Get Flashy For Trout

Small jigs with spinners can be deadly on trout, especially on larger waters or streams that are slightly off-color. The combination of flash and erratic movement will catch the attention of feeding trout. Photo courtesy of Jeff Samsel.The stream wasn't dirty, but it was slightly stained, and the previous day's rain had swelled the flow significantly. The fish would feed well, I reasoned, and they'd be stacked in select eddies, watching for foodstuff to be swept past. I opted for a spoon, which would provide good casting weight for hitting select spots and be an offering I could move quickly and control in the current. Most importantly, it would provide flash to help the trout hone in on it.

Sure enough, several casts were rewarded, and virtually every fish came as the spoon was swimming in the current, with the trout attacking from adjacent slower waters. I experimented with presentations through the eddies themselves and tried a few jigs and minnow baits, just to see if something else might work even better. No avail. The flash of a spoon in the current was tough to top for that particular day.

Of course, that was no surprise. Spoons and various bladed lures are well known trout producers, and many veteran trout anglers rely extensively on flashy offerings. Not all spoons and spinners are created equal, though, and the best flashy lure to tie to the end of your line any given day depends on quite a few variables.

From the onset it's probably worth noting that flashy doesn't necessarily mean gaudy. It can, and during flood conditions, a big and seriously bright spoon or spinner might be needed to help the fish to find the lure. That said, a tiny Road Runner or Mepps Aglia Spinner with a natural body color offers substantial subtlety with just a hint of added flash to catch the fish's attention.

The flash of a blade, whether it's nickel, copper, gold or some other metallic hue, helps fish find a lure as it comes through the water column and it prompts reaction strikes from opportunistic fish. Silver or nickel flash also suggests various kinds of minnows, while the flash of copper or gold can represent a crawfish or a dark-colored baitfish.

Beyond specific fish-attracting benefits of a lure that flashes, spoons and other flashy offerings are easier to track in the water than many other lures. That's not a factor when the fish are down deep and you are fishing fully by feel. However, when the trout are around tree branches or beneath ledges, the ability to track the bait through the cover and to allow it to fall into key zones allows you to work it more precisely through key areas and to spend less time retying or getting lures out of snags.

Metallic trout offerings come in many forms, but most fall under the broad headings of spoons, in-line spinners and bladed jigs. Each has its appeal and its own set of variables and, while there is significant overlap, each lends itself to different situations and presentations.

Whether you're talking about spoon bodies or blades for other baits, shined metallic finishes put out the most flash. Dulled metal still gives off a glimmer but with greater subtlety. Some spoons and blades are partly or fully painted or decorated with holographic finishes, which can add realism or give a bait a very opaque contrast in the water but minimizes flash.

The best spoon or blade color depends on water color, prevalent forage, the aggressiveness of the fish and the amount of sunlight. Many anglers favor nickel or silver finishes for bright skies and darker bronze or gold finishes for dark skies.


A spoon, being nothing more than a piece of shaped metal with hooks at one end and a line tie at the other, is all about flash and wobble. At a glance, many spoons look similar, varying most obviously in size and in color. However even slight differences in shaping, metal used and thickness make a major difference in how various spoons wobble, how quickly they drop through the water column and the profiles they portray.

You can find a spoon of virtually any size. However, most spoons used for stream trout fishing range from a little less than an inch in length to about 4 inches, with the smaller half of the range having the broadest applications. Generally speaking, bigger spoons lend themselves to bigger streams and to waters that hold a lot of large trout that feed heavily on other fish.

Beyond looking at a spoon's length, consider its shape. The shape impacts both the profile a spoon puts off and how it swims. Some spoons wiggle tightly while others are wide wobblers. Meanwhile, narrow spoons fall more decisively in the water column while wider spoons offer more resistance, which slows their falling action.

As importantly, take note of a spoon's thickness and its weight relative to its size. Fairly heavy spoons allow for long casts and fast presentations for drawing reactionary ambush strikes. Light spoons flutter much more and can be worked more slowly, through lazier runs and over shallower shoals.

Excepting the very smallest versions, spoons lend themselves best to streams of at least medium size with at least moderate flows. They work well as attractors that stay on the move and draw reactions. For fairly heavy or compact spoons, it's usually necessary to keep your rod tip high and the reel handle turning. Lighter spoons can be worked with more lifts and drops, allowing the current doing more of the presentation work.

