Spin Fishing For Trout: Guide Methods and Tips For More Trout

Spin fishing for trout can produce big brown trout like this.

As a fishing guide for trout, I spend a portion of my time spin fishing for trout and teaching others how to catch trout more effectively with a spinning rod and reel. There are many things an angler can do to catch more trout when they spin fish for trout, and in this article, I hold nothing back and reveal my top tips, methods, baits, and lures.

Spin fishing is when you use a spinning rod and reel with a setup for either fishing with lures or a setup for bait fishing for trout. The proper gear and setup are a must for success.

Table Of Contents hide

Spin Fishing For Trout In Streams

It doesn’t matter if you fish for rainbow trout, brook trout, or brown trout, using a spinning rod and reel is very effective with all methods.

Spinning For Trout In Still Water: Lakes and Ponds

Fishing for trout in lakes and ponds requires a slightly different approach and tactics but long casts are usually required, and spinning rods and reels do this well. The fish can be spread out throughout the lake and the water column.

When freshwater fishing in trout lakes or a pond, fan casting and using different lures that cover different depths of the water column is required.

Trout Fishing Setup

My trout fishing setup depends on multiple things, and I know from 37 years of experience that the right spinning gear and the right setup will increase the number of trout I or my clients will catch.

Trout Spinning Rod and Reel

I use a spinning rod and reel suitable for the size of the trout species I’m targeting and the size of the river.

What kind of rod is best for trout fishing?

an angler with a good trout spinning rod and reel

Any general-purpose light to medium-light rod in the 5 to 7-foot length will work for trout. However, in some cases, a shorter or longer rod will be more effective and will help you catch more trout. I have multiple rods, and this is how I break them down.

What rod length is best for trout fishing?

The best overall rod length for trout is 7-foot. Consider these:

  • 5 to 6-foot rod: Good for very small stream trout, tiny creeks, and small streams, heavy brush and forest cover, small baits, and small light lure size.
  • 6.5 to 7.5-foot rod: Good general purpose, small trout to larger trout, small to large trout river, heavy bait set up, and big lure sizes.
  • 8 to 9-foot rod: Good for big trout, best for float fishing and bait fishing on larger trout rivers and in deeper water.

What rod weight is best for trout fishing?

The best rod weight for trout fishing is a lightweight rod. However, ultra-light, medium-light, and even medium rods might be required.

  • Ultra-light Rod: Good for very small stream trout, tiny creeks and small streams, small baits, and small light lure size.
  • Light and Medium Light Rods: Good general purpose size, Good for small trout to larger trout, small to large trout rivers, heavy bait set up, and big lure sizes.
  • Medium Rod: Good for big trout on big rivers and lakes or when heavy weights are required for far casts or when fishing deep water.

What rod action is best for trout fishing?

The best rod action for trout fishing is a fast action rod which is why most of the trout-specific rods are all made only in fast action. A medium fast to fast action rod is what I prefer, and I feel these rods will be sensitive and cast farther.

Some anglers prefer a more moderate action rod since the little trout will shake hooks loose less, however, I really don’t care if a few extra little 6-inch trout shake off, it’s better for the fish anyways. And, I find bigger trout don’t shale the hooks as easily.

For More Info, Check out The Best Rods For Trout.

What Kind of Reel is Best For Trout Fishing?

Spinning reels are the best reel for trout fishing since they are so versatile and allow anglers to fish baits and lures easily.

What size reel for trout fishing?

a good trout reel and a nice brown trout.

The best size reel for trout fishing is a size 20 – 2000 reel. However, it is best to match the reel to the rod and the size of the fish and body of water. Spinning reels have a size rating system such as 10, 20, 30, also rated as 1000, 2000, 3000.

It depends on the brands which number they use, but normally a size 20 would be equivalent to a size 2000.

Although you can catch a big trout on a small reel, you would want a trout spinning reel that can hold enough line to accommodate longer casts, and long runs from big fish.

