The first part of this article covers the basic techniques to catch trout with Berkley PowerBait, focusing on the most popular dough fishing bait.
When you have the basics down, make sure to read the lower part of this same article for some expert tips and secret tricks for catching even more trout with PowerBait.
Finally, check Basic Trout Fishing Techniques for more tips and check out our site for good trout-fishing spots close to home.
Tackle and Rigging for Catching Trout with PowerBait
You will need the following:
Rod and reel: A 6-foot rod, give or take, is a pretty typical length. Equip it with a spinning reel or easy casting reel well-suited for light line.
Main line: Typically, 4- to 6-pound test is ideal, with many high- and low-tech options available. A 6-pound main line is a versatile line weight for other types of fishing as well.
Some anglers will use heavier line if it’s already spooled on their reels, but at least be sure to use a lighter leader. (Some sporting goods stores will spool bulk line for you when you buy it from them.)
Weight: Good PowerBait anglers almost always use a sliding sinker, usually the egg-shaped variety in ¼ or ½-ounce sizes. Trout may feel a secured weight and drop the bait before being hooked.
Swivel: After sliding on the sinker, tie a Size 10 or so barrel swivel (or use a swivel with a clasp) to your main line.
Leader: Go with low-visibility, 2- to 4-pound test line, either a monofilament or a newer variety such as fluorocarbon, and preferably lighter than your main line.
Common leader lengths are 12 to 30 inches. Lengthen your leader to 3-4 feet if there are thick weeds on the bottom, so your bait will be visible.
Some leaders come pre-tied with hooks, but make sure those leaders are both long and lightweight enough.
Hooks: Bait-holder hooks (single point) work well, with sizes 10 to 12 a safe bet.
Treble hooks in about a size 12 to 16 are great for holding on bait and hooking fish you plan to eat, but unhooking your catch is more difficult and more likely to fatally injure fish you might otherwise hope to release.
PowerBait: Buy 2-3 jars in distinctly different scents and colors.
Floating baits work best for the main approach outlined in this article, but try a sinking variety if you plan to fish under a float. Baits also are available in some varieties in a pre-sized nugget form you can press onto your hooks.
(Editor’s note: While PowerBait is the dominant dough bait, other types of these baits also are effective and will work with the techniques outlined on this page. Some popular trout doughs include Gulp! (another Berkley line), Pautzke Bait’s Fire Bait, Eagle Claw’s Nitro Bait and YUM’s TroutKrilla Paste.)
Also think about packing: Fishing licenses, needle-nose pliers, rags to wipe hands, landing net, bucket or stringer, fish-cleaning knife, folding chair, rod holder, appropriate clothing (possibly including hat and gloves) and other fishing tackle and related gear as needed.
Simple Technique for Fishing with PowerBait
PowerBait is especially deadly for stocked hatchery trout. The most common way to catch them is to mold a marble-sized ball of the floating dough bait to your hook rigged as described above and still-fishing (or plunking) with it.
Casting with PowerBait
Cast out from shore, dock or boat in an area where people usually catch fish and let the weight and bait settle to the bottom. Be aware that some trout will grab the bait on the way down.
Reel in just enough to remove most of the slack line, so you can spot a bite and be able to set the hook.
While some anglers reel up tight, we prefer leaving just a little slack line because it lets the trout swim off a little way before feeling pressure. We think the extra time results in more hookups.
When the fish takes out enough line to bend your rod, give it a firm hook-set.
Finding Fish with PowerBait
Patience may be a virtue, but don’t take the old saying too far. Try varying your casting distance (depth) and location if you aren’t catching fish. Be aware that some anglers only cast as far as possible and spend the day casting beyond most of the fish.
One solution is to make that far cast, but if you don’t get a bite in five to 10 minutes, gently reel in 10-12 cranks and let the bait settle again. Repeat as necessary.
If you don’t find biting fish pretty soon, don’t waste too much time. Try picking up and moving until you find success.
Expert PowerBait Tips and Tricks
The following are some tips we’ve used ourselves or borrowed from frequent PowerBait anglers that might just help you get that limit.
