As a trout fishing guide for 22 years and a trout angler for 37 years, I think I have literally tested every trout bait known to man in every condition imaginable for both stocked and wild trout.
My experience has proven that the best trout baits are baits that will trigger a feeding response in most trout even in very tough conditions. What sets the these trout baits aside is that trout will also hold onto them. The best trout baits include worms, fish eggs, insects, and organic baits.
As a very experienced trout guide and angler, I’m going to be brutally honest with you, there are many so called “best trout bait” recommended by others that don’t work as well as the proven baits that I and other trout guides are using.
The truth is, you won’t find many of these baits being used by top guides, and you shouldn’t use them either.
The Two Types Of Trout Baits
The first type of trout bait is one you will actually see trout guides and experienced anglers using all the time. These are high-percentage trout baits that will work on wild and stocked trout even in tough conditions.
The other type of trout baits are low percentage man-made trout baits, or random baits that new or average anglers often use and they are not as good.
Artificial man-made trout baits and baits like corn are still being recommended by other websites. However, think bout it, if these baits were actually the best trout baits I and other top trout guides would be using them, but we don’t, and we won’t, EVER!!
The trout baits that trout guides actually use are baits that consistently work and have been tested and proven to work in real fishing situations for both wild and stocked trout.
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So what is the best trout bait?
The best trout bait will be something that imitates the natural food found in a trout’s diet and invokes a natural feeding response. There are many trout baits available but the 5 best trout bait categories are worms, fish eggs, flies, minnows, and live baits.
There are also artificial or fake versions of these baits that I and other guides do use and we use them because they actually work very well under certain conditions.
Best Trout Baits That River Guides Use
The best trout bait is the most effective bait at that time!! All you need to do is figure out which bait that is, and to be honest, that is not that hard, I do it all the time with clients.
But the problem is a trout’s feeding behavior can change from season to season, or day to day, and sometimes even hour to hour.
Therefore, it would be irresponsible for me to tell you or one of my clients that the garden worm is the best trout bait and is all you need. I know at times the garden worm will be the most effective trout bait often, but at other times the worm might be the worst trout bait.
That is why I carry multiple trout baits with me. I can rotate through the baits and determine the most effective bait that will give my clients the best chance of catching the most trout possible based on the current conditions. I highly recommend you do the same.
Good Trout Guides Will Use These 5 Types Of Trout Baits:
- Spawn, salmon eggs, skein, beads: The conditions will dictate which is best as some of these are not always effective which I will discuss below.
- Worms: live worms and even plastic worms are great trout baits, but the conditions will dictate which is best to use and I discuss that below.
- Flies, insects: artificial flies and live nymphs, as well as crickets, grasshoppers, helgramites, etc. are fantastic trout baits.
- Live Baits: Minnows, leeches, crayfish, grubs, maggots, and mealworms are all good options.
- Artificial Baits: These synthetic or artificial trout baits will include plastic imitations of the above baits, but these only work well under certain conditions which I discuss below. These can also include baits like Berkley Powerbait and Gulp.
Using The Bait Properly And At The Right Times
Although the bait is important, it’s not the only thing that matters. There are multiple reasons why trout guides and good anglers still catch more trout than the average angler even if they are both using the same baits, and these reasons include:
- Using effective bait rigs or bait setups, which include leader, weights, and hook.
- How they rig their baits on the hook.
- Using good hooks
- Using the most effective methods for the conditions or type of water and type of fish.
- Using the right baits at the right times.
Trout Bait Rig
Even just using the right hook with any trout bait might double your success!! Whereas the wrong hook with a great trout bait will mean you will miss a lot of fish.
Your trout bait rig needs to be spot on. The trout rig you use will depend on the method you choose to fish which I’ll discuss below.
Baits Can Be Seasonal Or Trending?
I have many different types of highly effective trout bait with me at all times because I know that the best trout bait is the one that the trout are willing to eat at that time of year or that time of day. I know that a trout bait that worked yesterday or last month may not be effective today.
Just because I tell you the worm is the #1 trout bait doesn’t mean you will catch trout on it. At times, worms are not effective!!
