The Ultimate Inline spinner trout fishing guide

Below we attempt to answer all questions regarding catching trout on in-line spinners. In-line spinners are the favorite lures for many trout fishermen.

In my experience, inline spinners deserve their reputation as an excellent trout lure. The second trout I ever caught was on one, and even 20 years later they remain an essential part of my trout fishing kit. I catch more trout on inline spinners than any other type of lure.

I do not have exact records, but close to 90% of my first 100 trout were all caught on on in-line spinners. Even today, where I often fish jerkbaits in-line spinners still account for the majority of trout I catch spinning.

Quick Summary

This article has gotten quite long. So I decided to write a quick summary.

Best Inline Spinner for shallow streams?

When fishing very shallow water, where snags are likely. I like using a spinner which uses a colorado blade. The Colorado blade sinks slow, and creates a lot of uplift on the retrieve. A good option is the Mepps Marabou but they can be hard to find. My backup option is to use a French bladed spinners such as the Mepps Agilia.

To further reduce the chance of snags, I suggest changing to a single hook and consider using braid because it floats.

Best inline Spinner for big fast flowing rivers?

When fishing big, fast rivers. Where trout are likely to be holding close to the bottom or out in the current. I usually reach for a Blue Fox Vibrax or a Panther martin. The Blue Fox Vibrax is better in fast water, where you want to get the blade spinning instantly. The Panther Martin is better if you want the spinner to sink quickly to the bottom before starting the retrieve. Both the Blue Fox Vibrax and the Panther Martin create a strong vibration which must be easier for the trout to hear over the roar of the water.

Best inline spinner for trolling?

I prefer to use a spinner which use a Colorado blade because the design typically spins at a slower speed than any other. So I suggest using a Mepps Marabou.

If you can not find a Mepps Marabou then I will use a French blade spinner such as the Mepps Agilia.

Best inline spinner for wary trout in clear water?

When the trout are being tricky, and hard to catch. I usually reach for a Joe Fly. This is because the lure combines the trout attracting vibrations of a spin blade but the realism of fly or streamer. Now, Joe Flies can be tricky to cast. So usually best fished on smaller waters, but split shot can be used to increase casting distance.

Joe Flies are also becoming my inline spinner of choice for fishing spin creeks where trout mostly feed upon insect life.

6 Best Spinning lures for trout fishing

Great value trout spinners

Blue Fox Vibrax Review

Blue Fox is best known for their Vibrax in-line spinner. The Vibrax is quite a heavy spinners which causes it to swim deeper than most. The Blue Fox Vibrax is great for deeper pools or faster water where other lightweight spinners just dance across the surface.

The extra weight, also makes the Vibrax much easier to cast. I often fish one when I need to cast powerfully to punch into a gusty headwind. Likewise, it is a great in-line spinner for making longer casts when fishing lakes or larger rivers.

The Vibrax is not so great in shallow, skinny water. That is because it sinks too quickly and spends most of the time snagging between rocks. It can be kept off the bottom with a faster retrieve, but that in turn reduces the amount of time the lure remains in the strike zone.

The rotating brass gear design also helps to reduce line twist. Line twist can can be an annoying problem when fishing inline-spinners. Blue Fox Vibrax spinners all come equipped with VMC hooks. I have never had a VMC hook fail or let me down. For trout I rate VMC hooks as good as any on the market. There is no need to worry about cheap hooks bending or straightening out when fighting the trout of a lifetime.

Blue Fox is owned by Rapala, so the Vibrax can be brought in most countries where trout fishing occurs.. In the United States, Blue Fox Spinners are most popular on the West Coast. Partly, because of the deeper swifter rivers they fish there. Blue Fox spinners also have a strong following in Canada, Northern Europe and New Zealand.

The best way to save some money when buying Blue Fox spinners is to purchase a combination pack such as the Super Vibrax Tri-pack. They retail for around $9.50, or $3.15 each. Each pack contains three 1/8 oz spinners.

