Throw Spring Trout a Change-Up

Mix things up on your boat to bring in more trout.

Throw Spring Trout a Change-Up

Anglers fishing for trout on lakes can get set in their ways when it comes to presentations. (Photo by Scott Haugen)

Leaning over the side of the boat to help my dad and our buddy untangle their lines, I forgot all about my pole still in its rod holder. We were trolling a lake for rainbow trout and Dad had a big fish take him into another line. The fish got off, but both lines—with all their trolling gear—were a mess.

We were in 65 feet of water, so I had just let my trolling gear sink once we killed the motor. I was shocked when I looked and saw my rod doubled over. While my flashers and bait were sinking, a trout had evidently hit it—and it ended up being the biggest rainbow of the 15 we caught that day.

I’ve been trout fishing in lakes since the mid-1960s, and one thing I’ve confirmed in that time is that the learning never stops. With the creation of new gear comes more opportunity for anglers, and some of the following moves have helped me put more fish in the boat over the years.

CHANGE IT UP

Speed, angles and turns are all key to increasing hook-ups when trolling. This is something my grandfather taught me in the 1960s, and I’m surprised by the number of boaters I see today who only troll in a straight line. By varying your speed and angles, you change the delivery of your terminal gear, and often that’s what elicits a strike.


Even a change in speed of a half-mile per hour can make a difference. If you’re marking trout on your depthfinder but aren’t getting bites, speed up the next time you go through that same spot. If increasing the speed doesn’t work, slow it down on your next pass. Keep trying different things until you find what interests the fish.


Trout Change-Up
In addition to adjusting the speed and depth of your trolled lures, employ a variety of baits to determine what trout are keying on. (Photo by Scott Haugen)

Should a change in trolling speed fail to deliver, try turning the boat when you’re over the fish. Making a sharp turn probably entices a strike more than any move you can make. This is because the change in angle quickly slows the travel rate of the terminal gear, and this often triggers the trout. Over the years, close to 80 percent of our strikes when making turns have come on an inside rod—that is, the rod on the side of the boat toward which you’re turning. Turn left, and the rod on the left side of the boat is more likely to get hit. This happens because that’s where slack in the line is created the quickest, resulting in a faster drop of the bait.

When changing trolling angles, don’t just troll in circles or ovals. Make figure eights and sharp-angled zigzags. Even holding a rod in one hand and quickly jerking the mainline with the other in order to speed it up and slow it down can yield results. Reeling in a line a few feet at a time while trolling will increase terminal gear action and sometimes result in a bite, too.

GEAR SWAPS

There’s a lot of gear available to trout anglers these days, and investing in a wide selection of it is a good idea. Last year, I fished with a buddy who had a giant tackle box full of the latest and greatest trout tackle. Whenever the bite slowed, we’d change out terminal gear and give the fish something new to look at. One morning, just two hours after launching the boat, we were in line at the take out—three of us with five-trout limits.

Two other boats of anglers we chatted with were disappointed with how slow the action had been and called it quits well shy of their limits. When I asked them what different presentations they had tried, they remarked that they’d stuck with the same setups all morning, never changing a thing.


Trout Change-Up
A good set of electronics will help you dial in the right speed and depth for your trolling presentations. (Photo by Scott Haugen)

While we tried multiple plugs, lures, spinner blades and different kinds of baits that day, the hot bite came on a pink-bladed Silver Magic pre-snelled spinner. In the lake we were fishing, chartreuse was usually the go-to color. However, 12 of the 15 trout we caught that day came on the pink Silver Magic setup with half a nightcrawler and a piece of salad shrimp as bait.

Not only can changing the color of your spinner make a difference, but changing flashers can, too. Vary the color and size of flashers you use. Change between high-profile and low-profile, mylar wings and metal blades. Last year we did great with Mack’s Lures Flash Lite Trolls, both in the two- and three-blade models. We also did well with Les Davis Trolling Flashers, UV Rooster Trolls, and the 4-inch Big Al’s Fish Flash Mini, which we often rigged in tandem.We’ll try them all again this season, but be ready with backups, too.

COVER MORE WATER

Changing the size and color of your terminal gear can often be the ticket, but sometimes a change-up of the entire presentation is necessary. Last year, I experimented with a different kind of two-rod trolling setup when fishing in Oregon. With one rod in the holder, I grabbed a second rod for making casts with a variety of spinners and plugs, and had the best results with a Mag Lip 2.5. This little plug casts great with 4-pound Maxcuatro line. While terminal gear is trolled behind or tight to the boat, the Mag Lip allows me to cover even more water by making casts to either side. One day on the lake, four of my five-trout limit came while casting the Mag Lip, the other on the trolling gear.


