Trout Fishing Lures, Rigs, and Baits

In this article we review the most effective types of trout fishing lures, rigs, and baits.

So what’s the difference between a trout fishing rig, bait, and lure?

A lure is an artificial bait, typically made of plastic, that entices a fish to eat it.

A rig is an assortment of parts assembled on a fishing line that includes some type of lure or bait.

Bait is usually some type of live food used to attract a fish, such as a minnow or worm.

Baits and lures are often mistaken to be the same. The only difference is that baits are real and lures are an imitation.

Now how does this apply to trout?

What type of bait, lure, or rig do you need to catch a trout?

There is no one size fits all approach to trout fishing. Different seasons, time of day, and water conditions will demand different presentations to get a fish to strike.

Read this article before you go to the store or head down to your local stream.

Quick tip for getting started with trout fishing.

We want you to be well informed so you can become a successful trout angler!

The easiest way to get there is to identify what the trout in your area will be feeding on during the time you will be fishing.

A good place to start is your states’ local Department of Wildlife website.

They usually have a post or two about what can be found in local waters.

They may even have a fishing report.

Another great way to understand what trout eat: Go to the water you think the fish are in, and observe.

Watch the water as you fish and take note of everything you see.

Have a conversation with fellow anglers.

Are they breaking the surface to eat insects?

Are they spawning?

Chasing smaller fish?

These are just a few questions you can ask that might help you.

You will, without a doubt, catch more fish if you show up to the water with the right tackle and a good knowledge of how to use it.

So let’s discuss what you’ll need to get started.

Trout Fishing Lures

Trout lures come in many different shapes, sizes, materials, and colors.

With an endless amount of tackle to throw at a fish, how do you pick the right one?

Most trout are not easily fooled, so making the right choice is important.

The good news is that there’s a lot of time-tested trout tackle that any fisherman should have with them at certain times of the year.

Let’s break it down by season.

Spring Lures for Trout

Spring is a great time to be in the water. The weather is getting nicer, the water is warming up, and the fishing is likely very good.

Trout are now coming out of their winter slumps and activity will be increasing.

Inline Spinner baits

These Inline spinner baits are great for spring fishing.

They flash with vibrant colors and mimic small bait fish or fry in the water.

The vibration of the spinning blade is something the trout will likely notice.

Marabou Jigs

The jigs by VMC have always been a reliable choice.

To learn more about jigs check out theBurnsly Guide to Jig Fishing.

At this time of the year, river banks are beginning to thaw from their winter state. With this comes fresh ground water, snow run off, and all the little critters in the dirt. Grubs, worms, and larvae are starting to enter the streams and become a staple of the trout diet.

Jigs are perfect for imitating those bugs and small bait fish.

Colors like green, brown, and grey should be included in your tackle box this time of the year.

Small Fishing Spoons

Small spoons are great this time of the year.

Just like the spinner baits, spoons offer a flash that is similar to that of a small bait fish.

Another unique feature of spoons is that they are heavy, which makes them good for deeper water and faster current.

Summer Lures for Trout

During summer, most trout will move to deeper waters where it is a bit cooler and more oxygenated.

Most trout in these waters are actively feeding on large bait fish, crustaceans, and bugs.

Use lures that make sense for the water you are fishing in.

For example using a lure that looks like a small bug makes more sense in a pond or small stream than it does in a large lake.

Big Fishing Spoons

Bigger spoons are a must-have in the tackle box.

The little Cleo spoons are always a great option for their ability to be launched far out into the water and hitting the target depths quickly.

Crayfish Crankbaits

Trout will also pounce on the opportunity to enjoy a crayfish meal.

Crayfish are very active throughout the summer months.

Lures that mimic other small bugs like crickets and grasshoppers have also been known to catch fish.

To be honest, unless you are trolling one of the Great Lakes, the summer season is often the slowest time of the year for trout fishing.

In most states trout fishing is out of season in the summer.

