Lure fishing for trout doesn't exactly have much of a tradition to report on,
but it sure is fun. The way to be successful fishing in this manner is fairly
cut and dried. First, you should have the right equipment.
Now, while a simple Zebco-style spincast outfit may work fine, they're not always
very good at casting thin flimsy line, which is a necessity. Some of the pricier
spincast reels do quite nicely, but a lightweight spinning reel with a medium
action 6-foot rod is a better place to start for most fishermen. Some trout
fishermen swear by ultra-light set-ups, but this is not necessary. The smaller
the reel, the smaller the crank ratio. The shorter the rod, the less shock
absorber effect you'll have, meaning you'll have to use your drag setting and
brains to avoid breaking the line. In other words, landing the fish is more
challenging. Shorter rods also make it more difficult to cast a good distance.
Regardless of the rod and reel you choose, you probably shouldn't use a line any
thicker than 6 pound test -- just make sure you're using a good quality line, so
it will be strong and flexible. Some believe that the trout actually can see
heavier line, but this is simply not the case. Trout eyes have been thoroughly
examined under a microscope, and human vision is actually 14 times better. And
even if they could clearly see your fishing line under water, they're
probably not smart enough to care. Instead it seems that they are most often
spooked by the shadow cast by the contact point of the line and the water. Next
time you're fishing in clear water, take a look. Your line moving around on the
surface of the water will cast a BIG shadow on the bottom of the stream. So, if
you keep your rod tip down so the shadow is at your feet, you'll do fine.
With the equipment issues taken care, all you have to do is acquire the right
lures, learn to cast to the right locations in the creek, and provide the right
kind of action to the lure. The lure will generally represent something swimming
in such a way as to trigger a trout to pursue and attempt to eat it. Perhaps the
most popular option is the in-line spinner bait. A well-known example is the
ever-popular Rooster Tail, but there are several other outstanding options
offered under the names Blue Fox, Mepps and Panther Martin. For most Missouri
streams, 1/8 oz and 1/16 oz sizes in a variety of colors will work well. In-line
spinners are designed to imitate minnows and work best when retrieved in a
straight line at a moderate speed. If you reel too slowly, the spinner won't spin
properly, which often puts the trout off.
The next lure you should try is a little bass plug, also known as crankbaits.
Small Rapala's are popular choices, but mini-crankbaits also can very productive.
Look for a plug that will imitate small shiners (silver), suckers (gold), or
sunfish. The beauty of using a plug is that you can experiment in a wide variety
of ways. You can buy floating, sinking or neutral buoyancy plugs to help you
reach different depths. If the plug has a plastic lip jutting out and downward
from the front of the lure, it will swim downward when you reel. So, floating
lures will swim downward until you stop reeling them, at which point they will
slowly begin to float back to the surface. When you stop reeling a neutral
buoyancy plug, it won't float back to the surface, and it won't sink any
further -- it stops dead in the water. Sinking plugs sink, of course. They sink
face first when you reel and belly first when you stop. Other than these built-in
perks, the action of the lure is totally up to you. Vary your retrieve from quick
to painfully slow. A straight consistent retrieve works fine, but also experiment
with jerky retrieves and start & stops. If you can convince the fish that the
minnow is injured and weak, it will often trigger a strike. Spoons work in much
the same manner that a plug works, except that they are heavy and sink fast, so
you're pretty much required to retrieve them somewhat quickly. Try working the
spoon up and down in big sweeping moves.
These three types of lures -- in-line spinners, crankbaits and spoons -- are the
basic lures that represent little fish. With these lures,you'll catch hatchery
fish, but you'll also catch mature fish that have grown large enough that they've
acquired a taste for other fish and have started hunting rather than grazing on
insects. You may occasionally find trout waters that do not support a sufficient
population of aquatic insects to support the resident trout. Fly fishing these
streams can be very frustrating and sometimes downright impossible, unless you
are using flies that imitate minnows (streamers). Lure fishing these waters,
however, can be an absolute blast with almost non-stop action.
Marabou jigs (not Crappie jigs) will flat out catch trout, if you know how to
fish them. Many fishermen are under the mistaken assumption that marabou jigs
imitate minnows, but they actually imitate the swimming action of certain large
mayfly nymphs by dancing up and down rather than side to side. In fact, a marabou
jig is technically a fly and can be used on waters designated as fly-fishing
only. But, this lure is best fished with a spinning outfit. Trout and salmon
appear to be programmed by nature to react to this motion almost without fail, so
these lures will work even when the actual mayfly they imitate is not present in
the water. In fact, when marabou first became popular as a fly-tying material,
some states actually outlawed its usage due to the massive success fishermen were
having and how it actually depleted some trout and salmon populations.
To achieve the proper effect, cast and allow the jig the sink for a few moments.
