6 Most Effective Trout Fishing Rigs That Top Guides Use

Video river trout fishing setup
You need the best trout fishing rigs to hook and land giant trout like this trophy brown trout.
You need the best trout fishing rigs to hook and land giant trout like this trophy brown trout.

I’m going to share with you six of the most effective trout fishing rigs that top trout guides use to ensure their clients catch the most trout possible when fishing with bait. I’ve included my most effective rigs for trout fishing in still-water lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, as well as the best trout rigs for rivers.

As an experienced guide of over 20 years, I’ve had ample opportunities to use and test out many different trout fishing rigs that I’ve learned from fellow guides and experienced trout anglers. The rigs here are the best of the best.

I’ll also shed light on common trout fishing rig mistakes that prevent anglers from catching trout, which are mistakes they don’t even realize they are making. If you’re making these same easy-to-fix mistakes then the chances are, you’re missing out on catching trout.

The Trout Fishing Rig

good trout fishing rigs will help you consistently catch big brown trout like this.
I’ve guided thousands of anglers, and you can not consistently catch big fish like this brown trout without using the best trout fishing rigs.

There are two vital components in trout fishing setups: the hook and the leader. These elements are essential because they are what the trout sees when it approved your bait. If you have these two things wrong in your set-up you will struggle to catch fish.

But don’t worry, I’m going the tell you exactly what I use for a hook and for a leader, as well as show you my entire trout fishing rig.

The Best Right Hook and Right Size For A Trout Fishing Rig

Unfortunately, anglers can’t be faulted for using bad hooks since many misleading articles written by ill-informed authors keep advocating for bait-holder hooks. These hooks are also sold by store staff at some of the large big box stores, and they are recommended by other anglers that just don’t know any better.

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I’ll be brutally honest with you, good fishing guides and good anglers never use bait-holder hooks because they’re crap!

Fishing guides are particularly selective about the hooks they use. In order for them to give their clients the best chance of hooking and landing the most trout possible, they must use hooks that can effectively penetrate the fish’s mouth on the hookset and keep the fish securely hooked during the battle. They also must use hooks that aren’t excessively large or small.

If bait holder hooks were truly the best for bait, all guides and seasoned anglers would use them, but they don’t and the fact that they don’t is telling you something.

Instead, good anglers and guides use reliable short-shank wide gap hooks like the Raven Specimen or a Gamaktsu Octopus hook.

The Right Size Hook For Your Trout Fishing Rigs

If they see the hook they might decide not to bite, this is more so with wild trout and larger wiser trout.

Proper Bait Placement On The Hook

From years of experience and plenty of trial and error, I can tell you this: never cover the hook point or fill the hook gap. If you keep the hook gap open and the hook point exposed, the fish can often hook themselves, especially in currents. This simple advice can double your catch.

Choosing the Appropriate Leader Size For Trout Fishing Rigs

Unfortunately, not all brands accurately rate their leaders, which can impede your fishing success. One brand’s 6-pound leader can be as thick as a 12-pound test (this is a fact), which is not good for trout fishing since they will see this.

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For this reason, I always purchase my leader line based on the line diameter provided on the box, not the pound test rating the company advertises.

Here are some basic guidelines for leader sizing. You can use these for the trout fishing rig setups outlined below.

  • Trout Leader: 2 to 6 pounds: 0.004 in to 0.007 in diameter
  • Steelhead and Bass or large trout: 6 to 10 pounds, the ideal is 8 pounds: 0.008 in diameter

A Brief Overview of My Trout Fishing Rigs

Feel free to modify these trout fishing rigs to suit your needs and the fishing conditions you encounter. This is how I rig them when I’m guiding clients or fishing for leisure.

Float Fishing Trout Fishing Rigs

Regardless of whether I’m fishing in lakes or rivers, I use the same setup. The only difference is that in a lake, I use a slip float if the depth exceeds the length of my rod, so anything over 7 feet.

For rivers, I prefer longer rods of 10 to 12 feet, so I will use a fixed float in any water under 12 feet deep.

Adjust the leader diameter for the size of the trout or based on the conditions. I will upsize my leader in faster water or murkier water.

Drift Fishing Trout Fishing Rigs

These are two rigs I use for drift fishing. The diagrams where made fro steelhead but I use the exact same rig for trout except that I downsize the line to a mainline of 6 to 8-pounds, and a leader of 2 to 4- pounds.

When I’m fishing in large rivers with strong currents or deeper water, I use the drift fishing method. This method has proven effective for trout, steelhead, salmon, carp, bass, and catfish.

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Adjust the leader diameter for the size of the trout or based on the conditions. I will upsize my leader in faster water or murkier water.

Bottom Bouncing Trout Fishing Rig

Still-Water Trout Fishing Rig: Plunking For Trout

I use the bottom rig method in still waters such as lakes, ponds, and reservoirs for trout, salmon, steelhead, bass, carp, and catfish. I will use the Plunking rig in rivers mostly, however, it can also be used in still water.

Both of that setups are suitable for both trout fishing at night and daytime trout fishing. Since trout are often active at night, still fishing can be a sound strategy.

Adjust the leader diameter for the size of the trout or based on the conditions. I will upsize my leader in faster water or murkier water.

Bobber Doggin Trout Fishing Rig

Chuck N Duck Fly Fishing Rig

This is my Chuck N Duck rig for trout fishing

The Chuck n Duck fishing method is used around the Great Lakes region, primarily on the USA side for trout in larger faster rivers that get deep quickly. The traditional Chuck n Duck rig uses a weight called a “Slinky”, or Pencil Lead, Drop Shot weights, or spit shots on a dropper tag. See these rigs and learn this method at Chuck And Duck Fishing: A Complete Guide.

Trout Fishing Rigs Setup, Queries, and Advice

If you have questions or insights about trout fishing rigs and trout setups, feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Tight lines,


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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>