I have been bead fishing for trout for about 20 years and it is a very effective method to catch trout. Beads for trout come in plastic, glass, and soft rubber and I will discuss the pros and cons of each as well as the best rigging, the best hooks, and the best presentations that I use when guiding.
What Is Bead Fishing For Trout?
Bead Fishing for trout is when you use small hard and soft beads that are designed to imitate fish eggs. At times, beads can be the most effective bait if you know how to fish them and if you use the right leader and the right hooks. I’m going to tell you exactly how to fish trout using beads.
I fish for trout a lot when I am guiding because there are times when fishing with beads will be the most effective way to catch trout. After fishing and guiding with beads for almost 20 years, I have come up with some great tips that I am going to share with you here.
Beads For Trout
Beads for trout can be rigged in a few different ways and trout beads come in hundreds of colors and a few different sizes. Trout beads are small beads that imitate eggs and usually have a small hole in the middle where your line goes.
Knowing what size and color of trout bead to use is important. I will discuss the trout bead rigs that I use and why, and when some colors and sizes of trout beads will work better.
What Are Trout Beads Made Of?
There are 3 main types of beads that you can choose from and in this article, I will discuss the pros and cons of using glass beads, plastic beads, and soft beads.
The rigging of the beads is the same for the glass and plastic beads but there is a difference when rigging soft beads.
It’s the hard trout beads that have everyone going crazy to use beads on trout, steelhead and they have also been great on salmon.
Plastic Beads For Trout
I use plastic trout beads more than any other type of trout bead and they work great for me. They are cheaper than glass beads, just as effective, and they come in a lot of great colors and sizes from 6mm to 12mm.
I know some anglers will disagree about the plastic beads being just as effective as plastic beads and I will explain why I think both plastic and glass beads can be equally effective, and why some believe glass beads are better.
The bottom line is that at times, plastic trout beads rigged properly and fished properly can be deadly on trout, steelhead, and salmon.
The best brand of plastic trout beads and the one that I use the most is called Trout Beads.
Glass Trout Beads
For many anglers, the best trout beads are glass beads because they find that they just catch a lot more trout on glass beads.
Glass trout beads are heavier and come in a huge assortment of colors and you can get them from 6mm to 12mm.
Because glass trout beads and plastic beads look almost identical above and below the water and because even most anglers can’t tell the difference between the two in the water, I believe the trout can’t tell the difference either.
The reason why glass trout beads catch more trout than plastic beads for some anglers is simply because glass trout beads sink faster which gets them in the strike zone faster. Glass beads also stay down and in the strike zone longer which means more trout in the net.
Good anglers that know how to weigh their leaders properly should get just as many bites on plastic beads as they would on glass beads.
I have experimented with both glass and plastic beads using my trout and steelhead leader setups and I find it is rare that one fishes better than another if set up properly.
Glass beads are also an excellent choice when fished under a float and when using my advanced bottom bouncing method which I discuss below.
Either way, you can’t go wrong with a glass or plastic bead.
The best brand of glass beads for trout is Creek Candy Bead Company.
Soft Trout Beads
Soft beads are similar except that they are made out of soft rubbers or plastic materials or even from organic materials like the Berkley Gulp! Alive! Floating Salmon Eggs and the Berkley PowerBait Magnum Garlic Power Eggs.
The primary advantage to the soft trout beads is that trout might hold onto them a little bit longer.
My favorite soft trout bead when fishing beads for trout are the brown trout color Pautzke Fire Balls seen in the pictures or the Berkley Gulp! Alive! Floating Salmon Eggs.
I will discuss the pros and cons of soft trout beads vs hard beads below.
Soft Beads Vs Hard Beads
The debate about which trout bead is more effective could go on forever. I use both types when bead fishing for trout and these are the advantages and disadvantages to both. You may find one type of bead that works best for you.
The 3 primary advantages of soft trout beads are:
- Trout might hold onto soft beads a little bit longer because soft trout beads feel more natural in their mouths but it’s an artificial bait that trout spit out quickly anyways.