For strong currents, a good strategy is to cast cross-current and simply allow the bait to swing downstream and out into the current as it sinks, letting the water resistance put all the action into the lure.

One important note about spoons is that they tend to spin. Therefore, it's a good idea to add a small snap swivel the line.


A typical trout spinner is similar to a spoon in the sense that it puts out quite a bit of flash as it moves through the water. However, instead of dancing and wobbling, a spinner normally runs straight, with the blade spinning around the lure's body and creating vibration in the water. Visually, most spinners are more subtle than most spoons. However, they produce more "thump," which can help the trout home in on them.

Some spinner lures have a hole in the blade, and the blade itself spins around a wire in the front of the bait. Others use a clevis to spin the blade. Either way, the blade rotates around a wire in front of some solid body and then a single or treble hook, and the hook often is dressed with some type of skirt or a soft-plastic body.

Most spinners used for trout range from 1 to 3 inches long and weigh between 1/16- and 1/64 ounce. That said, bigger and smaller versions have their place as well.

The blade, of course, is what makes as spinner a spinner, so look first at its size, shape and finish. Long narrow blades are very flashy and the baits usually fall quickly in the water unless you move them along steadily with the rod held high. Rounded blades create more vibration in the water and temper the fall of the lure.

Beyond the blade, look at different baits' body and tail configurations and consider their bulk, flash and profile and choose according to conditions and the likely mood of the fish. Although the basic swimming action of a Rooster Tail, Mepps Aglia or Panther Martin is similar, each has a distinctive look in the water and unique appeal, so it's valuable to carry a good selection of spinners.

Spinners lend themselves to a variety of presentations. Given at least modest current, the best delivery often comes via the current. Cast upstream of likely fish-holding areas and then reel just barely faster than current, pulling the lure as you do so just enough to keep it up off the bottom and keep the blades turning. For slacker areas, simply cast and crank, aiming casts upstream or cross-current.

For pushy currents with fish holding along their edges in ambush points, casting across the stream and using a downstream swing strategy can be effective. A similar tactic for delivering offerings beneath tree branches or other cover that crosses a current is to start on the upstream side, pitch the bait toward the cover, let it sink and tumble in the current and then hold the line tight before the spinner gets too far under the cover. This approach does find its share of snags, but it also produces a lot of trout!


Blade-adorned jigs such as Road Runners provide the natural look of a little tube, marabou jig or other jig with a bit of added flash and a fall rate that's slightly tempered by the wobbling or twirling blade. These lures provide more of an insect-imitating appeal than spoons or other spinners and don't necessarily require added action to be effective.

Important variables beyond head weight, which is most frequently in the 1/16- or 1/64-ounce range for trout, include blade size and shape and body style, materials and color. Three specific Road Runner models that work really well for trout are all distinctive in character. The Natural Science Trout & Panfish Series Road Runner has a micro tube body and a willowleaf blade. It has a very "buggy" look and moves fairly decisively for its small size. The Original Marabou, with its feather-dressed body and round blade, moves more slowly in the water. The Pro Marabou 2.0 has much longer marabou fibers that slow its movement even more, plus a little larger hook. It works nicely for suggesting a crawfish or a minnow for larger trout.

When fish are extra fussy, a jig spinner can be presented with no added motion. Just cast upstream and let the current carry the bait along while you watch the line. Usually, though, a better approach is add gentle rod lifts or twitches as the lure drifts, both to keep it from dragging bottom and to engage the blades. Depending on the mood of the fish, the same style of lure can be cast crosscurrent and cranked or allowed to swing downstream.

A slight variation of the jig spinner and an extremely effective offering where natural bait is permitted is a small Road Runner head matched with an earthworm. The flashing, twirling blade helps the trout home in on the offering and the scent of the bait convinces them to attack. A 2- or 3-inch worm or piece of a worm also waves very enticingly in the current.

For this sort of offering, minimizing extra action almost always work best. Let the current's natural delivery system, the flash of the blade and the scent of the worm do the delivery work for you, and your job will be to reel in the trout.

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