Using the right pound test line for trout fishing is vital to your success.
Too thick a line and you won’t get the bites; too light and you risk losing the fish of a lifetime.
To keep it simple, a line rated between four four-pound tests and a 12-pound test is best for trout, with the line you choose within that range depending on a range of factors.
A few examples:
- Casting light lures such as spinners and small cranks for stream fish: 4-6lb test
- Bait fishing in still waters: 6-8lb test
- Trolling lures for lake trout: 10lb test
In this article, I share my thoughts on choosing the right line weight for trout for different types of fishing, line type water, and trout species
Mono, Fluoro or Braid: Choosing the Right Line Strength
You need to consider line type when you are deciding the right strength fishing line for trout fishing.
If you are using a mono line, it has a good amount of stretch, so you can get away with a lighter line than a fluorocarbon line, in my opinion. Monofilament fishing line is also more visible underwater than fluoro, so using a thinner line helps with visibility.
But don’t go overboard with this, as no amount of stretch will help you if you go in undergunned and hook a trophy trout!
Fluorocarbon Fishing Line
With fluorocarbon line as a leader, you have less stretch, so a powerful run from a trout can snap the leader, so you can consider going up to the next size in terms of the pound test.
Fluorocarbon line is nearly invisible underwater, so don’t let the prospect of spooking the fish bother you.
However, fluorocarbon fishing line is stiffer, so if you are using straight-through fluoro in particular, it can start to affect your casting distance if you go with too high a pound test fluoro line.
Fluorocarbon line is more abrasion resistant, so if you are fishing in areas where a fish you have hooked can get to cover and rub the line up against structure, fluorocarbon will be better.
For braided line, which you generally use with a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader, I like to use a higher-pound test line than than the leader because I want the leader to be the point of failure, not the main line. That’s mainly so you don’t have to retie the leader to braid knot if you get snagged and have to bust your lure off.
It also makes sense because the braided line is so thin anyway, so using a slightly heavier pound test than you need for your leader won’t affect your casting.
Line Weight Set-Ups for Trout Fishing
Personally, I like to use a braided line with a clear leader for trout fishing.
As an example, a good ultralight setup suitable for trout fishing in rivers and streams would be a 4lb leader in mono or fluoro and a 6 or 8lb braided line.
If you fish bigger rivers or lakes, then go up to a 6-8lb mono or fluorocarbon fishing line with a 10lb braided line.
Choosing the Right Fishing Line for Different Trout Species
There is a bit of variance in how hard different trout species pull, and that has an effect on line choice.
Rainbow Trout Fishing
Pound-for-pound, rainbow trout, and rainbow trout hybrids such as cutbow trout are among the strongest of the trout species.
Rainbow trout are also more aggressive than brown trout or brook trout, so are less likely to spook, so it makes sense to use a line at the upper end of the range that’s suitable for your preferred type of fishing.
Brown Trout Fishing
Brown trout have to be fairly large before they pull hard enough to break even a four or six-pound test line. On the other hand, they are wily and can spook if you use a line that is too thick. For chasing brown trout, choose a line that is at the lower end of the pound test range that suits your preferred type of fishing.
Brook Trout Fishing
Brook trout are one of the smaller species of trout and also one of the weaker types of trout in terms of the fight they put up (they are arguably the most beautiful trout species, though!). Generally, you can use a four-pound test when you are chasing brookies.
Lake Trout Fishing
Lake trout are bottom-dwelling fish, so you are usually using trolling gear or blades and spoons to tempt this larger member of the trout family. The depths you are fishing, the need to avoid line twists, and the huge sizes lake trout can reach mean it is best to use 12lb or above line.
Best Fishing Line for Trout in Clear Water
Targeting trout in clear water is great fun. There is nothing better than sight fishing in crystal clear waters for wary trout and line-shy fish. Because it is nearly invisible underwater, a fluorocarbon line is a good choice. The best fishing line weight for this type of fishing is very much at the lower end of what you think you can get away with. Think 4lb test or 6lb test maximum, and make sure you use your drag and rod effectively when you are fighting the fish to avoid the line breaking.
Best Fishing Line for Trout in Dirty Water
When you are trout fishing in dirty or stained water, you don’t have to worry about line-shy trout. You might have to worry about subsurface structures that you can’t see. Putting that together means you are safe to up your fishing line weight to 10lb test or so safe in the knowledge you can catch trout. You don’t need a fluorocarbon line in these conditions, and it is fine to fish with a cheaper monofilament line.
Best Line for Casting Spinners and Other Light Lures
I always used a braided fishing line when casting lighter lures as it is thin and wind resistant, so you can cast further and with greater accuracy. I use a monofilament or fluorocarbon line leader when targeting trout with spinners, small crankbaits, and soft plastics with light jig heads.
Best Line When Still Fishing for Trout Fishing
Stillwater fishing means you have a higher chance of encountering a trophy fish – that might mean a trout of 10lb or more. Even bigger than that if we are talking lake trout. A fishing line of 8lb test is the minimum for lake fishing if there is that chance of encountering large trout.
Best Trolling Line for Trout
I am not a fan of trolling for trout because it can get very boring, in my opinion! People I know who do trolling for trout tell me that it does attract some big trout, and you also have the issue of line twist to overcome, so it makes sense to use a line of 12lb test or more.
Best Ice Fishing Line for Trout
Ice fishing lines need to be able to withstand cold temperatures and abrasion from sharp ice edges. Ice fishing with lures in the clear water beneath the ice means you can encounter fish that are line-shy too. Specialty ice-rated fluorocarbon line is the best pick with the right pound test depending on the size of trout you expect to catch. Think 6lb as a good choice with the option to go up to 8lb or 10lb (or more for lake trout).
Final Thoughts on the Best Line for Trout Fishing
Choosing the right fishing line for trout fishing is a bit more complex than you might think initially. Hopefully, this article has given you some thoughts on line selection to help you catch trout effectively and not suffer bust-offs or spook-line shy fish.
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