Trout Fishing 101: The Ultimate Guide To Trout Gear

Trout fishing is one of the more popular types of fishing where I’m at. There are a bunch of different options to pick from when it comes to trout gear, and in this post, I’m going to be talking about my favorites.

Kokanee and trout are the main fish I’ve targeted over the years and I’ve been able to try out a bunch of different gear. The good news is that are really only a few setups you need to catch them pretty much anywhere.

We’ll be talking about rods and reels, what line to use, attractors and lures, and bait. Each is slightly different based on what type of trout you’re after, so we’ll touch on that as well.

Best Fishing Reels For Trout

There really isn’t an exact answer to this question because people fish for trout in different ways. It’ll all depend on if you’re trolling, casting from shore, or fly fishing.

Here are my favorite fishing reels for trout:

  1. Abu Garcia Max DLC Line Counter Reel
  2. Okuma Ceymar Spinning Reel
  3. Wild Water Fly Reel

A line counter reel is what I like to use for trolling. You can easily see how much line you have out and can tell what depth you’re at. It’s a great way to become more consistent.

A spinning reel can also be used for trolling, but it’s what I like to use when I’m shore fishing. Line counter reels can’t cast as far, so that’s why a spinning reel is a better choice.

Fly reels can be used for trolling or casting from shore. It takes some time to learn how to do but there’s nothing like catching a trout on a fly rod.

Let’s jump into what reels I use.

Abu Garcia Max DLC Reel

The Abu Garcia DLC (on Amazon) is my favorite line counter reel. It’s pretty affordable and is my favorite option for trolling for rainbow and lake trout.

What I like most about this reel is that the handle has a good grip and is easy to hold. Most of the smaller spinning reels have a thinner handle and it’s definitely not as smooth to reel in.

It’s also lighter and more compact than a lot of the other models on the market. Plus, it comes with a digital line counter reel, which most don’t have.

It’ll hold 135 yards of 10 lb monofilament line (or more if you’re using braid). This is more than enough for trout fishing.

What’s also nice is that this reel is actually a bit cheaper than some of the most popular line counter reels. I’m all about saving money, so this pushed things over the top.

It also has a bunch of small but really useful features that most don’t have. It has light if you’re fishing in low light and it’ll beep when your hook is close to the boat.

Okuma Ceymar Spinning Reel

The Okuma Ceymar (on Amazon) is my favorite spinning reel under $50. I prefer a line counter reel for trolling, but a spinning reel is the best choice for shore fishing.

There are a bunch of different sizes to pick from but I went with the C-30. It’s small enough to not be overkill for a smaller rainbow, but it’s still big enough to bring in a lake trout. If you’re just using it for lakers, the C-40 might be the better choice.

I’ve had it for a couple of years now and it’s still holding up great. It’s not the best option on the market, but it’s better than the rest at this price point.

Wild Water Fly Reel

wild water fly rod

The Wild Water Fly Combo (on Amazon) is a complete starter kit with everything you need to get started. It comes with a reel, rod, line, travel case, and flies.

I’ve used this in streams, casting into lakes, and trolling with some sinking line. It’s probably the best starter kit out there for trout.

Best Fishing Rods For Trout

The first thing you need to figure out is what type of fishing you’re doing. Trolling, casting from shore, or both. That will let you know what reel you should get.

Once you know that, you need to think about what you’ll be fishing for. Small or large trout? This will let you know what type of rod you’ll need.

Here are the ideal specs for trout rods:

When To UseLengthPowerAction
Trolling Lake Trout7.5-8 FeetMedium/Medium-HeavyFast
Jigging Lake Trout6.5-7 FeetMedium/Medium-HeavyFast
Trolling Small Trout7-7.5 FeetLight/Medium-LightModerate-Fast
Shore Fishing6-6.5 FeetUltralight-LightFast
Fly Fishing8.5-9 Feet4-5 WeightMedium

Best Rod For Trolling Lake Trout

Obviously, lake trout are bigger than your standard rainbow and that’s why you’ll need a different rod to do the job. I’m sure you could land one on lighter gear, but it’ll be harder for most.

