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Favorite 10 Trout Lures

By Gary Heffley
06/02/15 -- Everyone has their favorites list, a post Letterman’s Top 10 list, a ‘best of’ list… if for no other reason, to get a discussion going or perhaps, an outright argument! I thought I would list my favorite 10 trout lures. These are my “don’t leave home without them” lures. Are they the best trout lures ever made, maybe but maybe not? But for fishing in Northern California lakes, rivers and streams these have been consistent to outstanding producers for me.

Panther Martin

Rivers and Streams
1. Panther Martins… If I am fishing any stream that allows these lures, I tie this spinner on first. Usually I will go with either the yellow body with red dots or the black body with yellow dots.

«Panther Martin

While many anglers like to use small sizes, when I fish streams with a moderate and above current I like to use a number nine, quarter ounce weight. This allows the spinner to sink and run along the bottom where the trout often hold. The only drawback is that weight is also prone to hang up on any rock, or underwater obstruction, so make sure to have plenty in the box. Sacrifices will be made if you are getting where the trout lie. They are also great for small impoundments like Baum Lake, Lewiston and North Battle Creek Reservoir for casting and retrieving.

Rooster Tail lure

2. Rooster Tails… This is another great spinner for casting into streams and along lake edges. I caught my first “half pounder” steelhead on the Trinity River and have enjoyed limits casting along the tules at Lewiston Lake with Rooster Tails.

« Rooster Tail

I like to toss orange, yellow and brown in current but the white/grey that imitates shad is great for tossing into schools or when trout are busting balls of shad on the lake.

Mepps lure

3. Mepp’s Spinners...If you haven’t noticed by now when I am fishing rivers, streams or in any current I like to toss spinners and Mepp’s Spinners are still consistent producers. The black blade skirted Agila models are among my favorites.

« Mepps Spinner

4. Blue Fox Spinner… The Blue Fox Spinner is a favorite to swing out, slow roll and hang in the current. The chartreuse bell is a great producer for me. I like to toss these at the

Powerhouse inflow to Baum Lake. But beware as with other quarter ounce spinners these like to hang up in the unforgiving pumice rocks.

Blue Fox Spinner
« 4. Blue Fox Spinner

It really hurts when you walk back across the access bridge to your car and in the clear water you look down and see that bright chartreuse bell staring back at you laughing.

5. Rebel Deep Teeny Crawdad… My buddy Pat Patterson turned me on to using these lures on Hat Creek for trout, only he wasn’t using the teeny size but hanging nice brookies, browns and bows on the “bass” sizes model. Toss these upstream to allow them dig in and slowly dredge along shelves, under structure or
along cut outs. Match the seasonal colors if crawdads are present, but the action will be enough to entice any hungry trout to bite. Browns and brookies especially like to strike these with a vengeance.

6. Rapala Shad Raps… Alongside the Daredevil Spoon these are my favorite lures without question. Yes, they are great bass lures but for trolling for trout this is the first hard bodied bait I will go to. They are especially effective in lakes like Shasta where shad are a primary forage fish. But the natural action of this lure is such that any predator fish, trout included will attack and naturally see this as a food source.

Raptor Shad Rap

« Rapala Shad Rap Hero
Years ago I fished Lake Siskiyou with a local angler who had the lake “dialed in,” when I pulled the shad rap out and tied it on, he scoffed and noted that there were not any shad in the lake and basically the lure would not work there. Short time later he is digging in my tackle box grabbing one out after I had landed five trout in quick succession. The jointed or single body are equally effective.

Rapala shad

7. Rapala Countdown or Floating Minnows… These slender bodied stick baits are great for top-line trolling back 150 feet behind the boat in the winter and early spring when the trout are near the surface. Pumping the rod back and forth to impart action helps entice reaction bites as the baits will slow or speed up with the action of the rod.

Rapala Countdown lure

«Rapala Countdown

Also key to trolling these lures is to constantly troll with the boat course making S patterned curves. Again this will impart pauses and acceleration into the action of the lure. Of course these lures are equally effective at depth using down riggers and lead core line during the summer and fall when trout lie in deeper and cooler waters. Again both jointed and single body baits work well.

