How to Catch Trout in a Lake

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Catching trout in a lake is different from catching trout in other kinds of water bodies. Some lakes are quite large and that makes it seem difficult to find and catch them. The following tips will show you how to catch rainbow trout, brown trout and brook trout at any lake.

Best Lakes for Catching Trout

Fly fisherman call lakes still-water and they call rivers moving water. Rivers get their oxygen from the movement of the water. Lakes generally depend on wind to bring oxygen to the water. A lake that’s good for trout fishing is usually going to be windy at times. That’s why some of the best lakes for fishing are those that are surrounded by mountains. The surrounding hills and mountains generate wind which in turn oxygenates the water. Windy lakes are often the best lakes for catching trout.

Top Lures for Catching Trout in a Lake

The kind of lure you use to catch trout in a lake is going to depend on how you’re fishing. When fishing from the shore you will need lures that will cast far enough. This is true whether you’re fishing with natural or artificial baits.

Fishing a lake from a boat or a kayak gives you the option to troll lures (pull them behind you). But another option that’ll put you onto trout is to anchor up and stay in a spot for a few minutes. The lures discussed in this article can be fished from shore, boat and kayak.

Best Lures for Catching Trout from Shore

Recommended lures for catching trout are:

  1. Spoons
  2. Soft baits (like real or artificial worms and grubs)
  3. Inline spinners
  4. Hard baits (aka stick baits or jerk bait lures)
Lure Type Lure Lure Lure
Spoons Kastmaster Little Cleo, Thomas Buoyant Mepps Little Wolf
Stick Baits HD Trout Rapala X-Rap Rapala X-Rap CountDown
Soft Bait PowerBait Mice Tails Gulp! Minnow Crappie Minnr
Inline Spinners Panther Martin Worden’s Rooster Tail Mepps Aglia

Casting Spoons for Trout

Spoons are an ideal choice for catching trout. It’s the first lure I choose when first arriving at a lake. A spoon will catch rainbow trout, brown trout and brook trout.

Casting a spoon is a way to target every species of trout. This is useful for when you don’t know which kind of trout is in a lake. You should always pack at least two spoons in a 1/4 ounce size. One spoon can be firetiger color and the other spoon can be a metallic color.

Rainbow trout caught on a firetiger colored spoon

The weather became overcast. I switched to a firetiger colored spoon and caught this feisty rainbow trout.

Whether fishing from shore or a kayak, you will sometimes need to cast far to reach trout. Cast the spoon beyond where you think the trout are. Then quickly reel in the spoon a few feet to take up the slack. Afterward reel it at a moderate speed so that it passes near where the trout are. Kastmasters are handy when the trout are rising in the distance. Kastmaster spoons can outcast virtually any other spoon of similar weight.

In general, colors don’t matter but when it comes to spoons, yes colors do matter. Shiny spoons work best under blue skies and a bright sun.

The Mepps Little Wolf spoon features a silver plating. Silver plating flashes brighter than chrome. It is superior to all other finishes when you need the brightest flash. Slightly dirty water on a bright sunny day is the best time for casting a Mepps Little Wolf spoon.

Painted spoons, like the firetiger color, work best under cloudy conditions. The Little Cleo and Thomas Buoyant spoons have a similar action. They don’t cast as far as the Kastmasters but they can be fished slower than a Kastmaster. Read all about fishing spoons here: Catch More Fish with Fishing Spoons.

Stick Baits for Casting

Stick baits, are hard plastic lures shaped like minnows. They are a classic lure for catching trout. Big trout will respond to lures that are three inches to four inches long. But lures between two inches to three inches are the standard size. I suspect that trout sometimes strike at stick baits out of territorial extinct. Trout are territorial. Big rainbow trout always claim the best spots where food is plentiful. But they may be trying to eat the bait, too.

A fast retrieve is meant to trigger what’s called a “reaction strike.” A reaction strike is an instinctive chase response to chase. This is like when a dog sees a squirrel and is triggered into chasing it. A slow retrieve represents an easy to catch meal.  A slow retrieve could also represent a fish that is challenging a trout. Try either retrieve and stick with the one that produces trout.

Dynamic Lures produces a trout lure called HD Trout. The paint jobs, finish and action make these lures fish catchers. They’re a slow sinking lure, not a floating lure. Sinking lures perform well in rough water when the wind is making waves on the lake.

