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How To Catch Trout In A Lake From Shore (Bank Fishing For Trout)

trout fishing from shore

Last spring, I took my son fishing at a nearby lake only about 5 miles from our house.  It’s a small lake and boats aren’t even allowed on it. So that means we got to fish from the shore. Not a problem.

I helped my son setup his trout rod with a powerbait rig and watched him cast it about 15 yards into the cold Oregon water.  The bait sunk and found the bottom of the lake. We were fishing.

Not more than 5 minutes later, the tip of the rod jerked. Then it jerked again. We pulled back on the fishing rod to set the hook. Fish on!

After a nice battle of man vs fish, we landed the monster trout. And it was a monster, at least for that small lake. That first rainbow we caught that day was 19 inches long and was an absolute beast. 


If you’re new to trout fishing, or are used to fishing for trout in streams, then not to worry, this is a really common question. And we’re going to dive into the different ways you can start catching trout from the bank. And believe me, lots of monster fish can still be caught from the bank. I’ve got plenty of more stories to prove it!

So don’t think you need to be out on the lake in a boat with a literal boat load of fancy flashers and trolling gear.  We don’t need those things. At least not today.

In this post, we’re going to learn how to catch trout in a lake from the shore.

How To Catch Trout In A Lake From Shore

Basically, there are three different ways you can catch trout from the shore. They are:

  1. Still Fishing With Bait
  2. Using Spinners and Lures
  3. Fly Fishing
fishing for trout from the bank

Still Fishing With Bait

Fishing for trout with bait is a tried and true method for catching fish from the bank.  This kind of fishing is a passive style of fishing, which means for the most part you cast out, sit and wait “passively” for a trout to find and take your bait. This style of fishing from the shore is the perfect fit for those of us who lead busy lives, as it forces us to actually sit and be still, all while enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

There are basically two different types of bait fishing that you can do from the shore. Those are bobber fishing or bottom fishing. Bobber fishing keeps your bait up off the bottom of the lake and keeps it towards the surface. While bottom fishing utilizes a weighted sinker to take and keep your bait at, or near the bottom of the lake. And there’s a time and place for each type of fishing.

Bobber Fishing For Trout

trout fishing tips

I love bobber fishing because it can be a very fun way to fish for trout. Bobber fishing doesn’t require a whole lot of effort on your part and patience is rewarded when your bobber begins to dance on the water’s surface, then quickly be pulled under the water’s surface by the force of a trout.  

Here’s how you can easily set up your fishing rod with a bobber fishing rig:

While a slip bobber rig requires slightly more work than a clip on bobber, it’s a much more versatile and effective rig for trout fishing, especially in deeper lakes. However, in shallower water, a clip on bobber can be just as effective and much easier to set up.

Slip Bobber Rig

bobber fishing for trout

To begin, take one of the bobber stops that usually come with most slip bobbers. If a bobber stop is not included, you can purchase a small pack of them for next to nothing.  Thread the bobber stop onto the end of your fishing line. This will serve as an adjustable point to stop your bobber. By sliding this up and down the line, you can fish your bait suspended in the water practically as deep as you want.

Next, after you’ve threaded the bobber stop, slide on your bobber.

After the bobber, tie on a swivel to stop it from sliding off your line. Now you have a bobber stop preventing the bobber from moving up the line, and a swivel preventing the bobber from sliding down the line.  

Next, tie on a 12-18” section of fishing leader, then attach your hook to the end of that leader.

The huge benefit of fishing with a slip bobber is when you cast, you’ll only be dealing with your bobber and this short section of line, despite actually fishing your bait much deeper to the point of your bobber stop.

Clip On Bobber

Eagle Claw 07030-001 Snap-On Round Floats, Red/White, Assorted Sizes (Per 12)

If you think you’d rather use a clip on bobber, you can definitely catch trout that way too. Although with a clip on bobber you’re much more limited to how deep you can go with your bait. Here’s how to set up your fishing rod with a clip on bobber.

Attaching a clip on bobber is actually quite easy.  All you have to do is decide how deep you want your bait to float under the surface, and attach your bobber to the fishing line at that point.

For example, if you want your bait to float 2 feet underneath the surface, then you would release enough fishing line from the spool so you can measure 2 feet up the line from the bait.

To attach the bobber, push the button on one side. This will expose a small hook on the opposite side. Simply attach this hook to the fishing line and release the button.

Now if you put your finger on the hook to prevent it from coming out again, and push on the button again, you’ll see another hook exposed on the button side of the bobber. Bring the fishing line around and attach it to that hook, the let go of the button.