  • Size 10 to 15: Good for very small stream trout, tiny creeks and small streams where long casts are not required, good for small baits and small light lure size.
  • Size 20 to 25: Good general-purpose reel, small trout to larger trout, small to large rivers and lakes where longer casts are required.
  • Size 30 to 35: Only good for very big trout, big lures, and very big and fast rivers. Best if you need a reel with a lot of line.

What is the best spinning reel ratio for trout?

The best spinning reel ratio for trout fishing is 6.2.1. I prefer a medium-speed reel of about 6.2.1 since trout lures are best retrieved at a slower speed and since trout lures do not have a lot of pull.

The medium gear ratio will allow you to retrieve slower. However, it still has a decent speed if you need to get the lure in fast.

A lower gear is better for hard-pulling lures when you need more torque and less speed and is also good for very heavy fish.

High-gear ratio reels are generally not required, however, they can be nice when float fishing with very long drifts and you want to get it in fast.

The number on the left is how many times the spool turns.

The higher the number on the left, the faster it retrieves the line

For more info, Check out The Best Spinning Reels For Trout.

Line For Spin Fishing

This Sufix 832 is a good line for trout fishing

There are three lines to consider for trout fishing with spinning reels.

Most novice anglers will use monofilament fishing line, and at times or with certain methods, this is the best line for trout.

However, more advanced anglers will use fluorocarbon lines or braided lines, both of which have benefits and drawbacks. See below.

  • Mono – cheapest, easy to use, best for float fishing for trout. Cons – High stretch, more memory, especially with cheap mono lines
  • Fluorocarbon – Nearly invisible, best abrasion resistance, less stretch – Cons – Cheaper lines don’t cast well, tangle, and cause problems, more expensive.
  • Braided Line – No stretch, extra thin compared to strength so you can pack a lot more on a reel, it floats so good for bait and lures: Cons – no stretch means the potential to tear hooks out and to break light leaders on the hook set. Rod tip wrapping is more common with novice anglers, tangles are more difficult to remove, and braid can freeze in winter.

For more, check out The Best Fishing Line For Trout.

What weight line for trout spinning?

The best line weight for trout spinning methods is 6 pound. However, you might want to go up a size or two or down a size.

4 pound – Best for small trout and smaller streams

6-pound – Good general-purpose size for small to mid-sized streams and trout up to 8 pounds.

8 to 10-pound – Best in large fast rivers and when fishing for trout in lakes. Best when using lures, especially large heavy lures.

NOTE: When using a braided line, it is super thin so you can stick with a 10 to 20-pound line.

What is the best line color for trout fishing?

The best line color for trout fishing is clear or green. The exception is I prefer to use a brightly colored line when float fishing

Do I need a leader for trout fishing?

Shallow water float fishing leader
This is a shallow water float fishing leader that I would use in water less than 24 inches deep. The optional split shot may not be needed since the water is so shallow.

You should use a leader for trout fishing. I always use a fluorocarbon leader of 2 to 6 feet with all methods and all types of fishing lines.

A fluorocarbon leader is less visible to the trout and has good abrasion resistance.

Do not use a metal leader with a snap swivel unless there are toothy fish like pike in the water body.

Swivels and Snap Swivels

Swivels and snap swivels are used for fishing with lures and for some bait fishing methods. I will tell you this, too many anglers use the wrong types or swivels and snap swivels, they also go way too big, and they use them on their bait rigs when they shouldn’t.

All of this can prevent you from catching fish.

A small snap swivel is good for preventing line twist with lures like spinners and maybe some spoons, however, a large snap swivel can affect the proper action of a lure and the trout can see it.

Small swivels are great for connecting your line and leader together and also prevents line twist if you tie the leader directly to the lure.

Knots For Spin Fishing.

A simple improved clinch knot or Palomar knot is all you need.

Trout Spin Fishing Rig

The Improved Clinch Knot is one of the Best Trout Fishing Knots

The trout spin fishing rig consists of a rod and reel, connected to the fishing line, which is then connected to a leader, which is where you add a bait hook or lure.

Guys, I know this from years of experience, how you set up your fishing rig, which includes the line size, the hook size and type, and the leader size and setup is critical to success.