Sinking lures can also be slowly retrieved to catch the trout that are close to the bottom. You can’t do that with a floating lure. A floating lure has to be retrieved quickly to get it down to the bottom. A sinking lure can be cast out, allowed to reach the proper depth then slowly reeled back (Read: Sinking lures catch trout).

The Rapala X-Rap is engineered to call attention to itself. It comes in the standard suspending model and the sinking model. Both versions come in beautiful finishes and feature the famous Rapala trout attracting action.

Soft Bait for Catching Rainbow Trout

Berkley PowerBait Floating Mice Tails

Hands down, the Berkley PowerBait Floating Mice Tails is one of the best lures for catching trout from shore or on a kayak or boat. As long as you know how to rig it, you’re almost guaranteed to catch trout. (Read: Review and tutorial on PowerBait Floating Mice Tails).

Fishing a PowerBait Mice Tail is as easy as clipping on a split shot then casting it out. Jig it or float it from the bottom. Mice Tails flat out catch trout.

I don’t even use trout dough anymore, it’s that good. PowerBait Mice Tails are economical. One lure can catch a dozen trout. When you’re done just put it back in the bag to reuse the next time you’re fishing. One bag of lures can last you all year long.

In general, about three weeks after a trout planting, rainbow trout will respond well to what looks like an easy meal, which is a lure that doesn’t move too much. That’s when I fish the Floating Mice Tails with a Slip Sinker Rig (Read: How to Catch Rainbow Trout with a Slip Sinker Rig). In my experience, this lure presentation does not work with any other species of trout except rainbow trout.

Soft Bait Under a Float for Rainbow Trout

Floating a soft bait lure under a float is a great way to catch Rainbow Trout when the trout are from twelve to eighteen inches from the top. Berkley Gulp! Minnow in the 2.5″ works great when the wind is blowing on a lake. Just tie it about 18 inches under a float and cast it out, let it drift. Big Bite Bait’s Crappie Minnr in the 2 inch size works very well. There were times when I was catching a trout on every cast with the Crappie Minnr.

The thing about using soft baits is to try out different presentations. Sometimes rainbow trout want something that moves around that they can chase. That’s when using a float is the best technique. At other times, they are relating 8 to 18 inches from the bottom of the lake; that’s when to try the Floating Mice Tails.

Inline Spinners for Rainbow Trout

Inline spinners, along with spoons, are a great choice if you’re going to show up at a lake and walk around. Keeping mobile is a good way to find where the trout are hiding.  Inline spinners are small and light, making it easy to carry a wide selection in a box that’s small enough to fit in a jacket pocket.  Packing light allows you to easily fish for trout in a lake.

Panther-Martin Inline Spinners feature genuine silver plating.

My father swears by Panther Martin spinners.  It’s the only lure he uses to catch trout and I’ve seen him catch a mess of rainbow trout with them. Inline spinners are a great lure for catching trout. One of the biggest trout I’ve ever seen, over two feet long, was caught by a thirteen year old kid with an all black Mepps inline spinner.

The downside of inline spinners is that they’re light and can’t cast as far as a spoon. Inline spinners can also be fussy about the retrieve speed. Worden’s Rooster Tail spinners feature what’s called a willow leaf blade. The shape of blade requires it to be retrieved quickly in order to spin right. It won’t spin correctly if you spin it too slow. Rooster Tails also tend to sink fast so they can end up dragging the bottom on the shallows.

The upside of the Worden’s Rooster Tail design is that it has less air resistance, allowing it to be cast further than other brands of inline spinners. It also allows it to be retrieved at a faster speed which is what many species of trout sometimes react to.

The design of the Panther Martin and the Mepps Aglia inline spinner blades is called a French blade. The French blade is wider, with an indentation, like a scoop, in the center. This gives it more lift than a Worden’s Rooster tail and allows it to be fished more slowly. This slow retrieve allows the lure to stay in the trout’s strike zone longer, increasing your chances of a strike.

Both Panther Martin and Mepps Aglia inline spinners feature genuine silver plating. This feature makes it flash brighter and for a longer distance than other brands of inline spinners. Silver plated lures are killer on sunny days after a day or two of rainy weather. The water can be slightly darker but the sun reflecting off the silver plating makes it flash like no other lure. They are absolutely deadly for catching any species of trout on these days.



Disclosure: This article may contain Amazon affiliate links. I receive a commission from products purchased at through my links at no extra cost to you. Reviews on reflect my actual testing and opinion of the products reviewed.
Filed in: Trout Fishing

1 Comment on "How to Catch Trout in a Lake"

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  1. herb says:

    great advice and information thanks

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