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Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 13, 2012
I’m like every other trout angler I know, in that I literally have thousands of different offerings and products that MIGHT catch trout or help me catch trout.
Just the other day I was in my garage looking for a worm threader and reflecting on all the various trout fishing gear I’ve accumulated over the years. I ended up finding the worm threader along with a bunch of other stuff I’d forgotten about. The experience led me to begin thinking about the items that I consider to be absolutely indispensable when it comes to trout fishing and now I’m here sitting in front of the computer!
I think you’ll find my conclusions interesting but by no means surprising. In the final analysis I came down to five things that when teamed with rods and other basic terminal essentials like weights, snaps, hooks and beads are at the absolute core of how I approach trout fishing. I can say that these items have helped me catch certainly hundreds and perhaps thousands of trout over the years.
Let’s start with the worm. Honestly in most situations I try to avoid using them. They are messy, sorta yucky, wiggly and as a rule range from slow to downright tedious to rig. It’s a lot easier to catch trout on the standard list of artificial when the trout will hit them. Yet you know as well as I do that there are days when you CAN’T catch trout on artificials.
That’s when the worms come out. In streams you can actually just toss out a worm teamed with a sinker and let it settle to the bottom and fish it on a tight line, much like a plunker would fish for river salmon. Better yet you could team the worm with split shot and dead drift it along the bottom with great stealth. Either technique will produce when the fishing gets tough.
Worms are just as popular among trout living in lakes as they are among stream trout. Bank anglers or still fishermen will want to either fish their worms inflated, floating off the bottom pinned on a sliding sinker rig or drift them below a slip bobber without the injected air.
Trout fishing from a boat typically refers to trolling and worms work great for that application too. For trolling worms you’ll need a worm threader and an 8 pound test fluorocarbon leader tipped with a No. 6 or 8 bait holder hook. Thread the worm head first over the hook and onto the leader. When you are finished, you should have a half inch of worm tail behind the bend of the hook to wiggle in the current. I also like to adjust the worm on the leader so that it rolls as it is trolled through the water. The worm can be slow trolled at 1 mph alone or you can rig it behind a set of flashers or a dodger and troll a bit faster.
The next must have would be PowerBait in a variety of colors. I feel like an absolute novice using it, but who cares when you are catching rainbow after rainbow? For planted reservoir rainbows Power Bait is day in day out the deadliest bait you can use. Roll it into ¼ inch balls, pin them on a small hook on the end of a fluorocarbon leader attached a sliding sinker rig and go to work.
In streams PowerBait will hook fish, but I don’t use it because of its buoyancy. I want a sinking bait for stream drifting.
Trollers have success tipping spoons and spinners with balls of PowerBait, while trollers in Bay Area lakes actually slow troll plain PowerBait balls behind flashers. It sounds crazy, but it works.
To break the trend, let’s next look at a component as opposed to discussing another “offering”. The No. 3 most indispensable thing on my list would be fluorocarbon leader material in 6 and 8 pound test.
Fluorocarbon reflects light in the same way water does, rendering fluorocarbon virtually invisible to fish. Sometimes the trout don’t care. At other times you can’t catch them without using it. Therefore I use a fluorocarbon leader at all times when stream fishing, still fishing in lakes or when trolling.
If any of the five items on my list will raise an eyebrow or two it will be item No. 4, soft plastic grubs from Sep’s and Berkley. I want a selection of grubs ranging from about 1.5 to 3 inches. It’s the little guys I use the most. I want them in colors like bright orange, pearl, black, watermelon and brown. Why both Sep’s and Berkley grubs? Sep’s grubs have their own unique scent. Berkley PowerBait grubs smell like PowerBait.
For trolling pin your grub on a bait holder style hooked matched to the size of the grub. The grubs should be straight on the hook and the hook should be attached to an 8 pound fluorocarbon leader and a quality bead chain swivel has to be placed between the leader and your main line to combat line twist.
When trolled the grub has great tail action and it’s going to spin. When trolled at 1 to 1.5 miles per hour alone or behind dodgers, grubs are absolute trout killers.
Stream anglers and bank casters at lakes can also achieve success with grubs by rigging them the same way as you would for trolling on a spinning rod. A pair of large split shot are added to the rig above the swivel and you’re ready to start casting and slow rolling the grub back at various depths.
When you get hit when plugging with a grub, don’t use a traditional “sharp” hook set. Instead, speed up your reeling and sweep the rod to the side. Don’t try to drive the hook home, “drag” it home.
Okay we are now down to our final item…Good ‘ol No. 5, definitely the sexiest thing on the list: The RAPALA!
What can I say that hasn’t been said? The Rapala is the original minnow plug and many anglers still consider it to be the ONLY minnow plug, shunning the work of all those that have come in the wake of Lauri Rapala with knife and balsa wood in hand or perhaps a Chinese manufacturing company on speed dial.
Rapalas have caught more world record fish than any other artificial lure, with nearly 200 world records to Rapala’s credit. When it comes time to nail a larger than average trout no other lures have a more well deserved reputation for producing trophies then the standby floating minnow, the countdown minnow and the Husky Jerk.
Trolling a Rapala for big brown means fast trolling a large 4 to 7 inch minnow at speeds ranging from 3 to 5 miles an hour. Maneuver your boat aggressively, keep the plug in the structure rich near shore strike zone and you’ll begin hooking big fish, provided you have patience. For smaller trout smaller Rapalas in the 2 to 3 inch range work great when trolled from 2 to 3 MPH.
My favorite big fish colors are black/silver, rainbow trout and clown. For the smaller plugs I like black/silver, rainbow trout and orange. I get lots of photos every year of large browns that couldn’t lay off orange Rapalas.
Stream anglers and lake bank casters can also use Rapalas to great advantage. Match the size of the lure to the size of the trout you expect to be nearby and start fan casting. Keep on experiment with the speed of the retrieve, stops, starts and such until you determine what the trout want.
Well that’s my list. These aren’t the only things you’ll need in your trout fishing arsenal, but if you are missing any one of them, I suggest a trip to the store. Every item I’ve listed helps me catch a bunch of trout throughout the year and I’m thinking they’ll help you too!
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