Trolling for Rainbow Trout Using a Dodger

Trolling for Rainbow Trout Super Tip

3/0 and 4/0 trout dodgers
Using a 3/0 or 4/0 dodger will greatly increase the number of bites you get when trolling for trout!

What one piece of overlooked tackle can put more Rainbow Trout in your boat on your next fishing trip?  A simple 3/0 or 4/0 dodger of course!

After many years of trolling around small lakes chasing planted Rainbow Trout, the one thing I have found time and time again is that adding a dodger to my line consistently had increased the number of bites I have gotten.

What the hell is a dodger?

Dodgers, flashers and rotators are all in-line attractors that add motion, flash and vibration to your presentation when trolling.  The difference between a flasher and a dodger is that the  dodger imparts an erratic side to side motion, while a flasher completely rotates in the water.

It is this surging, erratic darting motion that we are looking for.  Consider that for the most part you are probably trolling at an even speed the whole time you are on the water, and even doing S turns to mix things up, your lure is still mostly just running along in a straight line at a constant speed when you go by a fish.

Think of dodgers as a UFO for fish!

If you are standing outside at night and see a light slowly moving across the sky in a straight line, at a constant speed, with the same brightness the whole time, you probably will ignore it.  Now, if think what would happen if that same light was jiggling its way across the sky, speeding up and slowing down bouncing around erratically.  Think you would pay attention?  Think you would want to find out what that was?

Fish are the same way.  A fishing lure moving steadily through their world doesn’t get anywhere near as much attention as one that bouncing and moving.  Make your lures look like a UFO to fish!

Trolling speed with a dodger.

In general when you are trolling for Trout you want to go as slow as you can and get motion out of your lures.  This is true when using a dodger as well.  If you are trolling too fast your dodger will start rotating which will twist up your line and you will lose the ideal motion on your lure.

To test out your speed, put your rig in the water next to the boat.  The dodger should kick from side to side in the water without turning over at trolling speed, and when a dodger is let out well behind the boat it should produce a distinct, two beat rhythm, or “thump-thump” in your rod tip.

Dodger leader length and weight.

The rule of thumb is that if your bait has no action of its own then you only want it 2-3 times your flashers length.  If you are using something with its own action, move it farther back to about 4 times your dodgers length.  The leader material you use is important as well.  With bait that has no action, you want to use a heavier leader such as a 10# to 12# test fluorocarbon.  With active lures, I will stay with a softer, lighter line so as not to impede its action.

What lures to use with a dodger.

When you are dragging a 3/0 or 4/0 dodger, you can use almost any normal Trout lure.  In general I like to run any of the following behind my dodgers depending on the color of the water, conditions and what the fish are responding to.

  • Jointed Fire Tiger pattern Rapala
  • Wedding ring
  • Plain old worm and hook
  • Spoons of various colors and sizes
  • KwikFish of various colors
  • Streamer or Muddler  fly patterns

The key element is to keep working with different lures and color until you find the one that works.  On a recent trip to Bosworth lake with the Reverend we tried everything, including my favorite Fire Tiger Rapala with no success.  The planter Rainbow Trout were only wanting gold and once we found that out, we were ‘golden’ to insert a bad pun.  I trolled a small gold spoon and got bites.  The Reverend got the one gold Kwikfish that I had and they would not leave it alone!

What color of dodger should I use when fishing for Rainbow Trout?

Call me lazy, but I generally stick with chrome, dimpled chrome and a 50/50 chrome brass dodger.  Depending on what time of day, your water clarity and your fish, you may want to do otherwise.  If your flasher is too bright and in their face, it may scare them away.  Think of that UFO now hovering over your house blinding you.

You may also want to consider adding a couple bright or UV dodgers for fishing later in the day, deeper down or just to try when they won’t bite on anything!

How deep should I be fishing my dodger?

How deep you should be running your dodger is a BIG question.  Right now we are chasing freshly planted Rainbow Trout, so I am fishing right on top where they are feeding.  Later in the year they will get smart and move down and get out of the striking range of predators and so we will have to fish deeper.

If you are on a big lake, then you are most likely going to be moving to a downrigger setup and be targeting fish on drop-offs structure and thermoclines.

So the answer to the question of ‘how deep’ really is dependent on your lake, time of year and what Trout you are chasing.

Closing thoughts on fishing for Rainbow Trout with dodgers.

If there is anything to take away from this, it is to not just drag your lures through the water in a boring straight line.  Fish don’t love that.  Give them some flash, give them some thump, get their attention.  A couple 3/0 or 4/0 dodgers are not real expensive and will greatly improve all your trout fishing trips!

2 thoughts on “Trolling for Rainbow Trout Using a Dodger”

  1. I appreciate your insight regarding fishing techniques but what I find troubling is that very few commentators will actually follow there knowledge from beginning to end i.e. when fishing for trout you say to try kwikfish but fail to say what size. Does the size of kwikfish determine the size of fish that you’re after? If so, please indicate and I’ll adjust accordingly. Its much like when I ask my wife how long she’s going to be gone and she replies “not long”, That doesn’t tell me anything. Same thing with the size of dodgers Does a 3/0 determine the size of fish that you’re after or is it the combination of several factors that is needed to get the end result versus a 4/0 i.e. or is for speed?

    1. Size will make a difference depending on what you are fishing for. If you are fishing for Trout, you can have some pretty big fish eat a very small lure. My habit is to start fairly small and adjust as needed. On small lakes for trout under 20″ or so, I would stick with the 005, 006, 007 set. Once Trout get over ~20″ they start hunting other fish as opposed to bugs and you may need to change up size again.
      Talking about flasher size, the difference between the two is how much action you want, what you are trolling, and how much flash you want/need. In general I like a smaller flasher for smaller lake trout. Bigger flashers are just harder to troll and get in the way of fighting the fish. Again though, if you are targeting bigger fish with bigger lures, you will want to up-size the flasher.
      Trolling speed is a hard one. I start out slow, just fast enough to get the lure and flasher going. If that doesn’t work, I speed up until I am getting hits. Sometimes they just like a lure that is trucking along. Big thing is lure action. Drag a KwikFish too fast and it loses the proper action.

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