How to target big trout: my top 5 strategies

I am honored to dedicate this article to AVID Hunting & Outdoors! They reached out to me and asked if I would write an article for their next magazine about targeting big trout.

I feel that I am hardly deserving of this request, but I have agreed to take on the challenge anyway.

Be sure to check out their Facebook page and Instagram page!

Trout fishing is an activity that many people of all backgrounds and experience can enjoy. With the proper equipment and education, the odds of landing a fish are high.

Trout are also one of the few species of fish that can be found across the globe.

They can be found in almost any body of freshwater… from small streams and mountain lakes to big rivers and large reservoirs.

In my personal opinion, trout are some of the most beautiful fish on the planet.

To name a few of the long list of trout species…there are the beautiful, bright, watermelon-colored rainbow trout; fire-bellied dolly varden trout; extremely rare golden trout; leopard-looking tiger trout; and my favorite… the aggressive, hungry, and uniquely spotted brown trout.

If you love to fish for trout, catching that monster 30-incher isn’t always the name of the game. Most of my trout trips produce the average sized fish… between 6 and 18 inches. And sometimes catching twenty 16-inch fish in an afternoon can be the trip of a lifetime.

However, the avid fisherman (or fisherwoman!) is constantly on the search for that monster, meat-eating, fat-fat-fatty, big trout.

So… how do you target the big fish?

Let me begin by saying that I’m no expert when it comes to this subject… but I have reeled in a number of 24-30 inch trout in my short life, and I have a few tactics that have worked for me from time to time!

As promised, below are my top 5 tips in targeting big trout!


1. Finding “Big Fish Water”

Let’s be honest. Some places are just going to produce bigger fish than others.

Why? To list a few reasons, some habitats have a better food source, have restrictions that mandate catch and release, have less predatory species living in the waters, and/or have water that supports life year-round.

A better food source is going to allow fish to eat more, reproduce easier, and grow larger.

A great example of a river with a great food source is the Kenai River in Alaska. During salmon spawning reason, rainbow trout and dolly varden feed on salmon eggs and rotten flesh floating down the river. These trout are known to get very “girthy” and large because they eat meat their whole lives rather than relying on insects and other small fish as a source of food.

Areas that mandate catch and release for trout are also a great place to target big trout. For example, certain areas of the Missouri River that runs through Montana require releasing any brown trout caught. Because of this, the brown trout caught in that area are known for their size. Google “Missouri River Brown Trout” for a good look at those monsters.

Predatory fish such as bass, walleye, pike, and musky feed on trout. So if you know that the walleye and bass fishing is really good in a certain location, chances are the trout fishing will not be as good as other places.

Finding lakes and rivers that do not fully freeze over in the wintertime is another good way to search for big trout. Small streams will produce big fish now and then, but your chances are better where the water is a little deeper.

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2. Check fishing reports for “hot times”

Right at daybreak and right before dusk are typically the times of the day when fish are the most active.

Early in the morning, the water lights up when the sun comes out and the fish are able to see their food source. Right before dusk, trout often become more active and hungry or aggressive again.

During the mid-day heat, trout often find shade or cover and become less active. (Unless you’re fishing in the winter… I’ve had amazing luck fishing in the middle of the day during the cold season.)

My advice would be to study the water you’re fishing by searching local fishing reports. Sometimes they will tell you what hours of the day are producing the best fishing for other anglers.


3. Decide on flies, lures, or bait

I am completely aware that some people are very passionate about fly fishing and some people are very into their lure or bait fishing.

I personally enjoy both in different situations and for different reasons.

I believe that spin fishing does in fact require “skill”… despite what a lot of fly fishers say.

And most importantly, I believe that all anglers get out to fish for the same reason – to enjoy the outdoors and catch beautiful fish.

That being said, I highly encourage trying both and becoming efficient at both.

Different water fishes differently, and some places fish lures and bait better, while other places fish streamers, dry flies, midges, and nymphs better.

Bait (worms or minnows) and noisy lures (such as rapalas, spinners, and spoons) work great in muddy water where visibility is low.

If trout cannot see or smell their food, they are most likely not going to eat it (SPOILER ALERT).

Fishing with loud or smelly equipment will draw interest and the trout will come searching, and often biting. (Especially those aggressive brown trout I talked about before!)

Flies work great in clear water where fish have visibility of their food. Dry flies and small insects will often catch a lot of trout, but not usually anything with much size. Try drifting streamers or larger sinking flies.

In cases like the Kenai River, where trout feed on salmon flesh, drifting a flesh-looking fly or salmon egg is a great choice too.


 4. Find what’s bringing the bite

A big part of catching big trout is figuring out what the smaller trout are biting.

Try multiple lures/flies of different colors and sizes until you start catching fish.

Play around with weight and leader size.

Try out different angles to point your rod, speeds of reeling in or stripping line, and do not be afraid to test out water you do not think will produce.

You never know a good spot until you find it.

Where there is small trout, there will be big trout.


5. Cast your heart out

Some anglers seem to catch them all the time, but catching big trout really is a numbers game. I guarantee those men and women consistently reeling in big trout have spent a lot of time on the water.

Put your time in.. you’ll find the good spots, you’ll figure out what the fish are biting, and you’ll perfect your technique.

The more times you cast, the better your odds are of catching a monster.

Catching big trout is simply statistics.


Call to action

Drop a comment below or send me a private message with your favorite tips for catching big trout!

Good luck out there and I hope to see your MONSTER TROUT photos soon!

If you enjoyed this article and would like to see more like it, please scroll down to the bottom of this page and hit the subscribe button!

Until Next Time,

Maranda Ratcliff



2 thoughts on “How to target big trout: my top 5 strategies

Add yours

  1. Yesssss!!! I loved your article and without giving up your secret spots. Lol. Have you ever been night fishing? There is a certain city where a river flows through the middle and folks are out there at night reeling in 5-10 lb. browns at night time.

    Liked by 1 person

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