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Crankbaits for Trout

Trout caught with a crankbait

Trout don’t have the reputation as a top-of-the-food-chain predator that other, more primitive-looking fish like bass, walleye, and especially pike and musky do. They’re not even as formidable as the thick-skinned yellow perch, but they are an apex predator in many lakes and river systems. The problem with trout is that many people think of them as one single species, much like walleye or pike, when in reality, they are vastly different fish with varied habits.

If you mention trout, it might be those tasty little brook trout that fill small streams, or it could be a big lake trout dominating its ecosystem. It could possibly be a large brown, lazily spending the day in slow-moving water, waiting for an unwary minnow to come with striking range. It could even be the exotics of the genus, golden trout, cutthroats, or grayling. When many anglers think of trout, one species comes to mind, the hard-hitting, tail-dancing rainbow. The freshwater rainbow trout has a saltwater variety in the steelhead, so trout are one of the few species that thrive in ocean, stream, river, and lake. Catching a fish so varied is a challenge.

Conventional wisdom calls for three ways to catch trout, either live bait, spinners, or flies. All three of these work well, but there is a lesser-known fourth method, crankbait, that can generate strikes when the other three don’t get the job done. But before your place your online order, or run off to your local store, there are many different types of crankbait on the market with many different applications that match the lifestyles of the various trout species.

Recommendations for Trout Crankbait

What works for lake trout, may not work for brook trout, and the style of crankbait that can get an aggressive rainbow to strike like a runaway freight train may not even get the attention of a slow-moving patient brown trout. In general, trout are surface feeders, that’s why flies work so well, but they also look for baitfish at various depths making the spinner a great choice. All trout are voracious eaters, whether they’re surface feeding on flies, or hunting smaller samples of their own species, baitfish, or other fingerling varieties of other gamefish. Trout will hit other fish, insects, and even rodents as bass do. They are an aggressive species overall that is perfect for crankbait.

Rebel Crick Hopper

As every 12-year-old who ever hooked a grasshopper to a #6 hook on a cane pole and then tossed it out into a slow-moving stream in George, Alabama or Arkansas knows, trout love grasshoppers. The Rebel Crick Hopper offers an incredibly realistic lure in four seasonal shades of grasshoppers. The tiny 1.25-inch-long crankbait comes in the green of spring and continues to offer shade changes matching the summer and the late stages of autumn in their color patterns. Crickets are great trout bait as well and the Crick Hopper comes in two shades of crickets.

Most crankbaits are designed to work at depths starting at three feet and extending to 20 or more, the Crick Hopper is different. It won’t go more than six inches below the surface of the water, and when it does it takes on the appearance of a panicked grasshopper struggling to reach the surface and freedom. Trout love grasshoppers and their keen eyesight is attuned to the seasons of the year. That’s why the color scheme offering seasonal pattern changes works so well with this crankbait.

Color 4 seasonal grasshoppers, 2 cricket
Size 3/32 ounce – 1.25 inches
Depth 0 to 6 inches

Strike King Bitsy Pond Minnow

Perch and crappie fishermen love this lure, so will you when you’re after good-eating-sized trout in the 13 to 18-inch size range. The 3/32 ounce weight creates a challenge to cast, especially in windy conditions, but the minuscule 1.25-inch length makes this crankbait similar in size to an average minnow, or an immature shad and hungry trout, especially river trout that like to feed near the surface will love it.

Strike King began as a business making lures for bass fishermen, but they quickly expanded to other species. They understand American sport fishing and the different feeding habits of the various trout species. They offer 11 different styles with this lure. We don’t often think of trout feeding on bass, but those big rainbows and heavy lurking mackinaws don’t have a problem feeding on largemouth or walleye fry. This is a lure that will get strikes in water less than a foot deep, the type of water where smaller baitfish are more likely to flee predators. The Bitsy Pond Minnow mimics the boiling action of panicked baitfish near the surface when a big apex predator comes into range. With a working depth measured in inches, not feet, the Bitsy Pond minnow will generate strikes from rainbows, cutthroats, larger brookies, and even browns in just a foot or two of water.