- It’s just a hypothesis but some anglers believe that soft beads allow for better hook sets and soft beads will allow the hook to stay lodged in the trout’s mouth better. I’m not sold on this after seeing thousands of fish hooked on the hard beads.
- Soft beads are very simple to change out for different colors.
The disadvantages to soft trout beads are:
- The soft beads can slide down on each hookset of a fish or even on rocks, sticks, and missed fish, and then they become virtually useless because the inner hole will be too big and they won’t stay pegged in place. You will go through a lot of soft beads.
- 6mm and 8mm soft beads tear off easily and these are often the best sizes for trout.
- Soft trout bead colors are very limited compared to hard beads.
Advantages to hard trout beads are:
- The color selection is great, almost too many colors to choose from.
- 6mm and 8 mm hard beads stay on the line.
- Hard beads can be reused over and over again which is more economical.
- Hard trout beads come in different sinking rates from slow sink with plastic trout beads to fast sink with glass trout beads.
The disadvantages to hard trout beads are:
- Hard trout beads are not as easy to put on.
- Changing colors is not easy and requires you to cut the hook knot each time you want to use a new color.
- Hard trout beads are more likely to be spit out by the trout faster.
- Some anglers believe that hard trout beads can act as a pivot point when a fish is fighting and that can cause the hooks to dislodge easier.
Hard trout beads are better than soft trout beads and I would choose hard beads over soft beads most of the time, and due to the popularity of hard trout beads over soft trout beads, I think most anglers would choose hard beads over soft beads.
Best Size Beads For Trout
There are 4 sizes of trout beads that anglers will use and that I use when bead fishing for trout.
6mm beads are great for trout in low clear water or when the trout are heavily feeding on eggs from other trout.
There are times when the trout will only eat these small 6mm beads so it’s important to make sure you have a good selection of the right colors. See my color chart and size chart below.
8mm beads are about the size of a real salmon egg and I use these a lot when bead fishing for trout. The bigger beads are easier for the trout to see than the smaller beads and that can be a good thing.
Don’t be afraid to try the 8mm trout beads at any time because there are times when the trout want bigger beads for trout.
Even though these 8mm beads might be bigger than the natural trout eggs, if you think about how big a spawn bag is, which is often 4 to 6 salmon eggs the trout still eat those so an 8mm bead size is fine.
10mm beads are good when bead fishing for trout in slightly dirtier water.
This 10mm bead size will get their attention at times and it’s good to have in my preferred colors for off-colored water. See Below
12mm beads are a bit harder to get and I only use them in really high fast water or when the water is dirty.
Best Bead Colors For Trout
I use a lot of bead colors but I have found a few colors that seem to work for everyone.
I will change my colors based on the time of year and the water conditions.
If there are other fish spawning in the area at the time you are fishing, the natural fish eggs in the water that the trout are already feeding on will often be orange or yellow-orange in color, so the best bead colors will be ones that match the natural eggs.
Matching these natural colors has been the most effective method for me but there are times when other not-so-natural colors will be better.
I will change to bigger beads and brighter colors when the water is dirty.
I will also use bigger beads in faster water because they stand out better.
Match your bead color to the type of water that you are fishing using my trout bead charts below.
Plastic Beads Chart
For glass beads these are some of my best trout bead colors:
Glass Trout Bead Chart
How To Fish Trout Beads
The way you fish beads for trout is the same way that you fish any other bait except that you rig them differently.
You can fish trout beads below a float which is known as float fishing, or you can also fish beads for trout when fly fishing with an Indicator, or you can use my advanced bottom bouncing method which is the best method for any bait in shallow water and pocket water.
If you are not sure how to bottom bounce and you really want to catch more fish you should check it out below.
Still Fishing With Trout Beads
When bead fishing for trout it’s best to keep the beads moving in the water which is why still fishing with trout beads is not a good idea.
In moving water, a trout needs to grab the bead quickly otherwise it loses its chance at a piece of food, but, a trout bead on a hook that is attached to a heavy weight basically anchors your bait to the bottom allowing the fish time to inspect your bead.
Beads have no scent and they sink to the bottom where the trout are less likely to see them which is not good.
