Rooster Tail Grand Slam

It’s 2022…do you know where your Rooster Tails are?

If your customers are as passionate about the grab a fall trout executes on a spinner as I am, then they have them in every zippered pocket in their pack, vest, or wader pouch. “Executes” may be the perfect word for how large trout treat a well-presented Rooster Tail. A recent end-of-summer trip to Western Montana featuring Rooster Tails of assorted sizes and colors proves still – in this era of almost daily constant improvements on tackle – a tackle bag “must have” for trout.

Western Montana has been ground zero for trout fishermen for a hundred years, and by summer’s end of 2022, I can vouch for that with a few thousand of my closest friends.

Rooster Tails are primarily fished because of the many types of water they can be oh-so-effectively used on. High mountain lakes, from shore is where the Rooster Tail works best. On drop-offs from shore, the classic presentation is long casts, allowed to sink until bottom is reached, then immediately begin reeling/retrieve, close to the bottom, reeling just fast enough to make the blade slowly thump and rise along the drop-off.

Early morning on the clear, vodka clear, holy-smoke-I-ain’t-never-seen-no-water this clear-no-nope, a brass blade (brass gives off 60% light) with a brown body/brown and yellow tail in 1/8th ounce worked in each cutthroat lake we fished. Most were 14 to 21 inches, fat, and tropical fish colored.

I will be straight, we brought and used other types and styles of trout lures. Oh, you have heard of them. We’ve all bought some, own some. I’m glad we do this. Without other types of trout lures to compare, the real commander and chief would only be an anecdote. To see how the Rooster Tail stands out, all you need to do is fish one in the same waters as other lures. Results talk.

Like so many other techniques, success when fishing a Rooster Tail depends on matching size/color body/color blade finish to water/light conditions and often species of trout. While there are hundreds of Rooster Tail styles/color/sizes, we stuck with two sizes and a few standard color schemes that produced almost too well on previous trips to Western Montana.

Note that fall trout rivers are usually at their lowest of the year. Some blades/body/tail combos that worked more than well:

  • On big rivers/early morning low light- silver blade/all yellow or silver blade/all black.
  • For clear lakes/mid-day on rivers- brass blade/all brown, or brass blade/black body.

These combinations on size 1/8 ounce and 1/6 ounce covered all conditions we ran into.

Fall trout in low water seek out and live in choppy riffles, from 2 to 4 feet were target areas and what do you know, a Rooster Tail performs at its best when glided over riffles and flats, the buoyancy of the blades is like Teflon over tackle-eating large rocks.

Rigging the Rooster Tail: Single Hook

Many of the rivers fished in Western Montana feature single hook regulations. Where legal, keep the factory small treble on the lures. When changed to singles, here’s how to make the modifications.

Start by removing the treble-carefully-from the spinner shaft. Place a #3 small split ring on the wire loop. Then, place a #10 small swivel on the split ring. Last, place a #6 (on the 1/8 ounce) and a #4 (on the 1/6 ounce) siwash hook on the swivel.

Now you have a lure that is not only legal everywhere, but the hook turning on the swivel makes for a remarkably high percentage of solid hookups. And storage is easier.

Rods, Reels and Lines for Rooster Tails in Rivers and Lakes

Going to Montana to toss Rooster Tails means encountering trout from 6 inches to 6 pounds, with potential to hook something larger. Rods 7-to-8 foot, rated for 4-to-8 or 4-to-10-pound lines with fast tips are ideal. Spinning reels in sizes 1000 hold plenty of 10-pound braid. No stretch braid casts farther, transfers the vibration of the blade in 3D and hooksets are lethal at any distance. Double Uni-knot six feet of 8-to-10-pound mono to the braid, tie that to a small #7 swivel. Use 2 ½ to 3 feet of 8-pound leader from swivel to your Rooster Tail. Tie directly to the top wire loop on the lure. A snap swivel can hinder the blade rotation, the swivel will prevent line twist.

You may add weight to this rig. Split shots immediately above the swivel can add casting distance and get the Rooster Tail down quicker on lake drop-offs or deeper runs on rivers.

There is a wee deal called the “Madison Grand Slam,” that is catching a brown trout, a rainbow trout, a cutthroat, and a whitefish in the same day. The Madison is nicknamed, “The Fifty-Mile Riffle,” well, nice shootin’ Tex on that nickname. Being one continuous riffle, this place is tailor fitted to a Rooster Tail spinner. The attraction radius of a flashing blade in that clear water is around 10 feet, so sweeping the wide, shallow runs was more than effective. A presentation either slightly above, or directly across from your position, either floating with current or wading stationary is the most productive.

Starting in the early-early, under low light, there is simply no color/blade combo of Rooster Tail more scrumptious than a silver blade (yes, real silver plate that reflects 90% of light, making every revolution a bright pop of brightness) with all yellow body/hackle tail. A 1/8-ounce version caught the first player, a 16-inch Westslope Cutthroat, a now rarity on the river. Next up, a magnum Rocky Mountain Whitefish, 18 inches of non-trout that fooled me into thinking that it was a nice brown.


A tough bite today, but a color change in the brighter afternoon sun kept our lures in the “attraction threshold,” that is cutting down the flash of the blade and toning down the body/tail colors. Late afternoon produced the last two trout, ironically the two most numerous species, the brown and the rainbow. Only a few browns hooked today, one landed was only 14 inches, but they all don’t have to be giants…. like the one that hit the Rooster Tail so hard it almost got the rod from me and shook the hook…couldn’t move…it…at…ALL. Well, a 19-inch mini steelhead took the spinner just off the rod tip and just kept jumping. That ended the day, a rainbow, a brown, a whitefish, and a cutthroat. Madison River Grand Slam. Not too shabby for a lure entering its 9th decade.

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