How-To Reach More Rainbows by Roger Bullock

How-To Reach More Rainbows by Roger Bullock

You won't always get agreement from every fisherman, but the consensus opinion is that rainbow trout are the best fighting trout species. Why is that?

After almost seven decades of fishing for trout in 36 of the 47 states and eight of the 13 foreign countries in which I have had the good fortune to fish, I agree that rainbow trout are the best fighting trout. In some large rivers and particularly in medium to large lakes, rainbows have also shown themselves to be roamers. They generally eat smaller food morsels than other species like brown or bull trout and they are designed to roam widely to find enough of these smaller food items for their satisfaction and survival.

Two 8 ½ pound trout fishing rainbows

Two 8 ½ pound trout.

This extra effort of covering more territory to get the nutrition that they need builds more muscle and at least partly explains why they can run faster and leap higher than other trout species. 

Ever since spinning tackle became popular for casting lures to trout, anglers,  tackle dealers and many outdoor writers seem to be  "stuck"  on the idea that  7-foot  spinning rods are the longest that are practical for this task.

After much experimentation over several decades I have found that whether fishing from a boat or from shore any good angler can put lures in front of much more roaming rainbow trout in open water by using certain long, light-action spinning rods that handle light lures well on 4- to 10- or 6- to 10-pound test lines.

This is especially true for anglers fishing from shore on medium to large lakes. In very recent years a few more trout anglers have begun to appreciate what longer rods can do for them, so quite a few more trout fishermen are now seen using 7 ½-foot spinning rods. Yet for some reason, the vast majority stop at that length and seem to consider any longer rods as steelhead or salmon rods which are not useful for trout fishing at all.

Over many years there have been hundreds of occasions when longer rods that I use allowed me to reach and catch trout that no other shore anglers could reach.

Similar results have occurred less often but still frequently while fishing from a boat.

Brook, brown, and some other trout species seem to group up in smaller areas, so this applies more to rainbows which are roamers by nature, and they are our most common trout in the Northwest.

rainbow trout spoon fishing net cast fish

Flashy spoons and spinners can be seen from the greatest distance by trout, especially on bright days in clear water, and because they can be cast farther than other lures, they are the best for covering the most open water.

In shallow open water, in lakes where Lahontan cutthroat or hybrid cutbow trout are stocked, longer casts will put lures in front of more of them. I first discovered this particular advantage of using extra-long spinning rods for casting lures to trout in open water on Pyramid Lake, Nevada in 1973.

In those days graphite rods were still considered very high priced rods and many were broken in normal fishing use. The custom tubular fiberglass 8 ½-foot spinning rods that I had made for this task had a powerful butt section with a much faster tapered light-tip section, and it did the job well. It was also a bit cumbersome because it probably weighed twice as much as the best similar length graphite rods of today. There are lots of 8 ½- to 9 ½-foot good quality graphite steelhead spinning rods available today but most don't have the special characteristics needed to cast light trout lures far.

Many "light action" steelhead spinning rods bend too much in the middle and not enough right at the tip for light lures. The key to casting light lures far is rod tip speed which gives light lures the momentum necessary to pull the most line off of spinning reels. This takes a rod with a stiff, powerful butt section and a tip section with lots of flex right at the end, and the best of these have multi tapered blanks with tip sections tapered faster than the butt sections.

There are only a few models that have this right combination of tapers. Relatively stiff, powerful butt sections pull tip sections forward faster than softer rods that bend more below the ferrule. Light lures load (bend) lighter-tip, faster-tapered tip sections better than on single-tapered rods with tips that are thicker at the end. There are only a few rod models that excel at casting light trout lures far, and I'm talking 50 to 65 yards far!

Another plus for anglers using these long, light rods is that trout seem to pull much harder than they do on shorter 7-foot spinning rods. Simple physics easily explains this because an angler using a 9-foot fly or spinning rod is on the short end of a longer lever than he would be with a 7-foot rod. In relative terms a fair measure of this would be that a 1 ½- pound trout pulls more like a two-pounder and a two-pounder pulls more like a three-pound trout. Is this more fun? I think so and you probably will too. Bringing a trout to net on the much longer rods takes some getting used to, and a longer net handle is advised, especially when fishing alone in a boat.

Two-handed casting is necessary with these much longer rods and some anglers will think that longer rods will be much heavier and will require more effort for the two-handed casting. The weight difference between a 7-foot light-action spinning rod and a 9-foot light-action spinning rod among quality brands is only slightly over 1 1/2 ounces which isn't much when you consider that different models or brands of the same size spinning reels may vary in weight by 2 or 3 ounces.

The casting effort for an 8 ½- or 9-foot light spinning rod is little more than that required for a 7-foot spinning rod if you use your "off-hand" on the lower part of the rod grip to pull backward sharply as the "casting hand" whips the rod forward. The 9 ½-foot rods may feel somewhat cumbersome to some smaller fishermen, but at 77 years old I find them quite comfortable to cast lures with all day.

I have no sponsorship by or affiliation with any fishing rod manufacturer. I draw on the experience of casting lures to trout at least 120 days per year and on 65 years of catching trout with lures. Recently I average over 200 days on the water fishing for all species that I pursue.

state of nevada trophy fish certificate cutbow rainbow cutthroat fishing fish

It is also sometimes fun to watch the awe of other anglers who have never seen anyone cast trout lures with these long, light-action spinning rods. They are not really the right tool for small streams, casting lures in recently stocked trout ponds where trout are seldom more than 50 feet from shore or for using jigs or other lures around tight cover. They are not really suitable for trolling for trout either. They do give all anglers and especially shore anglers a big advantage when trout are fairly shallow and roaming over open water! Then you can put your lures in front of many more of these open-water trout if you can cast them farther.

Remember too that a longer rod is a longer lever and provides more pulling leverage for the trout against the angler.

Try one of these special long, light rods and see if it improves the number of trout that you catch from open water and also gives you more fun with each fight.

I'm betting that if you do you will reach many more rainbows!

- written by Roger Bullock


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You mentioned only a few models have the desired characteristics but don’t mention them.

Billy Bond

What are some 91/2 rods you have found to work for you. i.e. brand and model?

Talked to you yesterday at Cottage Grove pond

Allen G. Heide

Would be nice to hear about rod, reel and line selection.


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