Best Bait For Brook Trout: 5 Most Effective Baits

The best bait for brook trout can catch large brook trout like this.

There are many good baits for brook trout but what is the best bait for brook trout. What do river guides like myself and other guides use? Let’s find out the 5 most effective baits for brook trout.

The best bait for brook trout in rivers is worms, but there are times when egg baits, flies, grub-type baits, and aquatic invertebrates will be more effective. To maximize the effectiveness of these brook trout baits, anglers should use rig them and fish them the same way that river guides do.

River guides tend to catch a lot more fish than the average angler even if they use the same baits. There are a few reasons for this which I will also discuss? Let’s find out why.

Although this article is primarily about baits for brook trout when river fishing, these baits will also work well when fishing for brook trout in ponds, reservoirs, or in lakes.

How To Choose Best Bait For Brown Trout

One of the reasons river guides catch more fish is bait choice. I believe many anglers use the same one or 2 baits every time they fish and this is a huge mistake.

The first thing a guide does before they decide on the best bait for brook trout and then put that bait on the hook is to assess the situation and try and determine based on the conditions, what do the trout want?

The guide may consider the time of year, time of day, the activity level of the trout, water temps, and the trout’s prevalent food sources.

The reason for this is that guides know that under certain situations one bait might be more effective than another bait and one setup or method of fishing might also be better.

As an example, I wouldn’t put on a grasshopper onto my hook in the middle of the winter because the chances are better that a small nymph or a single salmon egg is something that the trout have been feeding on lately, and therefore that type of bait would be a more effective bait at that time.

Regular anglers do not always think like this which is why I often see anglers using the wrong baits at the wrong time. I also see them using bad hooks, on bad leaders, and so on.

The bottom line is that some brook trout baits work better under different conditions and at different times of the year and that it’s also very important to use the right setup and then fish it well.

How To Fish The Best Bait For Brook Trout More Effectively

Before I reveal the best baits for brook trout, let me just say that even the most effective brook trout bait is useless if you don’t have the right setup or you don’t fish it well.

Fishing a bait well with the right setup is the reason a good river guide will catch 10 times more trout than other angles on the same river even though they are all using the same bait.

So if I say the best bait for brook trout is a worm, and you stop reading now and go out and buy worms, those worms are useless if you don’t know how to fish them.

The worm is also useless on the wrong size hook, or if you rig the worm on the hook poorly, or you use a leader that is so thick that the brook trout can see it from 10 feet away.

Unless they are dumb stocked trout, you just can’t fish this way if you want to consistently catch fish or if your want the most brook trout possible.

Trust me, I see guys fish poorly all the time.

These are three very important things that will make the best bait for brown trout actually effective.

Best Methods For Brook Trout Bait Fishing

Something every guide does before they start fishing any bait for brook trout is to determine the best method for that section of the river.

As an example, if the river in front of you is all pocket water that is 12″ to 30 inches deep, then a method like bottom bouncing will be a lot more effective than fishing a bait below a float.

But if you walk into a nice pool with a moderate current and decent depth of over 4 feet, float fishing is the way to go.

See more on float fishing on my page Float Fishing Methods For Trout and all about bottom bouncing on my page Traditional and Advance Bottom Bouncing Methods.

If you fish still in water in a lake or a pond the best methods will be float fishing or plunking.

The Best Setup For Brook Trout Bait Fishing

The setup for the method that you are using is a critical part of fishing your bait effectively. Brook trout can be line shy, hook shy, and float shy. This means if they see any of these things they might refuse your bait and even be spooked and stop feeding for hours.

To me and many other river guides, this is common sense which is why we make sure our bait rig which includes the leader, the hook, swivels, the weights, and maybe a float is proven to be effective.

I found this on a trout stream and this is what a VERY BAD set-up looks like and is what will prevent you from catching trout.

However, I still see guys using horrible leader setups like the one in the picture combined with bad hooks, and even if they use a great bait, the setup will prevent them from catching any brook trout.

I honestly think that most anglers believe catching brook trout is all about how good your bait is and they believe the bait is the most important thing, but it’s not.

I have said this many times before, “your bait is the least important thing when it comes to catching trout, steelhead, and salmon in a river”. So what is?

Presentation Is Key

Let’s talk stealth because you could have the best bait for brook trout on a great leader setup but if you make too much noise and are seen by the trout they might go lack jaw and then ignore everything your throw at them.

