What Are The Best Lures For Lake Trout Fishing? (Detailed Guide)
UPDATED 03 NOVEMBER 2023
by Robert Ceran
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Are you looking for the best lures to use for catching a laker or two, but aren’t sure which ones are best for your fishing tactic?
My team and I tested the most popular lake trout lures on the market, and evaluated them based on their ability to catch lake trout with vertical jigging, trolling, ice fishing, or casting from shore.
Based on our testing, here is our pick of the best lake trout lures in 2023:
- Best overall: Kodiak Tackle Tube Jig
- Best bucktail jig: Last Cast Tackle Bucktail Jig
- Best jigging spoon: Acme Kastmaster Spoon
- Best trolling spoon: Hagen Muskie Spoon
- Best trolling crankbait: Rapala Shad Rap
- Best diving plug: Luhr Jensen Rattling Kwikfish
- Best for ice fishing: Mission Tackle Lake Trout Tube
What is the best lure for lake trout?
The table above shows a summary of the best lake trout lures that we tested, which fall into three main categories:
- Jigging lures
- Trolling lures
- Lures for casting from shore
Jigging lures play a pivotal role in fishing for lake trout, and are among the very best lake trout lures, since you can use them all year long, both during open water and ice fishing season.
Many anglers assume that the only time you can catch lake trout with jigging lures is while ice fishing in the winter, but this is far from true.
Vertical jigging is also one of the best ways to catch lake trout from a boat during the open water season, and together with trolling, it is among the very best techniques for hunting lake trout.
During the summer, most lake trout are caught with lures fished from boats (especially during the peak of summer, when they retreat into colder water that’s over 60 feet deep).
But during spring and fall, you also have a chance of catching lake trout by casting lures from shore, and we’ll cover those as well.
Now let’s take a closer look at each of these types of lures, and cover the best lake trout lures for all techniques, so you can decide which ones are a good fit for you.
Best lake trout lures for jigging
When it comes to lake trout jigging, our testing revealed that the best types of lures to use for lake trout are jigging spoons, tube jigs, hair jigs, and jig heads rigged for lake trout with oversized plastic swimbaits.
One thing to keep in mind with each of these lure types is that our testing showed that it’s best to use larger lure sizes than you would for other kinds of fish, since lake trout tend to feed on very large bait fish, and the best lures for fishing for lake trout need to be able to match the size of their forage in order to grab their attention.
Here are the best lake trout lures for jigging:
Acme Kastmaster Spoon (1 to 1 1/2 oz)
When it comes to jigging spoons, the Kastmaster is hard to beat, and has been catching lake trout reliably for many years.
And while the Acme Kastmaster is also often used for targeting smaller trout species, our tests showed that it’s important to upsize to a bigger spoon size when jigging for lake trout, as you need to be able to get your spoon down into deep water where the lake trout are holding. That’s why we recommend the 1 oz to 1 1/2 oz size for fishing for lake trout.
Thundermist Jigging Spoon (1 ¾ oz)
The Thundermist jigging spoon has a very simple design, but when we tested it, it got the job done. Again, it’s best to choose the larger sizes for lake trout jigging, as that will allow you to get it down into the strike zone fast enough, and with 1 ¾ oz this is one of the largest lures in this review.
Last Cast Tackle Bucktail Jig (1 to 2 oz)
This is a classic jig lure that has been around for many decades, but when we put it to the test we found that it still works as a highly reliable lake trout jig, especially when tipped with a piece of cut bait, such as a slice of sucker.
A great thing about the Bucktail Jig is that it comes in large sizes all the way up to 6 oz, which is ideal for lake trout. The most effective color is white.
Kodiak Tackle 6” Tube Jig (1 1/2 oz)
Our testing revealed that tube jigs are among the very best lake trout lures, and can outperform all other lures on many days. Again, you should aim to use the larger sizes, with the smallest sizes starting around 1/2 oz and going up from there. My favorite size is the 1 1/2 oz jig head rigged with a 6” tube jig.
Mission Tackle Lake Trout Tube (3/4 oz)
While slightly smaller than the previous lure, this white tube jig for lake trout comes with the added advantage that it glows in the dark if you shine light onto it before use.