Mini Mag Lips are also great for trolling. I like flatlining them, and will often add a second duo-lock snap swivel. Doing so increases the erratic action potential of theplug when trolled slowly, as it alters its action and balance.

When trolling the Mag Lip 2.0, add a medium-sized split shot or two about 30 inches up the line. Frog patterns worked best early in the day, while gold and orange were the top colors once sunlight hit the water.

Trout Change-Up
Varying trolling routes rather than simply running lures in a straight line can draw more strikes. (Photo by Scott Haugen)

Don’t overlook the value of a depthfinder when trout fishing. Not only will you learn about the bottom structure, you’ll be able to track channels and discover at which depths trout are holding. Last spring, in the lakes my buddies and I fished, the majority of trout came at 12 to 15 feet deep in just 45 to 60 feet of water. Trout hold at specific depths for a reason—usually due to water temperature and food availability—and a depthfinder can help you locate them.

When trolling for trout this spring, consider changing your gear, varying your trolling path and trying different baits. Oftentimes, making just one change can increase the number of fish you catch. Then again, trout can be finicky from day to day, hour to hour, meaning it’s up to you to figure out what lights ’em up.

Mini Mag Lip Diversity

Not only are Mag Lip 2.0 and 2.5 plugs great for trolling for trout in lakes, they are also very effective when trout fishing in rivers.

These smaller Mag Lips can be backtrolled from boats along current seams and through riffles where trout reside, and their skip-beat action often attracts bites when more subtle presentations aren’t producing.

Tipping a hook on the Mag Lip with a single egg, small piece of worm, maggot or grub, can also help establish a scent line that’s carried downstream. Once a trout detects the smell, it can easily follow it to the plug.

Removing the hooks on a Mag Lip 3.0 and running a 2- to 3-foot-long dropper tipped with a worm hook and half of a nightcrawler can also be very productive when backtrolled for trout in a river. This mini diver-and-bait setup is one of the most effective I’ve used in more than 50 years of trout fishing in rivers, and it’s my go-to rigging when taking new anglers on the water. ($6.89; yakimabait.com)

AUTHOR NOTE: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s best-selling books on salmon and steelhead, visit scotthaugen.com. Follow Scott on Instagram and Facebook.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Mustad

Mustad's Saltwater Jig Lineup

Russ Whisler shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the innovative features and great color schemes in Mustad's voluminous lineup of saltwater jigs introduced at ICAST 2019.

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

With the company's heavy involvement in initiatives like Kick the Plastic and Captains for Clean Water campaigns, Costa's Amanda Sabin tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead all about the sunglass maker's unwavering commitment to help the freshwater and saltwater environment.

New Abu Garcia Baitcasting Reels

New Abu Garcia Baitcasting Reels

In the booth of one of fishing's all-time great reel makers, Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead and Andrew Wheeler of Pure Fishing discuss one of the brand new baitcasting reels from Abu Garcia being released at ICAST 2019.

New 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch from Simms

New 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch from Simms

Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead gets new product details from Simms Fishing Product's John Frazier about the new waterproof 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers. Striper & Hybrid

3 Deadly Bait Rigs For Stripers

J.B. Kasper

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers.

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the biggest pike come from Europe. Records

Top 10 Biggest Pike World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - August 19, 2015

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the...

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing. Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.

From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll find the Garden State's hottest bass fishing. Destinations

7 Best Bets for New Jersey Bass

J.B. Kasper - October 04, 2010

From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll find the...

See More Trending Articles

More Trout & Salmon

Make these adjustments to catch fall trout when conditions get challenging. Trout & Salmon

Late-Season Trout: Hook Up in Low, Clear Water

Jimmy Jacobs - November 05, 2019

Make these adjustments to catch fall trout when conditions get challenging.

More than 200 years ago, the Corps of Discovery encountered waters filled with a curious trout. Here's where the cutthroats of yesteryear still thrive today. Fishing

The Trout of Lewis & Clark

Pat Meitin - June 14, 2019

More than 200 years ago, the Corps of Discovery encountered waters filled with a curious...

Public lands throughout the Northeast provide top-notch turkey and trout opportunities. Turkey

Toms & Trout Right Under Your Nose

M.D. Johnson - May 06, 2020

Public lands throughout the Northeast provide top-notch turkey and trout opportunities.

Smaller plugs have precise action and cast well on light spinning gear. Trout & Salmon

These Plugs Will Hook More Trout

Scott Haugen

Smaller plugs have precise action and cast well on light spinning gear.

See More Trout & Salmon

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now