Trolling For Rainbow Trout In Still Waters

Across the United States and Canada, thousands of lakes and reservoirs have been stocked with rainbow trout. From small pits and ponds to massive reservoirs, these fisheries provide anglers with an opportunity for fast fishing. You need a basic understanding of rainbow trout location and a simple presentation system that puts your bait in front of as many fish as possible.


Rod: 6 1/2- to 8-foot medium-power spinning or casting rod.

Reel: medium-capacity spinning or baitcasting reel.

Line: 8- to 12-pound-test mono.


Keep your bait and presentation options for still-water rainbows as simple as possible. You'll catch trout by stillfishing or casting natural and artificial baits, but trolling often produces several more fish in the course of a day. Walleye-style livebait rigs can be used to present night crawlers, small minnows, and other natural baits, but the versatile three-way rig is a better option when fish are holding off the bottom. Livebait triggers neutral trout, but flatline trolling with spinners, spoons, minnowbaits, and flies attracts more strikes when fish are active.


Rainbows in lakes and reservoirs often elude anglers because they relate more to temperature bands than to obvious structural elements. During spring and fall, they often hold just below the surface over deep water, but even during summer they're likely to be in the top 20 feet of the water column if a comfortable temperature range is available. Points, humps, and other structural elements that extend into water ranging from 55F to 60F make prime trolling targets, however, since these areas support the preyfish and invertebrates that rainbows feed on. Obviously, a temperature probe that can be lowered into the water column is more useful for locating trout than a surface temperature gauge.


Trolling shallow-running baits like spinners and minnowbaits at their normal running depth often is effective during spring and fall. During summer, use deeper-running lures like spoons and plugs, or increase running depth with clip-on weights or three-way rigs. In stained water or when trout are scattered, try trolling baits behind cowbells -- a series of small spinner blades on a braided wire leader. Attach a 12- to 24-inch leader to the snap at the terminal end of the cowbell. When trout are wary due to clear water or fishing pressure, try trolling baits behind planer boards. Boards also are effective when trout are feeding on or near the surface.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

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