The 5 Best Rainbow Trout Baits

best rainbow trout bait

​Although you can catch trout on nothing more than a hook and a nightcrawler, choosing the best rainbow trout bait to suit your venue will give you the best chance of catching something.  

​Rainbows are often stocked into various ponds, lakes and rivers and when they are newly introduced they will tend to feed on what is closed to the foods they were given in the hatchery.

Once they begin to acclimatize to their new environment they will quickly learn what natural foods are available and start to focus on those depending on the time of year.

You can of course use artificial trout fishing lures that imitate small minnows and nymphs instead of bait.

​Best Rainbow Trout Bait

​1. PowerBait

​If you happen to be fishing for stocked trout then PowerBait may well be your first choice.  

It is an artificial trout bait dough like substance that has a scent infused into it.

​Using PowerBait for trout is pretty simple to use, just take a small piece out of the tub and form it over your hook.

The reason why it is thought to be so effective for stocked rainbows is that it will resemble the small feed pellets that the fish will have been reared on from a young age.

It is available in a large range of colors and different scents. Some of the colors even have glitter running through which can help as an added attractor to trout.

You can of ​always use a small weight or bobber depending on the types of river or lake that you are fishing on.

​2. Salmon Eggs

​In rivers where salmon have an annual run trout can end up gorging themselves on salmon eggs.

Once the salmon lay there eggs in the loose gravel and sand a large percentage of them will over time become dislodged and get dragged off down the river by the natural current.

At this time of year rainbow trout will feed almost exclusively on salmon eggs. You can use this fact to great advantage.

Although you can find natural salmon eggs to use and they are very effective in this instance I actually prefer the artificial versions as they can be kept in a jar for a very long time with out loosing their freshness.

They are also easier to handle and to put directly onto a hook.

Both PowerBait and  Pautzke produce artificial salmon eggs that come in a large range of colors and scents.

The classic red or orange are the most productive as they imitate the natural eggs that trout are used to feeding on.

Using a simple setup you can drift a salmon egg down and across a river to great effect. The more natural your presentation here the better.

​3. Nightcrawlers

​Nightcrawlers are without doubt the all time classic brown trout bait but they are also extremely effective for rainbow trout.

You can buy tubs of nightcrawlers or worms in most local bait and tackle shops.

They are also free form your back yard if you are inclined to put in a small bit of effort.

One method to collect them is after it rains at night go out into you back yard on the grass with a flash light and you nearly always just pick them up off of the ground.

You can also find them during the day by looking under any type of object that has been placed on the dirt or ground for a few weeks.

Look under logs, large flat stones and pieces of plastic.

They can be kept in a plastic container with some good quality dirt. Make sure there is a few air holes in the top of the container and that the dirt is kept moist, not too dry and definitely not over-watered.

​4. Corn

​Corn is one of the cheapest and readily available bait for rainbow trout. It looks pretty similar to a salmon egg when moving through the water. 

You ca add an artificial scent to you can of corn if you wish and it may help to attract more fish to the bait.

Again you want a simple setup using either just a hook on smaller waters and light gear or on larger waters a bobber setup or some kind of weight or sinker.

Corn ca be used on the same hook as a nightcrawler. It gives the trout some to focus on from a further distance and may increase your strike rate versus just a plain nightcrawler.

​5. Minnows

Minnows and other smaller bait fish are obviously one the most natural baits for rainbow trout that you can use.

They can be caught in small nets or bought prepackages from a bait shop.

There are several different rigging methods that you can try but I have found the best method is to use a good quality trout hook and hook them through the back.

A slow retrieve with really small twitches of the rod tip will help to add some life to them as they move through the water.

​Although it is somewhat out of fashion these days some fishermen will use live minnows as there bait.

You need be very careful if you decide to use live bait. Many states are now banning the process so always make sure to read your local fishing regulations before using live fish as bait.

​Rainbow Trout Bait tips

​Always try to match what the trout are feeding on first before you try and use an artificial bait. 

However, if you now that the trout are not long out of the hatchery and they are not wild in the water for too long then something like PowerBait or corn may be the best choice to try first.

​Tackle Considerations

When you are fishing rainbow trout baits chances are you'll be looking to use a light to ultralight spinning setup.


The best trout rod to use when looking to target rainbow trout on light gear will have roughly the following specifications:

  • Length - 5'6" to 6'6"
  • Action - Fast action
  • Power - light to ultralight

You need a rod length that will match the type of water you intend to fish on. There is no point in using a 7 foot rod on a small stream or creek as it will be too awkward to be usable.

Conversely on a larger fast flowing river or lake a small rod won't have enough backbone to cast the longer distances.

​You will need a fast action rod that has a lot of tip sensitivity for lighter lures and baits.

Power should be light to ultralight. Anything heavier and you will lose a lot of sensitivity through the rod. It will also not be suitable for using with light lines.


A reel should match your rod and line in order to get the best casting performance as possible.

For an ultralight rod and line with a rating of between 2 lb and 6 lb you will need a good spinning reel in either a 1000, 2000 or 2500 size. Anything else will make the rod feel unbalanced.


The number one trout fishing line on smaller gear will always be monofilament.

Line weight will depend on where you fish and just how big the rainbow trout may grow to in that area.

For smaller creeks and streams a 2 or 4 lb rated monofilament should be good enough once you move to larger waters then it is time to move up to 6 lb line.

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