Even if a trout decides to put a hard or a soft bead in its mouth, it won’t feel or taste natural and the trout will try to spit it out quickly, so still fishing with beads is a very bad idea.
I would never use a bead when still fishing because I have always been the type of angler that believes you should always use higher percentage baits that are proven to catch more trout for the type of water you are in.
Do Trout Beads Float?
The trout beads that I use will either sink fast like the glass beads do, or they are almost neutral buoyancy but sink very slowly like the plastic and soft beads.
Even beads that do float like some of the plastic and soft beads and Berkley floating eggs, they will often still sink slowly once you add a hook. Trout beads that sink slowly will sink a bit faster with a hook on them which is OK because you want the beads to get down to the trout as fast as possible.
Trout Bead Setup
There are a few trout bead setups that will work when trout fishing with beads. These are my 3 best trout bead rigs that work for me in different situations.
The Single Trout Bead Rig Setup
This is a great trout bead rig when you are fishing in very clear water or in water under 8 feet deep. It’s a good rig when the trout are close to the bottom.
This trout bead rig is designed to be used below a float and it works best in water from 3 to 8 feet deep.
Fishing for trout in water less than 3 feet deep is not so good. Your float just gets too close to them and the results are always fewer fish. In shallow water use the bottom bouncing method which I discuss below.
Float fishing with a bead or any type of bait is only good if you know how to do it right and my experience on the river has shown me that over 80% of anglers do it poorly and limit their success.
There are 4 fundamentals to float fishing that I have proven through 20 years of guiding to catch up to 10 times more fish. You can see these fundamentals on my float fishing page
The Double Trout Bead Rig Setup
Where I am from we are allowed to use up to 3 hooks on the line but 3 hooks are problematic so I often use this 2 bead trout bead rig a lot, especially in water that is not crystal clear.
The advantage to this 2 trout bead setup is that I can cover 2 different feeding levels at once.
I try to keep my lower bead about 2 to 6 inches off the bottom and my upper bead 10 to 16 inches off the bottom.
Even if one bead is dragging the bottom and is missed by some trout, the upper bead should work.
This rig also gives you the opportunity to experiment using 2 colors at a time to see what the fish want. You can also use two different sizes at one time too.
There is a time when 2 beads are not as effective. I call it too much junk on the line, and too much junk coming down the river at once and that can sometimes make the trout wary and stop them from feeding.
This diagram shows my trout bead set up with an optional weight between the 2 beads.
With soft beads and some plastic trout beads, this additional split shot will ensure that both beads are getting down and if you use the right weights and the right leader it should not bother the trout.
If I have glass beads it will weigh the beads down so they get down fast and stay down and then you won’t need the extra weights. I recommend that your heaviest bead goes on the bottom.
The Bottom Bouncing Bead Rig Setup
Bottom Bouncing with beads can be deadly and is great in faster water.
This is the best trout bead set up when the water is under 3 feet deep and when it’s even as shallow as 12 inches.
This is also the best trout bead rig when you are fishing small spots or pocket water.
In this diagram, I also have an optional dropper fly which could also be any type of bait including another trout bead.
The weights on the bottom get everything down fast but if you are using glass beads you may not need as much weight or none at all.
If you want to know how to bottom bounce better check out my page Bottom Bouncing – 5 Proven Guide Tips For More Fish
How Do You Peg Hard Beads
There are a few ways to peg hard beads for trout, some I like, and some I don’t like.
Pegging a bead means securing it on the line about 1.5 to 2 inches up from the hook.
When you secure a bead on the line you actually want it to slide when you set the hook for a better hookset.
I know some anglers say not to do this because a bead up against the hook can be used as a wedge to pry the hooks free but I have seen fish grab beads hard and then the hook never touches them on the hook set.
When rigging your trout bead, you want the bead to only be 1.5 to 2 inches up from the hook. This keeps the hook away from the bead so the fish do not see the hook.
The bead up the line also gives you a hookset on the outside of the mouth which is better because the hook tends to grab more flesh and will hold better on the outside of the mouth.
If you run your bead more than 2 inches up the line you are more likely to hook the fish in the eye or the gill plate which will not hold as well and you will lose more trout.
