5 Best Trout Fishing Rigs [2022 Update]


Updated on September 20, 2022 by

There are quite a few different ways you can catch trout using a spinning rod and reel and a fly fishing rod. Most beginner trout anglers are unaware of the wide variety of trout fishing rigs that they can utilize at certain times of the year and in specific scenarios to produce bites. 

In this article, we’ll detail some of the best trout fishing rigs that we like to use and discuss how you can incorporate them into your trout fishing strategy. 

Trout Fishing Rigs Overview 

There’s a lot of grace, skill and concentration in fly fishing. It’s understandable for many trout anglers to prefer using lightweight spinning rods and reels since they offer a much easier way to fish for the many different trout species found worldwide. Once you become acquainted with some of the top trout fishing rigs that avid anglers like to use, you’ll have a new level of appreciation for the planning and strategy that goes into trout fishing rigs that are successful. 

The trout fishing rigs we will discuss in this article mostly pertain to those used by anglers who fish with a spinning combo. Some of them can be used with a fly rod and reel.

Here are 5 of the best trout fishing rigs I like to use to catch my limit on the streams and rivers in North America. 

rainbow trout

1. Bottom Rig or Split Shot Rig 
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One of the more widely-used trout fishing rigs is commonly referred to as the bottom rig, but I typically call it the split shot rig, since it involves the use of small split shot sinkers. This one is surprisingly effective throughout much of the year and you can use it with many different types of baits to catch rainbow, brook, browns and many other trout species. 

The split shot rig is straightforward. All you need is a hook of your choosing (I prefer a number 8 size trout hook) and a few split-shot sinkers. Depending on how fast the current is moving, you can vary between using one split shot sinker or two or three. Simply tie your hook on the line and place your split shot sinkers just a few inches above the hook. 

The concept of the split shot rig is to keep your bait in one position on the bottom of the stream or river. The sinkers should hold it in place while the few inches of line and baited hook flutter around with the current, attracting the trout to investigate and take a bite. I like to use this rig with anything from corn to wax worms and everything in between, including artificial soft plastic trout worms. 

Split-shot rig

2. Bobber Rig 

You should never rule out the bobber rig when it comes to trout fishing in any little stream or large river and lake. This one is your classic bobber rig in which you will tie a hook on and place a small bobber about 12 to 24 inches above the hook on the line. You can also use a split shot sinker or two, which can be placed about four inches above the hook, to keep the bait from being swept downstream too quickly. 

The bobber rig is ideal for young anglers and beginners as it allows you to very easily detect when you’re getting a bite. All you need to do is keep your eye on the bobber and watch for anything tugging on it. You know you have a fish if it is quickly pulled under the water. This rig is one of the best for live bait fishing for trout in any waterway because it keeps the bait and hook away from the bottom where it might get snagged on rocks or limbs and logs. 

You can use a bobber, hook and split shot sinker combination of any size you want and I often use one that’s a bit larger when fishing with worms or larger bait along rivers where I know there are monster trout lurking. I’ve used this extremely effective trout fishing rig on the White River to catch monster brown trout throughout the summer and fall. 

You can rig your hook with anything like salmon eggs, crickets, worms, and trout dough-based bait like Berkley Powerbait. 

What Berkley Powerbait looks after opening
What Berkley Powerbait looks after opening

3. Drift Rig 

Another one of my favorite trout fishing rigs is the drift rig. I love this one for many reasons, but mainly because it has a natural appearance and seems to work better for catching bigger, more mature trout. The drift rig is so simple, that it can be done by anyone who doesn’t have the slightest clue about how to catch fish. 

Simply tie your hook on and bait the hook before casting it in and allowing the current to do the work for you. Trout, no matter what species, always stage at certain parts of a stream or river and wait for the current to wash certain prey or things downstream that they can take advantage of and make a meal out of. 

When fishing with a drift rig, I always use a light line, never anything heavier than a 6-pound test monofilament. It’s a perfect rig for using artificial soft plastic worms, real nightcrawlers, or other types of worms as they are viewed by trout like we might see a prime rib at our favorite restaurant. 