That’s exactly why anglers should have these 5 trout baits in their vest or tackle pack when they hit the river or lake.
The Best Methods For Fishing Trout Baits
Before I get into the best baits for trout let me just say that regardless of how good your bait is, your bait can be ineffective if you are using the wrong method or if you are not good at that method.
Presentation is the key when fishing trout baits and the methods that I recommend for presenting your bait to the trout in a river are float fishing and bottom bouncing. Drift fishing is similar to bottom bouncing but drift fishing is much better in bigger rivers and bigger spots.
The Plunking method can also work in deeper still water or rivers, but only certain baits are effective with this stationary method. Float fishing and plunking are your best methods in lakes and ponds.
Conditions Matter And Determine The Best Bait For Trout
Trout bait can be used at any time and in any type of water whether that be in clear water or dirty water, or even very cold water. But, anglers need to be aware that bait type, bait colors, and bait sizes might need to change.
- Clear Water: Most baits in small to large sizes will work. I often downsize my baits in very clear water. I will also tend to use natural colors and avoid bright colors. I will also fish fast.
- Stained or Slightly Dirty Water: I will upsize my baits so the trout can see them. I will also use brighter colors. I will slow my presentation as much as possible to allow the trout to see the bait.
- Very Dirty Water: I will use the biggest baits possible. I might add scent or use baits that scent more. I will use very bright colors such as chartreuse, hot pinks, and red. I will slow my presentation down as much as possible.
- Very Cold Water: In winter or when the water is very cold, smaller more natural colored baits fished as slowly as possible is best. Unless it’s cold dirty water then I use the dirty water baits mentioned above.
What Are The Best Trout Baits?
Let’s get into the best trout baits and you will see how I rate them and tips on the best times and conditions to fish them.
1. The Best Trout Bait Is The Worm
The worm is likely the best and most well-known trout bait there is but there are times when worms do not work as well as other baits.
Dawn, dusk and after rains can be the best times to use worms
The trout recognize worms as a large and nutritious food source that is easy to grab. This is why worms are such a great trout bait.
There are different types of worms that anglers will use as trout bait.
Worms are also called earthworms, dew worms, nightcrawlers, red wigglers, red worms, trout worms, garden worms, and even garden hackle. Most of them are the same thing.
The Dew Worm, which is the largest of the worms is very popular at tackle stores and some gas stations near rivers or lakes. Dew Worms can range from 5 to 10 inches and can be quite fat.
Although Dew Worms of this size might be good for very large trout, I try not to use them because a full-sized dew worm of 8 inches is not a good choice when you are fishing a river full of 5 to 12-inch browns, rainbows, or brook trout. It’s just too big for them!
This is why many anglers will break dew worms in half or in 3 or 4 pieces, and although this can work sometimes, it’s not the best method for fishing large wild trout.
The garden worm or red wiggler worm is a smaller worm ranging from 2 to 5 inches in length and this is the type and size of worm that I prefer to use. Garden worms are easy to get and are a good size bait for both small and large trout and even for steelhead. In fact, most of the large steelhead I catch are on 3 to 4-inch worms.
Live worms are best in still water but will work in all types of rivers. The downside to worms is they fling off your hook when cast too hard, they die, they are messy, and they are harder to transport. For these reasons, I prefer plastic trout worms now.
2. Plastic Worms For Trout
Then there are plastic worms or worm imitations that can replace live worms.
The honest truth is that I use plastic worms 90% of the time and I find they are very effective, but I only use them in moving water.
Since the water is moving the trout need to react fast so they don’t stop to inspect the worm, instead, they just grab it.
Also, since plastic worms come in multiple colors I think they often work better at getting the trouts attention.
These plastic worms are my preferred choice when worm fishing for trout because the plastic worm works equally well in moving water plus they stay on the hook better when cast out. They are also easy to get, easy to store in a vest, and they can be used multiple times.
Check out my page Fishing With Worms: Guide Tips For More Trout And Steelhead. On this page, I discuss the best worm rigs, the best colors, and brands of plastic worms that I use, as well as the best hooks for using worms. I’ve even included what not to do when fishing live and plastic worms so you don’t look like a total newbie that catches nothing.