4 Ways To Peg Trout Beads
To peg the trout bead on the line, some anglers will use rubber bobber stops between the bead and the hook and then just pull the bead hole as far over the rubber stopper as possible. This works just fine and is worth a try.
Another way to peg a trout bead on the line is to wedge a toothpick in the hole of the bead and line then simply break off a toothpick in the hole of the trout bead to secure the trout bead on the line which also works but I find it’s hard to get a clean break, it’s also hard to trim any excess toothpick and it can make your bead more buoyant which you don’t really want.
Some guys will take a thin rubber band and pull it through the bead hole and cut off the excess rubber band on both sides. I’m not a big fan of this method because it takes a few extra steps and it requires a 12-inch piece of thing fishing line to pull the rubber band through, however it does work.
Some guys will tie a special double loop around the bead to secure it in place and of all the methods this is the one I dislike the most as I believe this could be the weak link in your leader.
The best method to peg your bead to the line is to use something called a bead peg which you can buy at the same place that you buy your beads.
I usually use the red bead pegs but the clear bead pegs are also good. Some anglers like the chartreuse and the orange colors too.
Bead pegs give you lots of options and they are easy to use. Simply put the thin end in, pull it until it is tight and snip off the excess.
Bead Peg Steps
- Take a piece of leader about 12 to 20 inches and tie on a hook (putting the hook on first makes it harder to drop the bead)
- slide the bead on the open end of the leader and let it slide down the line to the hook.
- Slide a bead peg, small end first into the bead hole, and pull it until it’s tight.
- Slide the bead up about 1.5 inches above the hooks.
- Pull one end of the line around the hook so it is tight to the hook so you can cut the bead beg close to the bead without cutting the line. See tip for cutting below.
With all of these methods, a good pair of nippers is great for trimming the excess pegs bead pegs off, just be careful not to cut or nick the leader or it will break easily.
If you look carefully at the picture you can see the line on the left of the bead is pulled down tight. I will rest the nippers on that line and then cut so I never cut or damage the line.
You can see my favorite nippers on my page Best River Gear.
Trout Bead Hooks
In fact, on my page 11 Best Hooks For Trout: What The Guides Use I list the Raven Specimen and the Daiichi hooks as my top two hooks.
I discuss the best hook sizes for beads below.
What Size Hooks For Trout Beads
When I am bead fishing for trout in clear water the best hook size is a size 10 or size 12 hook.
If you use hooks that are too big they will weigh down your trout bead and possibly drag it across the bottom or make it drift through the current in an unnatural way.
Hooks that are also too big might be seen by the trout and that can prevent them from biting the trout bead.
Set The Hook Fast When Fishing Trout With Beads
If you have ever watched trout feeding below the surface and have seen them pick up chunks of debris, seaweed, bark, and sticks, you know that they put things in their mouth and then spit them out in a second or two.
When a trout puts a hard bead in its mouth they also spit it out super fast.
If you ever have an insect fly into your mouth, think about how fast you will spit it out, and that is how fast a trout will spit out something that is not edible.
That is why you need to be ready to set the hook and have lightning-fast hooks set. It’s also a great reason to use a float that is sensitive and made for river fishing like the ones that I discuss on my page, 5 Best Floats.
Are Beads Legal
As I’m told, pegging hard beads up the line and not on the actual hook is legal, however, you should double check this to be sure.
Since we peg the bead 1.5″ to 2″ up the line that bare hook might be illegal in some states.
I am told that anglers in some states where you are not permitted to have a bare hook will tie on a piece of thread onto the hook so it is no longer a bare hook and that allows them to continue to use hard beads that are placed up the line.
It’s always best to check with your state’s fishing rules before you try bead fishing.
Best Trout Bead Containers
the Myran Fly boxes come in different sizes from 6 compartments to 18 compartments and are worth a try.
You can also buy bead assortments that come in a case already. One of the best bead assortments are the Troutbeads Steelhead Selection by trout beads
Got A Question About Bead Fishing For Trout
Hopefully, I covered everything about bead fishing for trout but if you have a question or a comment or a tip you would like to share add it to the comments section below.