Spinning for trout


rout fishing with spinning tackle may not be the idyllic approach depicted on TV shows, magazines or calendars, but it's probably the most popular method and often the most effective. As opposed to flyfishing, very little tackle is required, and it's moderately priced. Spinning tackle is a great way for the beginner to learn trout fishing, for even diehard fly fishers to scout for trout in unfamiliar waters, for older folks who do not want to wade and for fishing in such adverse conditions as high, muddy water, drought-stricken streams and briary green jungle tunnel streams.


Some expert trout fishermen use only spinning tackle. Pennsylvanian Frank Nale, featured on this page two years ago, averages over 1,000 trout per year and passed the 200,000 trout mark in 2009 using only spinning tackle and home made spinners. So here's how to do it.

Rod, Reel and Line

My personal rod choice is a two-piece, five-foot rod, specifically a Shakespeare Ugly Stik, model SP-1150-2UL, but any rod with these characteristics will do. It is rated to cast lures from 1/32 to 1/4 ounce, has enough backbone to throw a light lure 60 to 70 feet and a soft, forgiving tip that protects a light line from a surging fish. This rod usually sells in discount stores for about $30, and sometimes you can find complete rod, reel and line packages at this price.

The major features required of the reel are sure bail closure, a size and weight that balances with the rod, sufficient capacity (50 yards is plenty), and, especially, a smooth drag. I use a Mitchell 204.

I recommend a good quality 4-pound or 6-pound test monofilament that is supple and has some stretch to it. Stren Lo-Vis Clear is one good choice.


Probably most fisherman think the best lures for trout are spinners. They're right, but some are better than others. Rick Boulin swears by Size 1 Mepps spinners, very similar to Nale's spinners, with silver or gold blades and has photographic evidence to support his choice. I like Mepps and also a 1/16th-ounce Panther Martin with a black body and gold blade for shallow and hard-fished waters.

One downside to spinners is that they are easily lost by snagging bottom or by errant casts into streamside shrubbery, which is why some guys beside Nale make their own.

As everyone who has fished spinners has observed, trout quickly learn to avoid biting these flashy things. Several years ago the old timers fishing the Patapsco River introduced me to the Berkley PowerBait Trout Worm. They fish 2 to 3-inch sections strung along a long-shanked size No. 6 to No. 10 hook, add a split shot about a foot above, and drift the worm along bottom. This is my "go to" lure after spinners and often my first choice. The Trout Worms, in red or pink, are terrifically effective, but this rig also is prone to snagging on bottom. Last fall I tried running a short shanked hook through the middle of the worm with the worm at a 90-degree angle to the hook shank, in effect "wacky" style, and drifting it beneath a clear plastic, clip-on float. This rig proved even more effective and rarely snags.

Note that the Trout Worms are scented, and, thus are considered baits in Maryland and some other states, so they cannot be fished on waters restricted to flies and artificial lures only. Squirmy Wormies are an unscented brand of artificial worms that can be used on the above restricted waters, if they are tied on, not strung on the hook. The flyfishing favorite, San Juan Worm, can be used as described below.

Rick Boulin ties proven trout flies, such as a black woolly bugger and Patuxent Special on unpainted 1/8-ounce jigheads to create effective bottom bouncing lures. Two-inch grubs could also be used. Marty Gudenius has been taking Gunpowder trout for years with tiny trout/crappie marabou jigs in black, white, yellow, or olive on spin or fly tackle. Spin fishermen can also fish some of the most effective fly patterns. Use a clear spin bubble, 1/2 inch in diameter, or a slim "European" style river float above one or two beadhead nymphs, such as size 14 Prince, Gold-ribbed Hare's Ear, Pheasant Tail or San Juan Worm. You may need to add a small split shot, preferably between the flies.

Other Equipment

Since you don't need to get as close to your quarry with spinning tackle, hip waders usually suffice, and in many areas you can fish from shore without any waders. Camouflage or at least muted clothing will greatly increase your effectiveness. A fanny pack or chest pack usually suffices for the lures, flies, hooks and shot needed. Hemostats are useful for removing hooks, especially in catch-and release situations. Likewise a landing net is handy. Finally for reasons of safety and reading the water, wear a pair of good, Polarized glasses.

Presentation Techniques


The basic techniques are the same with any fly or lure. Frank Nale fishes his spinners strictly upstream with underhand, flip/pitch-type casts and makes steady retrieves.

Most fishermen use swing and drift retrieves. Fan cast across the stream and swing your lure or bait along the bottom through a riffle to the pool below. Depending on the depth and speed of the current you may cast directly across stream or at a 45-degree angle (known as "quartering") upstream or downstream. You want to cover the entire area above and below the riffle all the way to the tail of the pool (the last quiet water before the next riffle). Often newly stocked trout tend to hang in the tail of the pool. Then move upstream or down to the next riffle and pool area and repeat.

With spinners and jigs crank fast enough to keep the lure working and off the bottom while these lures are upstream from you; once they're downstream let the current supply most of the action on the swing before retrieving. With flies or lures fished beneath a float, a dead drift, perhaps with an occasional slight twitch is all that's needed.

Bill May is a Times outdoors writer. His column appears every other Sunday. Reach him at 410-857-7896 or