9 Best Baits for Rainbow Trout (& How to Fish Them)

Best baits for rainbow trout

For many anglers, choosing the right rainbow trout bait is crucial for a memorable fishing expedition. After all, rainbow trout are a bit tricky to catch if you lack the knowledge about the best trout baits to use.

This comprehensive guide aims to shed light on the top baits that have proven effective for rainbow trout.

Here, we’ll provide not only a list of the most well-known baits but also links to buy them, ensuring you have direct access to the best fishing gear. Let’s begin!

Top 9 Baits for Rainbow Trout

There are many kinds of bait one can use to catch trout. From live insects to artificially formulated baits, choices are off the charts. 

But did you know that some baits are less harmful than others? 

For starters, a 2011 study by Schisler and Bergsend found that rainbow trout caught using traditional flies had a better chance of surviving after being released compared to those caught with certain fake baits.

In other words, this study suggests that using natural baits is better in a catch-and-release scenario. But are natural baits the only option? Read along to learn about some great rainbow trout baits:

1. Worms (Nightcrawlers)

Worms Nightcrawlers

A classic choice when fishing for rainbow trout in rivers and lakes, nightcrawlers have long been known as one of the best baits. 

Their natural wriggling motion in freshwater environments closely mirrors the aquatic insects that trout eat. 

For many trout anglers, the simplicity and effectiveness of this fish bait make it a staple in their fishing tackle. Fortunately, different types of nightcrawlers are available for purchase online.

2. Salmon Eggs

Salmon Eggs

This bait is usually recommended for those who fish for trout in small streams and larger bodies of water alike. 

Trout generally find salmon eggs irresistible, making them a top bait. These bright, soft orbs are a natural part of the trout’s diet, especially during spawning seasons.

Salmon eggs are available for purchase from sources such as XFactor Tackle and Sunrise Bait

3. Berkley PowerBait

Berkley PowerBait 1

Berkley PowerBait stands out as a premier choice among artificial fishing baits, and many seasoned anglers and fishing guides swear by its effectiveness, especially when targeting stocked trout. 

Developed by the Berkley brand after years of research, PowerBait is infused with a specialized scent and flavor formula that fish find irresistible. 

Its soft, pliable texture allows anglers to mold it into various shapes, ensuring versatility. This adaptability, combined with its aroma, makes it especially potent for different kinds of trout.

Furthermore, in regions where fishing regulations limit the use of live bait, Berkley PowerBait emerges as a top recommendation, promising both compliance and results.

There are a handful of Berkley Powerbait variants out in the market. You may visit Berkley’s official listings for more info about their PowerBait line of products.

4. Rapala Original Floating Minnow

Rapala original floating minnow

The Rapala Original Floating Minnow, with over 80 years of legacy, is a popular product in artificial baits. Crafted to mirror the appearance and behavior of bait fish, this bait design mimics a realistic wounded minnow.

This bait is best used to lure predatory species, including brown trout, lake trout, and rainbow trout, among others.

The lure can be adjusted to swim at various depths, either near the surface or deeper, using weights or diving devices. 

Its versatility allows it to be used as a topwater lure, creating a distinct V-pattern on the water’s surface when reeled in slowly. 

Meanwhile, when retrieved below the surface, it exhibits a natural wobble, replicating the movement of a realistic swimming bait fish.

Additionally, its buoyancy allows for a pause in retrieval, making it rise slightly, which is especially useful in shallow waters with weeds.

Watch this video to learn more about this effective rainbow trout bait:

How To Fish the Rapala Original Floating Lure | Rapala Fishing Tips

5. Crayfish (Live or Synthetic)

Crayfish bait live or synthetic

In larger rivers where crayfish are abundant, they serve as a protein-rich meal for trout and other stocked fish. 

Their natural defensive movements, especially when they feel threatened, can trigger a more aggressive response from trout, making crayfish an effective bait.

Fortunately, crayfish, both live and synthetic, are conveniently available for purchase from online angling shops, such as Bestbait.com, Bass Pro Shops, and Angling Active.

