Why Are Inline Spinners Still The Best Trout Fishing Lures?

By: Ron Schmidt

The variety of tackle and bait available to a trout angler is astounding!  No matter your preference, be it fly fishing, spin fishing, worming, or tenkara, there are many choices out there.  I prefer spin fishing with an inline spinner.  They work exceedingly well in Wisconsin Driftless streams, and I make all the spinners I use, which leaves very little room in my lure boxes for anything else.  

Why do trout eat a metal, seemingly unnatural, tasteless, scentless, and dangerous object? 

Many anglers believe a spinner mimics a wounded baitfish. While it is possible, I have not watched a wounded minnow twirl hypnotically and proceed in a straight line unwaveringly downstream. I have had countless instances where the inline spinner is struck by the fish “on the drop” – meaning within a half-second of striking the water surface. As far as I know, wounded minnows do not fall from the sky.

Many anglers believe a spinner mimics some insects. Bugs become food for trout from the stream bed and from outside the stream. No doubt the “on the drop” hits maybe a confused fish thinking an insect has just dived into the stream and to its death. The spinner’s metal wires and hook points are similar to insect mandibles, legs, and antenna.

Inline Spinner Trout Tips, Tricks, and Thoughts

trout spinners
The various components the author uses while making homemade inline spinners for trout.

Many anglers believe the spinner blade rotation causes a visual, shiny, thumping pulse that drives trout mad. Trout are primary sight feeders and have an excellent nearsighted and refractive vision.  I have watched trout blast out of the stream and pick off insects, sometimes a foot or more above the water with supernatural precision.

Many anglers swear by color. Each serious spinner master likely has their code. Mine is gold blades when sunny and clear. Silver blades when overcast or cloudy. Not exactly sure why.  I have heard at least one claim that silver blades are for brook trout and gold blades for brown trout. I have listened to at least one claim that silver blades are for winter and spring and gold blades for summer and fall. I have concluded that colors and styles of blades are made for the angler, not the trout.  I have had trout hit ragged, paint-less spinners and any spinner, almost any time.

So why do they work?  Do inline spinners match a hatch?  Do they look like catchable prey?  While the debate remains endless, I believe that the trout is simply displays an instinct closely related to the fight or flight response.  When a trout becomes aware of the spinner in that split second, it’s a basic decision.  Do I eat that, or will it eat me?  The trout is an intelligent, beautiful animal.  It usually errs on the side of eating first, flee only if necessary.

So, although I am unsure exactly why inline spinners work well in my local Wisconsin driftless streams and will likely work in the waters near you.  Inline spinner fishing is easy and fun! Happy Fishing!

5 Inline Spinner Fishing Tips For Catching More Trout

trout spinners
A handful of worn, torn, and slightly rusted inline trout spinners.
  1. Go big! I have used ½ ounce or heavier spinners since April.  Fish 3” to 30” will smash a large spinner.  It may be necessary to size down in the early season (Jan-Mar) when the water is colder, and fish metabolism is lower.
  2. Use braided line. The touch and sensitivity of braid will allow you to feel any bite and any feature or obstruction in the stream.  My favorite braid is Power Pro in 10-pound test for stream fishing.
  3. Use a duo-lock type single snap attached to your mainline. This will enable quick lure changes without having to tie and retie braid to individual lures. 
  4. Check the closest three feet of line occasionally for fraying, and if present, retie.
  5. Do not use a ball-bearing swivel.  These devices may prevent line twists with mono or fluorocarbon but are unnecessary with braid.  A swivel will inhibit spinner action.

Check out my channel – Wisconsin Trout Fishing, on YouTube to get the next best thing to being there, a small stream trout fishing experience! Thanks. Ron S.

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