The leader will depend on the method you are using. The leader setup can be a critical part of the spin fishing rig, and I’d bet the biggest reason why most anglers struggle to catch trout is an improper leader setup.

Bait Fishing For Trout

Spin fishing with bait is a great way to catch all trout species. It’s also a great way to catch trophy trout.

a worm on a hook which is a great bait
  • Float Fishing – Bobber Fishing: Float fishing means suspending a bait below are float or bobber and can be used when river fishing and in lakes and ponds.
  • Drift Fishing and Bottom Bouncing: Drift fishing and bottom bouncing are methods of drifting your bait down the river without a float or bobber. It can be very effective in shallow water and pocket water.
  • Plunking: Plunking is a method I use when still fishing with bait.

Most Effective Baits For Trout

Rainbow trout baits

When I am stream fishing for large brown trout or lake fishing for stocked rainbows, I know that using the most effective trout baits will make a huge difference.

I keep it simple, I use live bait or organic baits and baits that imitate the natural forage of the trout.

I believe that artificial bait like those found in jars, and bait like corn just make it harder to catch trout ,so I do not recommend them or use them.

The best baits are:

  • Worms: Live worms are best when still fishing. Just be sure you rig them properly. Plastic trout worms are very effective in rivers.
  • Eggs: Salmon Eggs and trout eggs are great in rivers and lakes. Imitation eggs like beads are great in rivers
  • Flies: Artificial flies that imitate aquatic insects or other bugs like crickets or beetles are great.
  • Grubs and Larvae: Grubs, maggots, mealworms, and insect larvae are all great for trout.
  • Live Bait: Leeches, Crayfish, and minnows are all good baits and big brown trout and big brook trout find them hard to resist.

Guide Tip: I know from experience that some baits create a natural strike response in wild trout and stocked trout. Fake baits like dough, corn, marshmallows, and other store-bought baits don’t which is why it is rare to see trout guides and experienced anglers wasting their time with them. Do yourself a favor and ONLY use high-percentage baits.

For more on the best baits I use and my setups, as well as when and how I use them, check out The 5 Best Baits For Trout.

Which Lure Is Best For Trout?

a nice brown trout caught spin fishing

There are a number of good lures to use with spinning gear, and just about all fish species will eat a lure. These are my most effective and popular trout lures.

  1. Spinners
  2. Spoons
  3. Crankbaits and Jerkbaits
  4. Plugs
  5. Jigs

Spinner Fishing For Trout

Spinner fishing for trout is likely the most popular lure-fishing method. Spinner fishing with spinning gear is simple and effective, and even beginner anglers can fair well.

Both large and small trout will hit a well-presented spinner.

When I talk about spinner fishing for trout I and referring to in-line spinners.

Why Are Spinners So Effective For Trout?

The spinner blade causes flash and vibration that attract and entice trout to bite. Even just the vibration can attract trout from a long way, which is why spinners are great in dirty water and at night.

What Size Spinner For Trout

The best size spinner for trout is a number 2, which will work for both large and small trout. However, smaller and larger spinners will work.

I will use a size 4 or 5 for bigger fish and will also use them in larger rivers and lakes. The larger size will cast farther.

When fishing smaller streams, stick with smaller sizes.

Best Small Trout Spinners

In-line spinners in size 0 or size 1 are good when fishing for smaller trout that average 8 inches or less.

What Color Spinner For Trout?

If I had to choose only one color, I would say that silver is the most effective color for spinners. Many other colors can be very good:

  • Copper and Gold: Good in clear water
  • Chartreuse: Good in dirty Water
  • Black: Good in clear and dirty water as well as when night fishing
  • Orange: A good attractor color

Spinner fishing for trout can result in some surprises since other species also love spinners.

Guide Tip: When using spinners, it is a good idea to use a small swivel or small snap swivel to prevent line twist.

What Spinner Is Best For Trout?

My personal favorite and what I consider the best spinner for trout is the Blue Fox Vibrax. I find the vibration is louder, and most trout find it hard to resist. Blue Fox Vibrax comes in a shallow run and deeper water version.

