Spinner Fishing for Trout: Tips, Tricks, and Tactics

A Panther Martin Spinner with a "fly" style dressed treble hook
A Panther Martin Spinner with a "fly" style dressed treble hook

How to Catch Trout With Spinners

Spinner fishing for trout has always been a favorite of mine. When used properly, spinners can catch all sorts of different species. Of course, the tactics for one fish are not the same as for the next. In this lesson, I will concentrate specifically on the tactics I employ for trout. Many of these tips, however, are good to keep in mind whenever you fish with spinners.

So read up, take some notes, and start catching more trout on spinners!

Fan Casting

While it might seem silly to go to a lake or stream and repeatedly cast your favorite spinner to the exact same spot, I'm sure many of you are guilty of this at least a couple times; I know I am. Often this happens if I am having a conversation or distracted for some other reason. In general, this is a bad plan. Sure you might get lucky and find out that the trout "honey hole" is right in front of you, but often it's not.

"Fan casting" refers to covering more water with your lure. Visualize the water in front of you as a clock. Don't just cast to 12 o'clock; instead cast from 9 o'clock to 3 o'clock. Cover all the water within your casting radius.

Sometimes I wonder if the need for fan casting isn't one of the causes of "beginners luck." Personally, I don't believe in luck, so instead I try to figure out what causes it. Inexperienced anglers often times have little control over where their lure goes. The result is that they fish randomly in many different directions, so, even if by accident, they are fan casting. Who knows, maybe I'm crazy.

Counting Down

Another mistake I notice a lot of anglers make is that they begin to reel in the spinner as soon as it hits the water. If the trout are feeding near the surface, you'll be fine; but this is not always the case. If the trout are holding deeper in the water column, chances are it will be a very slow day.

The solution? Count your lure down. Depending on the shape and size of the spinner, a good rule is that it will sink one foot per second. After you make your cast, wait and count. This will give you an idea of how deep your lure is. I will usually reel in one cast on the surface, then let the next one sink down for two counts, then 4, 6, 8 counts and so on. Eventually, you will know where the bottom is. This will help you focus on the entire water column.

All right, and now for some advice that might sound silly at first. I count out loud. I don't scream it, but loud enough so I can hear myself. Why, might you ask? Well if you catch a fish on an "8" count, wouldn't it make sense to count down to eight again the next time? Of course! Sometimes though, in the heat of the battle with the trout, I will forget what number I was at. I find counting out loud helps me keep track of where I was. Maybe this won't be an issue for you. Just thought I'd throw it out there.

So there you have it, between fan casting and counting down, your lure you will be covering much more of the water in front of you, and reaching more trout. You're already on your way to being a much more effective spinner fisherman!

Snap Into Action!

It's called a spinner for a reason. If the blade isn't spinning, you're not trout fishing. You need to keep that blade moving. Often times, the blade on certain spinners will stick. The result? A wasted cast. How to solve this? Right when you start to retrieve the lure, give the lure a jerk with the rod. This isn't a hook-set, just a nice short jerk. The tension on the line and the rush of water over the blade will get the blade to jump into action. I do this on practically every cast. It's just an easy way to ensure your lure's effectiveness.

Trigger the Strike

Don't you love that feeling you get when a big trout follows your lure right up to your feet? The only thing better than that is having it strike. The truth is, a lot more trout probably follow your lure than you will ever realize. The idea is to convert as many "follows" into "hits" as possible. One way to do this is to twitch your rod tip towards your lure. The slack in the line causes the lure to pitch to the side and change pace. This often times can trigger a bite from a trailing trout. A word a caution- if you put too much slack in the line the blade may stop spinning altogether, killing the action, and any chance of catching that trout. So keep it subtle.

Cast Upstream

This is one that seems to get a lot of attention. When fishing in streams or rivers, cast upstream, initially, and let the lure swing around as you retrieve it. There are a few reasons for this. For one, trout must face upstream in order to fight the current. Additionally, almost all food will be drifting downstream, making this the natural presentation. So put it in the trout's face, cast upstream, and reel downstream.