Then retrieve the jig at a slow rate while simultaneously and rapidly twitching
your rod tip up and down. Rapid twitching means RAPID twitching.
Your rod hand should bounce down perhaps 4x per second while your retrieve hand
is making no more than one revolution per second. Try counting "one-one-thou-sand,
two-one-thou-sand..." and so on, while bouncing your rod hand on each syllable.
It takes a little practice to get the feel of it. Many trout fishermen are jig
fisherman exclusively and can't imagine why anyone would consider fishing any
other way. And with the success they enjoy, it's hard to argue with them.
Favorite jig colors are white, hot pink, and black & yellow mixed. There
are also those that prefer to fish these jigs under a bobber or strike indicator,
just giving the lure an occasional twitch. Using this method will work better
with a smaller jig -- sometimes called micro jigs -- and fished very close to
the bottom. This is basically nymph fishing with a spinning rod. Cast upstream,
and allow the lure to drift back toward you, passing as many fish as possible.
The last basic type of lure we'll look at here are soft plastics. Soft plastics
are banned in many Missouri trout waters, which are managed for wild trout and/or
trophy trout, because soft plastics cause a higher mortality rate in trout that
are released. When a trout grabs most flies or lures, it recognizes right away
that it doesn't feel natural and will try to dislodge it. When a trout grabs a
soft plastic lure, however, it feels very natural. So, the trout's reaction is to
try to toss it further back into its maw. For this reason, these lures are often
very deeply hooked, causing lethal damage to the fish. From a legal standpoint,
the state of Missouri considers soft plastics to be member of the bait family.
So, anywhere you are permitted to bait fish for trout, you are also permitted to
use soft plastics. Otherwise, they are off-limits.
The favorites include twister tails, rubber shad and specialized rubber worms
designed just for trout. These are all very simple to rig and use. A small
white or black twister tail or plastic shad rigged on a jig head can be cast
a good distance and retrieved in a straight line at a moderately slow speed
with great success. The tails of these lures offer all the action you need to
trigger a strike from a hatchery fish or even a big monster looking for protein
power snack. You basically fish these lures just as you would a straight-line
spinner. The plastic worm is fished differently, however.
Some of these trout worms are made with a bend in their middle while others are
manufactured in a straight tube form. This is to allow for distinctly different
fishing methods. In either case, you'll use a small hook of size 12 or so with
a small split shot sinker or two about 18" above.
Method #1: bend the worm in half at its middle and push the hook through the
bend. Cast the worm and allow it to sink to the bottom. Retrieve it slowly with
a sharp twitch of the rod tip every second or two. If you get a bite, you'll
probably set the hook automatically when you twitch it.
Method #2: thread the worm onto the hook so the worm lies flat. The point of the
hook should be a bit exposed, and the eye of the hook should be hidden inside the
worm. In a section of the stream with a rocky bottom and minimal vegetation, cast
the worm and allow it to sink to the bottom. Retrieve it extremely, almost
painfully, slowly without twitching. You will feel the weight of the rocks
against the sinker from time to time, but just keep reeling slowly -- no jerking.
The line will wrap around a rock and the worm will dangle downstream from the
rock, appearing to swim upstream. Once the worm comes around the rock, it will be
washed back downstream until the line again wraps around a rock. It will then
begin swimming upstream again. So, the big picture is this. The worm swims up,
flips down, swims up, flips down, and so on. It's truly neat. It's very important
that you use small sinkers with this presentation. Larger sinkers
will get hung up on the rocks. So, instead of using one large sinker, use several
small sinkers. It's also important that you use a heavier line, since the rocks
will wear on the line due to friction.
Method #3: rig the worm as in method #2, above. Cast into a deep pool with a slow
current (see Where to Fish. Again reel the worm in
slowly. Keep your rod tip up and try to keep an eye on the worm. Every couple of
seconds, give the worm a few twitches with the rod tip. If you can see the worm
as you reel it in, you'll begin to grasp how alive these things can look with
just a little twitch here and there. Experiment with the action to achieve the
"swimmiest" look you can. Here's the kicker on this one. This retrieve will get
every fish's attention in the stream. At some point, a fish will grab the worm
and try to run away with it hanging from the corner of his mouth. Instantaneously,
every other fish in the river will want that worm. So, if you attempt to set the
hook and instead pull the worm out of the fish's mouth, let the worm sit right
there without a move for a couple of seconds. Very often, another fish will
viciously attack it, and the fight is on! Very exciting.
With all of the lures reviewed on this page, focus your attention on the deeper
water immediately below riffles or rapids.
The chutes just below Tan Vat Access on the Current River as they turn into a
very nice stretch of good lure-fishing water. Double-check regulations before
you fish Red and Blue Ribbon Waters. Certain lures are often forbidden.
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