The best rod for trolling lake trout is between 7.5 and 8 feet long and has a medium to medium-heavy power rating. Fast action is also preferred to feel the bite and get a good hookset.

You could go longer and you could go shorter, but I find a rod this length to be forgiving enough but still offer decent control.

If you’re trolling with not a whole lot of weight or drag, a medium power rod could do the trick. You’ll really be able to feel the fish, and that’s always super fun.

If you’re trolling with a heavier weight or have an attractor with lots of drag, a medium-heavy rod will be right for you.

Whether you go with a spinning or line counting reel is completely up to you. I prefer line counters because I can easily see how much line I have out.

Best Rod For Jigging Lake Trout

If you’re going to be jigging for lakers, you’ll probably want a shorter rod than you would for trolling. This is going to give you more control and make landing them easier.

The best rod for jigging lake trout is between 6.5 and 7 feet long and has a medium to medium-heavy power rating. Faster action rods are always ideal for jigging.

I prefer medium power rods myself because you really get to feel the fish. If you’re fishing for some monsters though, medium-heavy might be needed.

You could use a spinning or baitcasting reel for jigging, but I prefer a line counter reel. You can easily target the right depth if you’re using a fish finder.

Some of the best bang for your buck options are the Ugly Stik Elite spinning (on Amazon) or the Ugly Stik GX2 casting (on Amazon).

Best Rod For Trolling Smaller Trout

If you’re trolling for smaller rainbow or cutthroat trout then you probably don’t need as long and as heavy of a rod.

The best rod for trolling smaller trout such as rainbow and cutthroat is between 7 and 7.5 feet long with light to medium-light power rating. Moderate action rods are also ideal.

If you’re going to be trolling with little to no weight or downriggers, a light power rod should work well. If you’re attaching a heavier weight to your line, a mediumlight rod might work better.

You can use a fly, spinning, or line counting reel to troll for trout, but my go-to is the Lamiglas Kokanee & Trout rod (on Amazon). It’s a pretty deadly combo when you pair it with the Abu Garcia DLC.

If you prefer a spinning rod, the Okuma SST (on Amazon) is a great option. The SST-S is spinning and SST-C is casting.

Best Shore Fishing Rod For Trout

If you’re fishing a lake from shore or smaller creek/stream, you’ll probably want a shorter rod again. There are normally trees and bushes around and a longer rod will get caught up.

The best trout fishing rod for shore fishing is between 6 and 6.5 feet long with an ultralight power rating. Faster action rods are ideal because they’ll help cast a long distance.

I’d definitely recommend a spinning rod here because it’ll cast lighter lures a lot easier than anything else. My go-to setup is an Okuma Ceymar paired with an Ugly Stik Elite (on Amazon).

Best Fly Fishing Rod For Trout

There really isn’t anything quite like landing a nice trout on a fly rod. What’s also cool about these rods is that you can troll them behind a boat or cast from shore.

The best fly rod for trout is a 4-5 weight and is between 8.5 to 9 feet long. 4 weight fly rods are perfect for smaller trout while 5 weight fly rods are good for almost all types of fish.

I don’t like having a bunch of different rods for different situations and that’s why I went with the 5 weight. I can use it for small trout, lakers, steelhead, or bass.

If you’re just getting started with fly fishing, one of the best rod/reel combo kits is from Wild Water Fishing. It comes with everything you need to get started. The link for that it above.

Best Fishing Line For Trout

When Should You Use Braided Fishing Line

When it comes to fishing line, everybody seems to have a different way to do things. The good news is that you can use mono, fluoro, or straight braid to catch trout.