Fall Lures for Trout

Fall may be the best season to catch trout.

In the Pacific North West and the Great Lakes region, salmon and brown trout will enter the tributaries and begin to spawn in early to mid autumn.

Steelhead and rainbow trout will swim in after the salmon and browns and eat the eggs that are produced from spawning (friendly, right?).

Salmon eggs are high in protein and often found all over the river bed, making them the ideal meal for hungry trout.

That being said, egg patterns are essential to have in your box.

This could be beads, egg sacks, cured salmon roe, jigs, or basically anything that slightly resembles a fish egg.

Trout Beads

Trout beads are awesome because they don’t require any maintenance when you get them tied on. You can just keep casting.

Beads are also super effective when used under a float.

It is by far the most used lure in the great lakes region.

Fishing with a centerpin is a great compliment to float fishing with beads.

Egg or Spawn Sacks

Egg Sacks are another type of bait.

They come in different colors and they are a lot easier to fish with when compared to Roe(eggs attached to the egg membrane.)

Sacks that either float or sink are effective in their own ways.

If your rig has a lot of weight and you are trying to get to the bottom of the creek. Then floating sacks will be a better choice.

However, if your rig is lightweight and you are drifting your sack along with the current, a sack that doesn’t float will be more appropriate.

The fish are typically near the bottom of the creek waiting for the eggs to be kicked up in the current.

So 3-6 inches from the bottom is the sweet spot for hooking up. This area is known as the strike-zone.

If you want to work with a jig, a peach color or red seems to do the trick.

Winter Lures for Trout

Fish are a bit lethargic throughout the winter.

The “easy drive through meal” is going to land the biggest fish.

Your lure has to be something that’s filling and doesn’t require a lot of work for the fish.

At this time of the year your tackle box should contain some big lures with lots of finesse.

Twitching Jig

Once again, the trout jig makes an appearance this time of year.

Whites, blacks, pinks, and purples are great colors to work with.

Also, bigger profile jigs that you can twitch and add a lot of action to is what the fish are looking for.

White Trout Beads

Beads are still effective at this time of the year as well. But rather than matching the hatch with a glo roe, or peach color, you will want to use a dead egg color (white or cream).

These colors are more realistic because unfertilized eggs become pale in the winter months. White or cream colors also show contrast in the water, which goes back to that “easy drive through meal” mentioned earlier.

Pink Worms

Another successful lure is the pink worm. It is super simple, but it works.

Rigging is pretty straight forward with a worm. If you are float fishing, you can put a hook in the tip and send it downstream.

Give it a twitch or two and wait for a strike.

Trout Fishing Bait

Trout have an incredibly strong sense of smell.

It’s true, check out our post on prepared baits. It goes in much greater detail about why you should use baits.

Unlike lures, bait is usually a live minnow or worm that gives off an odor in the water.

Simply put, bait’s biggest advantage is its authenticity.

As an angler you might lean more towards using lures, as they can be more effective and less of a hassle.

So why use a lure over a bait?

Here’s why:

Lures are more efficient. You can get more casts with a lure vs. bait.

Most baits will only last a cast or two and then you need to re-rig.

If you are constantly re-rigging, not only are you wasting money, you are also wasting time.

Not catching fish.

A lot of trout fishing is done in cooler weather, so you might have gloves on.

Using bait requires more diligent work with tying knots and handling smelly stuff (which is sticky and a bitch to clean up by the way).

In frigid weather this can really suck to have to keep cleaning your hands in icy water.

This will make your gloves and your hands messy and cold.

However, if you decide to take the path of using a bait, let us show you where to get started.

Live Bait

Live bait is a go-to for trout fishing.

Especially in the summer months when trout are actively feeding on small fish and worms.

A lure may not be as attractive in a setting where trout can afford to be more selective. So tossing out the real deal might be what you need to get the job done.

Emarlad shiners, crayfish, night-crawlers, and blood worms are all possibilities for live bait.