Mepps Aglia – For many anglers, they will say it’s hard to beat the very popular Mepps Aglia spinner.

Panther Martin – Other popular and great spinners are the Panther Martin spinner and the Rooster Tail Spinner. Rooster tails and Panther Matins are very popular for steelhead and salmon anglers too.

Spinner Fishing Setup

The spinner fishing setup is pretty easy. I attach a 20 to 30″ fluorocarbon leader with a small 2X-small to 4X- small Raven Micro Swivel, and then tie my leader directly to my spinner.

Spoon Fishing For Trout

4 good trout spoons

Spoon fishing for trout is very effective and is more common in larger rivers and in lakes. Keep your retrieve speed slow to medium. Spoons have a nice wobble and flash, which resembles baitfish.

Spoons sink quickly and can be good in deep holes, or when cast and immediately retrieved you can fish them shallow.

What Size Spoon For Trout

Spoons from one inch to 4 inches will work for trout. When distance casting is required, like when you’re fishing a lake, a longer heavier spoon is better.

Best Small Trout Spoons

You can get very small spoons under 1.5 inches, and these spoons are good for small trout that are under 10 inches. My favorite and most effective small trout spoon is the 1 inch. My favorite and most effective small trout spoon is the 1 inch Thomas Colorado Spoon.

Spoons like the 1 1/4″ Mepps Little Wolf Spoon is another good option for small trout.

These spoons will also work for larger trout.

What Color Spoon For Trout?

Silver, gold, and copper are the best and most consistent spoons to use when you spin fish for trout. However, spoons come in many colors, and some colors or color combinations will work well. I have done very well with gold/orange or copper/orange combinations.

Also ,yellow is one of my best trout colors, so a yellow spoon is a good option.

Chartreuse is also good in dirty water and low light conditions.

What Spoon Is Best For Trout?

There are many good spoons you can try for trout. These are my favorite spoons.

  1. Luhr Jensen Krocodile Spoons – My favorite thin and long spoons for trout. This is long and skinny like a baitfish.
  2. ACME Tackle Little Cleo is one of my favorite casting spoons. These are heavy and cast far.
  3. Thomas Buoyant Spoons – This is one of my favorite trout spoons, it is 1.5″ long and has lots of great colors.
  4. Thomas Colorado Spoon – Best for little trout.
  5. Dreamweaver DW Spoon – Trolling spoon only, this is not good for rivers or moving water.
  6. Michigan Stinger Stingray Spoon – Trolling spoon only, this is not good for rivers or moving water.

When fishing spinners and spoons, I will often remove the treble hook and replace it with a large wide-gape single hook so releasing the trout is easier.

Spoon Fishing Setup

I set up my spoon the exact same way I do when fishing spinners. See Above.

Crankbait Fishing For Trout

An assortment of my crankbaits for trout
An assortment of my crankbaits for trout

Crankbaits or Hard Jerk baits are minow or baitfish imitation lures. They look like and mimic fish. Crankbaits are my most effective big wild trout bait.

What Size Crankbait For Trout

A trout with a crankbait in it's mouth
3 to 4-inch crankbaits are my best size for trout.

When it comes to the best size crankbait for trout, in my experience, the best size crankbait for trout is 3.5 inches.

I do well with any crankbait from 3 to 4.5 inches and have caught trout on crankbaits up to 6 inches.

Best Small Trout Crankbaits

I have used small 1.5″ to 2.5″ crankbaits for small trout.

What Color Crankbait For Trout?

The best color crankbait for trout is blackback with silver and white underbelly. In dirty water, yellow and chartreuse are great. Most minnow and shad patterns are great.

What Crankbait Is Best For Trout?

These are all great crankbaits for trout.

  1. Rapala Original Floating Minnow
  2. Rapala Husky Jerk
  3. Rapala X-Rap
  4. Smithwick Suspending Rattling Rogue
  5. Rebel Wee Crawfish
  6. Brads Wiggler

Crankbait Fishing Setup

Plugs For Trout Fishing

Kwikfish is a good plug for trout
The Kwikfish is a very effective plug for trout

A lure known as a plug is another lure that can be very good for trout. Plugs tend to have an erratic wobble at slow speeds and are great when trout are less active.