Here is my favorite line to use for trout:

  • Sufix 832 Braid (main fishing line)
  • Seaguar Red Label Fluorocarbon (leader line)

For my main fishing line, I like to use braided line. I normally use Sufix 832 (on Amazon) but there are other solid options out there. I’ll use 10 lb for smaller trout and 20 lb for lake trout.

This is why I use braid as my main fishing line:

  1. It lasts longer.
  2. It’s more sensitive.
  3. It’s thinner.

Compared to fluoro or mono, braid will last somewhere around 2-3x longer. All this means is that I don’t have to re-spool so often. Less time messing around, more time fishing.

One of the biggest advantages is that braid is more sensitive than mono. It has no stretch to it so you’ll be able to feel the bite right away.

The final reason is that it’s thinner than mono. 10 lb braid is similar in size to 4 lb mono (20 lb braid is close to 6 lb mono). If my line is thinner, that means I’ll need less weight to get down to depth.

One thing to be aware of is that you won’t want to tie braid directly to your lure. It’s not as invisible as mono and fluoro and can be seen by fish.

What you’ll want to do is attach a fluorocarbon leader. I normally use Seaguar Red Label (on Amazon) and I’ll use 6 lb for small trout and 12 lb for lakers.

The main reason I like to use fluorocarbon is that it’s more abrasion resistant than mono. This just makes sure fish don’t cut the line with their teeth or drag it along some rocks.

Best Fishing Lures For Trout

The lure you use for trout will depend on what type of fishing you’re doing, how deep you need to go, and what the current conditions are like.

Here are my favorite lures & setups for trout fishing:

  • Wedding Ring
  • Kastmaster Spoon
  • Pistol Pete Flies
  • Yakima Flatfish
  • Trout Magnet
  • Mepps Spinner
  • Carolina Rig

Best Lure Color For Trout

It’s normally not enough just to have the right lure. The most important thing is the size and presentation, but it’s also a good idea to have a few different lure colors.

The 3 things you need to look at is:

  • What the fish are eating.
  • The water clarity.
  • The light conditions.

The main thing to think about is what the trout are already eating. You want your lure to match that as best as you can. Are they eating other fish? Insects and bugs? Crayfish?

When you’re fishing shallow water or it’s bright and sunny, there’s a lot of light under the water. Since the fish will be able to see clearly, you want your lure to be bright or natural-looking.

When you’re fishing deeper water or it’s cloudy out, there will be less light under the water. Fish won’t be able to see as clearly and a darker color lure will stand out more.

Here are some of the more popular lure colors for trout:

When To UseColor
Sunny Or Shallow (0-26 Feet)Bright Or Natural Lures
Cloudy Or Deep (26+ Feet)Darker Lures

If you’d like to know more about what color to use, you can read the best lure and flasher colors for each type of water.

Best Trolling Lures For Trout

If you’re mainly going to be trolling for trout, make sure you have each of these in a few different colors & sizes. It’s pretty much all you need to catch trout in any lake at any time.

Wedding Ring

This is one of the more popular lures for smaller trout and kokanee and is something you’ll want to have in your tackle box. It doesn’t have its own action and that’s why you want to run it behind a dodger.

An example of a wedding ring is Mack’s Lure Wedding Ring (on Amazon). An example of a dodger to pair with it is the Shasta Tackle Sling Blade (on Amazon).

What you’ll want to do is attach the wedding ring about 12 inches behind the dodger. If you want to add weight, use a sliding weight and bead chain 18-24 inches above the dodger.

I’ve always had the best results with a darker green one. It all depends on where you’re at though and the depth.

Kastmaster Spoon

A Kastmaster spoon (on Amazon) is a great lure that can be trolled behind a boat or cast from shore. It comes in a few different sizes so it can be used for smaller trout as well as lakers.

The perfect size for smaller trout is between 1/12 oz and 3/8 oz. If you don’t need to cast very far or you’re fishing shallow, the smaller spoons will work.