8. Kastmaster... A chrome blue Kastmaster should be in every tackle box of a trout angler in Northern California. The slow wobble retrieve of this shad representing color pattern make this a great lure for casting and retrieving as well as for trolling. Kastmasters are also great for vertical jigging which while very effective for bass is also a great technique to nail suspended trout. Gold/ Red, Gold and straight chrome are amongst the variety of color patterns that also work well

Cripplure lure

9. Shasta Tackle Cripplure… I had an opportunity to fish with Gary Miralles the owner of Shasta Tackle years ago and was introduced to the success of trolling with the Cripplure and it has been a go-to lure ever since. It is a great lure for top-line trolling as well as using on down-riggers. I have had success using them in concert with the Shasta Tackle Sling Blade attractor and without. I have also had great results casting and retrieving these lures. The Cripplure offers a full spectrum of color patterns as well as UV painted models. Gary’s trolling techniques are featured in an instructional DVD where he explains how color selection and depth are key factors in choosing the right color combination for success trolling. Visit for more information. And yes, the lures were developed and refined on Shasta Lake and are effective on any of the waters of Northern California.

Daredevil Spoon

10. Daredevil Spoons… My all-time favorite lure, hands down. This lure was recognized as one of the top 5 lures ever made by Field and Stream Magazine. These are an unknown lure by many anglers in the west and especially by trout fisherman. In fact I have been to tackle shops in the North State and asked for these and had shop personnel not know what one was or what I was talking about.

Let me make the correction here, the correct spelling is Daredevle. The spoon was given the name in 1918 to honor the Devil Dogs, the Fourth Marine Division who distinguished themselves in World War I at the battle of Belleau Woods. That’s right this lure is close to celebrating its’ centennial anniversary and is still a top producer.

Most Western anglers who are even familiar with the spoons know them as a Midwestern lure used to target Muskie and Pike. But pair these spoons down to the quarter ounce Spinnee model or smaller and they can be deadly for trolling and casting for trout. The slow wobble is irresistible to trout or any other predator fish for that matter. The design casts well, so when I need just a little more distance for bank casting to active fish it is a sure bet to produce results. It is equally effective when trolled.

As an example I visited Blue Lake in the Warner Mountains last summer. It was a first time visit, short-period-of-bank-fishing window of opportunity. My spinners were falling just short of active fish so I tied on a red and white Daredevle. Results were a quick five brookie limit in short order. I have used the crackle frog model at Medicine Lake in the fall for brook trout as well and have had days where most every cast produced a bump if not a solid hook up. Let me offer a tip when using these as well, put a very small piece of night crawler more for scent than anything else on one of the trebles. The lure’s action is not affected by this but the results can be fantastic.

Anglers are always attracted to the newest, shiniest baits but sometimes old school still works. This is one lure that just keeps producing results so if you are not familiar with these spoons take my advice and try them. My two favorite color patterns are the original red and white as well as the crackle frog pattern. I keep nine to a dozen of each model in my tackle box at all times… any fewer and I feel unprepared.

Honorable mention... Dick-Nite Spoon. While I have not personally fished these spoons much I know that these light weight spoons are the go to lure at many Sierra Nevada lakes such as Davis Lake.

Dick Nite Spoon

« Dick Nite Spoon
If given one lure to produce at Davis the Dick-Nite Copper Redhead Spoon would have to be the choice. I was also introduced to side drifting Dick-Nite Spoons on the Sacramento River last year with guide Jeff Goodwin. It proved a great producer and a great conventional tackle alternative to drifting flies with specialty fly tackle along river.

Honorable mention… Needlefish... I have had great experiences top-line trolling these small light weight spoons at Trinity Lake. In fact my wife and I enjoyed a day where we literally lost count of the number of trout landed; conservatively the number was well over 70. The trout were like cord wood along the surface and every time one would hook up the other would slow roll their bait towards the boat and we would double up.


« Needlefish
While I suspect a recent plant had the trout stacked up we managed a couple of 19 inch natives that gave us all we wanted in a fight with a number of acrobatic jumps and runs. Frog and rainbow patterns are my favorites and remember when top-line trolling run the lure 125 feet back from the boat at least. Many of the baits I have listed are great multi-species lures as noted. I have caught bass, crappie and panfish on Kastmasters, Daredevles, Rooster Tails as well the Rapala hard body baits but I have found all to be deadly effective for trout. Check this against your list, is there something I’m missing like a wooly bugger and bobber combo or Lil’ Cleo spoons? Maybe Flatfish, Super Dupers or even Met’l Flies? That is the fun of these lists everyone can have an opinion and every angler for sure has their own favorites.

Gary Heffley has been a valued contributor to MyOutdoorBuddy for over seven years serving as manager, sales representative and reporter for much of Northern California. He is an avid outdoorsman and loves to fish and write about his adventures. He has long history in the Sporting Goods field and is presently managing the Gift Bar and Camping Department at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Redding.

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