How to Catch Rainbow Trout In a Lake

Some of my most prized memories come from sitting on the edge of a lake catching rainbow trout. There’s something about the hunt, the anticipation, and the fight of the fish that draw me to do it. If you want to know more about how to catch rainbow trout in a lake, then stay tuned.

You see, I have been fishing for trout for over 30 years. I plan to catch them for another 30 plus years if I have it my way.

You don’t have to be experienced to catch trout. Let me walk you through some of the ways anglers are able to catch trout in lakes.

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How to Catch Trout In a Lake

The way I see it there are only two categories of bait to catch trout in a lake. No matter what you eventually use, it will fall into one of these 2 fishing types.

1. Bait Fishing

2. Fishing Artificial Lures

Now we will break these two categories down in a moment. But first, let’s talk presentation.

Depending on if you are fishing for trout with bait or lures, will dictate how we present that option to the fish.

Bait Fishing for Trout In Lakes

Bait fishing for trout may be the best bet for beginner trout fishermen. Sometimes bait can even be more productive than the lures.

When bait fishing for trout in lakes, we are using hooks and equipment to set the bait in the water with the hopes that the fish will find our bait and eat it.

Now, this is obviously the simplified version of bait fishing. So let us talk about the methods of bait fishing for trout.

Methods of Bait fishing for Trout:

  • Sinking Trout Rig
  • Floating Trout Rig
  • Weightless Trout Rig

Sinking Trout Rig for Lakes

A sinking trout rig may be the most popular way to catch trout of these three bait fishing methods. In fact, the sinking bait setup is arguably the most popular in the world.

What is a Sinking Trout Rig?

A sinking trout rig is a weighted fishing system that sinks, keeping the trout bait at or near the bottom.

This type of trout fishing rig is particularly effective when trout are feeding near the bottom.

See the image below to view the Sinking Trout Rig

Sinking Bait Rig for Trout in lakes

So now that we know what a sinking bait rig looks like, we have to know how to use it.

How to Fish a Sinking Bait Rig

When using a sinking bait rig there does not tend to be a lot of rules. There are however a few Tactics to Catch More Trout.

In order to have significant success with this fishing rig, you must first select the best trout bait. Things such as nightcrawlers and dough baits are very popular.

Steps To Catching Trout With The Sinking Rig

1. Slide the weight up the line and attach a barrel swivel.

2. On the other side of the barrel swivel tie a 2 foot piece of fishing line. I use a monofilament fishing line but fluorocarbon works well also. What’s the Difference between the two?

3. Tie your bait hook to the end of that. Now your rig is complete and ready to catch fish.

4. Add your bait onto your bait hook.

5. Find a great fishing spot where trout are likely to be located. If you read the previously mentioned trout tactics article you should have no problem with this.

6. Cast your bait out and let it sink to the bottom.

7. Give about one minute for your line to sink. There is a rather significant bend in your line under the water that you can not see.

8. Slowly reel in the slack until your line is taunt.

9. Set your pole down at a 45-degree angle. This is optimal for being able to visually see when you get a strike.

10. When you get a bite, carefully grab your fishing pole and reel in the slack. When you feel a bit set the hook.

11. Make sure to keep tension in your line by keeping your rod tip in the air.

12. Reel your fish into the shore making sure that you don’t try and overpower the fish. This will only result in a lost fish.

13. If your drag is set properly you should be able to continuously reel your fish in whether it’s trying to run on you or not.

14. Using your fishing net, scoop the fish when it gets close enough to the shore.

Simple Right?

If all this sounds confusing I have attached a video for you to check out the sinking bait rig.

Floating Rig for Rainbow Trout

Floating trout rigs are another great method when learning how to catch trout in a lake. When fished properly this technique for trout can be wildly productive.

I find myself fishing this rig more and more lately and for good reason.

I have caught my limit the last couple of times I have used a floating trout rig.

What is a Floating Trout Rig?

A floating trout rig is one that suspends the bait in the water column.

Whereas the sinking rig sinks and is fished on the bottom or near the bottom, the floating rig is fished more toward the surface.

This is particularly effective when the fish are feeding near the surface.

Trout anglers can achieve this by using bobbers and floats. There are two main types of fishing floats out there.

Once you learn How to Fish with Bobbers and Floats, it will be hard for you to put them down!

bobber fishing setup diagram

The above diagram shows how simple this fishing method can be. With only a bobber, small split shot, hook, and bait, we are able to fish at the surface.

How to Fish a Floating Trout Rig

In order to fish the floating trout rig in lakes simply follow the steps below.

Before getting started you will need to have either a fixed bobber or slip bobber.

A slip bobber simply allows you to fish your desired depth while a fixed bobber is fixed at a predetermined depth usually 1-2 feet. I can’t stress enough to read my Fishing Floats and Bobbers article. It will give you a full breakdown of bobber selection.

How to Catch Trout with a Floating Rig (bobber)

1. First thing you will want to do is attach your hook. It’s important to use a baited hook when fishing this technique.

2. Approximately 10 inches above your hook attach a 1/16 ounce split shot. You won’t need a split shot if conditions are calm.

