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Spinner Fishing For Trout


Sometimes when you're standing on the shore of a lake with your fly rod, attempting to be patient as you focus on your retrieve, while watching spinner fisherman bringing in trout left and right you start thinking about the definition of insanity and how it applies to your current method of fishing. I love fly fishing and feel that it is without question the superior method of fishing for most rivers and streams. That being said, it does leave some loose ends in regards to stocked lake or still-water fishing. Bait fishing is also the most easily improvised and calorie efficient ways to fish in a survival situation as you can set many lines without using much energy. However, for wild trout still water or otherwise fly fishing still brings in more fish for me.

I have caught fish in lakes with my fly rod and it is very rewarding, but (for me) not as high percentage as I would like. Spinner fishing just seems to favor lake fishing as fly fishing favors stream fishing. So, we've decided we are going to learn spinner fishing. What tackle should you buy? How should you rig your tackle? What parts of the lake should you put your line in? Let's break it down and take a look.

What Tackle Should You Buy?

The type of tackle you need depends mainly on the type of fish you are fishing for and then consideration of the aquatic environment may help to further refine your selections. This article will be covering trout fishing in lakes at or above 5,400 ft. I have left out much of the nightcrawler info, because I'm trying to limit my setup to what I could take backpacking for a few days and I don't think worms would survive for very long .

Note: Many back country areas are strictly artificial flies and lures only. The use of baits like worms, Powerbait, and salmon eggs are illegal. Stick to lures and rubber imitations when in these areas.

The items that I have found most useful are the following:

Bait hooks size 10
Treble hooks size 14 & 16
Snell (Egg) hooks size 8

1/4 oz Drop shot weights
Pack of assorted clamp on weights

Power worms
Panther Martin spinner lures
Powerbait Orange Trout flavor (no glitter)
Salmon Eggs (red)

Line & Swivels
4-6 lb test line
Snap swivels

Small/medium Unbreakable Weighted bobbers (weight helps with casting)

Note: If a weighted bobber cannot be found using a standard bobber with a small/medium sized clamp on weight directly underneath will work instead.

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There are tons of fishing knots and lots of great resources online for them so I'm not going to go through a how-to on the knots unless I feel it necessary for implementation on the rig. I will, however, tell you the most important knots in my mental library. I strongly encourage you to look up and practice these knots:

1) Clinch knot - used for tying on swivels or hooks
2) Surgeon's knot - join two lines together
3) Double overhand loop/Surgeon's loop - make a loop anywhere in a line
4) Loop to loop connection - connect two loops
5) Palomar knot (optional) - Can be used in place of the clinch knot and is more versatile (look up drop-shot rigs). It is also a very strong knot.

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Spinner Fishing Rigs

There are a few rigs that I use and have found to be fairly hassle free while being very high percentage. The rigs you need to know are as follows (if I got the names of them wrong I apologize I'll try and explain them in detail to avoid confusion):

It may not seem like much, but using those three tried and true rigs you WILL catch fish if you are patient enough (assuming there is a healthy fish population). Let's break them all down.

Boat Rig

The boat rig is a great way to get your bait down to the bottom fast and keep it there without worrying too much about the water currents making slack in your line. I have read that a slow retrieve bouncing the weight off of the bottom also works well, though I prefer to cast, take up the slack, and wait/watch til my rod starts twitching (indication a fish has taken my bait and I need to set the hook).

Start with about 2.5-3 feet of line from the excess that you couldn't wind onto your reel. About 3/4 of the way up the line tie a loop into the line using a surgeons loop/double overhand loop. Take the short tag end of the line and use the surgeons knot to create a loop about 4-6 inches above the first. Trim the tag end from the last loop you made. Now follow the long end of your line (the end that does not have a loop yet) and make a larger loop. You should now have three loops; one at the top, one around 5 inches below that, and one 2 or so feet below that at the end. It should look something like this:

Now, take another piece of line about 8-14 inches long. Tie a loop at one end and the hook of your choice to the other. Trim tags and use a loop to loop connection to attach the hook to the rig. Something like the smaller piece of string here:

Pass the loop from the line attached to the hook through the loop in-between the two end loops on the rig.

Now, take the hook and pass it through the same loop on the rig.

Pull the hook to tighten the loops together.

It should sort of look like some square knot/figure eight thing coming together. If you did it wrong you will know because the hook will not be attached to the rig when pulled tight.

The overall distance from the hook to the main rig should be 8-12 inches when attached. This gives the bait room to float and is more visible to passing fish.

Take a 1/4 oz dropshot weight and the line-loop that is at the end of the long section of your rig. Run the line-loop through the loop on the weight.

Take the line-loop and pass the weight through it.

The line-loop should have wrapped around the weight loop with a "hitch" type knot.

Then close the loop by puling on the line.

Attach a snap swivel to the end of your main line (the line that comes from your reel) and finally snap the remaining loop (the one 4-6 inches above the hook loop) into the snap.

It should look something like this, except with actual tackle/hooks of course:

Now, just bait your hook with a worm or imitation if using a bait hook and Powerbait or salmon eggs for treble hooks. Find a nice deep section of the lake preferably by a small bay and cast far out into the depth. Let your line sink to the bottom and then place your rod on your rod holder or find a rock to make an improvised version. Tighten up the slack in your line but not so much that you actually move your rig on the bottom. The secret to this is agonizing patience. Sometimes you'll be reeling them in every 10-15 minutes and other times you'll be out there for an hour or three before you start getting bites.