A baited hook catches more fish
Regular PowerBait anglers are familiar with reeling in only to find out they’ve probably been fishing (quite unsuccessfully) without bait on their hook.
Most have learned already that small treble hooks are better than single-pointed baitholder hooks for keeping dough baits in place, especially if you don’t mind the added hassle of unhooking your catch (and plan to keep injured trout). Some trebles are even equipped with tiny springs on the shaft to grasp the bait even more.
But that’s not all: Some serious anglers mix their dough baits with a small piece of a cotton ball to add fiber that tangles with the bait and hook and helps hold everything in place. Heck, we even got a tip from a guy who uses dryer lint for this purpose.
More hooks equal more hookups
Some anglers will use a set of gang hooks, even baiting different hooks with different varieties of PowerBait, especially as they figure out which color and flavors are hot that day.
Of course, FIRST make sure multiple hooks are legal to use where you are planning to fish.
You can buy gang hooks pre-tied at many sporting goods stores, or learning to tie your own lets you choose your own hook styles and spacing.
Float it even better
Trout anglers know that one of PowerBait’s super powers is that the floating type sits up off the bottom and right into the path of trout cruising for food. But the bait doesn’t always float as high as you might want it.
Buzz Ramsey, a Pacific Northwest icon who previously for Berkley, often slides a Lil’ Corky float onto the leader near the eye of his hook. This little plastic orb not only adds more flotation, it serves as a colorful attractant.
Veteran bait anglers also know that sliding a mini marshmallow onto the hook above the bait also does the trick.
Scent it up more
PowerBaits already come mixed with scents. But some very successful trout anglers have discovered that adding even more scent to your PowerBait ball and even to other terminal tackle helps bring even more fish to your bait.
Adding extra scent might also help mask your human scent. Several companies including Berkley sell a variety of liquid scent flavors.
Berkley also has a PowerBait Dust, a dry concoction that adds both additional scent and even some sparkle to your offering.
Say no to the dough
We’re big fans of dough baits. We’ve caught tons of trout with them.
But sometimes you arrive at a spot where the usual tactics don’t do the usual job. In these cases, it’s handy to have a bag or two of artificial worms in your tackle box, such as Berkley’s PowerBait or Gulp! versions.
The manufactured worms designed for trout are about 3 inches long.
Try threading them onto the hook (and often slightly up onto the leader above) with the tail hanging down and the hook exposed, so that trout are very likely to hit the hook point when they bite.
I use a bait-holder hook in the size 6 or 8 range, along with the typical set-up described above when still-fishing on the bottom.
I like a floating worm if I plan to let the worm sit near the bottom. The worm will often move slightly even if you are letting it sit on the bottom, adding just enough action wiggle to elicit a strike.
But I have found that a VERY slow retrieve and or a retrieve-stop (sink)-retrieve approach using sinking or floating worm worms is often just too much for trout to resist. With this method, you might prefer a split shot affixed to the line about 2 feet above the bait.
It’s a little more effort to fish like this that the cast-and-wait approach, but it’s fun when it results in more bites.
If you are fishing from a boat or other watercraft, or even from a dock, and you can get directly above the fish, another approach many anglers use is to fish these artificial worms “wacky style,” a tactic also familiar to some bass anglers. Simply hook the middle of the worm once on your bait-holder hook and let the ends dangle freely.
I prefer a sinking bait for wacky worm fishing. And, yes, you’ll get some bait stolen by fish that grab the loose ends of the bait (and that might be too much trouble if there are lots of little fish pestering your bait), but when this approach is working, the added number of strikes will make up for some lost baits.
Use weight above the bait if you need it, but sometimes the bait alone will suffice … and a slow-sinking worm may produce strikes on the way down.
You can start by dropping it to the bottom and cranking your reel a couple turns to lift it barely above the bottom. Jiggle it ever so slightly or let the movement of the boat do it for you.
If that doesn’t work, turn your reel handle a few times to try fishing a little higher in the water column. Keep experimenting with depth, movement and location until you start catching trout.