The trout takers

Tackle trout across the land with these spoons, spinners, jigs and plugs

Canada’s 11 all-time top lures for brookies, browns, cutthroats, lakers and rainbows

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Canadian anglers have long had a love affair with trout, seduced by their sleek beauty and the clear, cold waters they call home. Despite their popularity, however, trout can be notoriously finicky. So if you want to consistently catch them, it pays to go with the lures that have proven effective over time. In celebration of this spring’s trout openers across the land, here are the top 10 trout lures you need to have in your tacklebox. 

MEPPS AGLIA

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More Mepps Aglia in-line spinners have been sold than any other single lure in Canada, and as we know, the consumer is always right. In this instance, they’re absolutely correct that the Aglia is dynamite on trout. The reliably rotating blade produces an alluring combination of vibration and flash, even at slow speeds, making it effective in stained or clear waters, under the cover of darkness or on the brightest days. And it’s compact and heavy enough to cast—ideal for shore-bound anglers—or troll. With six sizes, 32 blade colours and an optional dressing, the Aglia offers plenty of options. As a rule, stick to the undressed version for smaller stream trout, and dressed versions when large fish are on the menu.

Catch: Brook, brown, cutthroat and rainbow trout

Where: Streams and rivers; ponds and small lakes

When: All seasons under all conditions

How: In streams and rivers, cast across the current and retrieve slowly; in large rivers, it can be fished deep from a boat using a three-way swivel. It’s effective in lakes of all sizes when cast or trolled, with weight added as needed

EPPINGER HUSKIE DEVLE

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At 5½ inches long and weighing a hefty 3¼ ounces, the Huskie Devle is the full-meal deal, making it the go-to spoon at lake trout fishing lodges for decades. In fact, the long-standing debate at renowned Plummer’s Arctic Lodges has been whether it’s the number one all-time lure for trophy lakers. This broad spoon has a wide, thumping wobble when trolled or allowed to free-fall, tightening as you increase the trolling speed. It comes in myriad colours, but the classic red/white stripe remains the most popular. I landed my personal best laker on a pink model, and while the colour may have been different, the odds are your largest lake trout also fell for a Huskie Devle.

Catch: Lake trout

Where: Lakes with populations of large fish

When: Throughout the open-water season

How: Troll at slow to moderate speeds, occasionally allowing the spoon to free-fall on an open spool; also cast over shoals or along rocky shorelines

YAKIMA BAIT FLATFISH

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The other contender as the best all-time trophy laker lure at Plummer’s is the T-60 Flatfish. At six inches in length, it’s the largest member of the Flatfish family. This versatile diving lure is designed to do the dirty work, veering wildly, banging off the bottom and generally wreaking irresistible havoc. Its unique shape has been widely copied but never equalled, a tribute to the T-60’s adaptability—it’s as at home on large rivers and small lakes as it is on Great Bear. A wide range of sizes and colours lets you mimic natural bait while attracting marauding trout with the lure’s vibration, flash and wobble.

Catch: Brown, bull, lake and rainbow trout

Where: Large and small lakes; large rivers. Select a lure size that matches the target species and the water you’re fishing

When: Summer through to fall is best

How: Troll slowly in large lakes, adding weight or using lead-core line or a downrigger in deeper water. Cast and retrieve slowly in small lakes and ponds. In rivers, cast cross-current, allowing the lure to swing through the target water before slowly retrieving it

LINDY FUZZ-E-GRUB

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Everything about the Fuzz-E-Grub screams fish, from the soft-plastic body to the bulging eyes to the seductively waving marabou tail. With this bait, it’s all about subtlety—where other jigs rely more on antagonizing fish to bite, the Fuzz-E-Grub teases, and few trout can resist its charms. It’s often thought of more as a bass or walleye bait, but experienced trout anglers have long recognized its effectiveness on reluctant trout. While the jig is available in a wide range of colours, trout anglers lean toward the all-white, crawfish orange and black/chartreuse versions.

Catch: Brook, brown, bull and lake trout

When: Spring is best, but it produces all year

Where: Target structure and undercut banks on streams and rivers; shoreline cobble and rocky humps in lakes

How: Fish it vertically, or cast toward structure and slowly bump it back along bottom

PANTHER MARTIN SPINNER

 

7It might be hard to imagine that a lure as small and unobtrusive as the Panther Martin can be such a reliable producer of trout—including big trout—but history doesn’t lie. The in-line spinner’s unique through-the-blade shaft ensures a consistent spin at nearly any speed, and its relatively large blade gives it plenty of fish-attracting “thump.” Many anglers think of the Panther Martin as a stream lure, but it’s hefty for its size, meaning it can be cast effectively on lakes and even trolled. Available in dressed and plain models, the go-to versions for trout anglers sport the black body with yellow spots and gold blade, and the yellow-and-red body with a silver blade.

Catch: Brown, bull, cutthroat, golden and rainbow trout

Where: Streams, small rivers and lakes, and ponds

When: Throughout the open-water season, effective in stained or clear waters

How: Cast across moving water, allowing the spinner to swing with the current, then retrieve at a consistent speed. Cast and retrieve or troll slowly on ponds and lakes

ORIGINAL FLOATING RAPALA

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Fish eat fish, and Lauri Rapala’s original balsa wood bait looks more like a fish than virtually any other lure on the market does, explaining in large measure why it’s been so popular for so long. Of course, the realistic wounded minnow action—along with the multiple ways to present the lure—have added considerably to it being the number one choice among countless trout anglers. It casts easily and trolls like a dream, and it can be fished on top, shallow or—with splitshot or on a three-way swivel—as deep as you need. Just select the size that best meets your target fish and pick from the many colour options. Hint: The rainbow trout, gold/black and silver/black patterns are all proven trout slayers.