This means your really great book trout bait is practically useless except for maybe a bunch of dumb little trout that will keep eating.

Even if you are stealthy, it is very important that you present your bait in a way that is natural to the trout and you need to do this each and every time your bait enters the water.

Most guides will tell you that presentation is critical. I discuss getting an effective presentation, as well as the proper setups on my pages, Float Fishing For Trout and Bottom Bouncing.

Brook Trout guides catch more fish and their formula for catching more brook trout isn’t that hard.

  • Know which bait is good at that time
  • Know which method will be the most effective based on the river or spot
  • Put the bait on a great setup
  • Be stealthy
  • Then fish that great bait really well

Something else to seriously consider is your presentation and how stealthy you are.

What Is The Best Bait For Brook Trout?

Finally, this is what you came for, the best bait for brown trout!

Whenever you read an article about the best bait, consider the time of year and the conditions because that is what guides will do.

What the best bait for brown trout is not easy to answer because I know that a worm might be the best in April and May when the ground is moist and there are worms everywhere, but worms aren’t everywhere in August, and often a worm is not the best bait at that time.

I will have multiple good baits on me and I will then rotate through the baits, as well as rotate through the bait sizes and colors. Sometimes you will find a good bait right away, other times you will need to try many baits.

And sometimes, trout are just not going to feed regardless of your bait.

As I discuss brook trout baits, I will add some tips and advice on when to use them and maybe how to use them.

Artificial Flies Are The Best Bait For Brown Trout

I think artificial flies like these caddis flies are the best bait for brook trout.
I think artificial flies like these caddis flies are the best bait for brook trout

The reason that I think artificial flies like the ones the fly anglers use are the best bait for brook trout is that these flies imitate the aquatic insects that are found in the river year-round.

These same aquatic insects are recognized by brook trout as a valuable food source that is available year-round. Trout will eat aquatic insects from the time they are born to their final days.

You do not need to be a fly angler to use artificial flies for brook trout since they can be used with both bottom bouncing methods and with float fishing.

Flies can also imitate other types of insects that might fall into the river such as beetles, bees, moths, crickets, grasshoppers, or the many other insects that live near the river.

Even in the winter months some aquatic insects will become dislodged from their rocky home and drift in the current and become food for brown trout.

A box or brook trout flies

Artificial flies imitate these aquatic insects, as well as the other insects like grasshoppers, bees, beetle, or crickets that might fall in the water, this makes flies the best bait for brook trout.

Yes, there will be times when another bait like a worm or an egg sac will be a better bait, but 90% of the brook trout I catch are on flies, and even the big ones will eat flies (despite what some websites say).

Stonefly, midges, and Mayfly species like the tiny Blue Winged Olive are active during the winter and early spring.

In the winter, I will use smaller flies in sizes 16, 18, and 20.

During later spring through the fall, I will use some larger sizes of size 6 to 14, but smaller sizes will still work at times.

Best Brook Trout Flies

The Higa’s SOS fly has been a hot fly for me over the last few seasons. I have done very well with this red version but also with a bright green back too.

The most effective flies that I use for brook trout are:

Flies like the Pheasant Tail NymphFrenchie / Hot Spot Pheasant Tail Jig Fly, and the Davie’s Polish Pheasant Tail Nymph.

Other Great Trout Flies Include:

If you are a spin fisherman check out my page How To Fish Flies With Spinning Gear: 2 Best Methods

Worms: One Of The Best Bait For Brook Trout

The Worm Is A Great Trout Bait
The worm is a great trout bait but only if it’s the right size and it’s presented well.

The worm is often the best bait for brook trout and it is easily available.

The thing with worms is they tend to be seasonal and they often fish best in the spring. However, it never hurts to fish a worm at any time of the year, even in the middle of the winter.

I find that smaller 2 to 4-inch garden or red worms work much better than large 7-inch or bigger dew worms.

It is always smart to have either real or fake worms on you when you fish for brook trout. Just make sure worms are not your only bait otherwise you may find yourself catching no fish on the days the brook trout are not interested in worms.

Also, learn how to rig and fish worms properly.

Don’t be one of those guys that take huge dew worms, break them in half or use them full size and then ball them up on the hook, because those guys rarely catch any good size wild trout.

