because it’s actually designed for a species other than trout. However I caught two of the biggest brook trout of my life with these lures, plus a number of large and aggressive rainbow trout. The thin minnow shape plus the provocative panic swimming motion of the bait make this lure a winner for trout. These are known as jerk baits because they’re made to be jerked while retrieved. The RC STX come in numerous colors. I’m partial to the Deadly Black Illusion because it has worked so well for me in the past but I’m certain any of the other colors will work just as well.
Fly fishing for trout has a steep learning curve. However there is a Japanese style of fly fishing called Tenkara. Tenkara is so easy a child can learn how to do it in five minutes. Tenkara gear is also far less expensive that conventional fly fishing equipment. Best of all, Tenkara fly fishing is fun and it catches trout.
Definition of Tenkara
Tenkara is a Japanese style of fly fishing that does not use a reel. It is a “fixed line” style of fishing. The equipment consists of a rod, a line and a leader to which one attaches the fishing fly.
5 Reasons Why You Should Fish with Tenkara
- Tenkara rods are telescopic, so they pack down small to about 18 inches.
- Tenkara rods are small enough to fit in a backpack.
- Tenkara rods weigh about one to two ounces
- Tenkara rods are ideal for backpacking, camping, and traveling.
- Tenkara rods are effective for catching trout
My favorite source for Tenkara equipment is TenkaraBum.com. The proprietor, Chris Stewart is a gentleman and great person to do business with.
How Water & Weather Affects Trout Fishing
Weather and water clarity affects your fishing. Tactics for catching trout in warm weather differ from those for cooler weather. Additionally there is the factor of how bright or dark the skies are. All these factors contribute to lure choice, deciding the best color and fishing tactic.
There’s also that pesky issue of barometric pressure.
How Barometric Pressure Affects Fishing
Barometric pressure (the air pressure) is said to affect a trout’s swim bladder. That in turn affects how active the trout is and how you go about fishing for them.
I don’t pay attention to barometric pressure. I pay more attention to how bright or dark the day is. Then I figure out whether trout are cruising near the top or relating to closer to the bottom. Those trout conditions relate to the barometric pressure is. So I’m still fishing according to the effect the barometric pressure has on trout.
In a nutshell, when a storm front is on the way trout tend to feed more aggressively. After the front has passed and barometer pressure is high (and the skies turn blue), trout slow down and seek deeper water or shady areas. I don’t need to know the barometric pressure to respond to that behavior.
When trout are feeding aggressively (you can see them rising), it’s generally going to be a free for all. After a storm it can go either way. But it doesn’t have to be too hard.
Match Your Lures to the Weather and Water Conditions
If you find that the fishing has slowed down then what you can do is slow down your fishing as well. Slow down your fishing and switch to more conservative lure sizes and bait colors.
Earth tones like olives, dark reds and grays are good choices for when the fishing slows down. You might also wish to downsize your lure.
If the weather conditions are overcast and there is wind on the water, you might want to consider upsizing your lures and switching out to louder colors like bubblegum pink, firetiger, and other fluorescent colors.
How to Locate Trout in Lakes, Reservoirs and Rivers
I prefer to figure out whether a trout is relating to the bottom or to the top. A way to do that is to fish one pole with a slip sinker rig and another pole close to the top of the water column. The trout will tell you what mood they’re in. At times I’ve had to adjust the slip sinker so the bait was a mere eight inches from bottom.
If fish are relating to the top of the water column then that may be a signal they are in a feeding mode. If they are on the bottom it may be they are seeking shade, cooler water or feeding on the bottom.
Trout Hide in Structure
Fish relate to structure. Structure can be an abrupt change in depth, logs, shade, or boulders. Almost anything that is a transition of some kind can be structure. Identify structure and you may have identified where the trout are.
How to Fish when Skies are Bright & Sunny
Trout are usually going to be more wary and seek shady areas when the skies are blue. You don’t need to know the barometric pressure to know that. A reason they do that is the instinct to avoid attack from above by a bird of prey. Another reason is that trout don’t have eyelids and are sensitive to brightness.
For bright conditions, in general, avoid bright and gaudy colors. Stick to smaller lures, three inches or smaller. If you are casting from the shore or trolling you might wish to consider slowing down your presentation. Let your lure swim closer to the bottom.
Transparent lures tinted with a little color on top can be effective on sunny days. Hard bait lure maker Rapala calls this color glass.
Coves with overhanging trees are a great place to fish for trout when the sun is high and bright. Particularly on hot days, trout tend to seek shade and wait for food to come to them.
A French blade spinner lure is ideal because it can be fished slowly and close to the bottom. Another lure choice is a worm on a jig with a split shot about six to twelve inches above it.
A deadly strategy is to chuck a live live worm with an ultralight pole, using no weight at all. Cast it into the current and let it float down toward where the trout are waiting. An ultralight fishing pole can easily cast a live worm, even with a side cast. This is a deadly way to catch trout on a warmer day when trout seemingly aren’t biting. This tactic even works with a jiggly soft bait.
How to Catch Trout on Overcast Days
Trout love overcast days and are generally indifferent to rain. The only negative is if the water gets too cold, which will slow trout down. Overcast days are great times to go fishing. The best lure colors are generally white, dark, contrasting, and fluorescent colors. Metallic finishes are not recommended since there’s no sun to make them flash.
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