North America boasts the most diverse trout fishing in the world. From native brook trout and rainbow trout to introduced fish like the brown trout, the list of great trout fishing on this continent can go on and on, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they are one of the most sought-after fish around.
Trout are synonymous with fly fishing, but with the wide array of trout baits available these days, it’s become easier for conventional gear anglers to get in on some incredible fishing action.
But where do you start? We’re here to help with our picks for the 6 must have baits to catch trout in 2023.
Table of Contents (clickable)
- 1 Best Bait For Trout Reviewed
- 1.1 Best Artificial Worm: Berkley PowerBait Floating Trout Worm
- 1.2 Best Egg: Pautzke Balls O’ Fire Salmon Eggs
- 1.3 Best Egg Imitation: Berkley PowerBait Trout/Steelhead Egg Clusters
- 1.4 Best Stocked Trout Bait: Atlas Mike’s Super Scented Mallows
- 1.5 Best Minnow Imitation: Berkley Gulp! Alive Minnow
- 1.6 Best Scent: Atlas Mike’s UV Lunker Gel
- 2 Choosing The Best Bait For Trout
- 3 Our Pick: Berkley PowerBait Floating Trout Worm
- 4 Final Thoughts
Best Bait For Trout Reviewed
Best Artificial Worm: Berkley PowerBait Floating Trout Worm
There isn’t a freshwater fish around that won’t fall for the appeal of a worm, and trout are no exception. One of the most well known and effective baits for trout in any type of water is a live worm, be it a smaller trout worm or a big fat dew worm, trout love them. But it’s not always practical for trout anglers to be carrying live worms with them, especially considering the majority of trout anglers do so from the bank. Packaging can be cumbersome, and to say worms can be messy is an understatement.
Enter the artificial worm. Mess free, neatly packaged, highly durable, and scent impregnated, plastic worms aren’t just the next best thing to the real thing, but in many cases better. There are plenty of artificial worm options available today, all of which will catch fish, but few that can match one of the originals; Berkley’s PowerBait Floating Trout Worm.
At 3 inches long, the Floating Trout worm is the perfect size for any trout, big or small, and the soft plastic construction makes it dance and wriggle like the real thing. Add to that Berkley’s powerful scent formula and wide range of colors, and you’ve got a soft plastic worm that trout can’t refuse.
- Ideal size for any trout
- Available in several trout catching colors
- Unique, long lasting scent
- The floating ability keeps bait off the bottom away from snags
- Plastic can start to tear after a few fish
Best Egg: Pautzke Balls O’ Fire Salmon Eggs
Ask trout anglers what their go-to bait is, and a lot of them are going to give a simple, common answer: eggs. Salmon eggs, trout eggs, even sucker eggs - when there are fish in the river spawning, trout will hang out behind them and gorge on the eggs traveling downstream. It’s often something they will key in on, completely ignoring anything else that might come their way.
Lots of trout anglers will choose to harvest and cure their own eggs, adding another element to their trout fishing, but for those of us that don’t have the time or energy to do so, there’s Pautzke Balls O’ Fire Salmon Eggs. Pautzke does the dirty work for you, taking king and chum salmon eggs and precisely curing them using time tested cooking to ensure the ideal combination of firmness, texture and durability needed to fish for egg hungry trout.
Available in both salmon and trout egg versions, we prefer the salmon eggs, not because the trout eggs are any less effective, but because the salmon eggs come in a wider variety of colors. From natural to chartreuse to bright red, there is a color that will cover any river fishing condition. Used as a single egg, or tied together in mesh as a cluster, Balls O’ Fire Salmon Eggs will maintain the look, smell and feel cast after cast.
- Available in a wide range of colors
- Perfectly cured for long lasting scent and color
- Most commonly used egg in the world
- Effective in any type of water
- Can be hard to keep on the hook
Best Egg Imitation: Berkley PowerBait Trout/Steelhead Egg Clusters
Sticking with the egg theme this wouldn’t be a best bait for trout article without mentioning egg imitations. While it’s nice to have the real thing, cured or otherwise, many trout anglers prefer egg imitations for a number of reasons. Imitation eggs are typically longer lasting, more durable and easier to manage than the real thing. While a case used to be made that imitation eggs just don’t have the same appeal, advancements in soft plastics over the years have made that thought all but obsolete. Imitation baits can and often do outfish the real thing.