A second reason to cast upstream is to get your lure deeper. On downstream casts, the force of the current will cause your lure to rise up and skip along the surface. You lure never has a chance to get down to the fish. If however, you cast upstream, your lure will be able to sink deeper to where the fish might be holding.

Fish to the Cover

Fish hold in cover: under logs, under banks, behind rocks, in trenches, and really any other structure on the river or lake bottom. So if the fish are there, so should your lure be (assuming you're trying to catch fish). Now if you cast and drop the lure right on top of the cover, the fish will spook, and you're out of luck. Instead, cast well past the cover, then use your rod tip to guide the lure past the cover.

Additionally, if you trust your casting skills, and you don't mind losing a lure or two, look for the really tough cover. Gaps in weed beds, trees hanging into the water: the kind of cover most other fishermen avoid at all costs. Sure, you might snag up; you might also get "the one".

Vary Your Retrieval Speed

Reel fast, reel slow, change it up. Depending on how aggressive the trout are feeling, one might work better than another. As a general rule, retrieve more slowly in cold water and faster in warm, but this is by no means set in stone. Just keep trying until you find what works.

Panther Martin Best of the Best Kit.
Panther Martin Best of the Best Kit.

My number-one spinner recommendation.


Color Selection

Some people would swear that this is the most important part. I, on the other hand, concentrate more on presentation; I believe that any color lure can be effective if fished properly. That being said, there are a couple things I try to keep in mind.

  • In stained or turbid water, you will need more flash. This means either sizing up spinners or switching to a shinier blade.
  • In clear water, either size down lures or switch to a less reflective blade.
  • In cold water, fish seem to respond better to more flash, so go bigger or shinier.
  • In warm water, fish respond better to less flash, so go smaller or less shiny.

As far as reflectivity: silver is shinier than gold, after which come, copper, bronze, brass, nickel, and a few others (I think in that order but I'm not sure). The only reason I bring this up is that nickel and silver are difficult to differentiate between with the naked human eye; this is troublesome because nickel is much less reflective from the fish's point of view. Many cheaper lure companies will replace silver with nickel to cut corners.

So what if it's hot and clear, or cold and turbid, or hot and stained? This is where it gets confusing. Just try to make a good guess at it and give it a try, and if it doesn't work? Well, that's my next point.

If They Aren't Hitting, Change it Up

Why fish with the same lure all day if the fish aren't hitting it? Try a different one. Now I don't want you to spend all day changing lures and not fishing; give each one a fair chance before switching again.

To make this easier, attach a snap swivel to the end of your line. This will prevent having to retie your knots constantly, and prevent line twist.

A quick note: don't be tempted to go cheap when buying swivels. Sometimes you can get away with it, but not here. Cheap swivels tend to bind under the line tension and not spin. Before you know it you might end up with a lapful of bird's nest. Instead, opt for a ball-bearing swivel. Ball-bearing swivels will still spin under all kinds of tension.


So that wraps up how to catch trout with spinners. If you take the time to employ these tips the next time you go out, I can almost assure you that you will catch more fish. Of course, some take some practice to master, but that's why its fun, we're always improving. So get out there, catch some trout, take some pictures, and let me know how you did! I love feedback.

Whats your favorite brand of spinner?

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Comments 4 comments

David 4 years ago

Great article - I'm a fan of - it has a lot of great information on catching trout with spinners.

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collegedad 3 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

In-line spinners are my favorite way to catch brookies and browns. Good point about changing it up. I usually start with french blades then I switch to inline blades if a hole doesn't product. Great hub!

Anthony Altorenna profile image

Anthony Altorenna 2 years ago from Connecticut

Spinners are my favorite lure to use when fishing for trout and small mouth bass. The Yellow Coach Dog pattern seldom lets me down.

dmhannan 2 months ago

Great article... definitely learned something new, especially the casting upstream, allowing the lure to both sink and present well.

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    huntnfish45 Followers
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    HuntnFish has spent many years on the water fishing for and catching nearly every species of fish in Washington State.

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