I use plugs a lot during the winter months.

Use the same colors as you would use for crankbaits.

My favorite is the Luhr Jensen Kwikfish X-Treme but some guys prefer the Flatfish.

For more in-depth info check out Lure Fishing For Trout: Tactics From A Pro River Guide

Jig Fishing For Trout

A big rainbow caught on a jig
Photo courtesy of A Perfect Drift Guide Company

Jigs are my secret lure because jig fishing for trout is very effective in almost any type of water. Jigs are best when trout are feeding near the bottom.

Tiny jigs can be fished under a float, and larger jigs can be cast out and jigged or twitched.

What Size Jig For Trout

When float fishing, a 1 to 2-inch jig is great, but if you are jigging or twitching jigs the best size is 3 to 4 inches.

Best Small Trout Jigs

There are small micro jigs that are great for small trout. Jigs like the Trout Magnet are good options.

What Color Jig For Trout?

The best color jig for trout is black. however, my go-to color might change based on the conditions and water clarity. By most effective colors are yellow, black, olive, tan, and white.

What Jig Is Best For Trout?

Hawken Marabou Series AeroJigs and VMC Twitchin’ Jigs for casting, and for under a float or when drift fishing or bottom bouncing try the VooDoo Custom Tackle Marabou Jigs.

Jig Fishing Setup

For more on spoons and all my most effective lures, check out Best Lures For Trout.

Best Places To Target Trout

80% of the fish hold in 20% of the water, this image shows you where the fish should be.
On trout and steelhead rivers, it’s not uncommon for 80% of the fish to hold in 20% of the water. Reading the water and knowing where to fish gives you a better chance for more fish.

Trout can be found in most places in a river but often, 80% of trout are found in 20% of the river. I fish these places for the best success.

  • Riffles and Rapids – 2 to 3-foot riffles can be very good and outside edges in rapids will often hold trout.
  • Pocket Water – I have seen 24-inch trout sitting in pocket water not more than twice the fish”s length, Bigger pockets are often ignored by anglers but there is often fish in them.
  • Pools – Pools are everyone’s go-to and they are good places for small and large trout.
  • Back eddies and Still water – Backeddies and still water sections are my least favorite spots, however, there are times when they will hold some big trout.
  • Ponds and Lakes – Unless you have a boat, when trout fishing in a lake you are stuck fishing the bank, which is ok because trout will often cruise the shoreline in search of food and will be in casting range.

Spinning Fishing Methods and Tips

There are many methods that I use when spinning for trout.

Casting Lures Method

Covering the water with lures
In this image, the current is moving from the right to the left. Cast across and land your lure 3 to 6 feet downriver with each consecutive cast. Let the lure swing or twitch it across the pool from the far side to the inside as you retrieve it.

When casting lures in rivers and lakes it is best to learn how to cover the water effectively.

I work my lure every 3 to five feet of water and cover the entire area. I will also allow by lure to sink to be sure I’m deep enough.

Bait Fishing Method

An anger covering the water well
I put this client at the top of the pool so he could fish it more effectively. You can see where the river goes from shallow where he is standing to deeper where his float is.

Covering the water when bait fishing is also very important. I see many anglers covering only the obvious spots and they miss a lot of other water with good potential. I cover the water from the closest bank to the far bank and usually get each consecutive drift one foot further with each cast.

Approach and Positioning

my fishing buddy staying low and stealthy while fishing spring trout.
My fishing buddy stays low and stealthy while fishing spring trout.

When fishing for wild trout, I do my best to stay downriver of the fish and cast upstream. Or, I will stay far enough up the river that they cannot see me. I will also move slowly, be quiet, and try to stay as low as possible.

Rotating baits and Lures

As a guide, I pick the bait or lure that I think should be the most effective based on the conditions. However, I am not always correct, therefore, once I determine the fish do not want what I or my client is offering them, I will start rotating through baits and lures to figure out what the trout want.

