When trout fishing surfaces as a topic of conversation, things naturally drift towards the refined and rarefied world of flyfishing. It’s a sad fact that when many folks think of using a spin-casting outfit for trout, only fishing with bait comes to mind. I’m here to tell you that there is a ton of great trout fishing action out there for the spin-casting anglers who prefer to be on their feet, stalking their quarry. Without lugging around a lot of gear, you can have an effective assortment of options to choose from.
In this article, I’m going to look at what I consider to be the five best trout lures for shore casting. For each lure, I’ll also look at the general category it falls into and name some runners-up as well. There are many ways to fish for trout from shore, and the methods that will land the most fish depend in large part on the water you’re fishing and the time of year, as well as the species present. The list I’ve compiled below will work for any species of trout, although I am most likely going to be shore casting for brook, brown, rainbow, bull, or possibly lake trout. For the angler who wants to actively pursue the fish from shore, be it in a small stream, a larger river, or still water, these five types of lures are a must for the trout tackle box.
- Panther Martin Teardrop Spinners
- Original Floating Rapala
- Hawken Trout Traps
- Berkley Gulp® Floating Trout Worm
- Len Thompson Yellow & Red
1. Panther Martin Teardrop Spinners
If I had to pick only one type of trout lure for shore casting, I would stick with spinners. And if I had to pick only one name in spinners, I would pick Panther Martin. Their Teardrop Spinners have enticed more trout than any other brand that has found its way to the end of my line. I have seen spinners produce reliably in all types of water, and if you are only going to have a small selection of lures with you, a couple of spinners should be among them. They will often rouse fish that won’t rise to less aggravating lures, and while they may tend to produce fewer large trout, I’ve seen plenty of big ones rise to a well-presented spinner too.
Many companies are producing them, but several top brands can be found with most dealers, even if they have a relatively small tackle selection. The classic debate I remember hearing – sort of a Coke vs. Pepsi for the trout angling community – was between Panther Martin and the Mepps Aglia. I would have to side with Panther Martin in that debate, but Mepps can certainly deliver as well, and there are a number of other brands that are widely distributed and highly effective. Some other popular names include Blue Fox Vibrax, Worden’s Original Rooster Tail, and Joe’s Flies Short Striker.
2. Original Floating Rapala
Because larger trout eat minnows, the success of lures that resemble wounded, easy-to-eat minnows should come as no surprise. Yet, many anglers associate crankbaits with bass, pike, and other freshwater species. In the right patterns, buoyancies, and sizes, these realistic minnow imitations can bring a lot to your trout fishing arsenal. However, not all crankbaits or minnow lures are created equal. Rapala is the number one player in the game when it comes to crankbaits that really deliver trout strikes, particularly if you are stuck with a limited tackle selection.
Smithwick, Strike King, Rebel and others also have popular minnow patterns similar to the Rapala line. Smaller plugs tend to work better in smaller bodies of water, and beyond that, it is mostly a matter of finding the pattern that produces strikes in the water you’re fishing. In the Original Floating Rapala, which is the classic choice, you’ll generally want to stick with sizes 3-11. The larger sizes will dive deeper when retrieved.
Note that these lures have only two treble hooks up to size 9, but they include a third treble hook on sizes 11 and up. A rule of thumb that tends to work with Rapalas as with most lures, is to roughly match the weather, using lighter, brighter patterns on brighter days, and darker patterns on more overcast days.
3. Hawken Trout Traps
These little squid-like jigs are a little harder to fish, but when they work they can help you entice some large trout. For trout, most people cast 1/16 of an ounce or less, usually 1/32 or 1/64. Hawken Trout Traps and Berkley PowerBait Atomic Teasers are two very popular brands, but I started with Hawken, and I’ve never found a convincing reason to switch. Plenty of people prefer Berkley, but I am not among them in this instance.
The key to fishing these lures is in the jigging action, and using the length of your rod to keep the lure bouncing in the right section of the water column as you slowly retrieve it. Matching size and color to the situation is crucial, as always.
4. Berkley Gulp!® Floating Trout Worm
Plastic baits come in many different forms. Berkeley alone makes Gulp Maggots, Trout Worm, Power Grub, and Power Minnow, among a number of others. I had a hard time choosing between the Berkley offerings and the classic Mr. Twister baits of my childhood, and they do also have their own line of scented worms, Exude Trout Worms. But that is where Berkley really delivers.
Still, even that old bag of jig tails you found helping your grandpa clean out the garage can do the trick if they happen to be the right shape and color. As with their plastic cousins, the mini jigs, effective plastic baits are a good investment because they are relatively inexpensive and come in an assortment of sizes and colors. And unlike crankbaits or spinners, buying plastic baits off-brand can be smart savings. As long as they have the desired color and shape, one brand is often as good as another.
5. Len Thompson Yellow & Red (and other Secret Weapons)
It seems that most tackle boxes contain a Secret Weapon or two, and trout boxes are no exception. If you look through any of my trout boxes, you will always find at least one Len Thompson, and at least one Red and Yellow Five of Diamonds. Casting for trout (because they work for darn near everything!), I generally use No. 6, 7, or 8. While most anglers know about Len Thompson lures for pike, deepwater lake trout, and walleye, far fewer people seem to know how well they produce with trout.
In general, it can be said that trout fishing Secret Weapons universally claim to be effective when all else fails. The availability of these “secrets” may sometimes be limited by region, but having two or three lures from the following list on hand is never a bad idea: The Kastmaster, The Jitterbug, Williams Trout Wabler, The Johnson Silver Minnow, The Kwikfish, The FlatFish, The Little Cleo, Lucky Strike Canoe Wobbler, Jake’s Spin-A-Lure, and the Rebel Wee Craw.
As you can see, there are plenty of options when it comes to trout lures for shore casting. If you have the luxury of having a huge selection at hand, you can approach any well-populated trout habitat with endless options. But after lugging it around for a while, the dream of having row upon row of choices tends to lose its luster, and you will find yourself armed with only your stalwarts in a container that slides nicely into your jacket pocket, letting you chase adventures as far afield as the daylight allows.