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Stickbaits for Trout: Match Your Lure to the Size of Your River

Trick big trout with stickbaits on waters big, medium, and small.

Growing up, I pretty much threw nothing but spinners during the spring trout season. My dad, my grandfather, and I were Panther Martin men. It wasn’t until later that I realized everyone on my local rivers was throwing in-line spinners, so I started experimenting. These days, I catch more and bigger trout on stickbaits. The trick to being successful with these lures is making sure you match the style of stick to the water you’re fishing. These three have come through for me in all kinds of rivers. Choose your weapon wisely—and you’ll outfish the spinner crowd.

Small Stream
Like to target those clear pocket-water streams you could almost jump across? You need a stickbait that won’t splash down hard and can be worked effectively on a light rod. The 2-inch floating Yo-Zuri Pins Minnow ($7; yo-zuri.com) only dives to 1 foot, so it doesn’t hang up on the bottom often, and its thin-profile lip gives it a tight wiggle even when barely twitched. That’s important because you may only have a short pocket to fish and can’t wait for the lip to grab the current. Work the Pins through seams and eddies with the rod tip high, twitching it gently, and watch this flashy little bait disappear. 

Medium Stream
Put me on a stream with a little more width, depth variation, and structure, and I’m throwing a 3 1/8-inch Rapala X-Rap ($9.50; rapala.com). What’s great about this lure is its ability to suspend at any depth. Twitch it once and it’ll hover just below the surface. Give it a few good swipes and it’ll hug the bottom to 5 feet. Often that first jerk, after a good, long pause, will get a brown trout to strike. I find the X-Rap most effective when cast upstream, jerked to depth, and allowed to sweep downstream with an occasional twitch through likely holding water or around boulders and deadfalls. 

Large River
Big-river trout hunters, especially in the South, might be married to their Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogues, but I’m hitched to the 4 1/2-inch XCalibur EEratic Shad ($8; lurenet.com). Ever since putting a hurt on some heavy trout in Arkansas’s White River last spring, I have thrown this stick everywhere from western Pennsylvania to upstate New York. The swifter the current, the more erraticly it moves on the twitch, yet it’s not tiring to work, which lets you cover more water without turning your arms to Jell-O. This lure shines in rivers with even flows and deeper runs where the trout hold in the main current instead of orienting to boulders, eddies, and fallen trees.

Comments (9)

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from rjw wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

Looks like it is time to cheat on my Panther Martin.

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from Koldkut wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

+1

Jerks catch bigger trout.

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from Pathfinder1 wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

Hi...

Well, I've gotta try some of those next time I'm fishing in Junction Pool.

Talked to a guy fishing there five days ago, and he got a nineteen inch brookie on a live shiner...which some of these lures seem to approximate.

Thanks for the post, Joe.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from drkhorse6 wrote 49 weeks 6 days ago

I have never tried anything but flies but I will try these this year

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from troutstroker wrote 49 weeks 6 days ago

Give the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows a try. Been using the 3 1/2" & 4" yo-zuri for years now. The browns go crazy for them. Best action of any stick bait I've tried, they blow rapala away. Ripping them seems to work the best.

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from Hornd wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

Since most of us don't eat brown trout, is it not a good idea to change out trebles with singles?

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from WhiteRiver wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

Where exactly did you fish on the White River?

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from split484 wrote 49 weeks 1 day ago

I fly barbless 80% of the time on local rivers, catch and release mostly, love keeping and smoking browns or casting barbs searching for grilled bass, fryin perch - eatin em all -

I love that clown pattern rapala and since it's never worked in a lake for me, Joe, I just might tie one on this spring and drift it through some run-off!

besides the pansy label, why should someone think catching trout on trebles is bad and catching other species on them is OK other than violently abusing and probably scarring the fish? IMHO, if you're going to release it, catch it as humanely as possible. but if you want to keep it, present three to nine barbed hooks and give the fish the slightest chance to spit it out.

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from Anglerschoice wrote 39 weeks 5 days ago

I have been tossing "large" stickbaits for large trout in very small streams for over 30 years. If you can find them a 3" Grandma lure has landed lots of browns between 18-20 inches for me, Salmo diving Bullhead is another because of the sculpin like appearance, and the Salmo Minnow in 7 & 9cm sizes and Rapala up to a F-11....and I switch to the jointed version for night fishing. Aside of the Salmo Bullhead, the common denominator with all my stickbaits: TROUT COLORS! Big browns love feeding on smaller trout! I go with a Rainbow Trout color if I can find it, then a Brown Trout followed by a brighter chartreuse trout color for muddied water. One "secret" lure I use is a jointed 5 cm Ugly Duckling lure. Very hard to find, but worth its weight in gold!

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from Pathfinder1 wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

Hi...

Well, I've gotta try some of those next time I'm fishing in Junction Pool.

Talked to a guy fishing there five days ago, and he got a nineteen inch brookie on a live shiner...which some of these lures seem to approximate.

Thanks for the post, Joe.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hornd wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

Since most of us don't eat brown trout, is it not a good idea to change out trebles with singles?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjw wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

Looks like it is time to cheat on my Panther Martin.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

+1

Jerks catch bigger trout.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from drkhorse6 wrote 49 weeks 6 days ago

I have never tried anything but flies but I will try these this year

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from troutstroker wrote 49 weeks 6 days ago

Give the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows a try. Been using the 3 1/2" & 4" yo-zuri for years now. The browns go crazy for them. Best action of any stick bait I've tried, they blow rapala away. Ripping them seems to work the best.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WhiteRiver wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

Where exactly did you fish on the White River?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from split484 wrote 49 weeks 1 day ago

I fly barbless 80% of the time on local rivers, catch and release mostly, love keeping and smoking browns or casting barbs searching for grilled bass, fryin perch - eatin em all -

I love that clown pattern rapala and since it's never worked in a lake for me, Joe, I just might tie one on this spring and drift it through some run-off!

besides the pansy label, why should someone think catching trout on trebles is bad and catching other species on them is OK other than violently abusing and probably scarring the fish? IMHO, if you're going to release it, catch it as humanely as possible. but if you want to keep it, present three to nine barbed hooks and give the fish the slightest chance to spit it out.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Anglerschoice wrote 39 weeks 5 days ago

I have been tossing "large" stickbaits for large trout in very small streams for over 30 years. If you can find them a 3" Grandma lure has landed lots of browns between 18-20 inches for me, Salmo diving Bullhead is another because of the sculpin like appearance, and the Salmo Minnow in 7 & 9cm sizes and Rapala up to a F-11....and I switch to the jointed version for night fishing. Aside of the Salmo Bullhead, the common denominator with all my stickbaits: TROUT COLORS! Big browns love feeding on smaller trout! I go with a Rainbow Trout color if I can find it, then a Brown Trout followed by a brighter chartreuse trout color for muddied water. One "secret" lure I use is a jointed 5 cm Ugly Duckling lure. Very hard to find, but worth its weight in gold!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment