Like our other categories, hard baits come in all shapes and sizes, and the selection can be overwhelming. Hard baits probably offer a larger variety of designs, more life-like imitations, and an overall bigger selection than any other category of trout lures, so this list will undoubtedly bring about disagreements among anglers. But before you rush to judgement, just keep in mind that the following hard baits are going to catch a lot of trout, no matter how you look at it.
Rapala Original Floater
This is the lure that started it all for the biggest manufacturer of fishing lures in the world. In 1936, Lauri Rapala crafted what would later become known as the Original Floater, and, well the rest they say is history. The Original Floater is the most popular Rapala lure (which is a lofty distinction in its own right), outselling all the others. It’s also possibly the best-selling lure in the world, which is a pretty unbelievable thought when you consider how many millions of people partake in the sport of fishing. While the original Original Floater may have been constructed of different materials, today it is made of balsa wood and premium hooks. As many other hard baits are now made of plastics, the balsa construction of the Original Floater is often enough to set this lure apart from others in the eyes of anglers. The life-like minnow imitation is a versatile lure, offering a number of ways in which it can be fished. You can reel it in consistently and slowly, twitch or pop it on the water surface, or add some weight to the line and dig it down several feet under the water. Of course it’s a phenomenal multi-species lure, and it makes for an awesome trout snack. I love the 1 1/2, 2, and 2 3/4 inch models (or F03, F05, and F07 models, respectively) for stream trout fishing. Shiner, Vampire, Gold have produced more trout than I can count. Bump these up to the 3 1/2 inch (F09) model and you have the perfect size Steelhead lure. Whatever trout or other species you’re targeting, the Brown Trout and Live Rainbow Trout color variations are damn sexy and I’ll never be on the trout stream without them. You’ll need a selection of Original Floaters; end of story.
Yo-Zuri Pin’s Minnow
These may not have been around your trout waters quite as long as some of the others on our list, but I’m extremely confident that you’ll make them a regular choice after you make a few casts with them. The Pin’s Minnow is notorious for enticing big trout to hit, and they are just beautiful lures in the water. They have a fairly long, pulsating, back-and-forth wiggle that drives fish crazy. I like that there isn’t an unmanageable number of colors and sizes to choose from, and I truthfully haven’t found a Pin’s Minnow that won’t catch some type of fish. The smaller 2 and 2 3/4 inch models are amazing minnow imitations. Pick up the Sardine, Silver Black, Silver Blue, Green Gold, and Brown Trout variations and try to convince yourself that they aren’t some of best color patterns to ever adorn a lure. It’s impossible. All the colors and sizes will catch you a pile of trout. The larger 3 1/2 inch models also make great trolling lures for walleye, and I especially like the Holographic Silver Minnow, Glass Minnow, and Chartreuse colors in this application. These aren’t going to cast too awful far, so you may need to weight the line. I prefer to use an Eagle Claw Water Weight Spin Float when I need to add casting weight to this lure. But what the Yo-Zuri Pin’s Minnow lacks in weight, it more than makes up for in fishing prowess. Yo-Zuri hit the nail on the head with this little lure.
Rebel Wee Crawfish
I love this little lure, just like I know so many other anglers do. It’s a unique adaptation of a crawfish turned into a crankbait, and it works extremely well for trout. Many folks see this as more of a bass lure, and rightfully so. After all, bass eat a load of crawfish. But trout eat their fair-share of crawfish, too – or crayfish, crawdad, freshwater lobsters, mudbugs, or whatever else you prefer to call them. Crawfish are one of the most widespread stream and river inhabitants, and they just so happen to be a big snack for hungry trout. Despite so many of our egos, no angler can truly know what a fish is thinking at all times. It’s my belief, however, that trout see the Wee Crawfish as a prey item as well as a competitor. There’s a lot of competition in the animal world, and animals (including trout) will fight for the best territory and resources available. Because crawfish eat many of the insects and baitfish that trout also prey on, I believe that when a trout strikes at a crawfish, it’s not always trying to just eat it because the trout is hungry. Rather, the trout is sometimes acting out of aggression, trying to chase the crawfish from its territory, injure, or kill it to prevent the crawfish from consuming more of the trout’s resources. When you consider this and you think about how the Rebel Wee Crawfish may be keying into several trout instincts otherwise untapped by other lures, it’s no wonder why they catch so many of them. Run the Ditch, Nest Robber, or Flaming Junebug colors in streams with a more rusty-colored bottom and you’ll find success. Switch to the Moss Crawfish or Stream Crawfish colors when the stream bottom turns brown.