If you need to cast a long-distance or you’re fishing deep, the bigger size will work better. If you’re going after lakers, you can go bigger than 3/8 oz.

My favorite colors are gold, gold/red, silver, and silver/blue. You can catch pretty much all types of trout with these colors, but it’s always a good idea to experiment.

All you have to do to fish these is connect your main line to your leader (4 feet long) with a swivel and attach the spoon. I normally don’t use any dodgers or flashers. If you need weight, attach it directly above the swivel with a sliding weight clip.

Pistol Pete Flies

Pistol Pete flies (on Amazon) have somewhat of a woolly bugger look to them with a spinning blade on the front. You can troll them or attach them to your fly rod, so they’re pretty versatile.

They aren’t always easy to find but I’d highly recommend you grab a couple if you can. Size 6 is ideal for smaller trout and then size 2 for lakers (I’ve caught rainbow on the bigger flies).

My favorite colors would have to be black and olive. They’re naturallooking and should work in pretty much all areas.

For trolling, you can run them by themselves or you can put them behind a dodger. I normally just toss on a split shot or two, and that’s it.

Yakima Flatfish

Another solid trolling lure is the Yakima flatfish (on Amazon). I like the F-4 for smaller trout and the F-7 for lakers.

They come in a bunch of different colors as well. I like to always have a natural and brighter color available, depending on if it’s sunny or cloudy. Silver and rainbow are always good.

They don’t dive very deep on their own and I run them by themselves. If you want them to dive deeper, add a bit of weight.

Best Shore Fishing Lures For Trout

A few of the lures we just talked about will work from shore, but there might be a few better options. If you have one or two of each in a few different colors, you’ll have all fishing spots covered.

Trout Magnet

Trout magnets (on Amazon) are some of the more versatile lures I’ve ever used. You can troll them behind the boat, cast and retrieve, or just cast and let it sit.

I’ve been able to catch trout, kokanee, crappie, and a number of others using these. The kit comes with a number of little jig heads and a bunch of different rubber grubs.

Attach it to your line, cast it out there, and do whatever you want to do, and you’ll be surprised by what you can catch.

Mepps Spinner

Casting spinners from shore is probably my favorite way to catch trout. Mepps spinners (on Amazon) are my go-to.

I’ve tried Rooster Tails and Panther Martins (they work too) but I find Mepps to be the highest quality.

Size 3-5 will work for lakers and size 1-2 work for smaller trout. My two favorites would have to be rainbow and copper.

Carolina Rig

Whenever I hike up to a lake and don’t want to bring much gear, I’ll normally bring a few spinners and gear for a Carolina rig.

This is a bottom fishing rig and all you have to do is cast it out and let it sit. I’ll get this out in the water and cast spinners until I get a bite.

All you have to do is put a sliding weight on your main line, then you’ll put a little bead, and then a swivel. Put a 3-foot leader and then attach a little panfish hook.

I like using some sort of floating bait on the hook. Either Powerbait or Berkley floating worms work well.

Best Bait For Trout Fishing

If you want to take your rig to the next level you can tip your lure with some bait. It’s not always necessary, but I’d definitely try it if the bite is slow.

Here is my favorite bait for trout:

  • Worms
  • Powerbait
  • Maggots

You don’t need to add much to your hook, but a little bit can add a huge amount of scent. A pinch of worm or one little maggot is all you really need.

I’ve had the best results adding worms to my hook. Real worms are going to work the best, but you can also use Berkley soft plastics (on Amazon).

If you’re using a Carolina rig, you’ll want to add some floating Powerbait (on Amazon). All you have to do is cover the hook and you’ll be good to go.

The last option for me is maggots. I don’t know about you but I’m not going to make my own. Pick up a pack of Berkley Gulp Maggots (on Amazon) and be on your way. I like the pink ones.

Jon Webber

I'm by no means an outdoors or fishing expert, but it's something I've been interested in for over 20 years. I created this site to test out different gear and techniques to see what actually works.

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