Now the bobber should be attached to the fishing line on both sides of the bobber.

Bottom Fishing For Trout

fishing for brown trout from the bank

Bottom fishing is another exciting method to fish for trout form the shore, and happens to be one of my favorite.  Even though you don’t get to see a bobber plunge under the surface, what you do get to enjoy is the sudden movement of the rod tip.  

After long moments of nothing happening, you might notice the almost imperceptible twitching of the fishing rod tip. It’s generally just enough to grab your attention. Then, it happens again. Now it’s a game of timing in order to set the hook!

Sinking Bait Trout Fishing Rig

To rig a slip sinker, first slide the eye of a slip sinker on the end of your fishing line. Then tie a swivel to the end of the line to prevent losing the sinker. On the other end of the swivel, attach a 12-18” piece of fishing leader line and attach your hook. Ideally, your leader line will be a slightly lesser pound test than your main line, that way if your line breaks, it is only on the very end of your rig. When trout fishing from the shore, I’ll generally use a leader line that’s rated at 4lbs.

With this “slip sinker” setup, a trout will be able to take the bait without feeling resistance from the heavy sinker.

The key to catching trout from the shore with a bottom fishing rig is to keep the line tight! Trout can be subtle eaters who take bait with finesse. Sometimes they’ll simply hold the bait in the tip of their mouth while they get a feel for it. These “nibbles” can at times be almost imperceptible.

But with a tight line, and by paying close attention, you’ll be able to see those small bites.

Fishing For Trout With Lures

Panther Martin 2PMR-G Regulars

Trout are very attracted to large easy meals. A wounded minnow, small baitfish or swimming aquatic insect is exactly the kind of easy meal a trout is looking for. And that’s exactly what a trout lures replicate.  Trout lures are designed specifically to mimic the kind of natural bait a trout would normally eat.

How To Setup A Trout Lure

Fishing with lures can be as simple as tying the lure directly to the end of your line. But the preferred method of attaching a lure is to first tie on a snap swivel to the end of your line.  Then attach the lure to the snap swivel.

By doing this, not only will it prevent your fishing line from twisting, but it’ll also allow for a more realistic presentation to the trout. In addition, it just makes it so much easier to switch out different lures.

If you want to step it up another notch, especially if the lake your fishing in has very clear water, then you might want to think about attaching a leader line. All you have to do is tie on 18″ to 24″ of 4lb leader.

To do this, tie a small loop to one end of the leader and attach that to the snap swivel. Tie the other end of the leader to the lure.  Like I mentioned, the largest advantage of doing this is being able to use much lighter line than your main line, making it significantly less visible to the fish.

How To Fish Lures From The Shore

fishing for trout from the bank with lures

To fish lures from the shore, simply cast out as far as you can and retrieve. You want to be sure to not reel in too fast while at the same time not reel in too slow. With a little practice, you’ll find the exact retrieval speed needed for whichever type of lure you’re using.

Reeling in too fast will prevent the lure from dropping through the water column and will keep the lure way up next to the surface. Reeling in too fast also prevents the lure from presenting itself in a natural way.

Reeling in to slow has an opposite affect that’s two fold. First, a slow retrieval allows the lure to sink. If it sinks to far, it could get snagged on the bottom. If that happens, there’s a good chance you can say goodbye to that lure.  Second, reeling in too slow will prevent the lure from spinning as it should. Most lures need to travel through the water at a certain speed in order to create the spinning that’s needed for it to be effective.

Fly Fishing For Trout

fly fishing for trout in washington state

Fly fishing is a method that uses a specialized gear set to be able to cast the tiniest of insect replicators, ever so delicately, to awaiting trout. Fly-fishing uses a long flexible pole and heavy fishing line to propel fishing flies to trout.

Fly fishing is a great method for fishing for trout in lakes. However, the gear is a little more expensive and the learning curve a bit higher than the other methods of trout fishing I discussed. But with that said, the rewards that many people get from fly fishing are worth all of the extra work.

For a complete and in depth guide on how to get a jump start on learning how to fly fish for trout, take a look at my post, Beginners Guide To Fly Fishing.

Final Thoughts

Catching trout in a lake from shore is not only something you can do, but it’s something that can also produce some seriously nice sized fish. But reading about it is only half of what it takes to really learn how to do it.

The next step is to get out there and start practicing. Trout fishing is just like anything else…the more time you put into it, the better you become and the more you’ll get out of it.

All you have to do is go equipped with the information I shared with you above, and be patient. The fish will come, and the fish will bite. Good luck!

Written by Don

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure.

I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!

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