Should you decide to use live crayfish as bait for trout, make sure to keep yourself informed of the regulations in place regarding the use of live bait. This varies depending on your state.

For more information, you may read up on Tennessee’s regulations as well as Maine’s, and make sure to find the regulations in your state.

Drawing from my experience as an angler, I emphasize the critical importance of following fishing regulations. These rules are meticulously crafted based on scientific research to strike a balance between the joy of angling and the importance of preserving aquatic biodiversity. 

Overfishing or using inappropriate bait can disrupt the delicate balance of aquatic ecosystems, which can lead to irreversible damage.

6. Canned Corn

Canned corn bait

At first glance, canned corn might seem like an odd choice for fishing bait. However, its effectiveness, particularly in waters teeming with stocked rainbow trout, is undeniable. 

The soft, juicy kernels, boasting a vibrant yellow color, can be irresistible to rainbow trout. The appearance and texture of the corn can mimic the hatchery food pellets these trout were fed during their early life stages. 

When these trout encounter canned corn in the wild, it triggers a sense of familiarity, making them more likely to bite. This bait is readily available at Bass Pro Shops and other online sources.

7. Acme Kastmaster Spoon

Acme Kastmaster Spoon

A top choice among trout anglers, the Acme Kastmaster Spoon is more than just a jig; it’s a testament to precision engineering in the realm of trout lures. 

Its shimmering reflection underwater, combined with its wild action, makes it one of the best options for those seeking the best method to attract big trout. 

Its aerodynamic design and its ability to produce enticing movements without causing line twists sets it apart from other rainbow trout lures in the market.

For those seeking a memorable fishing experience, the Acme Kastmaster Spoon is a must-have in your tackle box. This bait is available at Bass Pro Shops.

8. Shrimp (Live or Cooked)

Shrimp bait live or cooked

Shrimp has proven to be a secret weapon in certain fishing scenarios. In areas that see heavy fishing activity or when pursuing particularly wary trout, using shrimp as bait can provide a refreshing alternative.

I have personally tried this bait upon the recommendation of an angler friend of mine. I noticed that the unique scent and flavor profile of shrimp can pique the curiosity of rainbow trout and entice them to bite. 

I have also experimented with both live and cooked shrimp as bait. When I used live shrimp, it created natural movement. Meanwhile, cooked shrimp releases a stronger aroma. Hence, both can be very effective. 

9. Other Live Insects

Live insects as bait

Many enthusiasts of fly fishing swear by live insects as one of the best and most effective baits available. From mayflies to beetles, these insects are a primary food source for most trout species, especially in freshwater settings. 

Their natural movement on the water’s surface is sure to lure a few big rainbow trout up your alley.

Fortunately, live insects are available for purchase from reputable online sources, one of which is Bestbait.com, which offers an assortment of live baits, from mealworms and mousies to crayfishes and waxworms.

How to Rig Bait on a Hook

Each bait type has its unique rigging method, tailored to mimic natural prey. By mastering these techniques, you not only enhance the bait’s appeal but also increase the likelihood of a successful catch.

1. Natural Live Baits

Natural live bait is a tried-and-true method for attracting trout. These baits, sourced directly from the environment, mimic the natural diet of trout, making them irresistible.


Rigging worms
  1. Start by selecting a lively worm.
  2. Hold the worm gently by its head using your thumb and forefinger.
  3. Carefully thread the worm onto the hook, starting from its head and pushing it along the hook’s shank.
  4. Wind the worm around the hook, ensuring a portion of it hangs off to mimic its natural movement.
  5. Ensure the sharp point of the hook remains exposed to allow for an effective hook set when a trout bites.

Salmon Eggs

Rigging salmon eggs
  1. Hold the hook between your thumb and forefinger by its shank.
  2. With your other hand, pick up a salmon egg.
  3. Gently press the salmon egg onto the hook, positioning it in the middle.
  4. Ensure the egg covers the majority of the hook but leaves the sharp point exposed for a successful hook set.