3. Berkely Red Wigglers And Angleworms
Berkley Gulp Earthworms also known as red wigglers are a good trout bait alternative for live worms. They are not as good as real worms.
They are also best used in currents and you should avoid using them in lakes and ponds.
A really small and very good worm alternative for me over the last couple of seasons is the Berkley Angleworm. It’s only 1 inch long which is great for both large and small trout. It is best used in currents.
4. Fish Eggs Are A Great Trout Bait
Fish eggs are a great trout bait since they are a great source of protein for trout and are readily available at certain times of the year.
Although they are listed as number 4 on my list, I would put them ahead of the Berkely artificial worms listed above.
Fish eggs are also known as spawn, spawn bags, roe, roe bags, trout eggs, or salmon eggs.
I have used the eggs from rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, char, salmon, and suckers, and they all work well as bait for trout.
There are also a lot of alternative egg imitations like beads, and plastic or rubber eggs, which are good, but not always as effective, and are best used in current sections.
Just like worms, there are right ways and wrong ways to rig up and fish eggs. For my guide tips on using eggs as trout bait, go to my page Spawn Bags: Guide Secrets For More Fish. On this page, I discuss colors, and sizes and provide tips on the best types of eggs and even how to preserve them.
Are Pre-Tied Fish Eggs Good?
I sometimes use the eggs from fresh-caught fish but most of the time I use hatchery spawn which is what you will find in stores.
You can buy spawn in pre-tied spawn bags just like these ones at many tackle stores and online but just be careful because some of it is crap.
I’m not a huge fan of pre-tied eggs simply because you don’t always have the optimal sizes and colors for the conditions. Therefore I recommend tying your own spawn sacs.
The best-pretied eggs that I have tried that are available to buy online are the Spawn Sacks by Superior Outfitters, plus they get great reviews. You can also get pre-tied eggs in some tackle stores. Check below to see where you can get these.
If you are like me and you like to tie your own spawn bags because you like them to be certain sizes or certain colors that work best for you then I prefer to buy or use loose eggs.
Loose eggs are eggs that are not pre-tied into bags.
Loose eggs are readily available online and I have tried most of them which is why I want to warn you that some of them are crap. Crap eggs just do not work as well.
Some of the not-so-good eggs are cured wrong or with chemicals, or they are oil-packed in jars, which I believe can prevent the eggs from scenting into the water well, or it can make them turn a lighter color faster.
The best eggs to buy if you want loose eggs are the Pautzke Balls O’ Fire Trout Eggs. I like the Natural color but they also have the black eye and the premium which is a darker orange and all 3 colors have been great.
Other good options for loose eggs that work and are liked by many anglers are the ones that can be used as single eggs or that can be tied into sacks work and are liked
Salmon Spawn Sacks
These are Pre-tied spawn sacks using Coho eggs. These Spawn Sacks by Superior Outfitters get great reviews from users.
Loose Trout Eggs
The Pautzke Balls O’ Fire Trout Eggs are some of the best loose eggs for tying your own spawn bags.
Single Salmon Eggs
The Pautzke Balls O’ Fire Salmon Eggs are great when you need to use a single egg on a hook. I have even tied them into spawn bags
5. Beads Are A Very Effective Trout Bait
Beads are an egg imitation type bait that has gained a huge following in some areas because of how well they imitate the natural eggs and because they catch a lot of trout and steelhead.
Beads are one of my favorite baits that you may not have considered yet but you should because, in my opinion, they easily fit into the best trout bait category.
At times, beads will be more effective than spawn bags and worms. Beads are a hot bait for trout in all seasons and I would say that I use beads on almost every trout steelhead trip that I do when I am float fishing or bottom bouncing.
Beads are not good for still water and are best used in currents.
Unfortunately, beads only work well if you know how to set them up properly and if you know how to present them properly.
If you are interested in learning more about trout fishing with beads, which ones are best, and how to rig them, check out my page Bead Fishing For Trout.
I use beads from 2 specific brands of trout beads and I will often use the 6mm and 8mm beads the most for trout.
