Iowa Trout Fishing Part 2 – Baits Trout LOVE

Hello and welcome to the blog.  This is the second in a three part series of equipment, baits, and tips for catching trout to bring home!  (Or release if that is the preference).  This post will focus on various baits.

Back in the 1970s, our family normally used just one kind of bait – Velveeta.  But as the years went by, I realized that it’s better to carry a variety of things.  Nowadays there are some great commercial baits available, some come from mother nature. or you can even make your own at home.


Berkley PowerBait and Pautzke Firebait. I’ve had great results with both!



Synthetic bait.  There are a number of synthetic trout baits on the market.  The most popular is Berkley PowerBait.  It comes in a jar and can easily be formed into a little ball (about the size of a blueberry) and can be placed on a treble or single hook.  PowerBait and related products (such as Pautzke brand) are made from a familiar plastic – PVC (as in water pipes).  This plastic – polyvinyl chloride – is much softer than plumbing parts (a marshmallow type consistency) and contains more oil.  It is colored to various shades and scented.

Because of their oil content, PowerBait and other brands of synthetic bait are soft in all temperatures – even well below zero degrees.  Some varieties contain glitter which aids in attracting fish.  My favorite colors are green, red, orange, rainbow (a green / yellow / orange swirl) and the blue / pink swirled variety.  Most brands and options run between $3 and $5 per jar.  A jar lasts me a couple of fishing trips worth of use.  As long as you keep the lid on, this type of bait stays good for a season or longer.

I should also mention there are a variety of other synthetics such as fake worms, artificial salmon eggs, etc.  I’ve tried a lot of them but seriously… save your money.  If ya can’t catch fish on one or two synthetics, try cheese, worms, or something else.  Like buddy Steve and I saw a couple months ago, sometimes nothing will work like a worm!


The best salmon eggs I’ve used for more than 2 decades!


Salmon Eggs.  There are a number of versions of flavored salmon eggs on the market.  Trout really seem to like them in rapids or during the cold fall and winter months.  The eggs don’t seem to work as effectively in dark, still pools, ponds, or during hot summer months.

Some salmon eggs are quite tiny and difficult to put on any kind of hook other than the small, single salmon egg hook.  I avoid those brands.  Larger eggs, like Atlas Mike’s brand, will fit on all three barbs of a #20 treble hook.  (Start one barb, push the other two in, and twist to lock the egg onto all three barbs.)  While you’ll find corn, garlic, shrimp, and other flavored salmon eggs, the shrimp have worked the best for me over the last 25+ years.



Mother Nature’s best trout bait. 🙂


Nightcrawlers.  Trout love nightcrawlers.  They are probably the best working live bait for all specials of trout.  It doesn’t matter the season, the temperature, the current, etc.  Rainbows, brook trout, and brown trout love these critters.

Wal-Mart has terrific Canadian Crawlers (the big ones) but I don’t like the smaller red worms (too skinny).  Having worked at Wal-Mart, let me give some free advice.  ALWAYS check your worms for freshness.  When I worked at Hell-Mart in sporting goods (and a zillion other departments) I checked the crawlers as often as possible.  Most of the other workers didn’t.  I still occasionally find containers with nasty, moldy, dead worms.  Just a quick tip.. If you are using some PowerBait, consider also tipping the hook with a small piece of crawler – less than an inch.  The fish seem to like it!


The small pop-top cans are more convenient… and the corn makes a nice 5AM breakfast snack on this early outings!



Corn.  Corn is a very effective and cheap bait that rainbow and brook trout love.  The commercial feed used in trout hatcheries contains cornmeal; many of the trout in Iowa “grew up on it”, so to speak.  The problem is that trout will gorge themselves on corn kernels and that can constipate a fish; however, studies show that corn doesn’t kill them.  Any more you don’t see corn used that much – in some places it is illegal –  but it’s still a super cheap, shelf stable bait.


On one of the next trout fishing trips, I’ll be using Velveeta for the bait AND the evening meal. 🙂



Cheese.  Back in the 70s, my grandparents used to fish with just Velveeta cheese.  We would mix it with a bit of flour to make it sort of a cheese / doughball type concoction (about 4 ounces of cheese to 2 or 3 tablespoons of flour).  Grandma would put the bait into an aluminum foil ball (like a small baked potato) and we carried it in a lunch pail.  The trout absolutely loved the cheese… and still do!


Dirt cheap and effective, salad shrimp work fine for trout bait.


Shrimp.  Shrimp are also another good trout bait though not always as effective as corn or cheese.  They have a flavor and aroma that the fish like.  You can thread a salad shrimp onto a single hook or cut larger shrimp into chunks and put them on a treble hook.  One tip… If using larger shrimp, cook the shrimp until “rubbery” and they will stay on the hook better.  I’ve caught fish on shrimp before but do not recommend using it as your only bait.



Homemade.   Here’s a category that I’m excited to be experimenting with these days.   So often we hear about someone’s homemade catfish bait but you don’t hear much about people doing the same for trout… I’m working on a bait that blends some of the ingredients above into a doughy, cheese bait that I think trout will love.  If it is successful, you’ll see it on a future post!   🙂   (And yes, the rest of the cheese will also go into a camping recipe!)


Well, that’s about it for now.  Bait fishing for trout is a blast.  If anything, I think it can be just as challenging as using artificial bait.  There is strategy, experimentation, successes, and failures.   What works today might not work tomorrow… What is effective at one stream might not work 20 miles down the road at another.  But if one can be flexible and bring at least three different baits (or more), trout are pretty easy to catch.   They’ll attack food like a hungry teenager after football practice!   Have fun!

Take care and thanks for visiting!  There are more camping adventures coming up starting this Friday night.  In the meantime, I plan to do a third trout fishing post with some tips and tricks.  That will be posted in another day or two.

Take care!  Safe and happy camping!

Brad and Jenny and Duke
Jones County, Iowa

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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

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