You might fool some dumb stocked brook trout, but hooking a worm once or twice on the correct size and shaped hook so that it looks natural will catch 10X times more brook trout than a ball of worm.

Honestly, hooking and properly presenting a worm makes a huge difference. You can see how to do this well on my page Fishing With Worms For Trout and Steelhead: 10 Guide Tips

Another thing you should seriously consider is using plastic worms instead of real worms.

I now fish plastic worms 95 percent of the time and when fishing in the current I find plastic worms work equally as well for brook trout as live worms do. The upside to plastic worms is that the plastic worms are more durable and rarely fall off and they are much easier to pack into a vest or fishing pack than real worms.

Berkley Trout Worms

Berkley Gulp Earthworms / Red Wigglers

Berkley Gulp! Alive! Angle Worms

Eggs Are One Of The Best Baits For Brown Trout

Egg baits can be anything from spawn sacs, single salmon eggs, skein, hard and soft beads, or artificial plastic eggs.

Egg baits can be seasonal and eggs are often best in the fall and spring when there are rainbow trout, other trout, or other fish like suckers spawning in the river.

Fish eggs are often drifting in the current during the spawn and brook trout will gorge on them without hesitation.

Egg imitations are great baits for brook trout without the mess of reel eggs, yet many anglers shy away from them. There have been plenty of days when a well-presented bead has out-fished a spawn sac for me or my clients. I know a lot of river guides that use beads and plastic eggs.

Again, the presentation of the eggs is key and so is your setup. There are some things that river guides do that average anglers don’t when fishing eggs.

Rigging your eggs, and knowing the right sizes and colors can pay off with a lot more and bigger brown trout. Spawn Bags – Guide Secrets For More Trout And Steelhead and at Bead Fishing For Trout – Easy Guide Secrets

Grub-type Baits For Brook Trout

Baits like grubs, mealworms, maggots, and wax worms can be excellent baits for brown trout, especially from spring to early fall. You find them at your local fishing store or at your local pet store since people use them for their pet reptiles.

You could also choose the imitation plastic grubs like the Berkely Power Wigglers which can usually be found at your local fishing store or online.

Be sure to use the correct hook sizes like a size 10 to 14 hook.

Imitation Grubs Are A Great Trout Bait

Power Wigglers

Berkley PowerBait Power Wigglers are a great grub/maggot imitation.

Lil Hellgrammites

Plastic Nymphs like this 2″ Lil Hellgrammites is a good trout bait.

This Plastic Mayfly Nymph is a good trout bait

Savage Nymph

This 2-inch Savage Gear plastic nymph is a great trout bait.

Leeches And Crawfish Are Good Baits For Brook Trout

Berkley Gulp Leeches are a good trout bait
Imitation leeches like these Berkley Gulp leeches can be a great trout bait.

I have seen huge brook trout chasing crawfish in the shallows and near the rocky edges of the river. I have also seen them smash a well-presented live or fake leech so these types of baits are great for both big and small brook trout.

One of my favorite baits is the Berkely Gulp Leech.

A crayfish from a local brook trout river
A crayfish from a local brook trout river. This can be a great bait for brook trout and will often get the attention of the biggest brook trout.

The other great thing about leeches and Crayfish is that they live in rivers and lakes so they are there year-round which means these are good baits for brown trout almost any time of the year.

Some call them crawfish, some call them crayfish. For Crayfish, I prefer 1″ to 2″ inch live or fake ones. If you use crayfish, hook them once through the tail with a size ten wide gap hook such as the Raven Specimen hook.

Not sure what hook to use, that’s OK, check out my article, 11 Best Hooks For Trout: What The Guides Use

For leeches, 2 to 4-inch leaches are great sizes for most brown trout.

Minnow And Baitfish For Brook Trout

Minnows and other baitfish are probably the bait that I use the least for brook trout but that’s only because they are so hard to carry with you and the other baits above are usually more than enough to catch brook trout.

However, most of the time I prefer to use imitation minnows like the Berkley Gulp Alive minnows. They have a scent that attracts fish, they have good movement in the current, and they hold on to the hook well. They also come in some great colors and their size is perfect.

The Best Bait For Brook Trout Q&A

That wraps up the best baits for brook trout article with some great baits for you to try on your next outing.

If you have any questions or comments, or would like to share your favorite brook trout bait let me know in the comments section below.

Tight Lines,


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