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Top Five Trout Lures

Any knucklehead can cast a small spinning lure into an Opening Day pool of freshly stocked trout and catch a few fish. But if you want to catch more trout more consistently -- including some very big ones -- then it's time you got serious.
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So quit with the chuck-it-and-chance-it already. Instead, take a hard look at the five basic categories of trout lures. Each has its own brand of subtlety and technique. Each has a prime time and place. And each can help you take more trout more often.

1. Spoons
There are thick spoons. There are thin spoons. Never the twain shall meet, at least in trout fishing.

Thick spoons run deep and as such are best for reaching down to early-season trout in fast water. Examples include the Little Cleo and the Krocodile (shown at left), both available in a variety of sizes down to 1/8 ounce or less. These and similar spoons are comparatively thick in proportion to their overall surface area; they cast like rockets and are great lures for covering lots of water in a hurry.

Use the smallest available sizes on small to midsize streams. Go up to 3/8- or even 1/2-ounce models on really big water. Basic colors are silver or gold, often with colored stripes or spots added. You can also customize your own spoons (see "Doctor Your Lures" sidebar).

Cast up and across in deep, fast water, but don't use a steady retrieve. The art of trout fishing with spoons is in reeling just fast enough to keep a tight line while pumping the rod tip to give a darting, tumbling action to the lure. A steady retrieve will catch some fish, but an erratic retrieve will catch more. Thinner spoons -- meaning less thick in proportion to their surface area; standard Dardevles are a good example -- don't fish as deeply. They work better later in the spring when the water is shallower, a little warmer, and trout are more aggressive.

2. In-Line Spinners
Deep-running is the key. Heavy-bodied, in-line spinners include the likes of Mepps, Pantherartin (shown below), Blue Fox Vibrax, Roostertails, and C.P. Swings. Each brand has its partisans, and there are some differences among them, but fundamentally they run deep -- and in the cold waters of spring, that's where the trout are.

First, use these lures in sizes suited to the water you're fishing. I routinely throw tiny 1/32-ounce Panther Martins with gossamer 2-pound-test nylon in tiny creeks when chasing high-country brook trout, for example. Midsize streams can take midsize (1/16- to 1/8-ounce) spinners. For really heavy water and serious fish, like the brushpile browns along Montana's big Jefferson River, you'll want to go heavier with line and lure -- meaning 8-pound-test and a 1/4-ounce spinner.

Fish in-line spinners either upstream or up and across in deep, fast water. The object is to reel just fast enough to keep the spinner blade rotating as the spinner sinks and travels back toward you along the bottom. Too slow a retrieve means you'll hang up on the bottom; too fast means the lure will ride too high in the water and you won't catch anything.

3. Minnow Plugs
Okay, here it is right up front. Rapalas are the kings of minnow plugs, and that means they're the kings of trout plugs, too. But there are some other very good minnow plugs that are worth a shot. Regular Rebels, both jointed and solid, work well on trout, as does Rebel's excellent new Ghost Minnow. Small Storm ThunderSticks are great for trout, and the interesting -- and expensive -- new Pin's Minnow from Yo-Zuri (shown above) comes in nifty colors with a weighting system to prevent tumbling during a cast.

The smallest of these plugs -- at 2 to 3 inches long -- are fine for small to midsize waters. Don't go above about 5 inches long on the top end, even on big rivers. That's because these are imitative lures, and the size you're fishing should match the prevalent baitfish, most of which are relatively small.

Use sinking (so-called countdown) versions in the early spring to get deep. A twitching, stuttering retrieve usually works best when casting upstream. Sometimes, though, a major-league brown trout will come explosively to a minnow plug that's cranked through a run just as fast as you can reel. Floating versions come into play by late spring. Fairly fast, twitching retrieves are key; try to work the lure along the edges of cut banks, logjams, and other structure that's prime cover for the biggest browns.

4. Flatfish
Flatfish are unique, which is why they're the only brand-name heading in our five lure categories. This lure drives trout -- especially rainbows -- absolutely nuts.

Fish the so-called fly-rod sizes (F4 at 11/2 inches, and F5 at 13/4 inches) in both large and small waters. (Larger Flatfish have the potential for larger trout but will lower your overall score.) My most The smallest of these plugs -- at 2 to 3 inches long -- are fine for small to midsize waters. Don't go above about 5 inches long on the top end, even on big rivers. That's because these are imitative lures, and the size you're fishing should match the prevalent baitfish, most of which are relatively small.

Use sinking (so-called countdown) versions in the early spring to get deep. A twitching, stuttering retrieve usually works best when casting upstream. Sometimes, though, a major-league brown trout will come explosively to a minnow plug that's cranked through a run just as fast as you can reel. Floating versions come into play by late spring. Fairly fast, twitching retrieves are key; try to work the lure along the edges of cut banks, logjams, and other structure that's prime cover for the biggest browns.

4. Flatfish
Flatfish are unique, which is why they're the only brand-name heading in our five lure categories. This lure drives trout -- especially rainbows -- absolutely nuts.

Fish the so-called fly-rod sizes (F4 at 11/2 inches, and F5 at 13/4 inches) in both large and small waters. (Larger Flatfish have the potential for larger trout but will lower your overall score.) My most

Comments (4)

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from JW526 wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Forgot to put the almighty fuzzy jig in there. I fish inland and Lake Erie fed streams and when all else fails a fuzzy jig will work amazing.

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from Ryan Thompson wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I grew up fishing in Minnesota.Mostly Walleye and/or Northerns. I started making my own hand carved lures similar to Rapala's, a couple years ago. Where I live in Wisconsin now, there's supposed to be some good trout fishing nearby. Any advice on size,shape,color for me to make my own trout lures?contact me at(google) ryan thompson lures.

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from Dave Bloxham wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Interesting article except the second half of #4 is a repeat of #3 and #4 repeats, again.. and there is no #5. What happened to this article? It's all messed up!

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from dess71 wrote 3 years 16 weeks ago

Very informative article. I also would like to share what I found online about this same trout fishing here >> j.mp/igtM8A

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from dess71 wrote 3 years 16 weeks ago

Very informative article. I also would like to share what I found online about this same trout fishing here >> j.mp/igtM8A

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Bloxham wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Interesting article except the second half of #4 is a repeat of #3 and #4 repeats, again.. and there is no #5. What happened to this article? It's all messed up!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ryan Thompson wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I grew up fishing in Minnesota.Mostly Walleye and/or Northerns. I started making my own hand carved lures similar to Rapala's, a couple years ago. Where I live in Wisconsin now, there's supposed to be some good trout fishing nearby. Any advice on size,shape,color for me to make my own trout lures?contact me at(google) ryan thompson lures.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JW526 wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Forgot to put the almighty fuzzy jig in there. I fish inland and Lake Erie fed streams and when all else fails a fuzzy jig will work amazing.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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