Best Bait for Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout are one of the most popular trout species to target in recreational fishing. Stocking efforts have made this fish available in suitable freshwater fisheries around the country. Once hooked, they put up a good fight.

a rainbow trout being held by the lip

Rainbow trout feed on a variety of different foods. Live baits like nightcrawlers work very well. There are also many artificial baits that are cheap and super effective.

Artificial lures (spinners) are a lot of fun and work well too. We’ll talk about each of these types of bait and give our opinion on which bait works best for rainbow trout!

Live Bait

Let’s take a look at some great live bait options for catching Rainbow Trout.

Spawn Sacks

Spawn sacks are a great choice in the spring with the Rainbow trout are moving up the rivers to spawn. These sacks are filled with roe “Eggs” and are a staple for trout and salmon who will eat other trout and salmon eggs for energy.

Simply throw on a single hook like an octopus hook, and some split shot sinkers. These also work great rigged on tip ups or quick set rod rigs through the ice. You can even open the sack and use one single piece of roe if you want, or two or 3 together, sometimes this works better than a whole sack.


Nightcrawlers are the most popular of all live bait in the fishing world, and for rainbow trout this is no exception. Simply throw them on a single hook with some weight. Or you could even get creative and try rigging them up on a crawler harness which is incredibly popular in walleye fishing.

You can use this with or without a bobber and I honestly prefer without when trout fishing due to it having a more natural presentation.

Nightcrawlers in dirt to be used for rainbow trout bait

Artificial Bait Imitations

Let’s take a look at some artificial live bait imitations that do a great job at imitating bait like Worms, and bugs.

Berkley Gulp Maggots

Gulp baits come in many variants and field studies have proven that they can at times outfish live bait by 2:1.  The Gulp attractant formula releases over 400 times the amount of scent that live bait does as well attracting fish from long distance. If you have ever used them, you probably already know the power that the GULP formula brings to the table in terms of fish catching power.

In many instances especially ice fishing this has replaced live bait nearly in its entirety. The maggots come in at 1 inches in length but the profile typically seems smaller in length due to being curved to accurately imitate a maggot.

Gulp baits are also completely biodegradable in times when heavy soft plastic fishing is starting to litter the bottoms of bodies of water. Unlike live bait Gulp baits stay on a hook much better than live bait, allowing you to catch multiple fishing on the same one and giving you more value out of them. Not only are these extremely useful benefits, they also come in multiple colors, from natural, chartreuse, pink and white.

PowerBait Power Honey Worms

Berkley really does run the show for live bait imitations and are the top and foremost company to give anglers these specific styles of presentations for fish like trout, bass or panfish. It honestly is really hard to beat their products. They are similar to the maggots listed above but are obviously imitating small redworm type presentations over maggots.

The PowerBait honey worms are great for trout anywhere that they can be found, and imitate the larvae of many different insect species that live in the water and that rainbow trout absolutely love to feed on, simply rig on a single hook with split shot sinkers or a jig and get it into those trout hangouts.


Lures are an exciting alternative to regular bait. Since they require frequent casting and reeling, fishing with lures keeps angler (especially the younger ones) engaged.

When choosing a lure, it’s important to consider the size of the fish you’re targeting. For rainbow trout, choose a lure that is between one-half and three-quarters of an inch in size.

Let’s take a look at a couple lures that will without a doubt lead you to success when fishing for Rainbow Trout.

Worden’s Rooster Tail

The Wordens Rooster tail is a staple trout lure that has been around since the 1950’s and isn’t going away anytime soon. These decades of popularity and success are due to its simple design that just works. The rooster tail is a little bucktail presentation with a single willow blade and a fine buck tailed skirt typically made from squirrel tails or other similarly fine fur.

A small high quality treble hook ensures a great hooking percentage, and the number of colors these are available in is amazing, you are sure to find a color that will suit your needs in any weather or water clarity situation. This lure is responsible for an untold amount of giant trout and other species caught. We love these so much, we wrote a whole article on using Rooster Tails to catch trout.

Mepps Aglia

Mepps has been around for a very long time with the company being founded in 1938. Throughout the company’s life they have produced a huge variety of lures and have kept things in a simple and effective form in terms of designs while offering almost unlimited options and variants.

The aglia by mepps is one of those designs, it is the original french spinner design and Mepps offers the aglia series in multiple sizes and forms such as skirted or naked spinners. The plain treble hook Aglia features extra sharp hooks with brightly colored strike-attractor sleeves if you wish to use a non skirted version.

The shaft of the Aglia is stainless steel to prevent corrosion and the blade comes in multiple finishes and colors including, gold, brass, copper or silver finishes as well as painted blades. If you’re using lures, you’ll want to use a spinning rod.


Yes, the same corn you eat for dinner works great for catching rainbow trout. Rainbow Trout like corn because corn meal is used as the main ingredient in the foods they are fed when they are raised on a fish farm prior to being introduced into a water for fishing purposes.

Whole kernel corn from a can typically works best. It’s effective, cheap, easy to carry, and easy to hook.

Berkley, Trout Magnet, and other brands even make artificial bait that has a corn scent. We’ve used the artificial corn with a lot of success.

Other Considerations

If you’re trying to find the right bait, we’re guessing you already have the other gear you need. But it’s worth taking a few more minutes and making sure you have the best rod and best line for trout fishing.


There are a ton of bait options out there that could potentially work for Rainbow trout. Don’t hesitate to experiment and think outside the box. The best fisherman are in many ways the ones who stray away from the herd.

Happy Fishing!

Can you eat rainbow trout?

Yes, you can absolutely eat rainbow trout and we recommend it. There are many different ways to eat rainbow trout, but my favorite is by grilling them. They taste delicious when they’re cooked this way!

What’s the difference between rainbow trout and steelhead trout?

Rainbow trout and steelhead trout are the same species, but they have different migratory patterns. Learn more about the differences between steelhead and rainbow trout.

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