Color 11 shad, baby bass patterns
Size 3/32 ounce – 1.25 inches
Depth 0 to 12 inches

Rebel Micro-Crickhopper

What is it about trout and grasshoppers? The connection between them is a primordial one, and even though rainbow trout are a planted species from Europe, they’ve quickly adjusted to an American diet of grasshoppers. The Great Plains of the central USA are plagued by grasshoppers as are the foothills and slopes of the Rocky Mountains. The Rebel Micro plays on the propensity of rainbows and browns to feed on grasshoppers from late June to the first frost with their natural grasshopper design.

Grasshoppers are only an effective bait in the upper three feet of water below the surface. The magic of this simple design is how authentic it looks in the water. It appears to be a grasshopper, and more importantly, it moves like a grasshopper. At only 1.25 inches it is identical to those larger mid-summer grasshoppers that routinely destroy crops and the wobbling, diving action looks just like a distressed grasshopper fighting to return to the freedom of the surface. This tiny crankbait will get the attention of every trout species.

Color Natural green grasshopper
Size 1/16 ounce – 1.25 inches
Depth 0 to 3 feet

Trout Magnet Crank Hard

It’s not such a hidden truth as to create a controversy, but trout are cannibals, most fish are. They don’t have the slightest hesitation to avoid feeding on their own kind, and in many smaller mountain lakes, and pristine streams where trout are the only species in the water, this is a lure that can match the population in a smaller size, and by default, generate strikes.

The Trout Magnet comes in four specific trout patterns. To the unskilled eye, a brookie fingerling looks the same as a rainbow or brown, but to a hungry trout of the same species, they can easily tell the difference. These are larger trout crankbaits at a length of 2.75 inches. They’re designed to appear as trout fingerlings, and as such, they’ll attract the attention of larger browns and rainbows. They have a great depth range of four to eight feet on retrieve, making them a deadly trout lure.

Color 4 trout patterns
Size 1/8 ounce – 2 3/4 inches
Depth 2 to 4 feet

Rapala Countdown

If there ever was a universal lure for almost every type of game fish inhabiting North American waters, the Rapala Countdown is the one. The Countdown is available in sizes ranging from a minuscule 1/16 of an ounce and just an inch in length, to a moderately sized 4.38-inch crankbait that weighs a hefty 9/16 of an ounce. The larger the crankbait, the better it handles the windy conditions that often accompany trout fishing.

This crankbait is a little different since it is designed to match mackerel in five different shades. The choice of a mackerel as the blueprint for the lure comes from the lowly mackerel’s reputation as a baitfish that can grow to impressive size. This crankbait comes in a pair of depth ranges with the lighter one-inch offering effective at one to three-foot depths, and the larger lure having a deeper range of nine to 13 feet below the surface.

Color Mackerel in five shades
Size 1/16 – 9/16 ounce 1 to 4.38 inches
Depth 1-3 feet, 9-13 feet

Rapala Original Floater

Pulling out all the stops is something Rapala is renowned for. The original Finish design has evolved into a myriad of sportfishing patterns. The Floater is available in an amazing array of 21 different game fish designs, yet each one fits the 2 ¾ inch, 1/8-ounce parameters.

Aside from mackinaw, trout don’t strike from great depths. They are surface feeders on insects, and they also feed at shallower depths no more than five feet deep most of the time. This lure is designed to work in that three to five-foot depth range that larger trout enjoy. This is the depth you’ll find those hard-fighting, tail-dancing rainbows waiting to rip a baitfish apart. When they hit the Floater, you’re in for a thrill. This is a lure perfect for rainbows, mackinaws, browns, larger grayling, and even top-scale cutthroat trout.

Color 21 game fish patterns
Size 1/8 ounce – 2 3/4 inches
Depth 3 to 5 feet