For plastic beads, I use beads from a brand called Trout Beads which are great in all types of water and they come in lots of sizes and colors.
The trout beads brand has been the most consistent quality with few to almost none having issues with clogged holes from the manufacturing process and their colors are consistent.
Glass trout beads are heavier and they often catch more trout than the plastic beads simply because they get down to the trout faster and they stay down in the strike zone longer.
For this reason, this is often a better trout bead for newer anglers.
For the best glass beads that come in all the best sizes and a ton of colors, I use the ones from Creek Candy Bead Company.
6. Plastic and Artificial Eggs As Trout Bait
There are also a lot of other trout bait imitations like plastic egg sack imitations, single rubber eggs, egg clusters, and Berkley PowerBait Dough.
If I do use these egg imitations it will be in faster water when the trout has less time to inspect the bait and when the fast current almost set the hook for you.
An exception and one of my favorite single egg imitation eggs which can also be tied into spawn sacs is the Pautzke Fire Balls. These are basically soft beads and they can be equally effective as hard beads.
I like the Brown Trout color, and the Chinook and Coho colors the most. They have lots of other great colors to choose from.
One of these eggs on a size 12 or 14 wide-gap trout hook can be deadly.
There are actually a lot of imitation egg patterns from single eggs to egg clusters that I have used for trout.
There are even some dough baits that can be molded into egg shapes that can be effective and inexpensive, especially in faster water.
Plastic Single Eggs
These plastic single eggs from Atlas are a great trout bait when paired with the right hook.
Plastic Roe Sacs
These plastic roe sacks are good for bigger water and bigger trout. Use a size 10 hook and the right leader and you are good-to-go.
Gulp Single Eggs
The Berkley Gulp eggs are a good single egg imitation that is scented and is good for wild and stocked trout.
Berkley PowerBait Glitter Trout Bait is a dough-type bait that can be added to a hook and it resembles fish eggs.
7. Grub-Type Baits For Trout
Other than worms there is an assortment of other live baits that can be used for trout, and at certain times of the year, these baits can be a great choice.
Wax worms, Maggots, Grubs, and Meal Worms – These are small grub-like worms that can be placed on a hook and presented to trout.
I have also done well with live maggots and mealworms. With these types of trout baits, I use a size 10 or 12 egg hook to secure these guys to the line.
Not all fishing stores will sell these types of baits, however, check your local pet store since they will often sell these as food for reptiles like lizards.
Since finding these types of bait is difficult sometimes, instead of live bait, I will use imitation grubs with good success. A small hook under a float with the right-sized leader and these imitation grubs can be deadly on big and small trout.
You can also fish them using the bottom bouncing method.
Berkley PowerBait Power Wigglers are a great grub/maggot imitation.
Plastic Nymphs like this 2″ Lil Hellgrammites is a good trout bait.
This 2-inch Savage Gear plastic nymph is a great trout bait.
Is The Trout Magnet A Good Bait?
The honest answer is that this plastic jig-type bait does catch fish but it is far from being one of the best trout baits. You will not see my or most guides pulling out these and using them on a guide trip, simply because there are far better trout baits.
This trout bait is very popular with many anglers and is a bait that gets a ton of great reviews. Because of that, I get asked about it all the time so I thought I would provide my opinion.
I have used this myself under a float, or when bottom bouncing and it works for big and small trout, but the problem for me is there are far better baits that trout are more likely to grab and hold onto.
However, if this is something you would like to try, my two most effective colors are pink and purple. The trout magnet can be placed on the hook of a jig, or on a bait hook. You can get this bait in a kit or in single packages, and I have also used the trout magnet worm.
8. Crayfish Are Great For Trout
Also Known as CrawFish or Crawdads- Trout eat crayfish and many rivers in North America have crayfish in them.
If you can get your hands on 1 to 2-inch long live crayfish they can work well all year long, and therefore I would consider them to be a very good trout bait.
A single hook through the tail on a good quality size 6 or 8 hook should do the job. The bigger the crayfish the bigger the hook.
If you can’t get real Crayfish where you live, you can order imitation Crayfish from FishUSA.com – HERE or From Bass Pro Shops – HERE. I only use imitation crawfish in current if I am float fishing or drift fishing.
