By Paul Lewis
Summertime is upon us! Yes, it is time to dress in tee-shirts! For many anglers, summer is the season we most look forward to, as warmwater species are at their most active and willing to bite. As many anglers focus on bass, panfish, walleye, and saltwater opportunities, it is easy to forget that trout fishing can still be incredibly productive. In the heat, cold-water species such as trout move into deeper water and reside below the thermocline in lakes. This is where the water is a more consistent, cool temperature and does not swing into higher temps like the water at the surface does as it bakes in the sun. As someone who loves to troll but can’t always go salmon fishing on any given afternoon, I frequent many trout lakes during the week to get a few peaceful hours on the water. There are literally thousands of ways to troll for trout, making it hard to pick just five to highlight in this article, but for the summer, I stick to these tactics most of the time:
Diving crankbaits such as Rapalas, Flicker Shads, and Minnows are fantastic options for summer trout, especially in the early morning. Before the heat of the day hits the water, trout will rise up in the water column, making lures that give off a lot of sound and mimic an injured baitfish a great choice. Trout will be aggressive early in the morning, making this option which allows for faster trolling speeds a favorite on new lakes (especially shallow lakes where the trout can’t hide deep) where covering water to find fish is important. Later in the day, you can run cranks off downriggers or add weight to the line to aid in diving ability.
Ask any old-school trout angler how they troll for trout, and pop-gear such as the Ford-Fender or the Jack-Lloyd will almost certainly come up. Pop-gear puts a ton of flash into the water and imparts some action onto lures, which has made it a standby for decades. Anything can be fished behind pop-gear, from spoons to spinners, but one of the most common ways pop-gear is trolled includes a simple worm on a hook behind the gear. Majorly old-school, but majorly effective. Pop-gear has one major downside, which is that it has lots of drag when trolled. Making sure to have a stiffer rod with enough backbone to handle the gear is paramount. When possible, I try to avoid pop-gear for this reason, but it is always on my boat. Some days, the pop-gear is all the fish want.
3: Straight Spoons
We often troll spoons behind gear, but in the summer, trolling bigger spoons “naked” is majorly effective. When the fish are willing to bite straight spoons, there is nothing better. Spoons have no drag, they flash and wiggle hard, and when fish bite, there is no other resistance being trolled through the water. Spoons are versatile and with fish hanging in warm water, having something that trolls effectively at faster speeds is crucial. Warm water speeds up fish metabolism, making them willing to chase baits hard. When no re-baiting is required, trolling doesn’t get easier! Some to try are the God’s Tooth, Needlefish, and Krokodile spoons. For sinking spoons, Little-Cleo’s and Kastmasters are great options.
2: The Slider Spoon
When fishing spoons, another way to increase your catch is by adding a sliding spoon onto the line. This is a tactic I often use, however, it is only effective off of the downrigger. Luckily, when fishing in the summer, the downriggers are often in play! When trolling, the line to the downrigger clip creates a bow as forward motion creates drag. Slider spoon setups are a 6–7-foot leader tied to a snap-swivel with a spoon on the end. Simply hook the snap swivel onto the line and toss the spoon into the water. The spoon and swivel will slide down the line into the bow created by the motion, effectively adding a second lure halfway up from the main presentation. Sliders make 2 rods fishing allow for 4 presentations, effectively doubling the hookup percentage. Sliders work especially well when fish are spread thru the column. If there are fish from 25-50 feet down on sonar, you can cover the most water by running the main gear at 50 feet with a slider on one presentation fishing at the bottom of the marks, and then running another one fishing at the top of the marks.
1: Dodger and Spinner
When talking about confidence baits, there is nothing that comes to mind faster than the dodger and spinner. Trolled slow, trolled semi-fast- this presentation is my number one go-to for most of the year. At least one of my rods will start with this almost every outing, as a small dodger such as a RMT 5.5 or an old-fashioned Dick Nite 4/0 dodger paired with a spinner is hard to beat. If fishing is slow, toss a chunk of nightcrawler on the back of the spinner. When it comes to versatility, this presentation is hard to beat. There is no major drag through the water, yet there is flash, there is action imparted onto the lure- and that is all the fish need! Spinners I like are Reli-Lures Diamond Flash Spinners, Mack’s Wedding Rings, or even some personalized ones, as they are easy to tie up! Grab some beads and get creative!
Hopefully these tactics help add fish in your boat this summer. Trolling for trout does not have to end in the spring- even on the hottest days the fish are there and can be tricked into a dinner invitation!