It’s well known how effective soft plastic lures are for fishing bass and saltwater species, but trout anglers unfortunately often overlook soft plastic baits. This is a shame, as soft plastics are some of the most effective lures to fish for trout. This is true whether your retrieving them like a swimbait, or if you’re using them as bait with a float or dropshot rig. Listed below are what I have found to be some of the most productive soft plastic lures. There is also information on how to use the plastic baits to fish for trout aswell.
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Berkley Powerbait Ripple Shad
This swim bait is a solid choice for targeting big brook trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout. The the smaller 2″ and 3″ sizes work well in streams and small rivers where small bait fish such as fry, minnows, and sticklebacks are abundant. The larger sizes work well in open bodies of water such as larger rivers, estuaries, and lakes that tend to have larger bait fish available such as mummichogs, silversides, and smelt.
To fish this soft plastic, rig the ripple shad to an appropriate weight jighead for the depth and current speed of the water you are fishing. The appropriate jighead weight varies with different bodies of water, so you may need to do some trial and error to see what works best for you. Pair the soft plastic with a weighted jighead that allows you to retrieve the lure back to you as naturally as possible, while remaining relativity close to the bottom.
The colour selection with these lures are fantastic, choose whichever colour most closely matches the baitfish in your area. My go-to colour is the green back pearl variety.
Berkley PowerBait Ripple Shad (Amazon Link) Can be bought here.
Berkley Gulp Trout Worm
Trout fishing with plastic worms is just as effective as using real earth worms or night crawlers. The soft plastic does have the advantage of staying on the hook much longer. The gulp trout worm is a fantastic alternative to live bait. These worms convinced me to stop using real bait, and switch to synthetic baits many years ago.
Rig it anyway would rig a real worm. The plastic bait works well on a drop shot rig, but I mostly use it suspended under a bobber. I find that if you use the whole plastic worm, the trout will typically nipple the end not attached to the hook and break the worm in two. What I do to prevent this from happening, is to only put one half or a third of the worm onto the hook. I haven’t noticed a reduction in bites after doing this, but I do get many more hookups, and lose much less plastic worms this way.
I like using the natural coloured worms. I also have good results using the red and pink colours targeting trout, especially in murky or discoloured water.
Gulp! Trout Worm (Amazon Link) Can be bought here.
Berkley Gulp! Shrimp
I love this shrimp soft plastic bait for any saltwater fishing application. While I initially bought these lures for flounder, I quickly found that both sea run brook trout, and steelhead love them as well. I used this bait as a salt water sand shrimp (shown below) imitation, but this shrimp could be used to imitate crayfish or even hellgrammites when fishing in fresh water.
The bait works best either on a carolina rig, or tipped on a jighead or bucktail jig. When fishing this lure the presentation should be very close to the bottom, even dragged if conditions allow (such as a sandy bottom). An effective retrieve is to steadily bounce the shrimp along the bottom. Pausing once and a while when retrieving can trigger a response either on the pause, or when you start retrieving the shrimp again after the pause.
You can use the Gulp Alive shrimp if you like, but I found the container to be a bit leaky. I use the plano liquid bait wallet to hold my gulp baits, and haven’t had it leak once in several years of use.
I find new penny, nuclear chicken, and pearl white to be the most productive for me.
Gulp! Shrimp (Amazon Link) Can be bought here.
I wrote a product review of the trout magnet once before. It’s an amazingly effective little micro jig than allows a great deal of finesse when presenting the lure to the trout. I quite like using it when sight fishing trout in clear, shallow, slow moving water. You can fish it with a steady retrieve, a jigging retrieve, under a float, or vertically jig it up and down if conditions allow.
Even though this is a good lure for targeting trout, there are a few draw backs. The hook itself is fairly weak. If you plan on targeting larger trout, I would recommend switching out the jig for a similar sized jig with a stronger hook instead. The jighead itself is also fairly light, which is fantastic when casting to spooky trout in shallow water, but if you plan on fishing deeper water, or a faster current, you may need to switch to a heavier jighead.
Trout Magnet Original 152-Piece Kit (Amazon Link) Can be bought here.
Savage Gear 3D PVC Mayfly Nymph
This is an excellent little finesse lure. It’ works well on a dropshot rig, but a jighead is where it really shines. The body is segmented so the lure has a lifelike up and down movement when retrieved. Savage Gear does offer a pre-rigged option with the 3D TPE mayfly nymph, but it is a bit pricey.
It’s odd that they call it a mayfly nymph lure, as it’s to big to imitate all but the largest mayfly species. I would say it imitates a damselfly nymph more than anything, the movement of the lure even mimics a damselfly perfectly. Regardless, it works well, and the trout are often very eager to bite it.
Savage Gear LB PVC 3D Mayfly 2″, 1/28 oz, 8 pcs (Amazon Link) Can be bought here. The non-pre-rigged PVC lure in the link is a much better value than the pre-rigged TPE version of the lure.
Berkley Gulp! Hellgrammite
Hellgrammites are some of the larger aquatic insects sharing the river with trout, and a feeding trout is unlikely to pass up an opportunity for such a substantial meal. This plastic bait does a pretty good job of imitation these juicy morsels.
I’ve found that rigging this bait under a bobber, and allowing it float downsteam in a current is the most effective presentation. Cast upstream and let it float down the river, and recast when it floats to far away from you. The plastic hellgrammite should be floating just above the bottom of the river, right in the trout’s feeding lane. This imitates a tumbling insect that got dislodged from it’s rock further upstream. Be sure not to have to much line out, as this will slow you reaction time to a trout strike.
The colour options are limited to either green pumpking or black. I haven’t noticed a difference in performance between the two colours.
Gulp! Hellgramite (Amazon Link) Can be bought here.