Wait and watch for your line to tighten and the tip of your rod to start bouncing. If you see this pick up your rod and reel in a few times while you pull back sharply on the rod to set the hook. Now not spastically, but quickly reel in your fish. If you are serious about catching fish DO NOT TOUCH THE ROD FOR AT LEAST 45-60 MINUTES before checking bait and re-casting! If you are continuously reeling in and casting out your bait isn't sitting undisturbed long enough for trout to happen by. This method requires extreme patience; bring a book and a chair and a sandwich

Bobber Rig

The bobber rig is a much easier setup to deal with. I use a snap swivel at the end of my main line no matter which rig I'm using to save time while I'm fishing. Take your weighted bobber, or a non-weighted bobber and place a small clamp on weight directly underneath the bobber) and attach it to the line just above the snap swivel. Take 2-3 feet of line from your spindle and make a surgeons knot loop at one end. Tie a hook onto the other end and attach the loop to the snap swivel. Snell/egg hooks with a couple salmon eggs work great for me with this system. You could also use a treble hook with Powerbait/salmon eggs or a bait hook with a nightcrawler/imitation. It should look something like this:

Cast this out both far and closer to shore. I've caught nice fish as close as 15-20 feet out. Try to keep as little slack in the line as possible without moving your bobber. When you see your bobber get pulled under the water give your reel a few quick turns as you pull back on your rod to set the hook. If the fish are being tricky timing the hook set can become an important element in catching fish.


This may be the simplest of all rigs and can be very effective to boot. Lure selection is something of an acquired ability that I have not acquired yet, but I do remember two classics: Kastmaster and Panther Martin. I do not usually fish with lures unless I am not getting any action from the boat rig and bobber rig or I'm in an area where bait isn't allowed. I don't have as much luck personally with lures, but they have gotten me fish on days when nothing else was working and I always see guys with lures reeling in fish.

What I do is take about 2-3 feet of line from my spindle and tie a surgeons knot loop at one end. I tie the lure onto the other end and attach the loop to my snap swivel on the main line. That's it, you're ready to fish. Cast out as far as you can and reel it in at different speeds - the exact speed is something you'll have to figure out by practicing.

Continue this many times in each area you fish to increase the chances of a hungry fish wandering by and seeing your offering. This can be more tedious than the other two rigs, especially when you're not catching fish, but is an important part of any spinner fishing tackle box.

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Hook Selection

The right hook can mean the difference between landing loads of fish or landing zero fish. It can also be the difference between maiming or killing fish you don't intend to keep. As a rule you want to use the smallest hook that will get the job done. As far as spinner fishing goes I do NOT advocate it as a sport fishing style. Half or more of the fish I catch this way have swallowed the hook deeply and I cannot remove it without causing serious harm to the fish. When I go to the lake I intend to keep my catch for my dinner and would urge you to be of like mind.

If you want to sport fish fly fishing causes almost no harm to the fish if you follow proper landing procedures; wet hands before touching the fish and handle it gently. Return it to the water as fast as possible supporting the fish until it swims off on its own. The shock a trout experiences after being caught can make them unable to swim. If you just toss them back in the water they will sometimes just float to the top and die - this is especially true in very hot or very cold conditions and when the fish is tired from a long battle with an angler.

Ok, enough preaching. Now the stuff you want to know.

Snell/Egg Hooks

These are great and I use them on a bobber rig in size 8 with two salmon eggs. Size 6 doesn't seem to be big enough to reliably hook the fish and 10 is just a little too big for most trout I catch (10-14 inches).

Bait Hooks

This is what you want for you nightcrawlers or rubber imitations. Size 10 seems to be the magic size for the fish I catch, again the size up being too small and the size below being too big. These are good for the boat rig and the bobber rig.

Treble Hooks

These are by far the most damaging of all the hooks. They are essentially three hooks welded together and are excellent for dough baits like Powerbait or salmon eggs. I use sizes 14-16 usually using the larger 14 for my sinking boat rig and the 16 for the bobber rig. For Powerbait take the hook and cover it with bait in a ball enough to just barely cover the hook points. Too much bait and you wont hook the fish when you set. For salmon eggs use the size 14 and place an egg on each of the three hook points creating an "egg cluster" - use this for the bobber rig or boat rig.

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Where to Fish?

Some parts of a lake lend themselves to the holding of fish more than others. Determining the best spots involves a little bit of research and a little bit of common sense. Temperature of the water greatly affects the depth that trout are holding at since they can survive in 35-75 degree water only and the optimal feeding temperature is around 50-68 degrees. The deeper the water the colder it is, so keep that in mind.

Bays are a really good place to cast into. They tend to hold a lot of fish and passers by seem to stop in for a look allowing them to see your offerings. I try and fish the deep parts of the lake and have the best luck in the bays. It's not always true and some deep parts of lakes probably don't hold as many trout as others, but I go off of the deeper the water the bigger the fish kind of logic.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the aquatic insect life that trout feed on will be ascending from the deeper parts of the lake to the shallower parts along the shore before reaching the surface and hatching from their nymph stage to their adult fly stage. You will have to use all of this combined with your experience to develop a good understanding of where to fish, but this is a good start.

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I hope this helped someone and if you are confused or have any comments/questions please send me an e-mail. Please be responsible and respectful of the fish and their habitat. It's where we go to escape the garbage of the cities so let's keep it nice and the fish healthy.

Take care,

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July 10th, 2012

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