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How to Pick the Right Trout Lure

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Flickr/Heath Alseike

Picking the right trout lure can mean the difference between coming home with a meal or empty-handed. 

Choosing the right trout lure is going to be tricky for a spincast fisherman looking to take advantage of the trout season. Most of the guidance you’ll find online will be for fly fishermen: the principles will be the same, but you can’t exactly rig up a wooly bugger for spincasting. (Well, you can…)

We’re here for you, though. This quick guide will give you a sense for how to approach the issue.

Adapting Flies for Spincasting

Trout fisherman love to say that “in fly fishing, it’s the line that casts the fly.” But there’s nothing stopping you from adding some split shot to a fly for spincasting. It won’t work well with dry flies for obvious reasons, but streamers and nymphs are supposed to sink, and you can fish them effectively with a little bit of split shot.

It’s tough to generalize about nymphs, but in general: match the hatch. A Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear is a good nymph with broad appeal, but keep a variety. Beyond that, just check the online fishing reports and familiarize yourself with the stream ecology.

Streamers are baitfish imitations just like your typical lures, so they’ll be selected in much the same way. There’s a simple rule of thumb for streamers—on a bright day, fish a dark streamer, and on a dark day fish a bright one.

Weather & Water

As usual, the weather is the first thing to look at when picking a trout lure. Season and cloud cover will be your paramount concerns here. In the winter, you may have to forego the spoons and spinners and use an adapted nymph. The trout are slow, groggy, and less apt to chase down big prey. In the summer, go wild with your spoons and spinners. For trout you should use something small and eye catching. Rooster Tails are the classic trout lure for spin casting—match it the same way you would a streamer.

Beyond the weather, you’re going to want to think about the water you’re fishing. The big question is whether it’s moving or still water. Most of the above holds for moving water, but trout behave much differently in lakes and ponds. Anglers have found that crankbaits work best, especially baitfish imitations like the Rapala.

When selecting your rig for moving water, be mindful that trout are often close to the bottom, looking up, and unlikely to chase a lure very far. You’re going to want your lure to fish close to the bottom without dragging. In still water you’ll want a deeper diving lure like a diving plug, but it’s still crucial that the lure doesn’t pass under the fish.

For whatever reason, salmonid like these two landlocked salmon love rooster tails. flickr/patti
Flickr/Patti

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What to Imitate

The role of insects in a trout’s diet is exaggerated. They do get a lot of their nutrients from small nymphs, but at heart they’re opportunists. They’ll go after small baitfish, crayfish, and worms just as eagerly, and these are the lures you’ll want to focus on when going for trout.

Small jigs that imitate crayfish are an excellent alternative to the above options, and any small baitfish imitation will come in handy. It’s important to keep your hooks and your baits small for trout. A lot of experts say no larger than a size six hook, and it isn’t hard at all to catch bigger fish on a smaller rig.

If you happen to be fishing in the summer, you may want to try using live bait. In general it won’t work well in winter, but it’s deadly when the trout are chasing bigger prey.

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How to Pick the Right Trout Lure