I’ll admit that I was skeptical the first time I tried fishing Berkley’s PowerBait Trout/Steelhead Egg Clusters. I was one of those anglers that fell into the belief that nothing is as good as the real thing. But I was quickly proven wrong. Whether fishing a big river or a small stream, trout go crazy for these. They’re hard enough that they are easy to use and stay on the hook well, but soft enough that a finicky trout won’t immediately spit them out the second they feel something is off, holding on long enough for a good hook set.
Not only do these eggs incorporate the PowerBait legendary scent, but Berkley has done an incredible job with closely replicating the look of a cluster of eggs. The only downside being that these clusters are only available in one size, but that can be easily overcome by trimming individual clusters to a size better suited to your needs.
- Perfect combination of soft and durable
- Legendary PowerBait infused scent
- Closely replicates egg clusters
- Works well for a wide variety of techniques
- Limited color options
- Only available in one size
Best Stocked Trout Bait: Atlas Mike’s Super Scented Mallows
At their core, stocked trout in ponds or small lakes are no different than the ones naturally reproducing in rivers and streams around the country. In the lakes or ponds they call home, they feed on many of the same food sources that any other trout would. But these fish are farm raised, and before growing big enough to be transplanted into other bodies of water they’re often fed nothing more than fish pellets. That major source of food when they are young gets burned into their brain and whether they have easy access to it or not, becomes a food source they understand.
Atlas Mike’s Super Scented Mallows don’t resemble anything trout have seen before yet their scent and array of colors does something to trigger trout, most notably stocked trout. Whether it’s the instinct to feed on fish pellets or it’s simply so attractive they can't resist, these mallows will catch stocked fish more than anything else I’ve tried, but at the same time aren’t nearly as effective on natural stream and river trout. If you plan on hitting up the local stocked ponds, take some of these mallows with you and you won’t be disappointed.
- Wide array of colors including glitter infused, and glo colors
- Proven trout attracting scents
- Can be used as a stand alone bait or as an added attractant to other baits
- Floating qualities keep it off the bottom and in the strike zone
- Care is needed when casting to prevent bait from flying off the hook
Best Minnow Imitation: Berkley Gulp! Alive Minnow
Minnow imitations could possibly be one of the most underutilized baits in trout fishing, especially when it comes to fishing them in a river or a stream. More common on lakes, reservoirs, and ponds, a good minnow imitation can be just as effective in a river.
Hard minnow baits like a small jerkbait, and soft baits like swimbaits are popular baits to elicit reaction strikes from any trout in any body of water, but when it comes to presenting trout with something that appeals to them naturally, it’s hard to beat the Berkley Gulp! Alive Minnow. This is easily one of the most realistic looking imitation baits on the market, key when chasing fishing that will quickly turn down anything that doesn't look natural to them.
With 20% more scent power than regular PowerBait, the Gulp! Alive Minnow disperses its scent like a blood trail and trout will often pick up on that trail long before they get a look at the bait. Once they do get a look at it, the lifelike movement is more than enough to trigger even the most savvy trout.
- Packaged in a scent solution that results in 20% more scent than typical plastics
- Ultra realistic look and feel
- Can be placed back into scent solution to absorb more for continuous use
- Soft, biodegradable construction can be difficult to work with
Best Scent: Atlas Mike’s UV Lunker Gel
The debate of whether or not scent is important in trout fishing is one that will always rage on. Fly anglers will gladly argue the point that scent is completely unnecessary, while steelhead anglers will be quick to point out that it often means the difference between getting bit and not. The truth is, neither side is right or wrong. Trout are primarily sight feeders, but that doesn’t mean a little scent can’t entice otherwise weary fish. There's a good reason why all of the baits on this list have some sort of scent to them.