Another great value pack is the Blue Fox Flash series kit. This pack comes with five Blue Fox spinners retails for around $12.98. Which is $2.60 per spinner, making them great value for money. These holographic spinners by design run at a depth of five feet. The extra bling makes them an excellent choice for targeting stillwater rainbow trout.

Dozen of the best Panther Martin spinners
Great value Spinner pack

Panther Martin Review

The most distinctive feature of the classic Panther Martin Spinner is the larger than average blade, which starts spinning at any retrieve speed.

The large blade has a strong vibration which I can easily feel through my rod. They really buzz through the water. The larger blades also means more flash, which in theory should increase the chance of attracting trout.

Panther Martins are not shy lures. They are big and loud and they want the trout to know they are there. If the trout are a being a bit stubborn, dragging a Panther Martin past its mouth often results in a strike out of pure aggression. The large in-line blade makes it one of the best spinner lures for trout fishing.

Panther Martins are assembled with a genuine in-line blade. The main characteristic of an inline blade is that they do not typically spin on the drop. But, they spin into life the moment forward momentum begins. By not spinning during the drop, Panther Martins sink faster than other spinners of the same mass. This makes them a great choice for fishing deep pocket water, where you need the spinner to sink quickly before springing into life.

The large blade also makes the panther martin quite heavy making it relatively east to cast. A bit like the Blue Fox Vibrax, the panther martin is better suited for bigger water.

Panther Martin has a long history of making lures. They were founded in Italy over 63 years ago, and they claim to be the inventor of the original inline spinner (Mepps also makes the same claim for their Aglia). Today, Panther Martins are popular lures throughout Europe and in the American Northeast, many trout from Virginia to Maine have fallen victim to them over the years.

Panther Martin assembles most of their Spinners in the United States, although the original Italian manufactured ones maintain a cultlike following. Panther Martin sells a variety of combination packs, making them among the cheapest of brand name spinner manufacturers.

One of the cheapest ways to buy Panther Martin spinners suitable for trout fishing is their Deadly dozen box. That way you get a dozen American made lures for just over $3 each.

I spent a long time studying their various packs, trying to find one with what I feel is my favourite combination of colours. Many were close, but the Best of the Best 3 Pack comes closest to what I feel works the best across a wide range of fishing conditions. The pack basically covers all the bases, with a silver and red spinning to provoke strikes, a gold and dark lure for cloudy conditions, and finally a more natural pattern for wary trout. At around $3.60 per spinner, it is still a good saving.

The Mepps Aglia pocket packs are good value when buying Mepps spinners.

Mepps Aglia Review

I am a fan of the classic Aglia spinner. Many anglers consider Mepps to be the best manufacturer of inline spinners. While the blades spin easily, they are not quite as loud as a panther martin or blue fox making the Aglia a better choice when the trout are a bit timid.

Mepps Aglia spinners feature a French blade. This design of blade typically spins best at a moderate retrieve, and it creates a lot of upwards lift. These two factors combine makes the Mepps Aglia a great choice for shallow water. Excellent for streams, creeks and skinny ripples.

They are constructed quite densely. So despite their more petite portions they are still decent to cast. If you want more casting distance, then it is worth trying the Aglia Long Cast. Designed with increase weight and a more aerodynamic which allows for longer casts.

Based on my own fishing experience, I have found the Mepps Aglia to be the most durable of all the major brands. It is very rare to experience a bent wire.

I can still remember my first Mepp in-line spinner. It was a size #1 black fury which I found hanging from a willow branch across a small pool I was fishing. Being a poor student, I did not hesitate to swim across and retrieve it. Compared with the cheap spinners and lures I was using, it was a thing of beauty. I landed many good brown trout on it. Unlike the cheap lures I was using, it never corroded and I could always retrieve it.

Invented in 1938 France, the Aglia sold in the millions. The Mepps Aglia was the original in-line spinner. Today they are made in the United States and France. They assemble them from high quality components which are coated in a durable and chip resistant finish. The well deserved reputation justifies the price premium. When Mepps Aglia is held beside a cheaper imitation, there is an obvious difference in quality. The Meps Aglia simply feels more premium.

