Fishing Guide

Spinning for trout

Freshwater fishing

Black Magic Pro Team member Blair Whiting is an experienced fresh and saltwater angler, and in this article, he shares his tips, tricks and insights into spinning for trout.

Over 11 years ago, I started fishing when my Dad taught me how to spin for trout on the Ngaruroro river which is located in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. We used classic black and gold spoons and eventually one day I managed to hook up to a fish. I landed it and took it home to eat.

Obviously that day is one I won’t forget. Most people in New Zealand start out fishing for trout through the use of a light spin set up and I know many people who continue to use it with great success; on a variety of lures. This article will go over all the tips I have learnt over the last 11 years.

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A spin rod and reel doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg, you should be looking for a combo with the best quality that you can afford. Typically sets from $100 – $150 have excellent carbon fiber blanks along with light reels featuring smooth drag. That being said, some combos from $70 – $99 are more than capable.


  • Look for a length of at least 7ft (this is used for increased casting distance and turning power)
  • Choose a rod with a ‘medium – slow’ action (a slower action rod provides more sensitivity and makes it harder for a fish to shake the hook)
  • Choose a rod with a guide count of 8 or more (more line guides make the line flow in a direct curve with the rod without any nasty sudden angle changes between guides – this prevents line damage)
  • Look for a rod with a line rating of 2 – 4kg and lure weight up to 15g (the lighter you go the more bites you will get). Using a line with a 4kg breaking strain means you strike a balance between strength and stealth
  • [Black Magic's] GLADIUS® Canal Classic rod is purpose built for the sensitivity required for egg-rolling while providing enough stiffness to set a soft plastic or spin-fishing lure
  • The GLADIUS® Squid Boat rod also doubles as a great trout rod for general use
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  • Make sure the reel has smooth drag, don’t worry about drag strength as 2 – 3lb of drag will beat fish up to 10lb
  • Make sure the line pulls off the reel smoothly without sticking
  • Almost all trout only require 100m of line to work with, since you usually follow them along the riverbed. To be safe, I always fish with 150m of line just in case I hook something exceptional
  • A reel should be light and comfortable to fish with all day
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The amount of stress the line goes through is high, for example, when you cast or when you retrieve through a heavy current. You don’t want your favourite lure to snap off and be lost forever. Therefore, the mainline, leader and knots you choose are very important

Braid is a great option for your mainline when spinning, as it has more sensitivity than monofilament and casts well which is important for sending a light lure out a long way. Choose a good braid with a line rating of around 10lb-12lb.

[Black Magic] Hyperglide® 13x Braid is a premium 13-carrier braid, constructed from 12 Japanese PE fibres which are woven around a strong central core, creating a very smooth line that retains its roundness.

The braid glides silently through the guides, and with no extra effort, you’ll find your distance is greater than you’d experience with a standard braid. It also means less drag as it sinks down through the water column giving improved lure presentation and a higher level of sensitivity.

The ‘Tekapo Blue’ colour makes the braid less visible in the water, which is perfect for easily spooked fish like trout.

I use the PE 0.6 (10lb) Hyperglide®, but it’s available from PE 0.4 (8lb).

If you’re looking for a specialist freshwater casting mono, then [Black Magic’s] Velocity Spin is worth trying. It’s ideal for casting spinners, spoons, and hardbody lures to target your favourite freshwater species.

It’s a low stretch, sensitive line which means you’ll be more ‘in touch’ with your fish, giving you better hook ups.

You then want to connect your braid to a quality 6lb – 8lb fluorocarbon leader. I use [Black Magic] Fluorocarbon because it’s made of 100% fluorocarbon, unlike some brands. I find this truly sets it apart in terms of strength per line diameter.

For knots, I use a double uni knot for a mainline to leader attachment as its very strong and is quick and easy.

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BMax lures are small hard body lures available in 3 sizes.

BMax50’s are 4g lures designed to five to 1m on the retrieve. They sink slowly and are particularly effective on lake shorelines or backwaters where there are cruising fish.

BMax60 lures are floating bibbed lures that weight 3.4g and can dive down to 1.8m. They are the lightest of the BMax family and have the shortest cast distance. The real advantage of the light weight is that they float on the surface and can be cast into some very tight locations without snagging up. This is particularly good on rivers where there are overhanging trees as you’re able to let the current float the lure past any dangerous snags and then retrieve to get the lure down when you wish.

BMax70’s are bibbed lures that slowly sink and can dive up to 1m in depth when being retrieved. They have a very erratic swimming action. At 9.3g they’re an ideal weight for long distance casting and are perfect for reaching the far-out ledges of lakes or wide rivers. At 70mm, they target larger predatory trout and are great for lower estuarine areas that hold large brown trout.


