March 27

What Bait to Use for Trout

Comparing Live and Artificial Options in Fly Fishing

Fishing for trout can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but choosing the right bait is essential for success.

Both live and artificial baits have their place in the angler's tackle box, offering various advantages and challenges. In this article, we will discuss the most effective live and artificial baits for trout fishing.

Live bait is often considered the most natural and enticing option for trout, as it closely mimics their natural prey. Common live baits include worms, minnows, and various insects that trout are known to consume in the wild.

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On the other hand, artificial bait such as spinner baits, crank baits, and floaters are designed to imitate the movement, appearance, and in some cases, the scent of the natural prey. These lures allow anglers to target trout in different conditions and water depths, providing versatility in their approach.

While both live and artificial baits can be effective, choosing the right bait for your specific fishing situation is key to improving your chances of success.

To help make this decision, it's essential to consider factors such as the type of trout you're targeting, water conditions, and local regulations, among others. As we delve further into the world of trout baits, we will examine the pros and cons of different options to help you make an informed choice for your next fishing adventure.

Live Bait for Trout

When it comes to trout fishing, using live bait can be a highly effective method. There are various types of live bait that are advantageous for catching trout. In this section, we will discuss four popular options: worms, minnows, insects, and salmon eggs.


Worms, particularly nightcrawlers and red wigglers, are a classic and widely used live bait for trout fishing. Trout are attracted to the natural movement and scent of worms.

To increase your success, ensure the worm is hooked securely but still has room to wiggle.


Minnows are small fish that serve as a favorite food for trout. Live minnows can be used as bait by hooking them through the lips, dorsal fin, or tail.

The struggling movement of the minnows mimics the natural behavior of injured prey, attracting hungry trout to your line.


Many species of trout, particularly those found in rivers and streams, are accustomed to feeding on insects. Using live insects such as mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies can be very effective when trying to catch trout.


To use insects as bait, you may need smaller hooks and a more delicate presentation to mimic the insects' natural appearance on the water's surface.

Salmon Eggs

Salmon eggs are a high-protein food source that trout find irresistible. Using salmon eggs as live bait can be incredibly successful, especially when fishing in rivers and streams where there is a natural salmon population.

To use salmon eggs as bait, simply thread one or two eggs onto a small hook and allow the scent to attract trout to your line.

Artificial Bait for Trout

Artificial baits are a popular option for trout fishing. They come in various forms, each designed to mimic the natural prey of trout.

Dough Bait

Dough bait is a popular and effective bait for trout fishing. There are many different recipes for making dough bait, but most involve mixing flour, cornmeal, and other ingredients with water to form a dough that can be molded onto a hook. 

Some popular ingredients for trout dough bait include cheese, garlic, and anise oil. It's important to experiment with different recipes and ingredients to find what works best for the specific type of trout you are targeting and the fishing conditions you are facing.


Spinners are one of the most versatile and commonly used artificial baits for trout. They create a flashing and vibrating action that attracts fish.

FishTackly recommends using spinners in various colors and sizes to increase your chances of catching trout.


Spoons are another effective type of artificial bait for trout. They imitate the movement and shape of baitfish or small prey. The curved shape of the spoon provides a wobbling action in the water that imitates a wounded fish, attracting trout.

Soft Plastics

Soft plastic baits are designed to imitate various aquatic insects, worms, and crustaceans that trout feed on. They can be rigged on a jig head or used weightless, depending on the desired action. MeatEater suggests using soft plastics in natural colors that match the forage in the area.

Dry Flies

Dry flies are artificial baits that sit on the surface of the water, imitating insects or other surface prey. They are especially effective when trout are actively feeding on the surface or during insect hatches. To enhance the appeal, apply floatant to the fly to keep it buoyant on the water.

Wet Flies

Wet flies, on the other hand, are designed to sink below the surface and imitate nymphs or other subsurface prey. Trout often feed on aquatic insects in different stages of their life cycle, making wet flies a versatile option for various fishing situations.

Selecting the Right Bait

When fishing for trout, it's essential to consider the type of bait you're using. Understanding the differences between live bait and artificial bait can play a key role in your success.

Live baits include night crawlers, minnows, crayfish, tadpoles, leeches, grasshoppers, crickets, and wax worms, while artificial bait options include crankbaits, spinners, and jigs.


Knowing when to use which type of bait depends on several factors, which we will explore further in the following sections.

Bait Size and Color

It's essential to select the right size and color of bait to increase your chances of success. As a general rule, smaller baits are more effective for trout, especially when targeting freshly stocked trout.

However, larger baits may also work in certain situations.

Color choice is similarly important, as various colors may be more likely to attract trout depending on factors such as water clarity and available food sources in the area.

Experiment with different colors to find out what works best in your location.

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Location and Water Conditions

Your choice of bait should also take into account the specific location and water conditions. In clear water, for example, natural baits like night crawlers and minnows are more likely to entice trout, while artificial lures can be more effective in stained water.

It can be helpful to adjust your bait depending on factors like water temperature, clarity, and depth.

Seasonal Considerations

Trout behavior and preferences can vary depending on the season, so adjusting your bait choice accordingly can lead to better results.

In the spring and fall, live bait such as worms and minnows can be more effective, while summer often calls for artificial lures like spinners and crankbaits. Keep in mind that each season may require adjustments in your bait selection to achieve success.

Match The Hatch

A helpful concept for choosing the right bait is "matching the hatch," which involves replicating the trout's natural food sources. Observing what the trout are feeding on in the area, and selecting baits that closely resemble those food items can improve your catch rate.

For instance, if trout are feeding on insects, using live or artificial baits like grasshoppers, crickets, or flies might be most effective.

Tips and Tricks

Stocked Trout

When targeting stocked trout, it's often best to use baits that they're accustomed to from their time in the hatchery.

Artificial or prepared baits like power bait and bread dough can be highly effective in these situations. Additionally, live baits such as worms and small minnows can also be successful in tempting these fish.

Euro Nymphing

Euro nymphing is a popular and effective technique for catching trout, particularly in streams and rivers. This method involves using small, weighted nymphs or artificial flies that imitate the natural insects that trout feed on. 

Be sure to match the hatch, selecting flies that resemble the current insects in the water to increase your chances of catching their attention.

Chum Bait

Chumming is another effective approach to attracting trout. It entails dispersing small amounts of bait into the water to lure the fish to your fishing spot.

While this is often done with live bait like fish eggs, you can also use artificial options such as corn or small marshmallows to achieve similar results. Be cautious, however, as chumming may not be allowed in some areas or bodies of water.

Experimenting with different bait types and techniques is key to finding the most successful approach for your specific trout fishing scenario.

Apply these tips and tricks across varying conditions to boost your chances of reeling in a great catch.


When it comes to choosing between live bait and artificial lures for trout fishing, both options have their advantages and disadvantages.

Live bait, such as minnows, worms, and leeches, can provide a more natural, scent and taste appeal to the fish. This can make it easier to entice trout when they are being more selective in their feeding habits.

On the other hand, artificial lures offer the convenience of being readily available and reusable. They can also be used to mimic a variety of fish's natural prey, such as insects, baitfish, and other small organisms.

Furthermore, by altering the retrieval techniques or changing the color and size of the lures, anglers can experiment and adapt their fishing approach, depending on the specific conditions and trout's preferences.

Ultimately, the choice between live bait and artificial lures depends on the angler's personal preference, experience, and fishing conditions.

Some may find greater success with a combination of both approaches or by switching between them throughout their fishing trip. It is essential to keep an open mind and be willing to experiment with different baits and lures to maximize the chances of catching trout.

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