Lake trout require cold, well-oxygenated water to survive. In most cases, that means they live in lakes that are quite deep. A lake trout's natural habitat, thus, has a great impact on lure selection. Lake trout grow large and eat large prey. They are aggressive and often strike fast-moving lures.
Spoons are one of the most productive lake trout lures. These concave metal lures resemble regular eating spoons, without the handle. They wobble and flash enticingly, resembling wounded baitfish. There are two styles. Thick spoons can be cast for lakers. Thin spoons are used for trolling in conjunction with downriggers. Trolling with spoons accounts for the majority of the lake trout caught in the Great Lakes, but it is also a productive way to cover a lot of deep water on inland lakes. Standard spoon size for lake trout is 4 inches. Silver, gold and white best represent lake trout prey, such as herring, smelt, ciscoes and whitefish. However, charter captains are well known for their relentless efforts to find the current hot color. Sometimes bright, gaudy colors work well. Start with natural colors and experiment to find the day's hot color. Spoons used for lake trout include the Sutton Spoon, Eppinger Dardevle and the Northport Nailer.
Heavy lead jigs quickly plunge into the deep water lake trout inhabit. Jigs are the top choice of winter lake trout anglers who fish through the ice, but they are equally effective during the open-water season. Jigs range in weight from less than 1 ounce up to 6 ounces for use in deep water with heavy current. Jigs are used either with plastic tails for a lifelike feel and added attraction or with cut bait, such as herring or smelt. Tube bodies are popular, but grubs or other plastic bodies also work. Some anglers put their favorite scent in tube bodies for added attraction. Plastic tails or cut bait pieces should be about 3 to 4 inches long. White is an excellent color because it is most visible in deep water. Jigs often have a flattened shape that gives them a swimming motion in the water when the angler lifts and drops the jig. Lake trout jigs include the Northland Airplane, Beetles and Mickey Mouse jigs.
When water is cold in early spring and late fall, anglers catch lake trout near the surface. At these times, crankbaits catch fish. Crankbaits are minnow-shaped lures made of plastic or wood. A lip on the front of the lure catches water and makes the lure dive. Crankbaits can be trolled behind boats or cast. The deepest divers will dive to about 20 feet, but will not reach the deep areas lake trout frequent during mid-summer. Crankbaits measuring 4 to 6 inches are about right for lake trout. Natural silver or gold are good starting colors, but in water shallow enough for crankbait fishing, light penetrates fairly well. This means bright colors such as red, orange and yellow are still vibrant. Experiment with bright colors in addition to natural patterns. Examples of crankbaits include the Rapala CountDown, Bomber Long A and Cotton Cordell Wally Diver.