Enticers are a classic metal spoon style lure weighing either 7g or 12g. They incorporate extremely natural patterns which larger trout will take more readily than solid uniform colours.

The rear side of the lure is a reflective silver and flashes as the lure is retrieved. Enticers spin in a circular motion while wobbling from side to side. This mimics a wounded or panicked baitfish.


Spinmax lures are long inline spinner type lures available in 4 sizes - 4.6g, 6.5g, 9.3g and 13g.

The spinning blade at the front is where most the action comes from. The rear hook is covered with flash to hide the hook. When the lure is retrieved quickly, it lets off a tonne of vibration.


Rattle Snacks are another metal spoon style lure similar to Enticers, which weigh between 7g and  14g. They’re more brightly coloured than Enticers to make fish strike out of aggression.

The action is a slow wobble when retrieved fast. There is also an extra attraction from a rattle bead strategically placed on the rear of the lure which produces sound that makes trout enquire about eating the lure.


Some parts of New Zealand don’t allow the use of treble hooks when targeting trout. If you’re planning to fish in one of these areas, or are more interested in catch and release, swapping the trebles out for a single inline hook is a great option that won’t impact hook up rates. Make sure you check your local freshwater regulations before you head out fishing.

Up to 90% of river trout have a diet of insect larvae. Baitfish make up a small proportion of the total prey that one of these fish will eat throughout its life. When spinning high up in rivers you’re more often trying to spark a predatory reaction from the trout rather than imitating a specific food source.

In the lower reaches of a river when the whitebait are running, fish can become the main prey for trout (especially browns) that ave run out into the ocean. On many lakes, likes Taupo and Rotorua, the prey is often like estuarine areas with 90% of adult fish eating smelt or bullies. In these locations it’s more important to imitate the food source.

Choosing the river section is key when using lures. Lower reaches in all river systems have the highest concentration of baitfish. Depending on the season, whitebait, smelt, bullies, and mullet are all in plentiful numbers. Targeting these areas will bring more hits since these fish are more keyed into the prey.

From the estuarine part of the river to a few kilometers upstream is the best place to start with silver, white or grey lures. If the river has some colour, (this is common with estuaries) change to a darker black or brown.

Trout love slack water near their food source. Trout cannot keep up with constant flowing water, so they sit just out of the current. Normally this will be near some structure like willow trees or submerged snags. Here are a few different examples of good trout habitats.

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After some rainfall, rivers will rise and discolour the water, this is the perfect time to go spinning. Since trout lose vision from their normal nymph food they will react to movement in the water. Vision is a trout’s main way of choosing what to eat, so when it is harder for them to see, your hit rate actually goes up. A trout will no longer inspect your leader, mainline or your swivel before a take.

In the spring on a local Hawkes Bay river (the Tukituki), whitebait start to head upriver from the ocean, attracting both brown and rainbow trout to feed on the rich food source. Often in spring the water is a milky blue colour which is perfect for casting silver spoons or retrieving small hardbodies through the slack water.

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The depth or speed of the water should change how you fish a lure. There are a range of factors to go over: sink time, retrieve speed and varying your retrieve.

When I fish a stretch of water, I will work out if it is deep or shallow. If you can see the bottom, quite obviously it is shallower. A blue colour would mean deeper water. When fishing with lures you want to be fishing where the fish are – right on the bottom. Always get your lure down as far as possible.

When fishing in current you should use a heavier weighted lure to suit the conditions, a bibbed lure would also make sense in fast water. You should retrieve the lure at a speed which keeps it low in the water column. If in fast moving water slow your retrieve, the lure will work with the current flowing over it. Trout like a fast retrieve, but it must be slow enough for them to catch the lure.

Different trout like different variations, slowing a retrieve down and then speeding up or putting some jerks into the rod while winding in, even completely stopping and starting is good practice. It all comes down to your own practice and preference. The more time you spend casting the better you will get. Make your first cast count as it will have the best chance of a fish taking your lure.

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Trout take prey by rushing forward and inhaling it into their mouths. There is some suction force too making it easier for trout to direct food into the mouth. They then turn back towards shelter. Trout bite down on larger prey before shuffling it around in the mouth.

If it feels natural, they will swallow the prey. At times this can be all done in less than a second. When a trout eats your lure, it will feel very out of place causing the fish to spit it out in under a second.

When a fish grabs your lure, it will be an obvious tug, all you will need to do is firmly lift your rod up quickly. Often, they will hook themselves as you wind in due to the hook finding the corner of the mouth.

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