The first and most important rule in finding big trout is doing your research. Some bodies of water are just "better" than others. Check stocking reports, look at articles online, talk to fisheries biologists, speak with local guides, read sampling reports and then explore the fisheries yourself. Some fisheries have a better forage base for big fish to grow but you won't know this until you visit with the biologists. There are some bodies of water in Wyoming where trout grow exponentially faster than others. If the body of water produces big fish and is stocked regularly, it should be at the top of your list. Finding the "hot" bodies of water to fish is key. You can find big fish in just about any fishery, but the density of big fish will either help or hurt your efforts depending on the body of water. Increase your odds of a big fish by taking time to research.
Gear is important to hooking and landing a big trout. If you don't choose your gear wisely, you may find yourself with a broken heart and possibly broken fishing line. Upsetting moments on the water like a snapped line, a lost lure or an improper hook set on a strike are sadly known by all anglers. Choosing proper gear will help to avoid these fishing faux pas.
First, select a good spinning or baitcasting rod/reel combo. You will want a reel with a reliable drag system and a rod that is medium light action for most fish. I usually fish a 7' spinning rod that is a medium action with a fast action tip. This allows me to make long casts and apply significant pressure to the fish.
Next, choose the appropriate line set up for the fish you are pursuing. I prefer 6 lb monofilament for most of the trout in my area because the majority of the trout I catch are between 18-24". Line heavier than that will not cast as far, and line lighter than that is a liability with rocks and (sometimes) ice at the edge of the water. If you are fishing lake trout, you will need to size up significantly to 12 lb line to avoid being broken off by the larger species. Do your research and choose the line most appropriate for the fish you are pursuing.
Finally, landing the fish is also important. You will want to plan on having a net or other way of securing the fish once you get it to shore. I hand land most of my fish, but I have years of experience doing this. I suggest a landing net with rubber mesh, which is easier on the fins of the fish and will allow you to release them in better condition if that is your goal.
One of the biggest fallacies trout fishermen make is assuming that all trout want small flies. WRONG! Yes, you can catch huge trout on flies and a lot of anglers do, but there are many other options that can help you select for big fish. I’ve read articles about anglers catching trophy brown trout on suspending crankbaits or 6" custom tied jigs. The takeaway from those articles was that big presentations help catch big fish. It has been my experience that this is indeed true. Some of my top producing lures are featured below.
RULE #4 - Location
The best place to find a trophy trout can vary depending on time of year and your specific region. There are key things to look for in different bodies of water that are a good bet.
Rivers: The best place to begin on a river is below the dam if the river has a reservoir. Dams hold big fish, pretty much all year long. The other primary spots on rivers are the bends. Typically, bends of rivers have deeper water and holes that can hold bigger predatory fish. I also look for rocks, fallen trees and other structures that will hold fish.
Lakes: Inlets and outlets of natural lakes are the most logical places to begin looking. Bigger fish will hold in those areas because the forage tends to be concentrated there. I also look for structure, depth changes and bottom content transitions from hard bottom to soft.
RULE #5 - Presentation
Presenting your lures to these big fish is important. If you are not presenting the lures properly, your chances of getting a strike or landing a fish are slim to none. Below is the presentation strategy for the four lures listed on page 3.
X-Rap: The X-Rap is hard to present incorrectly. You can fish it by casting out and doing a straight retrieve, rip and pause, speed up and slow down or burn it back. Because the lure suspends, it makes it very easy to present. My most effective retrieve is to twitch my rod tip hard two or three times and pause the lure. Sometimes I'll pause for up to 10 seconds before repeating that cadence.
Mooneye Jig: I use this presentation in rivers, reservoirs and lakes. I like a 1/8 oz jig and a white 3" Berkley Power Minnow. I cast out as far as I can, let the jig sink to the bottom or close to it and then slowly lift and shake my rod. This makes the lure look like a struggling baitfish. If you are fishing a river, focus on areas where the fast moving water transitions to slack (known as the seam), deep holes, and any area with cover nearby.
PK FlutterFish: I use this presentation everywhere and for everything. The FlutterFish is a great lure because it can be trolled, casted or jigged vertically from a boat or on the ice. I like to fish this lure below dams especially. Cast up towards the dam, let the lure flutter down for a few seconds, rip the lure up in the water column a few feet, let it flutter down and repeat as you slowly reel it back. This works well in reservoirs and lakes also.
PK Ridgeline Crankbait: This lure is deadly for big trout when trolled. I often catch big trout and walleye trolling this lure 100' to 120' behind the boat. This lure gives off a ton of vibration and is loaded with rattles, which causes the big trout to come and inspect it.
If you are striving to snag a new personal best, catch more fish or try some new techniques, these 5 rules will help point you in the right direction. Remember to do your research and visit with your local biologists, they are a well of great information. Choose gear and lures that are going to give you the best chances of bringing home that trophy. Learn where larger fish dwell in the bodies of water in your area and how to present your bait so that the fish can’t resist it.
I'd love to hear from you! Email me at email@example.com to share your results. Good luck out there and be safe on the water!