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The Real Secret to Trout Fishing (My Dad's Secret Lure)

I like to fish. I also like sharing the little I know with those who might not.

Nice stringer of rainbows caught on 10 April 2020

Nice stringer of rainbows caught on 10 April 2020

I’ve Caught a Lot of Trout Over the Years

I am 60 years old and I have caught thousands of trout in my life. I’ve been able to do that because I have lived in places where they are naturally abundant or abundantly stocked: Alaska, South Dakota, Michigan, Idaho, among others. I’ve also been able to do that for three other very important reasons:

  1. My dad took me fishing when I was a boy.
  2. My dad still took me fishing when I was a grown man.
  3. My dad shared with me his secret lure and everything else he knew about fishing. It was my dad's favorite lure, and it's my favorite, too!

I have learned to love fishing, and though I do have a small boat, I catch most of my fish from the shore or from the dock. During an outing in spring 2020, I fished from a concrete slab dock that jutted out into the reservoir. You can see my catch in the photo above.

What Is the Possession Limit for Trout?

Six trout is the possession limit in Idaho, so six is how many fish I caught. Well, I actually caught seven but threw one little guy back so he could grow some more and make a better meal for someone in the future.

What Bait Do You Use for Trout?

When friends, acquaintances, or passersby ask me what kind of bait I use or what kinds of lures I use to catch trout, I am always honest with them. I believe there is joy to be had in going fishing, but there is great joy to be had in catching fish. And the only greater joy I can think of than that is helping others catch fish.

On a normal day, the secret to catching trout is not really a secret: you use a sinker, hook, and worm—specifically a nightcrawler or a small section of a nightcrawler—or you use a lure. With the former, it’s pretty straightforward:

  1. Tie a small hook onto the end of your line.
  2. Place a split shot or two about 6-8 inches up the line from the hook.
  3. Bait the hook.
  4. Cast the line.
  5. Sit and wait patiently until you see, feel, sense that old familiar tug.
  6. Reel in your fish!

With the latter, well…that’s where many folks have lots and lots of different opinions, and some can get pretty uptight, holding on for dear life to their secrets.

I Prefer to Cast the “Wyoming Wonder” (Jake’s Spin-A-Lure)

On arrival at the reservoir during that spring outing, I could see other folks occasionally pulling one in here and there, and it looked to me like most of them were fishing on the bottom, probably using crawlers. So, I started my day fishing with a hook and worm setup as described above.

After a protracted period—probably ten minutes or more!—and no bites, I lost patience with bottom fishing and broke out my very favorite lure, what my dad used to call the Wyoming Wonder. The Wonder is actually a Jake’s Spin-A-Lure, manufactured in Sheridan, Wyoming, but back in the late 70s when Dad coined the term, Jake’s lures were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are now.

Rainbow caught on Wyoming Wonder (Jake's Spin-A-Lure) 3 May 2021

Rainbow caught on Wyoming Wonder (Jake's Spin-A-Lure) 3 May 2021

I think I remember the original packaging of a new Jake’s lure was somewhat generic compared to the fancy, colorful designs used on the ‘big name’ lures you could buy like Mepps, Rapala, Dardevle, and so forth.

Back then, the brand new Jake’s lure was attached to a plain white card with green lettering. And that’s it. The first one I ever got was gifted to me by my father not long after he caught these monsters at an “unnamed lake” in Wyoming (those damn fishermen and their secret spots, am I right?).

Dad circa 1978 with two monster trout he caught at a lake he called Unnamed

Dad circa 1978 with two monster trout he caught at a lake he called Unnamed

Anyway, living in western South Dakota in the 70s, we could buy them pretty easily at the local mom and pop bait shops in the Black Hills (if they still had any on the shelf, that is). Still, I never knew they were called Jake’s Spin-A-Lures until many, many years after I had caught hundreds (and probably thousands, really) of fish with them.

The lures worked wonders, it seems, and were manufactured (and worked well while fishing) in Wyoming, so the nickname my dad used for them was apt and always worked for me. Still does, in fact. I think the only reason I ever had to learn the real name of the lure was so I could pass it along.

I have been asked by many folks after turning them on to the lure's special trout-catching ability. Still, even knowing what I know today I continue to call it the Wyoming Wonder, or just the Wonder.

The Fishing Was Good…for the Most Part, Anyway

So back to that springtime fishing adventure: when I finally broke out the Wyoming Wonder after ten long minutes of no bites in prime fishing waters that had been recently stocked, I didn’t have to wait past my first cast to get a hit. And while I didn’t catch that first fish, the fact that I got some action right away was encouraging in the extreme.

I cast again and immediately hooked into a very nice rainbow, which I was able to land successfully. That first real fish fight of the day was pleasurable and memorable, the insistent tug, tug, tug coming some number of seconds after the lure hit the water and began its wobbling, spinning descent.

