Comprehensive In-line spinner trout fishing guide

Comprehensive In-line spinner trout fishing guide

Below we attempt to answer all questions regarding fishing in-line spinners for trout. In-line spinners are the favorite lures for many trout fishermen. In my experience, inline spinners well deserve their reputation. The second trout I ever caught was on one (My first was on a spoon), and even 20 years later they remain an essential part of my trout fishing kit. I do not have exact records, but close to 90% of my first 100 trout landed caught on in-line spinners. Even today, where I often fish jerkbaits in-line spinners still account for the majority of trout I catch spinning.

Don’t just take my word for it. I survey one of the largest online fishing communities for their favorite trout lure. Out of the 80 responses, 64% preferred in-line spinners. Second place went to Spoons (25% support) and third to Jerkbaits (7.5%). Many respondents did fish with multiple styles of lures.

Survey results for favorite brand of in-line spinners.

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 but intend to fish them more to update this guide.

Panther Martin16
Rooster Tails10
Mepps8
Joes Flies8
Blue Fox8
Thomas Spinner1

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. .

Contrast against spoons, which except for Colorado’s require a fast action pack retrieve to maximize the deadly fish like motion. So when fishing slow and steady, choice a spinner over a spoon.

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.

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 to select. 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

Color and Pattern

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. 

  • 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.

Best Spinning lures for trout fishing

Great value trout spinners

Blue Fox Vibrax

Blue Fox is best known for its Vibrax in-line spinner. The Vibrax swims 2-6 feet deep, which is great for deeper pools or faster water where many spinners just dance across the surface. The design helps to reduce line twist, which can be an annoying problem when using many spinners. Blue Fox supplies all Vibrax spinners with VMC hooks. I have never had a VMC hook fail or let me down. For trout I rate them 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.

The Vibrax is quite a heavy spinner for its size. I often use them for more powerful casts to punch into a gusty headwind. The extra weight makes the Vibrax a good in-line spinner to use on lakes or larger rivers where casting distance can be more crucial.

Blue Fox is owned by Rapala, so has worldwide distribution. In the united states, Blue Fox Spinners are most popular on the West Coast. The spinners also have a strong following in Canada, Northern Europe and New Zealand.

The best value for money is by purchasing 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 make them an excellent choice for targeting stillwater rainbow trout.


Dozen of the best Panther Martin spinners
Great value Spinner pack

Panther Martin

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. The larger blades also means more flash, which can increase the chance of attracting trout.

Panther Martin started manufacturing Spinners 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

I am a fan of the classic Aglia spinner. It is heavier than most, which allows longer casts or a deeper run. 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.

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 cheap chinese spinners any good?

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. Rust prone blades that only spin when they feel like it. With hooks so soft and brittle, that I expect them to bend or snap on even 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.


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.

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

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. 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, weed banks, stream inlets and river fans. 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.

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 the trout are tight against the edge, or further out behind a rock, gravel bar or submerged log. With experience you will learn the preferred holding places in your local river.

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.

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.

Light lines help in-line spinners flutter

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.