Another highly rated Spinner from the Mepps stable is the Thunder Bug, the unique design better mimics larger insects such as its namesake. The Thunder bug is a petite lure, so ideal for trout fishing in small streams.

Here I covered only a handful of variations, but Mepps spinners are suitable for any fishing style. For better value, I suggest purchasing a combo pack which comes with several of the more popular models. One of the best value for money packs is the Mepps Aglia Plain Trout Fishing Lure Pocket Pack. Costing $4.30 per spinner.

Are Joe flies any good?

Excellent hybrid between a spinner and a fly- Joe fly

If you can not decide between a spinner or a streamer then Joe Flies might just be the answer. A Joe Fly spinner is simply a small wet fly or streamer which trails behind a rotating metal blade. This combination might just be the best of both styles.

The theory goes that the rotating blade gets the attention of the trout, and the natural looking fly trailing behind triggers them to strike. Many fishermen swear by them and they are the only lure which they fish. Joe Flies have been a popular lure since 1961. For any brand to survive this long they must do something right.

I have little personal experience with the brand myself. I only started to fish to write this review, so still have quite a bit to learn to get the best out of them. I had to rely quite heavily on feedback I receive from other anglers to finish this review.

Joe Flies are extremely lightweight, and are less aerodynamic than most in-line spinners. There is no hiding the fact, they are difficult to cast any reasonable distance. For this reason, many fishermen only use them when fishing small streams and ponds where long casts are less important.

The standard Joe Flies has no additional weight relying mostly on the blade for weight. Although the Super Striker Series feature a brass body which allows them to weigh up to 1/4oz. They are the best choice when fishing bigger water.

One popular method to fish them is to cast down current then retrieve slowly with the rod tip close to the surface. This slow retrieve gives plenty of time for hungry trout to strike at the trailing fly. The current flowing pass the lure helps give its action, a surprisingly effective design when a slow retrieve is required.

The lightweight, makes it an ideal lure for fishing shallows and over gravel beds. Where trout are feeding only a few inches below the surface. I have personally added a pack to my collection and plan to fish them more over the coming seasons.

Like for all in-line Spinners, the best value comes from buying multipacks such as the Hot4trout. I suggest heading to the Joe Flies website to check out their selection.

Worden’s Original Rooster Tail

The wodens Rooster Tail is best known for its pulsating hackle feathers, but in my opinion the aspect which really sets them apart is not the Rooster Tail, but the long, slender willow blade.

All major spinner companies have dressed lures, for example Mepps and Panther Martin use bucktail while Blue Fox dresses some of their hooks with calf tail. All companies seem to use Flash-A-Bou or similar synthetic fibres. So, the hackle tail feathers does not really set the Rooster Tail apart from the competition.

Now, the willow blade really does make a difference, it is much longer than wide. That means when retrieved close to structure or the bottom, the blade nearly always hits before the hook flicking the hook away. This can greatly reduce the number of snags.

For this reason, when I want to fish an inline spinner around the submerged branches of a drowned tree, a Rooster Tail is my first choice. Now, it is not perfect and the blade does need to be spinning for any chance of it bouncing off snags.

This rooster tail lure also sinks rather quickly, so if you want to fish deep fast they are a good option but not my first choice. I rather use a panther martin or blue fox and I will explain why.

While the long blade can assist in deflecting the rooster tail away from logs, it is also rather reluctant to spin. It requires can a fast acceleration to get the blade going. For this reason, the rooster tail is not a good inline spinner for retrieving slow making it less effective at catching trout than other brands.

If a reluctant blade was not bad enough, I find the wire shaft bends easy, certainly more fragile than the likes of Blue Fox and Mepps. It is possible, to attempt to straighten the wire. It is unlikely to do it perfectly so which further hampers the ability of the blade to spin.

