Field & Stream Online Editors
Field & Stream Online Editors

If your trout water receives any fishing pressure, then you can bet most of the fish have seen just about every lure you throw at them. Make some tweaks, like changing the color of your favorite spinner or adding a dressed trailer hook and some lead to a minnow plug, and suddenly you’re fishing with a secret weapon. Tinker enough and you just might turn out to be the next Lauri Rapala. Here are some ideas in three basic trout-lure categories to get you started.

SPOONS Small, flashy spoons are standard trout-fishing fare, but sometimes all that flash is enough to put fish into lockjawed shock. Painting black stripes (I use model builder’s enamel) across one side of a silver or gold spoon knocks down glare. Plus it gives the spoon a more lifelike look in the water. Don’t worry if your paint jobs look a little rough. I almost flunked kindergarten because I couldn’t color within the lines, and my still-ragged dabbling works just fine.

You can also use nail polish or stick-on Mylar tape to change the color on all or part of a spoon. Replacing the stock treble hook with a bucktail-dressed Siwash-style single (VMC 9171NI open-eye, for example) gives the spoon added wiggle. Be sure not to use overdressed trailers, which will kill the lure’s action.

** SPINNERS** Because my local brown trout sometimes prefer red, I often add some red Mylar to the face of my trout spinner blades. This self-sticking tape is available in assorted colors in die-cut form to match various blade sizes, or you can cut your own from the stock, square sheets sold by major tackle suppliers. A matching, dressed trailer hook completes the package.

Because spinners spin rather than wobble like a spoon, you can also use longer, dressed trailer hooks. You can even add a whole streamer fly to the back. Just be sure to use trailer hooks with ringed eyes (rather than those with hook eyes that are bent or offset). The ultimate in sex appeal might be a black Woolly Bugger¿¿¿style trailer on a spinner with a black-painted blade. In the water, the blade becomes an inky blur, the vibration of which gives the marabou trailer a fantastic fish-pulling wiggle.

MINNOW PLUGS Black-backed minnow plugs are top trout lures everywhere, but they’re really hard to see in the water through reflected patterns of sunlight and shadow. Because I want to know where my floating plug is at all times-enabling me to give precisely the right twitch at the right instant-I sometimes paint a white stripe on the back. The trout don’t seem to care, and I can fish the lure more effectively.

About 90 percent of the fish I take on these are caught on the tail hook, so I usually replace the stock rear treble with a sparsely dressed bucktail trailer. This adds to the plug’s movement and gives tail-nippers a better target.

You can also manipulate the plug’s action by adding weight to its belly. Small, self-adhesive lead dots-called SuspenDots-make this easy. Use one right behind the lip, for example, to cause the plug to dive a little more steeply when fished tight against a bank. Don’t forget to cut away one hook point from the plug’s forward treble to make releasing fish easier.

Aside from catching trout, the best part of all this tweaking comes when your buddy sees your customized lure and asks where he can buy some. “You can’t” is the inevitable answer, made all the sweeter when you cast and catch another trout on a lure that’s all your own.