Soak Bait For Winter ‘Bows!

posted in: How-Tos | 0


I can’t believe how high the water level is at many of our lakes and reservoir. For example, Lake Shasta is only down about 40 feet at this point and this is a lake that is generally down 100 plus feet when October rolls around.
With all the water we are blessed with, I can’t help but think that trout fishing is going to be fantastic later this fall and well into the winter. Trollers have enjoyed brilliant trout action at a number of destinations this summer while working deep water with downriggers. New Melones kicked out epic numbers of 3 and 4 pound rainbows and the situation was much the same at Shasta and several other deep water reservoirs.

Bank fishing for trout doesn’t require a bunch of gear. Here we see Cal Kellogg’s bank fishing backpack. In addition to a tripod and some other photography gear, Cal carries a few lures, a small selection of baits and terminal tackle, two rods, two reels, snacks and a couple bottles of water. It’s a good idea to travel light because you might have to do a little hiking to reach the best spots.

Once the surface of our lakes chill, those big rainbows that had been holding 100 feet deep will come right up to the surface and cruise the shoreline looking for targets of opportunity. Sure, casting lures will catch these fish if they are fired up and in a mood to chase. The rest of the time, when the trout are in a neutral mood, soaking bait is a much better option for consistent success.
When bank fishing for trout, my typical outing goes like this. Early in the morning, I focus on big aggressive fish. On one rod, I soak an inflated worm or better yet, an inflated worm teamed with a pair of Atlas Mike’s Cheese flavored marshmallows. With my second rod, I experiment with Kastmasters, Cripplures, Yo-Zuri L Minnows and perhaps a spinner from Rooster Tail or Panther Martin.
At the point when the lure bite dies or when I determine there isn’t a lure bite, I’ll rig that second rod up for bait fishing and use it for soaking floating dough bait. I’ve caught a lot of winter trout on lures, but I’ve caught a lot more winter trout on worms and dough than on anything else. And of course, this brings us back to the title of this week’s How To column…Soak Bait For Winter ‘Bows.
For many of the trouters out there in Fish Sniffer Country this piece will be a review of tactics that you are already using, but you might pick up a tip or two that you can use to tweak your approach. If you’re new to bank fishing for trout follow along closely. The stuff I’m about to lay out isn’t glamorous or sexy, but following my recommendations will put you on the fast track to a pan fried trout dinner!

The Rod, Reel And Line

When it comes to bank fishing for trout, author Cal Kellogg prefers a fast action spinning rod that is at least 7 feet long. He teams his rods with spinning reels such as this Abu Garcia Cardinal that feature a smooth drag and a line capacity of about 200 yards of 6 or 8 pound mono.


I prefer a 7 to 7’6” rod because it offers me to ability to make long casts when the trout are holding offshore. While a light rod is required, avoid models with a slow action. A fast action rod that features a flexible tip section followed up with relatively stiff middle and butt sections provides maximum casting distance, solid hook sets and the power required to wear down large trout.
With a pair of rods in hand, it’s time to think about spinning reels. Luckily for us trouters, the market is flooded with high quality reasonably priced spinning reels that feature smooth reliable drags. Go with a brand you trust and stay in the middle of the road in terms of price.
In terms of reel size, I like something that can hold about 200 yards of 6 pound mono.
I’ve gone back and forth on line selection. These days I do most of my bank fishing with 8 pound test moss green Trilene Big Game line. I think green line offers the best invisibility in terms of standard mono and I think 8 pound test walks the divide between stealth and power.
Some guys are running braided line these days. It’s not necessary, but it does work well. If you go the braid route 10 pound test is awesome, but 15 will work too.
The bottom line is to go with a line you trust and tie good knots. Confidence means a lot!


The Basic Sliding Sinker Rig

For a bait fishing session, the well prepared trout angler will have an assortment of bullet weights, octopus hooks, bait holder hooks, beads, swivels, a few split shot and some fluorocarbon leader material.


