Tips to Find Big Trout

Patrick Edwards Brown Trout
The author with a nice brown trout


Finding trophy trout is a bucket list item for many anglers. As a child, I used to fish local waters near Cheyenne, Wyoming that were stocked with 6-8" trout. I found myself dreaming of catching a fish over 20" and wishing that I could find one locally. Unfortunately, I didn't have much luck in my younger years. It's not that there were no 20" trout available, it was that I didn't understand the best way to target those fish. I was mostly fishing bodies of water with sparse forage and as a result it took much longer for those fish to grow. The fisheries also had a lot of pressure from anglers in both Wyoming and Colorado. I often joked that they were all "stock and take" types of fisheries and they definitely were.


I also had a knowledge gap for how to fish for big fish. I attempted to catch one with a worm and bobber combo on one rod and would cast another line with a spoon or in-line spinner. I did catch a lot of fish, but rarely anything over 17". I also fished in areas that I now know do not hold big fish most of the time. Fishing the correct areas of a river, lake or reservoir are crucial to landing the big fish you are pursuing. Seasonal changes and presentations can make a huge difference.


Danny Kurttila Brown Trout
Danny Kurttila with a beautiful brown trout. 


Over the years, I've gained new skills and knowledge on targeting big trout. I learned much of this by reading “In-FIsherman” magazine, watching trout fishing shows on television and spending time on the water with master anglers. One such angler is Danny Kurttila, who has caught a number of big trout in his lifetime and has been instrumental in my development as an angler. None of what I'm about to share is original to me. I am simply going to condense the information that took me years to learn into a few pages for you to digest quickly. Let's begin!


RULE #1 - Research

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.


Patrick Edwards Lake Trout


Rule #2 - Choose Your Gear Wisely

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.


RULE #3 - Use Lures that Catch Big Fish

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.


Lure Options


Trout are predators, do not forget that. There is a perception that trout are dainty and do not eat other fish but they are very predatory and will not hesitate to eat other fish. I have all of these lures with me when I am pursuing big trout. The X-Rap has produced more trophy sized trout for me than any other lure. I have also landed a number of large bass, walleye and panfish using it. The VMC mooneye jig is my go to lure for river fishing. I usually tip them with a 3" Power Minnow or Gulp! to add some scent. From the boat, the PK Ridgeline crankbait produces trout trolling at speeds between 2.0 and 2.5 mph. The PK Flutter Fish is a killer on rivers, lakes and reservoirs during all seasons (ice and open water).


RULE #4 - Location

Faith Edwards and Patrick Edwards Rainbow Trout

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.


Rainbow Trout

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 to share your results. Good luck out there and be safe on the water!

Patrick Edwards

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