When we tested it, we found that this can be one of the very best lures for fishing for lake trout in low light conditions, such as during ice fishing, or on early mornings, late evenings, or on overcast days. Another great thing about this lure is that it comes pre-rigged with a stinger hook.
Keitech Easy Shiner Soft Paddle Swimbait (5”)
Now let’s switch gears and take a look at lake trout swimbaits, which our testing showed can be a secret weapon for catching lake trout, especially when it comes to targeting trophy size fish.
With 5 inches, the Keitech Easy Shiner is still on the small side, but a good option to start with if you don’t know what size bait fish the lake trout are keyed in on.
Sanhu Shad Swimbait Paddle Tail (9”)
With a length of 9 inches, this soft plastic lure starts to approach muskie size dimensions, but our testing showed that this is exactly what you need when lake trout are hunting big forage, such as fully grown herring, ciscoes, or shad.
Jig heads to use with soft plastic swimbaits
In order to fish oversized swimbait lures that are 5 to 10 inches long, it’s necessary to use extra large jig heads that are in the 1 to 2 oz weight range (or even bigger).
Big Hammer Jig Head With 4/0 Hook (1 oz)
Last Cast Tackle White Shad Jig Head (2 oz)
When using large swimbaits over 5 inches, you may also want to rig a stinger hook to avoid short strikes.
Best lake trout lures for trolling
There can be no doubt that spoons are by far the most effective lures for lake trout trolling, though you can also put plenty of fish in the boat with crankbaits and flatfish lures.
Here is a selection of the best lake trout lures for trolling:
Hagen Muskie Spoon (1 1/4 oz)
These spoons were originally designed for pike and muskie fishing, but when we put them to the test, we found that they also work like gangbusters for trolling lake trout.
Our favorite color is the red and white design (resembling the original Daredevle), as well as the red diamonds on a yellow background, which seem to catch more lake trout than the other colors.
The best lake trout spoons have a strong side to side wobbling action, which creates a lot of vibrations and flashes in the water.
During spring time you can troll them with a 3 way trolling rig for lake trout, while in summer it’s better to use leadcore or a downrigger to get your spoon deep enough.
Rapala Shad Rap (Size 07 to 09)
This classic crankbait comes with a large diving shovel that gives it a strong wobbling action when trolled.
Also, since it’s set to dive deep, we discovered that you can troll the Shad Rap without downrigger during spring time, when lake trout are often active in more shallow water.
During the summer you can either use leadcore or downriggers to get it down deep enough.
Luhr Jensen Rattling Kwikfish (Size K15 to K16)
This diving plug was specifically designed for salmon and lake trout, and during our testing we found that it has a slow side to side wobbling action that lake trout seem to find irresistible.
And once again, don’t be shy to use the largest Kwikfish lures, as most novice anglers tend to underestimate the bait size for these voracious predators. You can choose from a wide variety of colors, and with or without a rattle.
The Kwikfish (or the very similar Flatfish lure) is ideal for trolling with a downrigger, and it can also be combined with a flasher or dodger rigged as an attractor about 1 or 2 feet in front of the plug.
Best lures for lake trout from shore
While targeting lake trout from shore is not as effective as fishing from a boat, you can catch lake trout in shallow water from shore during early spring, when the water is still cold.
When casting lures from shore, you can fish them just like you would for pike or bass, and great options to use are large spoons, crankbaits, and swimbaits.
Here are the best lake trout lures to use from shore:
Truscend Soft Swimbait (3/4 oz)
This lure can be either fished vertically, by jigging it from a boat, or it can be cast out from shore and retrieved like a regular paddle tail swimbait lure. It comes with a 3/4 oz jig head, and our tests showed that this is great for achieving maximum casting distance, and for fishing it close to the bottom, both of which are ideal for fishing for lake trout from shore.
Acme Kastmaster with BuckTail Teaser (3/4 oz)
The Acme Kastmaster spoon works equally well for vertical jigging and for casting from shore, and when you’re fishing it from shore you can experiment with slightly smaller sizes than when you’re fishing for deep lake trout. During our testing, we found that gold can be a better choice of color on overcast days, while silver tends to work better on bright days.
