Trout Fishing Rod And Reel Setup (Detailed Guide)


by Robert Ceran

If you’re planning to try trout fishing, the first thing you need to do is set up the right fishing rod and reel for the job, in order to get the best results. 

In this article we’ll cover the main tackle items you’ll need, including the ideal sizes and specs to use, as well as our recommendation of the best all around trout fishing spinning setup. 

We’ll go over the following core tackle components that you need for trout fishing:

  • Spinning rod
  • Spinning reel
  • Main line
  • Leader line

While we will be covering the leader setup, we won’t discuss other aspects of terminal tackle rigging (such as bobbers, sinkers, swivels, etc.), since we’ve written an in-depth article on rigging for trout that covers these aspects in full detail, and we recommend that you check that out as well. 

How to set up a spinning rod for trout fishing

It’s best to use lightweight rods and reels for trout fishing, since that allows you to use smaller lures and lightweight lines to target shy trout with maximum stealth.

When targeting finicky trout in clear water, you may need to downsize your line to 1 or 2 lb test, and you’ll need an ultralight spinning rod for trout to do this effectively.

Now let’s dive into the details of the best rod and reel specs to use for trout.

Best trout fishing spinning rod setup

Here are the specs of the best all around trout fishing spinning setup:

  • Spinning rod length: 6 to 7 feet
  • Rod power: Ultralight to light
  • Rod action: Moderate to fast
  • Spinning reel size: 1000 to 2500

A rod length in the range of 6 to 7 feet is a great all around option, as it can be used for the majority of trout fishing applications.

This size is ideal for catching stocked rainbow trout in ponds and lakes, but also works well for chasing wild trout in rivers and streams.

When it comes to rod power, ultralight is the most commonly used option for trout fishing, and the one that we recommend.

In most trout fisheries, fish over 5 pounds are rare, and you’ll have more fun catching regular size trout in the 1 to 2 pound size range on ultralight gear, compared to heavier tackle. 

In addition, ultralight rod power is the ideal choice when fishing with lightweight fishing lines for trout of 2 to 6 lb test. Using these lightweight lines is often necessary in order to get bites from shy trout in heavily fished lakes. 

When it comes to spinning reel size, you can either opt for a 1000 size ultralight reel, or a slightly larger 2000 or 2500 size reel.

The smaller reel size comes with the advantage that it helps to keep the overall weight of your trout fishing spinning setup low, while the larger sizes come with larger spools that hold more line (which can help to increase casting distance).

In general, if you’re fishing for trout in lakes and ponds, choose a slightly longer rod paired with a bigger reel, as that will enable you to cast further.

On the other hand, if you’re mostly fishing in small creeks and streams, you don’t need to cast very far, and a shorter rod paired with a smaller reel is often the ideal choice.

Trout fishing line setup

You can use any of the 3 types of fishing line for trout: monofilament, fluorocarbon, or braided line.

If you’re a beginner, 2 to 6 lb test monofilament is probably the ideal choice as your main line, since you can use it without a leader (if the trout aren’t extremely line shy), and mono is also significantly cheaper than braid or fluoro.

However, if you’re planning to do a lot of trout fishing, the best trout line we recommend using is 6 to 10 lb test braided line (as your main line).

The reason for this is that braid has almost no stretch, which provides more sensitivity for trout fishing.

In other words, when using braid, you’ll be able to feel the slightest vibrations and movements of your lure in the water. A friend of mine likes to say he can “feel if a trout is breathing on his lure” when he’s using braid.

In addition to the advantage of increased sensitivity, braided fishing line also has virtually no memory, which results in better casting properties compared to mono or fluoro.

This helps to increase both casting distance and accuracy when using micro lures or lightweight rigs, which can help you to catch more trout. 

The only problem with braid is that it has high visibility in the water, which is why you need to tie a fluorocarbon or monofilament leader when using braided main line.

Because of this, we recommend using 10 lb test braid as your main line, and tying this to a 2 to 6 lb test fluorocarbon leader to achieve more stealth in your presentation. 

Trout leader setup

If you’re using lightweight monofilament or fluorocarbon as your main line (between 2 to 6 lb test), you probably don’t need to use a leader, and instead can tie your main line directly to your lure or hook. 

However, as mentioned above, using braid as your main line comes with several key advantages for trout fishing, and if you choose this option, you do need to tie a leader in order to avoid spooking shy trout.

  • Ideal leader length: 2 to 4 feet
  • Ideal leader strength: 1 to 6 lb test fluorocarbon

The ideal leader line for trout is 1 to 6 lb test fluorocarbon. Which line strength you should choose epends on three main factors: how big are the fish you’re expecting to catch, how clear is the water, and how shy are the trout?

The clearer the water, and the more line shy the trout, the more important it is to tie an extremely lightweight leader of 1 to 2 lb test.

But keep in mind that if you hook a big trout on this line, it can result in line breakage, so there’s always a tradeoff between stealth and the ability to land fish safely. 

Best setup for trout fishing in streams and rivers

If you’re fishing for trout in streams or rivers, you may want to choose a shorter spinning rod length (between 4’6” and 5’6”), as that allows you to cast better underneath overhanging trees and bushes along the banks.

A shorter rod also enables more accurate casting, which can be essential in small streams, where you need to get your lure or rig to very specific spots that hold trout. 

In addition to using a shorter rod for targeting trout in streams, you may also prefer a small 1000 size spinning reel, since that will reduce the overall weight of your trout fishing spinning rod setup, and makes it more fun to catch average size trout. 

Best setup for trout fishing in lakes

When fishing for trout in lakes, it’s often necessary to cast your lure or rig further than in rivers and streams, and because of this it’s better to choose a longer spinning rod (between 7 and 8 feet).

A longer rod enables you to cast further, and it also gives you better line control when retrieving your lure.

Also, keep in mind that trout in lakes tend to grow larger than the ones in streams, which means you should also upsize your line weight and spinning reel size accordingly.

When fishing for trout in lakes, I like to use a 2500 spinning reel spooled with 10 lb test braided main line, tied to a 4 to 6 lb test fluorocarbon leader.

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