For the most part, these can all be purchased at your local tackle shop.

During the fall and winter months, many anglers opt to use a wax worm.

The application is simple, you grab one of the grub like worms and just put them on the hook of any of your baits.


Other Types of Bait

If you spend any amount of time in a sporting goods store or a tackle shop you will see a lot of other “things” to try out.

We recommend trying it! Fishing is a great way to get outdoors and try new things.

Weird baits like marshmallows, corn, or trout dough are just some of things you might discover in the aisle of a tackle shop.

Sometimes trout and many other fish will take a swipe at things that are just unique. So you might surprise yourself. It can be a rush to discover a new way of catching fish.

It also makes you a better angler.

Trout Fishing Rigs

A trout fishing rig is a series of parts strung together to make presentation that entices a fish.

Trout fishing rigs, for the most part, are pretty straight forward.

Drop Shot Rig

A drop shot rig is very common setup for many types of fishing. The purpose of the rig is to keep the lure suspended in the strike zone and separate itself from the terminal tackle.

With a drop shot rig, your lure or bait is in a more vulnerable position for a fish to take a strike at it. In addition to the ideal positioning, the lure or bait is on it’s own and offers a finesse presentation.

How To Set Up a Drop Shot Rig

The easiest way to create a drop shot rig is to have three parts. The 3 way swivel, egg sinker, and a circle hook.

The main line attaches to the top of the swivel.

The leader, about 6 inches in length, gets attached to the middle of the 3-way swivel. Tie the other end of the leader to the hook or lure

The last piece of the rig is the sinker, which is tied to the remaining ring on the swivel.

Use a line that’s a few pounds lighter than the main line and about an inch longer than the leader line. That way when it gets snagged (trust us, it will) you only lose your sinker instead of the whole rig. Mid-sized egg sinkers generally work best.

When fishing with a drop shot rig it is important to keep your line taught. If you don’t, the lure will rest on the bottom of the creek without action and it will defeat the purpose of the rig.


When To Use a Drop Shot Rig

Drop shot rigs are very versatile. When it comes to trout fishing this rig works particularly well with soft plastics, egg sacks, and live bait.


How To Use a Drop Shot Rig

Slowly lifting and keeping the line tight on the retrieve is the most effective way for catching fish on this set up.

Adding a little pop or twitch sporadically during the retrieve will add just a little hint of action to get those tough to catch fish biting.

Float Fishing Rig

A float rig is the most used rig for trout because of two things.

It is highly effective and it is very simple to use.

How To Set Up a Float Fishing Rig

You should read our guide to float fishing if you really want the full scoop on float fishing.

For this post, we will describe a simple float fishing setup.

A hook, a float, and a sinker are the only three things you will need.

With this rig your sinker will be a split shot.

To set it up, put the float on the main line first. It should be about 6 inches at the minimum from the split shot.

Next, add the split shot to the line by pinching the weights directly on the line.

Finally attach the lure or hook to the end of the line.


When To Use a Float Fishing Rig

Float rigs are really the only way to use trout jigs and beads.

Another great way to use this rig is for suspending egg sacks, roe, and worms.


How To Use a Float Fishing Rig

Fortunately using a float fishing rig is very easy.

Cast it out, wait for the bobber to drop, set the hook, and enjoy the ride.

Here are a few pointers to really get the most out of this set up:

Keep the line taught.

When a fish drops your float you need to set the hook quickly.

If there is any slack in the line between the rod tip and the float you could miss setting the hook. Line control will be a major part of your success.

Space out your split shot.

When you crimp the weight to the line, space it out by an inch or so. It should look similar to shirt button spacing. This will insure the bait makes it to the strike zone.

Get jiggy with it.

In those colder months experiment with twitching the rig at random throughout a drift. Sometimes it’s enough to trigger a reaction strike.

With all of this info at your fingertips, we hope it helps you become a better trout angler.

Tight lines!