This article may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on a link we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Trout Fishing Setup – What Do You Need?

If you are just starting out fishing or have some experience fishing for other freshwater fish like bass or walleye then you may be trying your hand at catching trout for the first time.

The majority of brown and rainbow trout that are caught in rivers, streams and small lakes/ponds will usually be under 5 lbs in weight.

Although they might not be monsters they still put up a very spirited fight and for many they may seem somewhat elusive.

Getting your trout fishing setup correct from the beginning will mean a mush higher probability of success.

So what is the best trout setup?

The best setup for trout fishing is an ultralight to light power rod, with a fast action, paired with an ultralight spinning reel and monofilament line in the 2lb to 6lb range. 

You can use this trout rod and reel setup for both fishing with bait and lures. Trout fishing gear does not need to be heavy in any way especially if you are fishing on small rivers and streams.

1. Rod

Look for a rod that falls some where in between the following specification ranges:

  • Type – spinning rod
  • Length – between 5’5 and 7′ in length
  • Power – ultralight to light power rating
  • Action – fast action

Type – A spinning rod is the preferred choice of rod for 99% of the kinds of setups you will be using for trout. The only exceptions to this are when you are trolling when lake trout fishing or if you are casting very heavy lures in a large river or lake.

A spinning setup means that you can cast some very light lures or bait. This is generally how the majority of trout are caught so matching your equipment to how you will be fishing most of the time is crucial.

Length – The length of rod that you decide on will be mostly influenced by where you will be fishing the most.

On smaller waters like rivers and streams a shorter rod makes the most sense especially if there are a lot of bushes and small trees on the riverbank. You can also get by with a shorter rod on ponds and even some smaller lakes.

A 6′ or 6’6″ rod is roughly the best length to target.

For larger rivers and bigger lakes when not trolling you can go as high as a 7′ rod as the longer rod will have slight;y better casting performance than a shorter one.

Power – A rods power rating describes how big a lure and line it is designed for. For trout the bet bet is either an ultralight or a light power rating. The majority will use an ultralight.

A heavier setup is just not suitable when using light lures or a bait setup for trout. Your casting performance will be greatly affected as there will not be enough weight to load the rod blank correctly when casting.

Action – Action describes where in the rod blank the rod will start to bend when it is put under a load.

A fast rod action means that the bend will start higher up in the top one third of the rod near the rod tip. 

A slow action rod will have the bent start to form much lower down towards the lowest one third of the rod near the reel seat.

A fast action rod is the choice for trout fishing. A faster action has much more tip sensitivity and feedback through the rod. However you do sacrifice a little bit if casting distance, which is rarely an issue when trout fishing.

2. Reel

A spinning reel to match the rod above will always be the go to for trout fishing.

Most spinning reels for trout will usually be a size 1000 up to size 2500. These size reels are perfectly suited to the rod described above and are designed to use light line in the 2 to 6 pound range.

Any good quality reel from the big name brands should last at least 5 years even with heavy use. If properly cared for and serviced every couple of years then they should still be in service ten years later.

Salt water is a serious issue for smaller freshwater reels so if you do end up using your reel in salt water then always make sure to give it a good rinse with fresh water when you are finished.

Most trout fishermen will rarely use the rod and reel in salt  water so it is usually a non-issue. But, do rinse it occasionally so that any grit that may be on the spool can be removed.

3. Hooks

The best trout hooks will be normally be single hooks of size #8 up to #12 depending on the size of your bait. 

If you are not familiar with hook sizes the higher the number the smaller the hook. So a size #8 will be bigger than a #12.

If you are fishing in a stretch of water that practices catch and release then you should always try to get some barb-less hooks. Barb-less hooks will be much easier to remove from the trouts mouth and there is a much lower risk of injuring them too.

4. Line

The go to trout fishing line is monofilament. Lighter line that is under 6 pound breaking strain when used on a spinning reel should always be mono.

Braid will suffer to much from both wind knots and it will not cast as well because it’s thinner diameter will tend to bed down into the layers that are already on the spool.

So when using lighter gear always spool you reel with mono. Braid is also highly visible too, and with trout being quite easily spooked it is better to stick with a regular color of monofilament.

5. Bait

Trout bait be as natural as a nightcrawler or a piece of corn or it can be an artificial bait that is especially manufactured such as Powerbait.  

Natural baits tend to work best for brown trout and brook trout whereas with rainbow trout especially those reared in a farm and then stocked Powerbait and other artificials can be a go choice.

6. Lures

You can fish for many years with only a small selection of fishing lures. Stick to the classics like spinners and small spoons.

A decent selection of colors and patterns is required though as every water will fish differently depending on the time of the year and the weather.