Live Crayfish

Rigging live crayfish
  1. Gently grasp the live crayfish by its midsection using your thumb and forefinger. Alternatively, you can also use a tool, such as a pair of pliers, to do this.
  2. Carefully insert the hook through the tail’s end, guiding it upwards so it exits near the crayfish’s head.
  3. This positioning ensures the crayfish appears natural in the water, making it more enticing to trout.

Live Shrimp

Rigging live shrimp
  1. Hold the shrimp gently by its midsection, ensuring it’s straight.
  2. Carefully push the hook through the thicker end of the shrimp’s tail, moving it upwards towards the head.
  3. Ensure the shrimp hangs straight on the hook, resembling the posture of a naturally swimming shrimp.

Live Insects

Rigging live insects
  1. Gently grasp the insect between your thumb and forefinger, being careful not to squeeze too hard.
  2. Slowly hook the insect through its body, ensuring it remains lively and can move its legs or wings.
  3. Position the insect so it sits naturally on the hook, making it more appealing to trout.

For a visual demonstration of how to rig live baits, watch this video:

Best Ways to Hook Live Bait | How to Hook Live Bait | Best Way to Hook Mullet

2. Artificial Baits

Artificial baits are designed to replicate the appearance, scent, and movement of natural prey, making them highly effective in various fishing conditions. 

Whether you’re fishing in waters where live bait is restricted or simply want a reusable option, artificial bait is a reliable choice. Let’s look at how to rig some artificial baits.


Rigging powerbait
  1. Start by taking a pea-sized amount of Berkley PowerBait between your thumb and forefinger.
  2. Gently mold and shape it into a ball, ensuring it’s compact.
  3. Hold the hook by its shank with your other hand and press the PowerBait ball onto the hook.
  4. Make sure the sharp point of the hook remains exposed, allowing for an effective hook set when a trout bites.

Synthetic Crayfish

Rigging synthetic crayfish
  1. Hold the synthetic crayfish by its midsection, ensuring its pincers are facing forward.
  2. Identify the hook entry point, usually at the tail end or the underside of the crayfish.
  3. Gently push the hook through the chosen entry point, guiding it so it exits near the crayfish’s head or thorax.
  4. Adjust the crayfish on the hook to ensure it hangs in a natural position when submerged, mimicking a live crayfish.

Canned Corn

Rigging canned corn
  1. Hold the hook by its shank using your non-dominant hand.
  2. With your dominant hand, pick up 2 to 3 kernels of canned corn.
  3. Carefully thread the kernels onto the hook, one after the other, ensuring they sit snugly against each other.
  4. Make sure the sharp point of the hook remains slightly exposed, allowing for a secure hook set upon a bite.

Here’s a video demonstrating the process of rigging canned corn:

How To Hair Rig Corn With Guru

3. Lures

Unlike baits, which trout consume, lures appeal to their predatory instincts, enticing them to strike. 

With a variety of designs, from reflective spoons to lifelike swimbaits, lures can be tailored to different fishing environments and trout behaviors. Let’s take a closer look at how lures are rigged.

Floating Minnow

Floating minnow in packaging
  1. Start by selecting a lure that closely imitates baitfish.
  2. Hold the lure steady in one hand and the end of your fishing line in the other.
  3. Thread the end of the fishing line through the lure’s ring.
  4. Secure the lure by tying a standard improved clinch knot: twist the free end of the line around the main line about five times, then thread the free end through the loop nearest the lure and again through the big loop you just formed. Pull tight to secure.
  5. Trim any excess line from the free end.
  6. When casting and retrieving, ensure the lure’s movement mimics the swimming pattern of natural baitfish to maximize its appeal to trout.

Kastmaster Spoon

Kastmaster spoon on white background
  1. With the Kastmaster spoon steady in one hand and the end of your fishing line in the other, thread the line through the spoon’s ring.
  2. Secure the spoon to the line using an improved clinch knot, as described above.
  3. Trim away any excess line after the knot is tight.
  4. When casting, aim for areas where trout are likely to be, such as deeper pools or behind large rocks. Retrieve the lure with a steady motion, allowing its reflective surface to catch the light and attract trout.