I might have sounded a bit harsh, and I know the Rooster Tail is a favorite among many trout anglers. It certainly does catch trout, I just feel other inline spinners do it better.

Are cheap Chinese spinners any good?

Weaker than water – This spinner broke on the 5th cast

Chinese made spinners have saturated the market over the last couple of decades. At first glance these spinners look the part, with a wide selection of colours and blade variations. Unfortunately, these spinners are typically poor quality. They cut too many corners, including the use of poor quality metal. The wire which holds the spinner together is often thin and soft. The blades are rust prone and only spin when they feel like it. With hooks so soft and brittle, that I expect them to bend or snap even on a modest fish.

But the low price is attractive, it is possible to buy large numbers of generic spinners for the price of a single name brand product. I personally struggle to trust them to hold a big trout, but at the same time I do not advise against trying them. They can catch fish, I even use them myself when fishing in overgrown streams or around foul ground where I expect to lose gear. Feels much better losing a 50c spinner compared with a $7 one. One piece of advice is to replace the supplied hook with a better quality one. For value I recommend the Mustad 3351 classic treble hook.

Which brand of in-line spinners is most popular?

Don’t just take my word for it. I surveyed one of the largest online fishing communities for their favorite trout lure. Out of 51 responses, 64% preferred in-line spinners. Second place went to Spoons (25% support) and third to Jerkbaits (7.5%). Most respondents did fish with all styles of lures.

I surveyed a large online fishing community for their favorite trout lures. The chart below is the preferred brands for users of in-line spinners. To my surprise Panther Martin was a clear winner, with Rooster Tails sneaking into second. There was a third place draw between Mepps, Joe Flies and Blue Fox. I was expecting a much stronger showing from Mepps. Out of all lures, and not just in-line spinners Kastmaster spoon was second equal with 10 backers.

Later in this review I have a comprehensive write up on Panther Martins, Mepps and Blue Fox in-line spinners which are models I rate highly. I am personally not a fan of dressed hooks like on the Rooster Tails so I have not tried their spinners. I do intend to start fishing Roosters Tails so I can include them in this guide.

Panther Martin16
Rooster Tails10
Joes Flies8
Blue Fox8
Thomas Spinner1

Selecting the right in-line spinner for trout fishing

Selecting the best performing trout in-line spinner for your local fishing spot can be a challenge. There are hundreds of models, variations, and colorful combinations. Despite similar appearances, they are not created equal. They can vary regarding the quality of design and the materials used.

No one trout fishing hole is identical. Every stream, river, backwater or lake has its own characteristics. Trout all have their own feeding habits and preferences. To match a spinner to the fish is paramount for long-term success. In this article, I will cover several proven and time-tested spinners. They will help maximize your chances in all varying types of water

Best Colors and Patterns for inline spinners

Selection of in-line spinners

Many factors determine which color a trout is most likely to strike. Water clarity, weather, temperature, and swiftness of water can all influence the trouts feeding preference.

Brown, Rainbow and Brook char also have varying feeding habits and different responses to lures. One day trout might smash anything which moves, the next they might turn a blind eye on every lure which swims by. If you see a trout is feeding, you can catch it by putting the right ‘food’ in front of them.

To maximise success when spin fishing, it is important to carry a diverse spinner selection with you. Make sure they are in opposing and contrasting colors and natural looking patterns.

Never be afraid to experiment with different lures. What works today might not work tomorrow or vice vera. It is impossible to know what motivates trout to strike, likely a combination of hunger or anger. There are ways to better your odds. The spinner’s color helps, but many other factors influence whether a trout strikes. One trick is to bring a black felt pen, to change or to touch up the lures pattern while fishing. 