Luhr Jensen Kiwkfish
Just about all the other lures on our list are primarily meant for casting to trout, with exceptions of course. The next three, however, are almost exclusively for the trolling crowd. Starting with the Kwikfish from Luhr Jensen, we enter an entirely different class of trout hard baits. These are extremely common for anglers fishing in larger rivers for big trout, salmon, and steelhead. They are a staple lure among drift boat anglers who use a backtrolling technique to bring this lure downstream over the course of a slow, controlled fishing trip down the river. The primary features of the Kwikfish are the arched body and flat angle at the head of lure. These features combine to create a lure with an in-your-face wobble that begs fish to hit out of pure aggression. For lack of a better term, the lure pisses off trout until they smack it. There is a huge range of colors and sizes available. The 1 3/4 and 2 5/16 inch models were designed for smaller trout and Steelhead, and I like the Brown Perch Scale, Cracked Frog, and Rainbow Trout colors when my target fish are about 22 inches and smaller. Jump up to the 4 1/4 inch size in Silver, Fluorescent Red, and Blazin’ Blue/Pink UV colors when large Steelhead and Coho Salmon is the target. For more color and size options, look into the Luhr Jensen Kwikfish X-Treme. Put a few of these on the line and get the net ready.
Luhr Jensen Hot Shot
Another fantastic trolling lure from Luhr Jensen, the Hot Shot is a pretty unique option in the trout angler’s arsenal. This lure features a rotund little body with an extremely long lip that helps it to dive upwards of 10 feet when trolled, even without the assistance of added weight or other diving apparatuses. There is one treble hook on these lures, which is often attached to the body with a lure chain. The chain allows the treble to move freely behind the lure and it provides a great hookup rate. The chain also provides a rattle effect, adding the element of sound to this lure which helps attract fish from greater distances. Like the Kwikfish, the Hot Shot is usually fished in larger rivers by backtrolling to large trout, Steelhead, and salmon. They are also often fished in regular trolling setups in lakes. One really nice feature about these lures is that they come in a number of small sizes from 1 1/2 to 2 5/8 inches, which are just the right size for trout. The Silver/Blue Pirate, Green Double Eagle, Silver, Gold, and Fluorescent Red are among the more popular colors. But there is a nice variety or colors that will work in just about all water conditions visibility ranges. The Hot Shot has carved out a nice place among the tackle boxes of many river anglers, and you’d be all the better off to do the same.
Worden’s Original Flatfish
The Flatfish is a longtime favorite among river anglers. Designed by Charlie Helin in the mid-1900s, the Flatfish has gone largely unchanged, and what you see today is virtually what Charlie cooked up so many years ago. From the time of its inception till now, the Flatfish has been catching trout and Steelhead left and right. This is another lure has that really shines when backtrolled in rivers. It has a great wobble action, even when trolled slowly. The Flatfish also has a reputation for being very durable, although you’ll want to take notice of the one’s your friends have that are all scuffed and scratched as it’s very likely that these lures have been bounced off more rocks and crushed by more fish teeth than you can imagine. Use the 1 1/4 to 2 1/4 inch models for smaller trout and Steelhead and move into the 4 1/4 to 5 inch range when Chinook Salmon and Lake Trout are the target. Fluorescent Red, Metallic Silver Blue Pirate, and Feeder are great color choices. Of course any lure in the Fire Tiger pattern is deadly, including the Flatfish. Some folks do prefer casting these lures, and while they are very effective in this application, they are pretty lightweight and likely won’t cast all that far. Although, this usually isn’t much of an issue because they have so much action in the water and fish will be able to see them from a long way off; a quality that’s always good to have on your side.
There is so many great hard baits for trout available to anglers that it’s hard to narrow down the list to just these six. The styles, actions, colors, and shapes are just as numerous as the purposes they serve. Whether you are casting or trolling hard baits, you just can’t deny the fact that trout, especially big trout, are attracted to them. If you are new to the hard bait game for trout, I encourage you to begin with a few of these and branch out to other lures from there. You’ll likely catch a lot of fish and learn how to use these types of lures in a number of conditions, making you a better angler at the end of the day.