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How to Fish Deep For Lake Trout & Walleye with a 3-way Swivel Rig

Using the method below is excellent for any deep-water fish. You can use the 3-way swivel to troll deep with a worm harness for those big mid-summer female Walleyes. You can also use a longer lead-line and drag a fly with a Wax Worm on it for Whitefish. This method can also be used on the Great Lakes for Salmon and Rainbows. Primarily, this article was written for catching typical-size Lake Tout on small inland lakes in the summer when they are 45 to 60 feet deep.

Steel Sinkers: Some of the bigger outdoor stores are starting to sell steel sinkers, which are so much better to use than toxic lead sinkers.

You need a light or medium-light action rod with dark green 6-pound test mono line or ultra thin braded. You should be able to find 10-pound braded with the thickness of 2-pound test. The problem with braded line is it's not smooth like mono so you have to use the ultra-thin stuff. I recommend Power Pro braded as it's a non-acrylic-compound based line and will not oxidize and lose all it's strength after a few weeks like most braded lines. You also need 3-way swivels and a 2-oz weight.

Don't worry about line strength from your rod to the 3-way swivel. We catch Lake Trout over 20 pounds on 6-pound test. The only consern is when the trout starts rolling at the surface so from the 3-way swivel to the lure, you may want to put heavier braded line.

Diagram showing the setup:

By using light line, the line has less friction with the water and slices through so that your line goes down to the bottom without having lots of line out. Tie two 2.5-foot pieces of line to your 3-way swivel. Use 2-oz weight on one line and a light lure on the other. You need to put small normal swivels on the lines so the line does not get twisted.

Lake Trout like small lures more than big lures. The very best lure is a small ultra-thin Sutton Silver Spoon. You can also use #1 or #0 Mepps, Panther Martins or Blue Fox Vibrax Lures. Small 1/3 oz or 1/4 oz Little Cleos or a small Mepps Cyclopes are also good. A 2-oz weight is good for fishing down to 65 feet. There is no sense going deeper because on inland lakes, Lake Trout generally do not feed when they are that deep. Their behavior is very different compared to the Great Lakes.

Trolling Slow:

You only want to move just fast enough for your lure to work and no faster. If your boat is moving too fast, it will be very hard to find the bottom of the lake. If you are using a boat with a bigger motor and it's hard to keep slow, try back trolling or use your electric motor. A 20 hp motor back-trolling is just slow enough. If you have a 9.9 or 15 hp, you still want to back troll unless it's being used as a trolling motor on a big boat. With hand-held GPS, we determined the perfect speed to be 2.6 miles per hour.

Finding the bottom:

The most important aspect of deepwater trout fishing is letting out line to get to the bottom. DO NOT JUST LET YOUR LINE OUT UNTIL IT HITS BOTTOM. Hold the rod in one hand with the bail open. Let the line run through the palm of your other hand and grip the line. Once the boat starts moving and you have a good straight troll going, open your hand with the line then close it again. This way you can let out a foot or two of line at a time. Get a rhythm going. Open, close, open, close. Your rod tip will bounce up and down as you release little bits of line. The rhythm of your rod tip bouncing will be disrupted when your weight hits the bottom of the lake. When this happens, reel up a foot or two. The purpose of this procedure is to keep your 3-way swivel setup from getting tangled.

Keep your drag set for 6-pound test line and do not horse the fish in. Your lure is not directly attached to the bottom of your line. As a result, when the Lake Trout hits your line, the trout either hits the line and runs, which in this case you know you have a fish on, or they hit the line and swim with the rig so a 5-pound trout can feel like a little minnow is playing with your lure. You must set the hook at any bit. When you set the hook, you must reel in right away to keep tension on the line.


In the summer time, Lake Trout hit best in the morning between first light and 10:30 AM. They will hit better if the surface of the water is dead calm and it's a clear sky with high pressure. It's also easier to troll with the 3-way swivel rig if it's calm. Any other conditions will cause them to slow down. If it's early spring, the trout seem to feed in other parts of the day but you don't need to use this rig in the spring as the trout will be shallow. In some lakes the trout feed aggressively before dark.

Structure and wind:

Take a close look at the structure of the shoreline and try to extend the elevation patterns into the lake. If you see a cliff, odds are the water is deep at its face. If you see a string of islands, odds are there is a shallow shoal that runs between them. Trout like drop-offs so you would want to troll parallel to the string of shoals and not over them.

When you drop your line to the bottom, count how many times you let out line. You can get a good estimate of the depth. If you have a depth finder you don't have to worry about this unless you are fishing suspended around schools of baitfish out in open water. For Lake Trout, try to stay in 40 to 60 feet and close to shore. If you come across a spot and catch a trout, odds are there are more of them there.

The wind is very important when trout fishing. Traditionally for warm water fish like Walleye or Pike, you would fish on the side of the lake were the wind is blowing. The logic being that the fish follow the surface food that is being blown in. With trout it's the exact opposite. The wind also blows the warm surface water, which does not hold enough oxygen for the trout. Thus fish the side of the lake where the wind is coming from.

There will be Lake Trout out in the middle of the lake suspended about 40 to 60-feet down. They are usually in close proximity to schools of bait-fish. If you are closer to shore in 40 to 60-feet of water and not catching anything, drop your line down to the bottom so you know how deep you are and then leave your rig at that depth and head out into the open water. In the open water, you will usually catch less trout but they will be bigger. This is not always true. There are occasions where all the trout are out in the open water, especially when the last few days have been hot with a strong wind that keeps changing direction.


In the Spring, the Lake Trout will be right up to the surface. As the water starts to warm up with the changing weather, the trout start to go deeper. Here is the approximate depth for different times of year. This is not true for all lakes. Some smaller spring fed lakes will have trout shallow all year.

  • Just after ice-out: Between 10 feet and the surface
  • Mid Spring: About 20 to 30 feet deep
  • Late Spring: About 30 to 45 feet deep
  • Summer: Summer is the tricky part. Many believe that the Lake Trout go to the deepest part of the lake and stay dormant. In actual fact, the Lake Trout stay suspended in 53° thermal layers or concentrate in shallower holes where a natural spring pumps cold water into the lake. Why are they there? That's where all the baitfish are. There will be trout deeper then 60 feet or on the bottom in the deepest part of the lake but they are not feeding. When they do feed, they come shallower.

    Depth Finder:

    It's good to have a depth finder so you can map the schools of bait-fish that are suspended. When you do come across a school, troll around the outside of the school. The Lake Trout sit right underneath the school waiting for weak or injured fish to venture outside the school. Out in the middle of the lake, you will find these schools of bait-fish in the 30 to 60-foot range. It's different on most lakes but this is a good place to start.

    Middle of Summer Lake Trout:

    The middle of summer is the time when people spend the least amount of time hunting down Lake Trout. With the 3-way swivel method, the middle of the summer can be the best time because the Lakers are concentrated in the deep holes and not spread out all over the lake like they are in the spring. Once you find a spot in the summer where you are catching Lake Trout, keep going back because they will stay in the same spot the whole summer.

    A Lake Trout's feeding turns on and off like a light-switch. You can find a spot where you are mapping fish on your depth finder and fish that spot for days without catching anything. Then all of a sudden, they start feeding like crazy for an hour or two and then stop dead again. You have to keep trying. Perseverance is a major factor in successful Lake Trout fishing.