Since trout spend most of their time holding near the bottom, that’s the most effective zone for presenting your bait. The basic bait fishing set up is the sliding sinker rig. To construct sliding sinker rigs that meet a number of different situations and conditions you’ll need a selection of hooks, weights, beads and swivels along with a with some fluorocarbon leader material.
I keep my various bait fishing supplies in a plastic compartment box. I like to have both bait holder and octopus hooks on hand in sizes 8, 10 and 12.
For sinkers, I try to stay away from round fat egg style sinkers. I prefer to use the tapered bullet sinkers popular among bass anglers because they are more snag resistant. A selection of sinkers from 1/4 to 1/2 ounce will cover most situations.
I swear by fluorocarbon leader material. Due to its molecular make up fluorocarbon line diffuses light in much the same way as water, making it virtually invisible to fish. Sometimes, having an invisible leader isn’t important, but at other times it is a critical element of success. As a result, I use fluorocarbon leaders at all times. Most often I use 6 pound test.
Once you’ve gathered all the necessary components, putting together a rig is simple. The first step is to pass the line of your spinning rod through one of your sinkers going in from the narrow end and out through the wide end. Next pass your line through a bead and then tie on a swivel using an improved clinch knot. The bead acts as a spacer between the weight and the swivel, protecting the integrity of the knot. To the other end of the swivel attach an 18 to 36 inch section of fluorocarbon leader with an improved clinch knot. The final step is to tie a hook to the end of the leader using a palomar knot.

The Baits


The team at Atlas Mike’s provides some of the deadliest trout baits on the market. Atlas Glitter Mallows can be used alone, but really shine when teamed with worms or salmon eggs. Zeke’s Sierra Gold Floating Trout Dough is a special blend of scents and amino acids that trigger the feeding response in trout. The dough comes in a long list of colors and has an elastic texture that molds around your hook and hangs on!

Worms are deadly baits for trout. Not only do worms put of scent, but they also provide eye catching movement as they struggle on the hook. You can fish your worms naked, by simply injecting them with air so they float and casting them out or you can team them with marshmallows for added scent and attraction. Some days trout want them naked, some days worms and mallows work better and other days it doesn’t seem to matter.
I’ve caught plenty of trout while fishing worms rigged on octopus hooks, but overall I’ve had better success while teaming them with baitholders.
When PowerBait stormed onto the trout fishing scene way back in the ‘80’s it changed everything. Here was this commercially produced floating dough that trout, particularly planted and holdover rainbows, just couldn’t lay off.
In most situations PowerBait out fished the salmon eggs and cheese baits we’d been using and we didn’t have to deal with the mess and rigging techniques associated with our old standby baits. Here we are nearly 40 years later and PowerBait is still fooling trout.
These days I won’t go trout fishing without some PowerBait in my pack, but I’ve also added a selection of Zeke’s Sierra Gold. Sierra Gold looks and feels like PowerBait, but it smells different. Some days the trout hate PowerBait and love Zeke’s. At other times the role is reversed and PowerBait gets all the love. Most of the time, both baits will tempt trout.
When you look at the dough bait display at your favorite tackle shop you’ll see lots of bright colors and baits that have glitter mixed into them. Since I carry all my gear in a backpack, I like to keep things simple, carrying a selection of basic colors consisting mainly of yellow, orange and chartreuse dough from both PowerBait and Zeke’s. That’s six bottles of bait, plus or minus…
A common mistake I see folks make is using too much dough bait on their hooks. For dough bait fishing I rig up a leader with an octopus hook and imbed it in a ball of dough that is just big enough to cover the hook. Generally, this means I’m using a ball of dough that measures about ¼ or 3/8 of an inch.

The Hanging Bobber Trick For More Hookups


A common mistake is fishing with a tight line. This works great for catfish and other less sensitive fish, but when a trout feels any kind of resistance it will likely as not spit out the bait. To prevent spooking trout, it is important to have some slack in the line so any trout that picks up the bait can move off and swallow the bait without feeling anything.
One trick to accomplishing this is to put your rod in a holder or prop it up in the rocks and hang a small plastic bobber on the line between the tip of the rod and the second or third eye. Enough slack is pulled off the reel to allow the bobber to hang down almost to the ground. When a trout takes the bait, be it a worm or dough, and moves off the slack is paid out gradually as the bobber pulls upward toward the rod. When the line comes tight it’s time to set the hook and begin fighting your prize.