Key points

  • Water Clarity is important, trout are more shy when the water is clear. So using a dull or natural pattern often increases chance of success when the fish are wary. When fishing dirty, discoloured, or turbulent water, bright colors stand out against the murk and might be just the ticket.
  • In fly-fishing there is a saying to “match the hatch”. Basically make your fly match what the trout feeding upon, or at least the prey which is in the river. It is no different for spin fishing. If you can see small fish or large insects, try to match your spinner colours to best represent them.
  • The Weather plays an important role. When the sun is bright, use a golden spinner. While on a dull overcast day, a silver spinner better matches the clouds.
  • Some days multi-color spinners can be the answer. Orange/Gold, Black/Red, Silver/Blue, Bronze/black have all brought me and others a lot of success.

Which colour spinners work best for different types of trout?

Brown Trout

Fishermen often consider Brown trout to have a cunning and wary reputation. The larger they get the more wary and territorial they become. Brown trout respond well to more natural and neutral colors. When fishing in fast and discoloured waters bright and colourful spinners are worth using. I prefer orange/black and blue/silver combinations. During the day bright shiny spinners catch a lot of sea run brown trout. Especially when they have been feeding on shoaling baitfish. For night fishing dark and bold lures are popular, alternatively a glow in the dark lure such as the Blue Fox Classic Vibrax Glow.

Rainbow Trout

Widely known to be feisty, aggressive, and less curious than brown trout. Rainbow trout despite being hard fighters, are normally easier to catch. Brighter lures work better, unless the water is super clear then natural palettes can be more productive. Rainbow trout are not afraid of a little flash. Some of the best trout spinners to use to catch rainbow trout include rooster tails and other decorations.

Brook Trout

Brook Trout are the smallest of the three species and respond best to more natural colours and smaller sizes. Brooks also have a fondness to go after the colour white. So always carry a few small white spinners which targeting brooks.

Spinners vs spoons vs Jerkbaits

In-line Spinners or Spoons for trout?

Spinners and spoons both work by generating flash and vibration during the retrieve. In-line spinners simply does it better. The rotating blade sends flashes in all directions. Well-designed spinners rotate even at low retrieve speeds. .

Spoons, can be tricky lures to fish. They certainly make less flash and vibration on a straight retrieve, but they can really excel in certain circumstances, for example spoons can be bounced along the bottom to target deep holding fish.

For more information, check my guide on how and when to fish spoons.

In-line spinners or Jerkbaits for trout?

Many fishermen ask are In-line spinners or Rapalas better for trout fishing?

Both have some fundamental differences. Spinners are all so effective thanks to the flashes and vibrations. While Jerkbaits attempt to replicate the appearance and motion of an escaping baitfish. Spinners can cause trout to strike without thinking, the flash and vibration can trigger trout to attack without them even knowing what they are after. They are less effective on wary wild trout, especially when they have time to check out and inspect the prey. That is where Jerkbaits really shine. Their fishlike appearance can provoke the feeding urge in otherwise suspicious trout.

In-Line spinners are also denser and more compact. That makes them easier to cast, and quicker to sink. Great for fishing deep ripples where even a sinking Jerkbait might be too slow to reach the bottom. Compared with Jerkbaits they sink like a rock, ideal for fast flowing guts and swift currents. A similar size sinking Rapala would float downstream while a little Mepps agilia is bouncing off the bottom. When fished against the current, even the smallest of blades start to spin. No need for a fast rapid retrieve meaning the in-line spends more time in the strike zone.

What type of blade for spinner

Apparently there is at least 17 different blade designs used on spinners, and, below I will briefly discuss the main four types of blades.

Inline Blade: Inline Spinners, commonly found on Panther Martins sink quickly due to the blade not spinning on the drop. They run relatively deep. They are a good spinner for fishing deep water and in current.

French Blade: These blades rotate at a moderate speed and are also very popular on trout spinners. Many Mepp spinners use a French blade. They run at a medium depth, and the blade generates more left than the inline blade. They are a popular choice for slow moving water.

