Thinking of going trout fishing for the first time, but have little idea what gear to buy? Well, in this guide I will give you a brief overview of what gear you will need to buy. I will cover rods, reels, lines and even give some lure suggestions.
In the chart below, I have provided links to an affordable rod/reel combo that is suitable for roughly 90% of trout fishing situations.
Selecting the best first rod for trout fishing
A good general purpose trout spinning rod has a medium to fast action and is around 6’6” long. It will need to be rated for 1-6lb or 2-8lb line. Trout angling, is typically ultralight fishing and the gear needs to match.
A medium-fast action rod makes casting lightweight trout lures and spinners easier. If you are planning on fishing bait, then a medium or slow action rod does allow for gentler casts.
For ease of transport make sure it is a two-piece rod.
6’6” is a good length for most shore based and boat angling. Yes there are some advantages to both longer and shorter rods, which I cover thoroughly in this post here. But, I personally fish a 6’6″ rod 90% of the time. They are also easier to transport than longer rods.
Trout spinning rod recommendations
There are many good trout rods on the market, many I have not tried. But the rod I like recommending to beginners is the Okuma Celio 6’6”. This ultralight rod is not fancy but does all of the basics well. It costs around $30 so should not break the bank.
If you want the space saving and convenience of a telescopic rod, then I suggest the Kastking Blackhawk II. Its use of floating guides makes it the only telescopic rod available within the US I will recommend.
What to get for a first spinning reel for trout fishing?
A trout spinning reel needs to be lightweight, and work smoothly with light line. When targeting trout, most fishermen use line somewhere between 2 and 6lb breaking strain. So it is best to purchase a reel designed to fish line within that range.
This is typically a 1000 to 2500 size reel, or a 10-20 size reel. The number gives a rough idea of the reel size.
My favorite reel size for trout fishing is a 2000. While it is bigger than a 1000 size reel, it also has a slightly larger spool which means the line wraps less tightly around it resulting in less line twist. But, if you want the lightest reel possible, then a 1000 weight is the way to go.
Spinning reels range in price from around $20 to close to $1000, and they all catch fish. The more expensive ones are simply nicer, and somewhat more reliable.
For more information, I have written a comprehensive buying guide for trout spinning reels, where I have reviewed over 12 of the models I consider most suitable for trout fishing. For more in-depth information I suggest giving it a read.
Best first reel for trout fishing
For a first reel, there is no need to spend a lot of money. Quality reels can be gotten for under $100, there are even a few decent options for under $30. I will provide a couple of recommendations for a quality first reel at a couple of price points.
Best cheap first reel
The best cheap trout spinning reel in my opinion is the Shimano FX or Sienna. These two reels are nearly identical and are a great, reliable first option. You can not go wrong buying a Shimano reel. Even their cheap ones are good. Read my review here.
Best entry level reel
If you are prepared to spend a little more. Then the Daiwa Regal is the reel to get. It has so many features which makes it an excellent trout reel. These include a very lightweight, oversize spool to decrease line twist and to top it of. The reel is made to a very high standard. Probably will need to spend over $150 to get a better reel. Read my review here
Best line for trout fishing?
I suggest starting with 6lb line, and if already an experienced angler consider using 4lb Stern original is a great first line to use and it is cheap.
Maybe the most important piece of the fishing tackle when trout fishing is the line. It is what connects your reel to the lure which catches the trout. Unlike the rod and reel, the trout will actually get to see the line.
For that reason, the line must be as difficult for the trout to see as possible, but at the same time remain strong enough to land it. Line which is too thick can easily spook wary trout.
For new trout anglers, I suggest they fish with either 4 or 6lb monofilament. If you are a novice angler, I suggest 6lb. It is much more forgiving with regard to knot strengths so break offs are less likely.
If you are already a skilled angler, then I suggest going straight to 4lb. The thinner line makes casting easier, and it is slightly harder for the trout to see.
For more recommendations on what lines to use, I have written a guide to what I consider to be the 8 best monofilament lines for trout fishing.
I personally fish braided line for trout but I do not recommend it for beginners. My favorite is Fireline which is a fused braid with an extremely low chance of developing wind knots during the cast. Braid does have several advantages, including excellent sensitivity and improved casting distance. It is also a lot less forgiving than monofilament, requiring the use of a leader and more complicated knots.
Best first lures to buy
After buying a rod, reel and line. The final essential piece of gear required to catch trout is a lure. There are hundreds of various lures on the markets, in countless color and pattern variations. The truth is, most of them will catch trout, and in expert hands, most lures or spinners can be very successful.
For a new trout fishermen, I suggest buying a handful of inline spinners and maybe a jerkbait or two. Choose a selection of contrasting colors. I like silver, gold, and natural patterns. When fishing keep cycling through the different colors until you find one which the trout like.
1/8oz is a good standard lure weight, but sometimes trout prefer 1/16oz. Get a few of both.
Trout can be difficult to catch, a successful color one day, but might be ignored the next. So it pays to have a selection of different colors and continue to cycle through them while fishing.
I will now explain the three main types of lures that are used in trout fishing.
Inline spinners are probably the most popular trout lure in the United States. They attract trout in two ways, the first is the flashy rotating blade is attention grabbing. Secondarily the blade makes a thumping sound as it moves through the water. Inline spinners are both easy for the trout to see and sense. They are an all round proven trout catcher which are very popular in rivers and streams.
I like to start with a 1/8oz inline spinners. This size is small enough to tempt stream trout, while being large enough to be a worthwhile meal for bigger fish. Of course, larger and smaller inline spinners can also be worth trying.
I have written a comprehensive guide on the most popular brands and styles of inline spinners. I advise heading over there for more information on specific brands.
Jerkbaits or Minnow
These lures resemble small fish, and some look very lifelike. Myself and many other fishermen find that Jerkbaits are the best lures to use for targeting large wild brown trout. These realistic lures are a good choice when the trout are naturally wary.
I suggest starting with a Rapala Original floater in F5 or F7. They should be available in most tackle stores. For even more recommendations, I have shared what I considered to be the best jerkbaits in a guide here.
The final type of lures are spoons. These are also among the oldest lures on the market. Spoons work best when the trout are holding deep. Either at the bottom of a deep pool or in a lake. Spoons are also generally the heaviest of all lure types making them the easiest to cast. They are a good lure, but I only reach for a spoon when I know the trout are holding too deep for the other lure styles to reach.
To read more about spoons, and which ones are worth trying head over to my Spoon buyers guide here.
The last piece of terminal tackle worth having when spinning for trout are snaplock swivels in #12 (Can go slightly smaller or larger).
The main purpose is that the swivels spin which reduces the number of twists in the fishing line. Too many twists create all sorts of tangles, knots, and headaches.
I generally buy Swivels in bulk, they are a lot cheaper that way, but before using them. I make sure to give the swivel a quick spin with my fingers to make sure they are rotating smoothly. There is always a few sized swivels in the cheap bulk packs.
If you will rather buy a high quality swivel then look for products from Eagle Claw, Mustad VMC or Gamakatsu. They cost a lot more, but the quality control is much better.