What good is bait, if you do not know how to properly use it, which bait to use in which situations, and how to set up a line so that the bait entices the rainbow trout to strike at it. Once the bait is set, skill and a lifetime of learning take over, as landing the rainbow trout is as hard as making it take the bait Then the campfire grill is the next destination for fish and fisherman alike! The best bait to catch rainbow trout is, inevitably, what the rainbow trout eat in the wild, and what they eat in specific to the area in which you are fishing. Rainbow trout love jumping during the hours of sunset and sunrise to catch flies buzzing over top of the water, and that is why fly fishermen are prevalent at sunrise and sunset when looking for rainbow trout.
Rainbow trout will also feed savagely on real night crawler and red worms, as long as they are presented to the trout in a realistic, natural way; the worm must appear to be swimming in the water, preferably in a weakened or injured nature. Trout are a smarter species of fish than most sport fish, and will not bite at just anything that you present to them, like perch, sunfish and rock bass. You can have a worm, all bunched-up on a treble hook sitting right in front of a rainbow trout's eyes, and they will not take the bait, so to speak.
Rainbow trout require a different approach depending upon the time of year, water conditions (including clarity, whether it is a lake, river or creek, the bottom being composed of rock, mud or hard packed sand), the amount of vegetation in the water, the current, just past and oncoming weather conditions (including cloud cover, direct sunlight, heavy or light rain, extreme winds, etc.), and the topography of the water body. An older rainbow trout will be a bit more choosey than a younger, hungrier rainbow trout with regards to what bait may attack or eat.
Aggravating a trout into attacking your bait is one definite approach that works well, as long as the trout is defending the place where the eggs have been spawned, or where it has been eating for the past few days, building up strength for the next leg of it's journey. Running your lure across where the fish is staying put should eventually lead to an aggressive territorial attack on your bait. Patience is a virtue in rainbow trout fishing. Small mouse lures (usually presented as dry flies which skirt the surface of the water) will aggrevate large rainbow's into aggressive strikes when they are hungry, orprotecting their current home.
Generally speaking, rainbow trout like chartreuse, or rainbow trout coloured lures, as well as worms, egg sacks, corn, grubs, crayfish and minnows. There are different baits to use for different situations. I will try to give you the proven methods that I have found to be productive while honing my hobby for over 35 years of trout fishing in Northern Quebec's watersheds, Lake Ontario and her tributaries, the Miramichi in New Brunswick, and many other rainbow and speckled trout hotbeds throughout Canada. The methods hold true no matter where you are fishing (geographically speaking).
If you are trolling for rainbow trout in a lake, use a silver or chartreuse spoon, or lures that mimic an injured rainbow trout minnow. Troll at different depths, starting from near the bottom, until you find the depth that the trout are schooling in, then concentrate your trolling at that depth. If the trout are at a depth of more than 60 feet, which is normal, then the colour of the lure becomes less as important as the presentation. At that depth, you must be trolling at the right speed, so that the lure is not being "dragged" through the water, but appears to be swimming normally, albeit for an injured minnow. Silver spoons can be attached about 6 to 12 feet above the bait on the line to attract the fish to the bait. Leaders should be used, as rainbow trout can be quite voracious.
If you are fishing for rainbow trout in a river, creek or stream, look for spots that the trout normally like to hang around at. This includes sharp bends, long pools, undercut shore banks, wherever large obstructions like boulders or felled trees are in the deeper parts of the water, at the end of a rapid, or log jams. Present the rainbow trout with a red or orange egg sack on a double-ought hook, with a weight holding steady on the bottom of the creek bed, and the egg sack floating a couple of inches above the bottom. Try to use no more than 4 ounce line, as they will notice the heavier line in a clear creek.
If you are fishing in a large river, using lures is usually your best bet. Rapala has many rainbow trout lures, mostly in the rainbow trout colour scheme or chartreuse. It is always best to have at least one from each colour group, as if one colour is not working, replace it with another, and keep trying until you find the colour that they are attacking. Factors that control this response in rainbow trout include cloud cover, recent rainfall, time of day, depth and water clarity as well as vegetation and water speed. The fish are constantly on the move in most bigger rivers, so sitting by the shoreline and casting out, reeling back in slowly usually brings the rainbows to your frying pan.
If you are fishing for rainbow trout in a creek, well, I am just jealous! Using worms in a creek (or stream, etc.), a red worm or a night crawler presented in a swimming action (like a snake in the grass) works best. Place a weight that will hold steady to the bottom, maybe allowing a slight drag along the bottom with the current, and with the bait about 4 to 6 inches from the weight. The length is determined by the speed of the water; the faster the water, the shorter the length. You want the bait to appear to be injured and swimming near the bottom of the creek, against the current.
You can use spinner bait ahead of the worm, like the Bob-It leaders, and try different colours (read factors' in previous paragraph) if they are not working. If you are using egg sacks, try having them lay on the creek bed, and if that is not working, use floaters to have them rise up about 2 to 4 inches from the creek's bed, depending on the depth of the water. Use the same method for kernels of corn, grubs (baited onto jig heads) and minnows (baited onto minnow hooks).
Of course, you are wearing a good pair of polarized sunglasses, so you can actually see the fish in the water, and will not be wasting time fishing where there are no fish! But, always try any good looking spots before physically approaching them, as rainbow trout are prone to school in deep pools and undercut shorelines with either faster currents or long, deep pools running under the cover of the extended shoreline overhang. If they see you on the shoreline, they will be spooked and swim off in a hurry to another location, not willing to strike at bait for at least a couple of hours.
When you do get a bite, pull back on the third nibble, as trout are prone to take a few nibbles before committing to an attack, but not too hard, just enough to set the hook on the trout. Try to keep the line taught at all times. When you become more accomplished, you can start trying to make the rainbow trout jump out of the water in a graceful, aggressive leap. Pull the rod up, and away from water, after a lapse in the battle, at least a minute or so after setting the hook, as long as the fish is in a deep pool of faster running water than most of the creek. Keep the rod as high as possible, and as long as the line is taught, then the trout will more than likely oblige.