Colorado blade: These blades start to rotate at a very slow speed. Close to 0.6mph. This makes them an ideal blade to use for trolling. The round shape creates a lot of water resistance which slows the lures fall through the water. They are a good option for very shallow water. I assemble my own, but commercially you can find examples of Colorado blades on a Mepps Marabou

Willow Leaf Blade. They rotate quickly, but at higher speeds. They are not commonly used for trout fishing. Popular for fast retrieves where instant inertia is required. They also create minimal left making them good for fishing in deep water. Examples of this blade can be found on the Mepps Aglia Long.

How To Catch Trout With a Spinner?

Spinners or spin blades are lures that have a blade which spins during the retrieve. The spinning motion sends an array of vibrations and colourful flashes through the water to catch the attention of any nearby trout. The flash and vibration together can really provoke a trout into striking.

Traditional spinners, like most metal lures, do not attempt to replicate the appearance of a trout’s prey. Rather, the vibrations help replicate the shock waves and movements of a small fish swimming.

Many books have been written on the feeding habits of trout. I am going to cover the key points. Trout often hold on the current’s edge, and grab any food as it drifts pass.

Sometimes trout hold tight against the shoreline, or further out near a rock in the current. Trout more often hold just in front of a rock or several feet behind. Gravel bars, and submerge logs work similarly.

With experience you will learn the preferred holding places in your local river.

Lakes and Ponds.

I am personally not a big fan of spinners in lakes or still water. Wary trout have sufficient time to check out the spinner before deciding whether to strike or not.

That just means you need to fish, think and plan better compared with fishing faster flowing rivers.

To maximise chance of success, try to identify structure and features on the lake floor. The main areas where trout feed are along drop-offs, over weed beds and around stream inlets and river deltas.

When spin fishing deep still water cast out and let the spinner sink to the bottom before retrieving. During the retrieve vary the speed and action, that can be done by jerking and twitching the rod. If fishing deep is not productive, then try varying the depth of your retrieve.

During hot summer weather, trout often seek cooler and more oxygenated water. This is often near river mouths and spring eruption zones. Other times they head into the deeper part of the lake, trying to find refuge from the warmer water near the surface.

If you are not having much success, I suggest changing to a minnow or Jerkbait style lure instead.

Streams and Rivers

Swift streams and rivers are one of my favourite places to fish spinning lures. It is quite a fast and action pack style of trout fishing. It is generally best to cast upstream pass where you expect the trout to be feeding, then pause for a second to give the spinner a chance to sink then quickly retrieve it, making sure there is no slack. If the spinner skips along the surface, you are winding too fast. Slow down your retrieve or consider switching to a heavier lure. Sometimes, when a trout it is in hot pursuit, it is worth pausing for a moment. That gives the trout the opportunity to strike.

What size in-line spinner to fish?

Several factors go into selecting the optimal weight of spinner to fish. The best general purpose weight to fish is 1/16oz. I feel it is a suitable compromise which successfully catches fish under most conditions.

In general, the smaller and warier the trout are the smaller the lure should be. A cunning old trophy trout is often more likely to snatch a tiny 1/32oz spinner compared with a much larger lure. Trout do not get large by taking risks, and smaller lures better represent the aquatic life they predominately feed upon. Matching the hatch is matching the size of food currently available. More often than not, it is small.

There are situations when large 1/8oz in-line spinners are worth fishing. These large spinners are heavier, which makes them easier to cast long distances. Making it possible to cover a lot more water. They are a good choice for big rivers and deep lakes where you need to cover a lot of water to find the fish. 1/8oz spinners sink faster, making them a good option for fishing fast water.

Best line weight to use with in-line spinners

Using too heavy of fishing line can dull down the action and vibration of in-line spinners. The best and most consistent action to catch more trout, the in-line must flutter through the water.

To achieve this, I recommend fishing monofilament no heavier than 6lb, and if predominately fishing tiny 1/32oz lures drop further to 4lb.

Superlines, such as Berkley fireline is a great alternative. This woven line never suffers from twists, which is a common problem when fishing in-line spinners on monofilament.

My favorite sizes of spinners for trout are 1/32-ounce for the most finicky fish, 1/16-ounce for most situations and 1/8-ounce for fishing in fast current.

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