When using the drift rig, you’ll just let the current do the work for you. Once the bait drifts too far downstream, simply retrieve your bait and make another cast upstream. It’s best to be in a position where trout won’t be able to easily see you if you’re using the drift rig, or others mentioned on our list. 

4. Tandem Rig 

Tandem rigs are for anglers who want to maximize their chances of catching trout. I like this one because it allows me to use two of the same type of bait, or I can have one bait on the top hook and a different bait on the bottom. In this instance, I’ll use the tandem rig to test and see what trout are more inclined to bite on any given day. 

Depending on the terminology used by local anglers in certain regions, the tandem rig might also be referred to as the double rig. In most cases, the tandem rig consists of two jig heads, or baited hooks, soft plastic trout worms, or other types of lure placed at either end of a leader line. You should tie a figure-8 knot in the middle and connect your main line to this knot. 

You might also use a tandem rig tied on in a drop shot style in which you have a sinker at the bottom of your main line and two hooks or jigs spaced about 12 inches apart on the main line. If you use this method, tie your hooks on using a palomar knot as this will help them stand at the right parallel angle to the bottom instead of drooping downward. 

Anglers often use tandem rigs with spinning tackle, or with a fly fishing rod and reel. This is possible if you use two lightweight flies and connect them on the same line. You can do this by tying your lower fly to the hook of the upper fly, or by tying another leader line to your lower fly and connecting it to the eye of the upper fly. 

I like to use a wax worm or small nymph on the lower end when I’m fly fishing with a tandem rig. This is an advanced way of fishing for trout, but it is one that’s also highly effective for anglers who are willing to risk getting their lures tangled. With a good amount of practice, you’ll be able to catch lots of trout using the tandem rig. 

5. Nymph Rig 

The Nymph rig is very often underrated among fly anglers. It’s a way of fishing used very often by trout anglers in Asia and other parts of the world. It has recently grown in popularity among American and Canadian trout anglers. The nymph rig is used with a fly rod and reel, but it takes quite a bit of concentration and a firm grasp of how to tie the different parts to succeed. 

I typically use a 9x nylon leader line for my nymph rigs and attach this line to the fly line with a loop-to-loop style connector. I will take the last 18 inches of this leader and cut it before re-tying it using a blood knot to the leader line. It’s good to place a split shot on your leader line a few inches above this knot to prevent it from sliding down and getting tangled with your flies. 

The first fly you tie on should be known to be very effective in the stream you’re fishing. It’s important to match the hatch here and have a solid point fly as your lead since it’s likely the first one that fish will notice. This point fly needs to be the heavier of the two to allow you to have proper casting motion without getting the two flies tangled. 

Tie on your second fly and connect it to the hook of the point fly. I like to have around 12 inches of line between my point fly and rear fly, but some anglers might use an 18 or 24-inch split. This one is obviously an expert-level trout fishing rig, but it’s fun to throw and will often get the attention of bigger trout in your favorite fishing holes. 

holding a trout caught in montanna

Conclusion 

There are many other trout fishing rigs we could mention, but these 5 are what I consider to be the best of the best and can be used to successfully catch trout at almost any time of year in a variety of scenarios. 

I would recommend starting with the first one or two mentioned and trying to master them before moving on and trying the next three. If you have a solid understanding of how to use each of these 5 trout fishing rigs, you’ll be able to catch trout in any waterway where they are found. 


Photo of author

Donny Karr

Donny Karr is a Tournament Angler and writer whose work has been featured in magazines for nearly a decade. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He enjoys bass and crappie fishing in the lakes around the south-eastern United States, as well as trout fishing in the streams and rivers of the Appalachian mountains. He enjoys keeping up with the latest news and gear items in the fishing industry and is always looking forward to his next outdoor adventure. Donny has written for Georgia Outdoor News, The Outdoor Trip, Man Can Outdoors, Global Fishing Reports, and Bassmaster.