Imitation Cratyfish are not good bait for trout in still water unless you impart action like jigging them, twitching them, or dragging them as the bass guys do.
I use imitation crayfish under a float or with the bottom bouncing method with good success and the faster the current the better.
I actually prefer the imitation crayfish over the live ones in faster-moving water because they stay on the hook better, and in fast water the trout can’t tell the difference anyway.
Imitation Crayfish are also easier to store and carry with you, and there are some really great ones that the bass guys use to catch a ton of bass. These are also great for trout.
In slow or still water, I like to jig for trout, the same way the bass guys do, and jigging or crawling imitation crayfish along the river bottom can be deadly on big trout.
9. Leeches Are One Of The Best Trout Baits
Leeches – You may not like to touch these wiggly blood suckers but trout love them and leeches are a great trout bait if you can find them. If you do not have live leeches there are some great artificial leech baits that work for me.
Leeches are a bonus bait that many anglers do not consider when fishing for trout but leeches have put many big trout in my net when other baits wouldn’t.
Many tackle stores will sell live leeches as bait for the bass anglers, but trust me, they work for trout too if you rig them and fish them properly.
Crayfish, Leeches and grubs I put under the live bait category and they are number 4 on my list of the best baits for trout.
If you can’t get live leeches I have done well with the Berkley Gulp Leeches under a float. Like all alternative baits, fish your fake leeches in faster water.
If they are live leeches, let them wiggle, I use a small single size # 10 egg hook and I only hook them once in the mouth so that they stay alive longer and so they wiggle like crazy which attracts more trout.
10. Crickets and Grass Hoppers and Beetles
During the heat of the summer when there are no worms around the trusty old worm can stop working.
Grasshoppers and crickets and other beetles can be all over the place at this time of year and that makes them an excellent bait for trout.
I use a single size 12 or 14 sedge hook to secure these to the line.
You can drift them below the surface or on the surface.
You can also fish imitation crickets that can work well and one of the best ones I have tried is the Berkley Gulp Crickets.
I have used these Berkley Gulp 1″ crickets from and have caught small and large trout on them mostly in faster currents.
10. Aquatic Insects Are Great Trout Baits
Despite reading some blogs that say that big trout drop insects from their diet once they get big, (which is BS), my clients and I seem to keep catching lots of large trout, steelhead, and even huge salmon on insects and insect imitations known as flies, that are less than a half-inch long.
You can catch these aquatic insects yourself but some tackle stores will sell aquatic insects for anglers to use as trout bait.
Since trout feed on insects a lot when they are younger, they and the larger trout still see them as a good food source that is hard to pass up. A size 12 or 14 hooks should do the trick with real insects.
These aquatic insects are found in most water bodies which include rivers, creeks, ponds, lakes, and reservoirs.
In fact, there are many days when I will catch 10 times more trout with small imitation insects, also known as flies, than all the guys around me fishing with worms and live bait.
The simple matter of truth is that if the trout are feeding on flies all day and you put another fly in front of them they will likely eat it.
That is providing that you present it well enough.
If they don’t eat a fly, you have my list of other great baits that you can try.
11. Artificial Flies Are One Of The Best Trout Baits
You do not need to be a fly angler to use flies for trout.
I use flies with spinning rods and Centerpin rods all the time and with great success.
You can drift flies under a float or with the bottom bouncing method.
Check out my page How To Fish Flies With Spinning Gear: 2 Best Methods
Flies are one of my all-time favorite baits in trout rivers and if I had to choose only 1 bait to use for the rest of my life I think I would use flies.
Flies can be so versatile and do not need to look like bugs. I have flies that imitate leeches, minnows, crayfish, and even mice.
Every trout angler should have some of my most productive flies in their vest or pack. If you want to know my favorite flies check out my page on the Best Trout Flies.
12. Minnows And Baitfish Are A Great Trout Bait
Fish eat fish and trout are no exception. This means minnows and other live fish like sculpins can be a great trout bait in rivers.
