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Best Crankbaits for Trout – Our Full Guide

Throwing a crankbait for trout can be very effective yet they are rarely used by most anglers.

While smaller spinner and bait are still the most effective there are times when a crankbait will outperform them.

Crankbaits can be very productive for trout fishing if sized and used in the correct manner. The best crankbaits for trout will tend to be much smaller than a what you might use for other species

Usually the thinner minnow type lures such as a Rapala lure are going to be more successful. However you can find that on certain days when trout are turning their nose up at the more lifelike looking crankbaits that strangely the more artificial trout lures will be successful.

Crankbaits have wider swimming action than than the thinner minnow type plug baits. They generally have a fatter bulky profile and a more aggressively down-turned diving lip. They can be fished deeper by increasing the retrieval speed or by adding weight or a down rigger when trolled from a boat.

You've generally got two choices when fishing a crankbait, twitch and jerk it just under the surface or get it down deeper to where the fish are hiding out.

Surface
When fishing a crankbait on the surface or just under it, it's best to add a little more action to it with the tip of the rod.

As you retrieve try to lightly twitch the rod tip. If it's a floating crankbait then you can let it float back up to the surface to cause ripples.  This action mimic's an injured bait-fish that may temp the trout into a strike.

Deeper Water
Crankbaits can run down to about 4 feet when retrieved at a fast rate or they may be naturally sinking. If you are using a sinking lure then you can generally count them down to a specific depth.

These kinds of crankbaits will generally sink at about a foot per second, but it might vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

You may notice that picky trout have a habit of following a lure that is retrieved at a steady rate but at the last moment turning off it. If this is happening often then you need to vary how the lure runs through the water. If the slightest change in how it swims may force a reaction out of the fish.

When casting over sunken object or close to banks try to keep your rod tip up high so that you can avoid snagging on them at add a little action into the lure. Try not to fish the lure too quickly if any thing start out slow and see how things progress.

Colors

As a general rule the more natural looking baitfish imitating colors tend to produce the best:

  • Silver on dull overcast days
  • Gold on brighter days
  • Both brown and rainbow trout crankbait patterns are reliable on most days
  • Perch pattern can be great
  • Brighter artificial patterns are best in dark waters 

Sizes

On most rivers and streams you are looking to keep the size of crankbait on the low side, generally less than 2 inches or if the water is dark or running a little bit high then you could stretch it to 3 inches.

The slimmer shaped ones seem to be more effective than the fatter ones with the more aggressive diving lips.

1. Rapala 1 1/2 Inch Minnow

The weighted body and more aggressive lip on this Rapala lure means it has a much more crankbait like swim than the standard floating Rapala. At one and a half inches it's spot on for river trout.

They are particularly effective on faster moving streams especially were there are deeper pools where trout like to hide in ambush.

2. Rebel Tracdown Minnow

Retrieved at a steady pace this minnow has a nice tight wiggle as it moves through the water. They tend to sink on the slow side when not moving.

The best option is to learn the sink rate by using a slow count when the Tracdow is visible to you in the water and figure out how deep it will sink after a slow count or 3, 5, and 7.

You can then use these slow counts to gauge how deep it is in the water before you start your retrieve after casting.

3. Rebel Crickhopper Lure

One of the strangest looking lures you are likely to encounter the Crickhopper is best worked and twitched across the surface.

They can be very effective when crickets or grasshoppers are in season on the stretch of river that you are fishing particularly if you can spot some trout rishing to the surface when feeding on them naturally.

4. Rebel Wee-Crawfish

The Wee-Crawfish runs best at about 5-7 feet. Obviously this will work best on waters that have a natural supply of crawfish.

You'll generally find crawfish like a bottom that has a lot of small rocks that they can hide in and take cover from predators.

5. Rebel Hellgrammite Lure

Another odd looking lure but can be surprisingly effective. These are a sinking lure so you need to learn the sinking rate and then adjust your casting and retrieve to match the depth of the water that you are fishing in.

Tackle

Tackle for these light weight plugs is generally going to be light spinning or even dropping down to ultra light spinning.

Line wise no more than 6lbs should be necessary and a rod length of about 6 foot for working along a tight river bank.

I prefer to use monfilament when using a crankbait as it can help to delay your strike momentarilly due to the natural stretch in the line.