It occurs to me I need to drop anchor here and also talk about two other things when it comes to the Wyoming Wonder lure:

  1. You can cast this thing a country mile. It is relatively heavy, as far as small trout lures go, and it does very well, goes very far even when casting directly into a stiff wind. I have always loved the lure for that feature, too.
  2. You only really need to pick between two colors: silver with red dots or gold with red dots. There are lots and lots of other choices nowadays, but these are the only two you really need. My dad always said you should use the silver one on a bright, sunny day and in clear water; use the gold one on cloudy days or in murky water.
Gold and Silver Jake's Spin-A-Lure (Wyoming Wonder), Size 1/4 oz., approx 1 3/8 in. long excluding hook

Gold and Silver Jake's Spin-A-Lure (Wyoming Wonder), Size 1/4 oz., approx 1 3/8 in. long excluding hook

Jake's Spin-A-Lure

My dad always said you should use the silver one on a bright, sunny day and in clear water; use the gold one on cloudy days or in murky water.

The Second Cast

That second cast (which resulted in my first fish) was long, and when the lure splashed down, I let it begin its descent into the cool springtime water, pausing longer than I normally do before beginning to reel the line in.

It’s a variation in technique I use at times, trying to do something slightly different with each cast—slower retrieval; faster retrieval; begin reeling immediately after the lure hits the water; stop and go retrieval—changes of pace on occasion to mix things up for both me and the fish until we both decide something's working for us.

On this cast, too, the end result of the long toss and the quick strike was a lengthier than normal battle with a feisty fish who really didn’t want to come my way but was finding little choice in the matter. So. Much. Fun!

The skies were partly cloudy that day, the water somewhat dark and murky. I’d chosen the gold-with-red-dots Wonder for that reason, and it was definitely living up to its name. I caught three fish in pretty short order and was feeling good about my chances of catching a limit in under an hour.

After stringing fish number three, tossing the group into the lake, and securing the stringer to the pad, I went to cast long and hard again, only to have the lure’s arcing trajectory end abruptly as a result of a huge rat’s nest in my spinning reel spool. I somehow refrained from spewing the first thing that came to mind and, as I looked up and around, was thankful I did.

Just as I was beginning with hope the hopeless task of trying to untangle the matted ball of monofilament on my reel, a young man and his very young daughter were arriving and settling in on a similar concrete pad some 20-30 feet over from me. They would have heard me for sure, would have had that awkward conversation starting with, “Daddy, what does &^%$# mean?”

$#%@&* rat's nest still intact after I got home from the lake

$#%@&* rat's nest still intact after I got home from the lake

Great Joy With the Right Lure

The young fellow nodded at me, we exchanged verbal greetings and I went back to my exercise in futility. After too long, because I am stubborn and always have to at least try, I finally, grudgingly, acknowledged that the rat had won, and decided I should just use my other pole.

I can’t rightly say why I did, but I decided to tie the silver-with-red-dots Wonder onto my other fishing pole and give that a try. Maybe it was because the sun had peeked its head out from around the clouds, or perhaps because earlier I’d been able to see clearly in the water a shiny green- and black- and rainbow-colored trout following my lure closely as I reeled it in. Whatever the case, I decided to use the silver lure…

That first cast—that’s the way I counted it, anyway, since it felt like starting anew on a completely separate day—and after only a few turns of the crank on my spinning reel, I hooked into and landed the largest trout I caught all day long. As I added that fish to the stringer, I noticed I now had an interested audience nearby.

When I tossed the line out for cast number two, achieving similar results with a fish that was only slightly smaller, the audience member, the young fellow on the next-door dock, hollered over in my direction saying, “I should have brought my spinner box with me. I left the house in a hurry and forgot to bring it.”

Cast number last was a threepeat, and just like that I was done for the day, began packing up my gear. As I did so, I looked over at the young man and his daughter. He was intently watching poles and bobbers (fishing with nightcrawlers, I bet!), and the little girl was down on hands and skinny bare knees, one arm extended, stretching to reach something deep underneath and inside a nearby bush. She seemed no longer interested in not catching fish.

Before I shouldered my backpack, picked up my poles, pulled my stringer out of the water, I cut with my teeth the line on the pole I’d just been using, the one with the silver-with-red-dots Jake's on it, leaving a length of monofilament attached to swivel snap and lure.

I walked over near the young man, got his attention, tossed him what I am sure was the gift of his first Wyoming Wonder lure. I wished him the very best of luck. He grinned and thanked me as I walked away toward my pickup.

The Real Secret to Trout Fishing

It is no secret that there is joy to be had in going trout fishing. It is also common knowledge that there is great joy in the catching of trout, as well. Helping others catch fish, though, is easily the greatest joy of all... and that, quite honestly, is the only real secret to trout fishing.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 greg cain


greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on August 09, 2020:

Hi Lou - thanks for the question. You can use braided line, but I personally use monofilament when fishing for trout. Also, most of my setups are with 6 lb. test monofilament. Brand name I mostly use is Stren. Hope that helps and hope you catch a bunch of fish!

Lou on August 09, 2020:

Hi can i use braid line or stick with my mono line? Ang what is the best size for line that you recommend?