Catch: Brook, brown, bull, lake and rainbow trout

Where: All sizes of lakes; large rivers, especially in tailwaters below dams

When: Most effective in summer through to fall

How: Cast and retrieve at a constant speed, with occasional twitches and pauses; troll as a shallow-running crankbait, or run it deep with splitshot, a three-way swivel, bottom-bouncer or downrigger

MISTER TWISTER CURLY TAIL

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Nothing replicates invertebrates quite like a soft-bodied bait, and the Curly Tail is the king in this realm. Some anglers say it looks like a worm, others a leech. Some even think it resembles a wounded baitfish. It matters little, however, because trout of all types readily gobble it up when given the chance. In fact, if you had to select just one bait for all trout applications, this just might be it. Simply tailor the size and colour to the waters and fish you’re targeting, thread it onto a jig head that’s appropriate for the depth, and away you go, whether casting or trolling.

Catch: Brook, brown, bull, lake and rainbow trout

Where: Lakes, streams and rivers of all sizes

When: Throughout the open-water seasons. As a rule, increase its size as the season progresses. It’s also effective in murky waters

How: It can be vertically jigged, cast and bumped along the bottom, trolled alone or with a spinner blade, used as bait on spinner rigs, or even cast and swum back 

ACME TACKLE LITTLE CLEO

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The Little Cleo is the mac and cheese of trout lures, the angling comfort food you keep on hand and turn to whenever more exotic fare just isn’t producing the desired results. Every experienced trout angler has a selection of Little Cleos in his or her tacklebox, and rightly so—they’ve been reliably catching trout for more than 30 years. Wider than most spoons, and with an unusual humped back, they produce a slow, wobbling action unlike any other. And with 36 colour options and sizes ranging from 1/16 to 1¼ ounces, there’s a Little Cleo for every application.

Catch: Brook, brown, lake and rainbow trout

When: Throughout the open-water season

Where: Best suited to ponds and lakes of all sizes

How: Cast or troll, then retrieve slowly; add weight as necessary to get it close to the bottom

WILLIAMS WABLER

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It was 100 years ago this year that Nova Scotia’s Williams brothers, who accumulated a modest fortune in the Yukon gold rush, first patented the fishing spoon design that would forever be known as the Williams Wabler. The original was the Wabler W50, measuring in at 2⅝ inches long and weighing a half-ounce. And so it remains today after a century of catching fish, making it the  company’s most popular model. Originally conceived and proven as a lake trout lure, the Wabler has since demonstrated its effectiveness on brookies, browns and rainbows. Today, the venerable spoon comes in seven sizes and 30 colours, with genuine gold and silver remaining the most popular choices.

Catch: Brook, brown, lake and rainbow trout

Where: Lakes of all sizes

When: Throughout the open-water season

How: Most effective when trolled slowly, even at canoe speed, it can be weighted to take it deeper. It’s also effective when used as a flasher, with a trailing foot-long snell and single hook baited with half a nightcrawler

LEN THOMPSON YELLOW & RED

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Ask around in any camp in northern Canada about the hottest lure for lake trout, and one answer you’ll always hear is the Len Thompson Yellow & Red. Often called the Five of Diamonds, these brass spoons produce a legendary wide wobble, making them ideal for casting and trolling at a broad range of speeds. Savvy stream anglers, meanwhile, rely on tiny Yellow & Reds for brookies and rainbows. Alberta’s Len Thompson has been producing these spoons since 1929, making them a true, made-in-Canada classic.

Catch: Brook, lake and rainbow trout

Where: Streams and rivers; lakes with populations of large fish

When: Throughout the open-water season

How: For lakers, troll at slow to moderate speeds, occasionally allowing the spoon to free-fall on an open spool; also cast over shoals or along rocky shorelines. In streams and rivers, cast across the current and retrieve slowly.

BUCKTAIL JIG

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Outdoor Canada’s fishing editor, Gord Pyzer, once referred to the bucktail jig as “the best lake trout lure nobody uses.” And while the bucktail has undoubtedly proven itself on lakers, it’s also magical on brookies and bull trout. While the deer hair, polar bear hair or marabou that defines this jig as a bucktail can be dyed every imaginable colour, basic white is the standard among trout anglers. A bucktail jig’s tail gently fans out when at rest, offering a slight trout-enticing motion, then streamlines when jigged, mimicking an escaping baitfish. Just match your jig weight to the depth you’re fishing—I won’t soon forget landing lakers by the dozen in Alberta’s Andrew Lake, jigging one-ounce bucktails in 70 feet.

Catch: Brook, bull and lake trout

Where: Lakes and large rivers

When: Most effective in late summer and fall, when the trout are deeper

How: Usually vertically jigged over shoals or other structure, it’s also effective when cast and jigged back aggressively, especially in rivers

     
Outdoor Canada’s Hunting editor Ken Bailey is also an avid angler.