Trout Trolling Rig Setups – Top 3 Choices

Trolling for trout has one massive advantage over other trout fishing methods. You can easily cover mile after mile of likely strike zones in a boat.

You can troll in your kayak or rowboat, sure. However, there’s nothing like a powered watercraft for covering vast distances of trout habitat.

A lot of anglers are unsure as to how to go about trolling for trout. The truth is, it’s not that complicated.

While downriggers are a little tricky at times, trolling for trout is pretty simple.

Let’s look at a few standard methods we can employ for excellent results on rivers, lakes, and ponds.

What is the Best Way to Rig for Trolling Trout?

Like all fishing rigs, you select an option based on conditions, target, and baits. There’s no overall best rig per se, but more the best rig based on conditions.

There’s also your favorite rig. We all have favorites for one reason or another, be it simplicity or perhaps we’ve had our best results on a particular rig.

My favorite is simply connecting a likely lure to the mainline via a snap swivel. Toss it out the side of the boat, and work it along the banks about 60 yards behind you.

I like to hold on to the rod. I can feel the action of the lure, and I can react quickly should I get a strike or foul hook something.

Let’s first check out a simple inline trolling rig, with and without weight.

Inline Trout Trolling Rig

Simple is often the best. The most straightforward rig is connecting your lure straight to the mainline via a snap swivel.

The lure could be anything from a spinner or spoon to a bibbed minnow. You’ll need to determine what depth you need to troll at.

When unweighted and without a bib to determine depth, the amount of line you have trailing will determine the working depth.

Distances will vary anywhere from 20 to 150 feet behind the boat. Your speed should never exceed 2 mph and is best around 1mph.

For lures with bibs positioned for diving depth, look to the manufacturer’s recommendations for keeping it in the ideal part of the water column.

Should you require more depth, weight can be added 3 to 4 feet above the lure. 

I use a swivel on either end of the sinker and a snap swivel from leader to lure – overkill, perhaps, but I don’t get line twist.

This is my standard approach for up to 20 feet of water depth. My preference is to avoid the sinker if possible.

You can set your rod in the holders, but I’m more inclined to hold onto the rod with this rig.

A trout will follow a lure for quite some time and not attack. However, give the lure a little action with the flick of your wrist, and the trout will often strike hard.

See Also: How To Find Good Trout Fishing Locations Near You

3 Way Rig for Trolling Trout

I opt for a three-way rig if I have to get my lure deeper in the water column. It’s neat and tidy, easy to tie, and reliable.

It’s really a dropper rig using a three-way swivel. Connect the 3-way to the mainline and add a leader of 3 to 4 feet.

Connect a snap swivel to the end of the leader, and add a lure of your choice. The snap swivel is excellent for line twist reduction and easy lure changes.

Now add up to a foot of dropper line, connecting a half to 2-ounce sinker. Your rig is ready to be deployed.

The hotter the weather and the deeper the water, the more likely you’ll require a deeper trolling depth.

This is easily the simplest and most effective method. Be aware that you may need to experiment to get your preferred depth.

Remember. The lure type, boat speed, amount of trailing line, and sinker weight will impact the trolling depth.

If you find that this rig has reduced the action of your lure, try using a shorter leader, and try not to overdo the leader-breaking strain.

Too much action may be an issue, too, especially in the cooler months when the fish are sluggish. Try lengthening the leader to settle the lure a little.

Trout Flasher Rig

Flashers are devices designed to attract fish from a distance. Made from reflective metals and coatings, you place it in the middle of your leader, connected with swivels.

Imagine the 3-way rig described above. Add the flasher about 12 inches above your lure.

As you troll through the water, a flasher will spin, reflecting light in all directions, enticing curious fish from quite a distance.

You may have heard of a similar device called a dodger. A dodger and flasher are designed to achieve the same thing – attract fish.

However, they do it differently.

Flasher vs Dodger – Which is Better for Trout Trolling?

In most cases, using either a flasher or a dodger is better than nothing. In big lakes and rivers, we want to do our best to attract fish from a distance.

But flashers and dodgers behave differently in the water. Where a flasher will spin, a dodger will wobble.

Both produce a surprisingly stunning light show, but at different speeds. The flasher works best when trolled at faster speeds, whereas the dodger is best trolled slowly.

As we will be trolling slowly for trout, less than 2mph, it’s a better bet to use the dodger for attracting trout.

angler pulling a fishing rod from a boat

Trolling for Trout With Downriggers

Come the summer, and we’re fishing deep lakes and rivers to 100 feet, it will be necessary to use downriggers to get your lure into deep strike zones.

Trolling depths beyond 40 feet without a downrigger can be challenging.

A lead weight of about 10 pounds is lowered to the preferred trolling depth. Before setting, connect your line to a release clip attached to the downrigger.

When the fish strikes, the release clip lets your mainline go from the downrigger, and you can play the fish.

While downriggers can be tricky to get used to, they’re great. There’s no better method for trolling at the exact depth you require and keeping it there.

Use an unweighted flasher rig when hooked to a downrigger. Remember, you’ll have to fish heavier gear to allow for the weight of the downrigger.

Trolling Without Downriggers

If I wish to fish 20 to 30 feet, I’ll often avoid using downriggers if I can. While downriggers are very effective, it’s an added hassle, and simplicity is always my way of doing things.

Go with the 3-way rig adding enough weight to get you to the preferred depth in the water column.

Whenever you’re fishing deep, you can use your sounder to indicate where you’re sitting and how much line you need to let out.

Trout Trolling With Divers

You’ll find that 20 to 25 feet will be a go-to depth. Divers are shaped like deep diving lures and trolled behind the boat to reach depths of 20-plus feet.

Like a downrigger, your mainline line is attached to the diver via a special release clip that activates on strike, releasing your line from the diver.

Many prefer divers over the dead weight of lead – I do too, and I think they’re a device all trout trollers should carry.

Further depths can be achieved by trolling bibbed diving lures behind the diver.

Trolling for Stocked Trout

The beauty of stocked trout is that they’ll be available in 20 feet of water, often available in the top water.

This often ensures we can avoid the need for heavy lead, divers, and downriggers, which while necessary at times, remain a hassle to rig.

When chasing stocked trout, you usually only require an inline trolling rig, weighted if needed, but often with no weight, depending on the lure type.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Speed Should You Troll for Trout

Trout trolling speeds should always be slower than 2mph. 

1 to 1.5 miles per hour is generally a good bet. Slower is always better than faster.

Do Trout Like Deep Water or Shallow Water

Trout inhabit both deep and shallow water. When it’s warmer, you can expect trout to have made their way to deep water to stay cool.

Trout also like feeding in the shallows, chasing everything from bugs to small fish. Fish the shallows at dawn and dusk and throughout the day during our cooler months.

How do you Rig for Trout in a Lake?

The best way to rig for trout in the lake is to rig for conditions and preferred techniques. There is no best rig, just the best rig for the conditions you face.

What Depth do you Troll for Trout?

Depending on the temperature and season, trolling for trout starts at depths of 10 feet, progressing to greater than 60 feet in the summer months.

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