Best lake trout lures for ice fishing
Based on our testing, the best types of ice fishing lures for lake trout are:
- Tube jigs
- Jigging spoons
- Bucktail jigs
Since ice fishing by definition consists of vertical fishing, you can use the same jigging lures that you would use for vertical jigging during the summer. Also, it’s always good to use a flasher sonar or an ice fishing fish finder, since that will allow you to key in on the right depth at which lake trout are holding.
In addition, try to use your sonar to get a feel for how the lake trout respond to your lure presentation. Sometimes you can trigger a strike from lake trout by pulling your jigging lure away from a lake trout that is checking it out, which may then pursue it all the way to the surface and bite just before it reaches the ice hole.
Best lake trout lures for spring
Spring is a great time to catch lake trout, since they can be found in more shallow waters than throughout most of the rest of the year.
The reason for this is simple: lake trout need very cold water in order to thrive, and during spring time, the water is still cold in the shallow parts of the lake, whereas later in summer the shallows become too hot for lake trout.
Lake trout feed very actively in spring, so this is a great time to target lake trout with lures that produce a lot of flash and vibrations in the water, including spoons, jigging spoons and Rapala crankbaits.
You can either cast these from shore or from a boat, or troll them around gravel beds and sand flats.
Best lake trout lures for summer
Due to the fact that lake trout have a strict requirement for cold water around 53 degrees, they retreat to deeper water layers in the summer.
You can find lake trout either close to the bottom, or suspended in the water column at their ideal temperature range.
Lake trout feed on schools of pelagic baitfish species found in deep water zones during the summer (including ciscoes, bloaters, and smelt).
Based on our testing, we found that the best lake trout lures in the summer are either jigging lures that are fished at depths of 60 to 80 feet or more, or trolling lures presented at a similar depth range with the help of a downrigger.
Using a fish finder to locate lake trout and presenting your lure at the right depth is absolutely essential at this time of the year. Otherwise you’ll be fishing for lake trout blindly.
Best lake trout lures for fall
During fall lake trout once again push into more shallow areas of a lake, where the trout can be found from late September until December.
During early fall they feed very actively, in order to build strength for their spawn, and this is a great time to catch lake trout in shallow zones between 20 and 30 feet deep.
The best lake trout lures to use at this time of the year are large spoons, swimbaits and crankbaits that you can either cast from a boat, or troll without a downrigger in order to present them in relatively shallow water that’s less than 30 feet deep.
This concludes our article on the best lake trout lures, and hopefully some of these lures will help you catch more lake trout.
Lake trout are among the biggest freshwater fish you can target in North America, and fishing for lake trout is one of the most exciting experiences you can have as an angler.
I was many years into my journey as an angler before I finally decided it was time to start fishing for lake trout.
But after landing my first laker in Lake Superior (a beautifully marked 12 pound fish that I remember as if it was yesterday), I’ve been hooked on lake trout fishing ever since.
Many anglers never try fishing for lake trout because they assume they’re hard to catch, but that isn’t actually true.
The hardest part is locating lake trout, which admittedly can be a little challenging (especially in big lakes).
But nowadays finding lake trout has become much easier, due to the amazing advances in sonar technology.
Once you’ve found the lake trout, you just need to present them with the best lake trout lures, and you’ll find that fishing for lake trout becomes pretty straightforward.
Tight lines and see you on the water!
Methods and gear used for testing
We tested all of the lures covered in this article with one of the following 3 setups: a jigging rod and reel setup, a trolling rod and reel setup, or an ice fishing setup. For the jigging setup we used a 7′ Ugly Stik Elite spinning rod paired with a Pflueger President 3000 spinning reel and spooled with 20 lb test Power Pro braid. For the trolling setup we used a 9′ Okuma Classic GLT trolling rod paired with an Okuma Convector line counter reel, and spooled with 40 lb test Power Pro braid. Finally, for the jigging setup we used a 38″ Medium Heavy 13 Fishing Widow Maker paired with a Pflueger President 3000 spooled with 18 lb test Berkeley Trilene Fluorocarbon.