I have seen days when one color is all they want, or one size is the key.

If something is not working, change. There will be days when nothing works, and other days where they only want one or two things.

Best Times For Catching Trout

Spinning for trout is generally best done at dawn and dusk and on cloudy days. Rainy days are often my best days for catching the biggest trout.

Retrieve Methods For More Trout

  • Speed – Slower is almost always better
  • Action – The more erratic you can make a lure the better. I try to make all my lures look like injured or dying baitfish.
  • Depth – If the water is clear you need to get your lure within 5 feet of the bottom. If the water is dirtier, get within a foot or two.

How To Strike When A Trout Hits Your Lure

Water Clarity Tips

A fast water brown trout
A fast water and slightly dirty water brown trout

If you are fishing in the rain or trout fishing after a rain you might be faced with higher water or dirtier water.

These are my tips for fishing all water.

Spin Fishing In Clear Water

When spin fishing in clear water, I go with smaller natural-colored baits and lures. I start small, and if they don’t bite, I gradually increase the size.

I also start with more natural and drab colors, and if they don’t bite, gradually try brighter colors.

Off-Colored and Dirty Water Fishing

When the water is dirtier it’s hard for trout to see the bait or lure. However, dirty water also makes them less nervous and more aggressive. When I’m spin fishing in dirty water I follow these rules:

  • Slow and Steady – Use a slow, steady lure retrieve so they can home in on the lures.
  • Noisy Lures – Lures with a rattle or vibration will work best because even if the fish can’t see the lure, they can sense it.
  • Bright Colors – Brightly colored lures and baits like chartreuse are great in dirty water.
  • Go Big – Bigger lures and bigger baits are easier for trout to see and locate and are best when the water is dirty.

Guide Tip: Dirty water can really cut your chances to catch trout. If you can’t see the tops of your boots when standing in 10 inches of water the water is too dirty to fish. if the water is that dirty, my tip is to go find clearer water or go home.

When you can start seeing the tops of your boots in 14 inches of water, you have a chance.

Q&A – What Readers And Clients Ask

Can You Catch River Trout With a Spinning Reel

Yes, you can catch a lot of river trout with spinning reels and at this time spinning reels are the most popular reel to use for trout.

What time of year should you spin trout?

Any time of the year is good to spin fish for trout, just be sure to adapt to the conditions.

Are spinners Good for trout?

Spinners are very good for trout and they are likely one of the most popular artificial lures for trout fishing. However, I will be honest, often, there are better lures to use like crankbaits and jigs.

Do you put bait on a spinner for trout?

I never put bait on a spinner or any other lure and I do not recommend it. In my experience, adding bait to a lure does not increase the chance of a trout biting the spinner, and the bait can make the lure not run properly.

Do stocked trout like spinners?

Yes, stocked trout like spinners, however, they are not always the best at hitting moving targets so keep your spinner moving at a slow and steady pace.

Will Trout Hit Spinnerbaits?

Yes, trout will hit spinnerbaits especially if you use the smaller spinnerbaits.

What are the best lures for flowing rivers?

This is actually a good equation because not all lure work well in the current. The best lures for flowing rivers are heavy spoons, spinners, some crankbaits, and jigs.

What ounce spinner for trout?

1/4 ounce is the preferred size of spinner for most trout fishing. For small trout try a 1/8-ounce, or 1/6-ounce, or a 3 /16-ounce spinner.

How fast should you reel in a spinner?

A steady slow speed is best when using a spinner for trout in a river. In a lake, you can speed it up to a medium-slow speed.

Is spin fishing more effective than fly fishing?

In some instances like fishing in a lake or on very larger rivers, spin fishing is more effective than fly fishing, however, some fly anglers will disagree. However, when fish are heavily feeding on aquatic insects above and below the surface and especially in shallower water under 4 feet, fly fishing is often a more effective method.

Is braid or mono better for trout spinning?

A question I get asked all the time is, “Is braid or mono better for trout spinning methods. The answer is, once you get used to it, braid is a better all-around line for trout spinning methods.

Tight Lines,


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