Watch this video to see how a Kastmaster spoon is rigged for trout fishing:

How To Fish Kastmasters For Stocked Trout (DEADLY EFFECTIVE!!)

How to Catch Rainbow Trout

Now that you’re equipped with knowledge about the top baits for rainbow trout and the intricacies of rigging them, it’s time to turn our attention to the actual pursuit. 

Whether you’re a beginner eager to land your first catch or a seasoned angler looking to refine your technique, understanding the behavior and preferences of rainbow trout in the wild is critical.

1. Carefully study the trout’s habitat

Rainbow trout have a natural affinity for moving water. This means rivers and streams are often teeming with these fish. 

The constant flow of moving water brings a steady supply of food, making it an ideal hunting ground for trout. 

However, lakes and ponds shouldn’t be overlooked. In these still waters, trout often adapt their hunting techniques, and realizing these nuances can give you an edge in getting a hold of one.

2. Master the casting technique

When fishing in rivers and streams, casting upstream and allowing your bait or fishing lures to drift naturally with the current is crucial. This technique mimics the movement of the prey, which leads to better chances.

For a more effective drift, ensure your reel’s drag system is set correctly, allowing for a smoother line release. Additionally, using a sensitive rod tip can help you detect subtle bites.

3. Determine and use the right gear

The choice of reel and rod can make a significant difference. A spinning reel is versatile and works well with various types of bait, from live bait to artificial lures. 

Pair your reel with a rod that has a sensitive tip, allowing you to feel even the slightest tug. This sensitivity is especially crucial when ice fishing, where trout bites can be more subtle.

4. Select and present the right bait

The best rainbow trout bait often depends on the environment. In moving waters of rivers and streams, baits that mimic local insects or small fish are effective. 

In lakes and ponds, where stocked trout might be more accustomed to feeding on pellets, baits that resemble these pellets, such as canned corn, can be advantageous.

Remember, the key is not just selecting the right bait but also presenting it in a way that appears natural to the trout. Experiment with different fishing lures and observe which ones work best in specific conditions.

5. Be observant and adaptive to the fishing environment

Rainbow trout, especially wild trout, are observant and can be wary of things that seem out of place. Pay attention to the water’s flow, shadows, and any visible structures. 

Trout often hides behind rocks, logs, or in deeper pools. Casting your line in these areas increases your chances of a catch. 

If you’re not getting bites, don’t be hesitant to change your approach or bait. Sometimes, even changing the depth at which your bait is presented can make a difference. Riding a pontoon boat for fishing also helps a lot.

Frequently Asked Questions

Rainbow trout caught through worm

What Do Rainbow Trout Like to Bite On?

Rainbow trout are known to bite on worms, fish eggs, and crayfish. Some anglers even find success using unconventional baits like canned corn when fishing streams.

Do Rainbow Trout Bite Lures?

Yes, rainbow trout are attracted to both natural baits and artificial lures. Spinners, spoons, and other plug baits are some of the best lures for rainbow trout. Having a variety of lures can help land a successful catch.

What Is the Best Color Bait for Rainbow Trout?

Rainbow trout have a keen sense of color vision. However, the most effective color often depends on factors like water clarity and ambient lighting. 

In clear waters, natural shades such as brown and green are typically effective. However, in murkier conditions or during low light, brighter hues like pink or chartreuse can stand out more,

Final Thoughts

Rainbow trout fishing is a harmonious blend of art and science. To find rainbow trout and ensure a successful catch, understanding their natural behavior and preferences is crucial. 

Whether you’re a seasoned angler or just beginning your journey in the world of trout fishing, selecting the best lures and baits, combined with patience and keen observation, can lead to a successful day in the water. 

After all, it’s the thrill of the catch and the intricate preparation that make rainbow trout fishing a cherished activity for many. 

What is your take on this matter? Let us know your tips and tricks on selecting the best rainbow trout bait by leaving a comment below!

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