But not all baits have the luxury of being scent infused, and that’s where scent gel like Atlas Mike’s UV Lunker Gel comes into play. Atlas Mike’s uses a combination of natural scents, flavors, and amino acids to produce an attractant that has appealed to trout for over 25 years.
Where many other scents are oil based, the UV lunker Gel is just as it says, a gel based scent that is thicker and more water resistant than oils, meaning a little goes a long way when applied to anything from hard baits to soft plastics and even hair jigs. The gel is also UV enhanced, something few other scents on the market do, adding even more appeal to trout in any body of water.
- Super sticky gel formula is long lasting
- Made from natural scents and flavors
- UV infused for added attraction
- Suitable for use with any bait or lure
- Very messy and sticky
Choosing The Best Bait For Trout
There is no simple solution to choosing the best bait for trout fishing. It would be nice if there was, but the reality is there are a few contributing factors to keep in mind.
Type of Water Being Fished
Streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and ponds; you name it, if conditions are right, trout can be found just about anywhere. It’s important to know what kind of water you’ll be fishing because what works in one, might not in another. Eggs and egg imitations are a perfect example. While you might get a bite or two fishing with eggs in a lake or reservoir, it’s not something those fish will really be familiar with, or keying in on. River or stream trout on the other hand recognise them as a major food source, and they are often one of the best ways to elicit a strike.
Anyone who has fished rivers and streams for trout knows how important water conditions can be, and usually have a fair understanding of how quickly those conditions can change. Overnight a river can go from being crystal clear to practically mud thanks to a bout of rain or some early spring thaw.
When rivers are running clear, trout are going to want something natural, and their finicky nature can see them turning down anything that's too bright, or makes too much noise, or is simply overpowering their senses. High running dirty water on the other hand is full of silt and debris. Not only do trout have a much tougher time seeing anything but even if they do see it, your bait can be passed off as nothing more than floating junk. Scent plays a major role in water like this, leaving a trail that can easily be picked up on and used by trout to pinpoint the bait's location.
Have you ever noticed that bait, artificial or otherwise, is cheaper than hard bodied fishing lures? Sure cost of materials has a lot to do with that, but manufacturers understand that bait is a consumable, something that will only last for so long before needing more. Of course you wouldn’t go back to get more if the cost was outrageous. In fact, you probably wouldn’t use bait at all if that was the case. Instead, lower cost of material combined with higher consumer demand results in a cheaper way to catch fish.
The playing field isn’t always a level one either, and there are plenty of different trout baits available at different costs. The best trout bait is the one that works for you, at a price within your budget.
Having confidence in what you are doing, or what you are using, is key when it comes to trout fishing. Trout can be frustrating at best, and sometimes downright infuriating, that is part of their allure and if you don’t have confidence in the bait you’re using there's a strong likelihood that you will spend way too much time changing from bait to bait instead of actually fishing. Yes, it’s important to be versatile and try different approaches, but without confidence it often leads to scrambling.
Our Pick: Berkley PowerBait Floating Trout Worm
Each one of these baits deserves a spot in any trout anglers tackle bag and I’m sure there are others not on this list that do as well, but when it comes to the best all around trout bait we have to go with the Berkley PowerBait Floating Trout Worm for no other reason than it’s versatility.
Yes, the signature PowerBait scent is incredible, and yes these worms come in plenty of fish catching colors, but what truly makes them great is that they can be fished in any body of water, using just about any technique. Whether drop-shotted on a small stocked lake, or run through a river run under a float, very few trout baits can do what the PowerBait floating Trout worm can.
Just because you’re not a fly fisherman doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the incredible trout fishery this continent has to offer. As bait evolves, the options available to conventional tackle anglers become more and more, and so does the opportunity to catch some of the most elusive, beautiful, hard fighting fish around.
We hope we were able to help narrow down what might be your best bet for trout bait, and help with your success on the water in the coming seasons. Leave us a comment and let us know if we were.