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on June 20, 2020:

Leah - this is great! I'm so happy you caught a nice rainbow, and your first one, even! And that you ate it for lunch, and just the whole story. Also sounds like quite an adventure chasing after that snagged lure. I have been there, done that myself, though most times there is not a good way to get to the stuck lure without going in over my head. In any case, so glad this worked out for you, and I hope you keep fishing and keep on having great success. Be well, and have a great weekend.

Leah on June 19, 2020:

Hi Greg - thank you again for this post and the follow-up. I caught my first trout this morning (a beautiful 13" rainbow), thanks to you! I used the gold lure with red dots since it was an overcast morning, with medium/fast retrieve, and no bobber as you recommended. I just started fishing, and I've been trying to catch a trout for a month, but no luck until I hit a steam with this lure today. Within 4-5 casts, I'd hooked my trout! What a thrill! I switched to other baits/lures afterwards - but... nothing.... This lure was all they wanted today. I could see fish darting after the lure vigorously almost every time I cast it. They loved it. Eventually, the lure got snagged on a branch in the middle of the deepest part of the stream. I couldn't get it unhooked and the lined snapped. I sure as heck waded in, up to my waist, to retrieve the lure. (No way was I going to leave this little piece of gold in the stream.) Thanks again for this post - it definitely helped me land my first trout, which we enjoyed with the family at lunch today. Thank you!!

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on June 18, 2020:

Hi Leah - Thanks so much for your comment and question. You do not need to use a bobber with this lure. You cast and retrieve, cast and retrieve, so no bobber required. Also, I always tie a small snap swivel to my line when I'm fishing with the Wyoming Wonder/Jake's Spin-A-Lure. This helps prevent line twist from the spinning action of the lure. The method I use (the knot) for tying the snap swivel to the line is the same one this guy uses in this video: It's the first knot in the video with the wrap around, then back through the hole, pull taut. If you have any more questions, feel free to send me a note at and we can chat more about it. Good luck, and happy fishing!

Leah on June 17, 2020:

Hi Greg,

I’m new to fishing and loved this article. Can you give some detail on how to tie the Jake’s lure to your line? Should I use a bobber with this lure?


greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on May 16, 2020:

Hi Shauna - thanks for giving this story a look. It is, as you guessed, 100% true; happened back in early April. I almost wish I knew for sure whether that guy and his daughter caught any fish that day, but I did not stay around to watch.

I checked out the DCC Sea Turtle Hatcher lure your brother invented and is selling, and I think that's just about the coolest thing going! What a neat idea, and I love the tagline: you can save a baby sea turtle!

Thanks again for stopping by, Shauna, and thanks for the feedback, too. I do appreciate it. Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 15, 2020:

Greg, I think it's awesome of you to gift that young man with his first Wyoming Wonder. I'm sure he'll be telling that story for years to come.

My brother is a fisherman. When we were younger, he loved to freshwater fish. He began tying flies when he was in grade school.

Once we moved to Florida, he took up deep sea fishing. You'll find him on the water more than on land. He also makes his own salt water lures. He has a couple that are patent pending. They're absolutely beautiful and are successful in catching dolphin (Mahi Mahi), Walloo and the like. He sells them under the name DCC Lures. They're really pretty cool.

I enjoyed this article, Greg. I like your style.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on April 14, 2020:

I love to eat salmon and trout, too! I do lots of different things with the trout I catch; hope to be able to write about some of that soon. I think if you find the right fishing hole, you'd not need a whole lot of learning and practice...I think more than anything else it's the time investment and a bit of luck. Be well, and have a good week, Ann.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on April 14, 2020:

Hi Dora - I do hope you get to do it again...and soon. It is a very relaxing and enjoyable way to spend a morning (or afternoon). Be well and take care.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on April 14, 2020:

Bill - thanks for checking out the essay. I enjoy helping others to succeed, achieve, get what they want, what it is they are after. I am hopeful the young man and his little girl caught some fish after I left.

Ann Carr from SW England on April 14, 2020:

I know nothing about fishing and I've only ever been once.

I do like eating fish though, especially salmon and trout. Interesting hub which has educated me. It's a hobby which needs much learning and practice I think. Well done to you for such impressive catches!


Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 14, 2020:

I went fishing only once. You make me want to do it again. Thanks for sharing your secret in such a pleasant read.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 13, 2020:

I can't remember the last time I went trout fishing...probably ten years ago in Yellowstone. And the thing is, I love it! I just haven't found the time. Life keeps "getting in the way." That needs to change. Thanks for the inspiration and gentle kick in the butt.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on April 11, 2020:

Hi JC - thanks so much for stopping by and checking things out. Access to the Snake River in Lewiston, Idaho, is just down the road about 33 miles from where I live. I’ve only fished the Snake once but I intend to do more of it in coming years. Be well and be safe!

JC Scull on April 11, 2020:

Very good article. I am not a fisherman by any stretch of the imagination, but I did go trout fishing once on the Snake River in Idaho. Your article brought back some nice memories.