3. Now attach your bobber approximately 24 inches above your hook. It should look something like the image above now.

4. Select your worm, minnow, cricket, or grub that you want to use and slide it onto the hook. Now you’re ready to go fishing!

5. Select the most appropriate place to fish with your floating trout rig. Locations for trout such as trees, rock outcroppings, and points are all good places to try.

6. Cast your bobber to the location you have selected and begin to wait.

7. Let the current move your bobber some. Obviously, we don’t want it to drift into any trees and get tangled. But in open water, it’s okay to let more lines out in order for the bobber to travel a little bit.

8. It is equally important to not have much slack in your line. With the bobber moving around in the wind and current it can create a slack line by moving closer to you.

9. When you see the bobber bouncing slightly this means you are getting bites. Allow the fish to take the bait completely, you will know this has happened when the bobber makes deeper lunges underwater or disappears altogether.

10. Set the Hook and begin to fight the fish to shore keeping tension on the line the whole time. Allowing the fish to run is okay as long as your drag is appropriately set.

Check out this short video on how to set up a bobber and worm.

Weightless Bait Fishing for Trout In Lakes

This form of fishing can be quite fun at times. It requires a little more attention than the other two previously mention trout rigs. When fishing this trout rig we have to be in tune with our bait, line, and rod.

This method is one that I use most during the colder water months. That’s not to say this rig won’t work all year long.

Another time you may find this rig extremely effective is when you are fishing shallow water near skittish fish.

When targeting these areas the bait makes less commotion hitting the water without the bobber and weights.

What Is A Weightless Trout Rig?

As the name implies, a weightless trout rig is one that is fished without any weight at all and without a bobber or float.

It is simply a hook and your bait. This rig is simple, light, and effective.

This fishing style is used often in rivers and streams to catch trout by anglers, but not often fished in lakes for trout. It is far too easy to overlook this method when you are starring out at a larger body of water.

weightless bait rig diagram

How to Use the Weightless Bait Rig

In order to use the weightless bait rig, I would recommend a light fishing tackle. I fish this rig with an ultra-light setup oftentimes using braid and mono on my trout reel.

1. Tie your hook to the end of your line.

2. Select and attach your bait of choice.

3. Cast your line to the desired location.

4. Flip your bail to the closed position as soon as your bait hits the water. This will allow your bait to fall like a pendulum keeping slack out of your line.

5. When your bait reaches the bottom, evident by the stop of the pendulum, lift your rod tip up 3 feet or so.

6. Immediately reel in the slack then lower your rod tip parallel with the water.

7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you get a bite or the bait reaches shore.

Another thing to note with this method is that it works better from shore than from a boat. While bank fishing for trout in a lake using a weightless trout rig, your bait will remain in close contact with the bottom if fished correctly.

To this point, we have only discussed one of the two methods of how to catch trout in a lake. Rainbow trout fishing has a whole other side to it that will not take up much more of your time.

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How to Catch Trout With Lures

If you have been on this site before or have read any of my trout fishing articles, then you are aware that I love casting lures for rainbow tout. It doesn’t get much better than catching trout with lures. Using lures is a must when learning how to catch trout in a lake.

There are 5 trout lures that I will always have in my tackle box. The reason they will always be there is the fact that I trust them. Those lures have time and time again caught me fish when nothing else would.

If you have a special trout fishing lure then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

As a side note, I would love to know what that lure is in the comments down below. By sharing you may be able to help other trout fishermen have success as well.

How to Fish Trout Lures

When it comes to fishing trout lures there are really two methods of doing that. We have the obvious method of fishing from shore, and then there is trolling.

Methods of Fishing Trout Lures

  • Casting
  • Trolling

Trolling for trout using lures is more complex than just casting them. It also requires some form of a boat in order to accomplish trolling. Trolling for trout in lakes can be very rewarding and if you ever have the opportunity to go you should.

Steps on How To Catch Trout With Lures

1. At the end of your line you want to attach a snap swivel. You can see the image below.

snap swivel for fishing

2. Select the lure you wish to use. For beginner, I would use a trout spinner.

3. Open the clip on the swivel and slide it through the O ring on the lure.

4. Close the clip on the swivel.

5. Cast your lure near rocks, brush, points, cliffs, or moving water. These are all areas that trout will hang out.

6. Consider fan casting your lure to cover water more effectively. Facing the water, cast to your 2 o’clock, then your 1 o’clock, 12 o’clock, and so on.

7. Make sure that your drag is set and ready for a strike. Ideally, when the trout strikes your lure you should not have to set the hook much at all. Simply continue to reel a move the rod tip only a foot or so to set the hook.


Conclusion – How to Catch Trout in a Lake

It is my greatest hope that you have learned something from this article. Next time you are out lake fishing, use these tips to catch more rainbow trout.

Know someone that might benefit from reading this article? feel free to share on social media and tag them.

Thank you so much for sticking around until the very end. Let me know if you have anything you would like to add. Drop a comment below with your favorite trout fishing tips for lakes.

Until next time, good luck out there.

man holding rainbow trout in fishing net