You can get minnows from your local tackle store or you can buy a minnow trip and catch your own. One of the best minnow traps on the market is the Eagle Claw Minnow Trap or the Frabil Minnow Trap from Bass Pro Shops.
I use the same hooks when using minnows as bait as I do for other trout baits like worms and spawn bags simply because those are the best hooks. See my page on The Best Hooks For Trout and Steelhead.
Minnow imitation baits and real minnows can be drifted under a float or using a bottom bouncing method.
The best imitation minnows that I have used are the Berkley Gulp! Alive! Minnows. You can also jig these imitation minnows with great success.
I like these minnows in colors emerald shiner, smelt, and watermelon pearl.
13. Jigs For Trout Fishing
When it comes to the best trout baits, most anglers do not think about jigs as bait or even jig fishing for trout. However, jig fishing for trout can be a very effective way to catch big and small trout.
Jigs can be drifted through the current just like any bait. Jigs can be used under a float or bobber the same way you would use a bait under a bobber.
Jigs come in all types, from your standard twister tail jigs, marabou jigs, bucktail jigs, tube jig, and creature jigs.
The jigs I typically use as bait are smaller marabou-style jigs that pulsate and move with the current. These are lightweight and buggy-looking. You can also tip your jig with a maggot, worm, or grub which makes it even more bait-like.
The jigs I like the best are:
The same jig and same jig techniques that the professional bass anglers use can also work well on trout.
Simply add a jig hook that is the right size to get the jig down to the fish, cast it out and let it hit bottom, and then start an up-and-down jig motion all the way back to you.
The trick is to maintain some tension on the line so you can feel the trout take.
The benefit to jigs is that not many anglers use them so it’s not something the trout will get used to seeing. Jigs for trout also get down to the fish even in 30 feet of water so you can use them anywhere.
Bonus Bait For Trout
14. Prawns and Shrimp As Bait For Trout
Small shrimp tails can also be an effective bait for trout.
In some areas, the fishing stores will sell shrimps like sand shrimps but if you can’t get them in the fishing store near you, frozen salad shrimps and prawns from the grocery store can also be used on a hook, or tipped on a jig.
Because the shape, size, scent, and texture are all there for the trout, shrimps and prawns can be more effective at times than some other baits and therefore should be included in the best trout baits category.
Shrimps can also be colored using food dye or scented, dyed, and cured using Pautzke Balls O’ Fire Fire Cure.
15. Bonus Bait – Skein
This is a trout bait that I was going to keep for myself because it can be extremely effective. Skein is basically immature fish eggs that are still attached to the membrane and for some reason, skein eggs produce a lot of scent in the water, and often times that means the trout can’t resist it.
In fact, I have had many days when skein would catch all the trout even when all other baits failed.
When I fish with skein, I either tie it into small spawn bags or even better is to use small chunks of skein on a small size 10 or 12 hook.
Most anglers have difficulty getting skein or don’t like to use it because it can be difficult to cure. I have used packaged skein from well-known brands like ProCure.
To see how to rig Skein, check out my article How To Rig Skein.
Pro-Cure Salmon Roe Clusters
These premium natural egg skeins are individually cut into soft durable clusters and packed on a tray.
They are made and processed to stay on the hook better.
15. Lures For Trout
Some anglers consider lures as bait and if a lure is a bait it can be one of the best trout baits to use in lakes and rivers.
But to me, lures are lures, they are not actually a bait since I define bait as something you put on a hook.
Other Trout Baits
There are other baits anglers use and these are baits you might see and hear recommended in other articles. However, it is very unlikely you will see them being used by guides and good anglers for the simple reason they are not very effective and there are much more effective baits to use.
Although these can be used as trout baits, I highly recommend you avoid them.
- Corn / Corn Nibblets – See Fishing Trout With Corn
- Bread Dough or Rolled-up bread
- Marshmallows – See Trout Fishing With Marshmallows
Bait Fishing Regulations
Using bait might not be legal where you live or it may not be legal in some rivers or just some sections of rivers so check your local regulations before you go fish.
Got A Question About The Best Trout Baits
I hope I covered most of the things regarding the best trout baits, but if you have a question, comment, or want to add some tips of your own let me know in the comment section below.