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How to Make Dough Balls to Fish for Trout

When I first started fishing for trout, I kept hearing about dough balls right and left and how it was a “secret bait”. Well, I finally took to the web to find out what exactly dough balls are, how to make them, and if it’ll actually work on trout. Here’s what I found.

When making dough balls to fish for trout, you can choose from many recipes. Some of the most popular include flour, cornmeal, garlic powder, and occasionally–food coloring. To make dough balls, simply roll, boil, and freeze them, and then rig them in the same way as PowerBait.

But while using dough bait is very effective and easy to make, let’s take a how we can improve on it and make it irresistible for trout.

What are trout dough balls?

Dough balls are a homemade bait for trout, typically made from several kinds of flour along with garlic to help scent the bait. It’s cheap and works well on stocked trout since they’re used to eating similar grains from their hatchery pellets.

Used by some fishermen as a way to effectively catch trout, dough balls allow you to avoid spending money on lures or expensive bait. The ingredients are super affordable, so you can make a big ball full of dough balls to last an entire day of fishing.

How to make dough balls

When making dough balls for trout, especially stocked trout, some of the most effective ingredients are cornmeal and fish pellets. However, there are many other ingredients you can incorporate and form into the bait.

Here are some other ingredients you can use:

  • Oatmeal
  • Flour
  • Fish flakes
  • Food coloring
  • Butter
  • Garlic powder
  • Egg
  • Cheese

The flour helps bind the ingredients, while the cornmeal is a nostalgic feed for the trout from when they were in the hatchery. Last, garlic powder is a common and effective scent to use when fishing as it’s a strong smell and easily disperses through the water. So, the most basic recipe includes flour, cornmeal, and garlic powder. A common ratio is 1 cup flour to 1/3 cup cornmeal and 1-2 tablespoons garlic powder.

Now, let’s start making some dough balls.

  1. To make dough balls, once you have your selection of ingredients, start a pot of water on a slow boil. In a separate mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients.
  2. After you have your dry ingredients, add small amounts of water, and keep mixing until you have a consistency similar to pizza dough.
  3. Once it’s mixed well, take off small chunks and roll them into a ball. The balls should be no larger than a penny, but blueberry-sized work best.
  4. Now that you have your dough balls ready, drop them in the boiling water for about 1-2 minutes. The goal should be for the outside to become a little dense.
  5. After they’re done boiling, place them on a napkin to dry. This is important to allow them to be firm enough to stick on a hook.
  6. Once they cool for about 10-15 minutes, put them in a plastic bag or container, and freeze them overnight.

And that’s all there is to it.

But if you’re hungry for more, here are some more tips that might improve your dough ball game.

More tips on making dough balls

First, since it’s best to freeze the dough balls overnight, the best time to make them is the night before (or earlier if you’re planning ahead).

Feel free to experiment with ingredients, but don’t go too far off the rails. Otherwise, the bait won’t work.

For best results, dough balls should be firm enough to stay on the hook and not disintegrate in the water. Also, similar to other bait, dough balls should float slightly off the bottom of the lake or stream. You can do this by using a weight 1-2 feet up the line (bullet weights work better than split-shots as the trout won’t feel the resistance when they test the line).

Some fishermen like to experiment with their dough ball recipe by using an egg (to help them float slightly) and butter (to help with the water-resistance).

Your goal should be to make a durable bait that isn’t too large, but large enough to cover the hook and most importantly–is scented.

The scent of the bait will help attract trout, especially if you’re in murky waters.

To take it one step further, consider using food coloring to help it stand out. Some good options for trout are bright green and bright orange. If you don’t have these colors available, most other bright colors will work as well.

How to keep dough balls on the hook

If you’ve prepared and cooked the dough balls properly, they should stay on the hook well and not slide off immediately after hitting the water. Using enough flour and boiling them long enough are the best ways to keep them firm.

You’ll also want to make sure you’re using the right sized hook for your homemade bait and the trout you’re targeting. For best results, consider using hooks sizes 6-10, although you should use your best judgment depending on the average size of trout in your area.

To prevent trout from stealing the bait too often, consider getting a light or ultralight rod and setup. The light weight rods will be especially helpful in feeling the trout strike, so you can set your hook earlier (resulting in less gut hooks). Light-weight rods also bend more, making it a bit more challenging and fun to reel in trout.

Lastly, depending on your line and the color of water, you may want to use a leader. Fluorocarbon leaders work well because of their near-invisibility. Start with a 1-2 foot leader, but the length of the leader will depend on the depth you’re fishing.

Aim to have a leader for the amount of line that’s either from the weight-down or the bobber-down, depending on if you’re using sinkers or floats.

Which smells attract trout

Most trout are often stocked from hatcheries and will gravitate towards food that was similar to the pellets they were raised on. This usually means finding something smelly and corn-based.

Garlic has to be the number one choice for most trout fishermen when it comes to bait scents. If you’re looking for other options, crushing some fish flakes or pellets is often a cheap and effective way of increasing the scent of homemade baits. If you don’t think your bait is scented enough once it’s in the water, consider doubling the garlic powder or fish flakes.

Cheese is another good one as it’s full of fat and the smell will disperse through the water well. Most kinds of cheese work, but shredded American cheese is a safe bet when making dough balls.

But an ingredient that’s used less commonly? Sugar.

Sugar is addicting for most animals, and it’s the same for trout. The taste and smell of the dough balls will become nearly-irresistible with sugar. Just be careful how much you use because sugar dissolves easily in water and you could lose your bait faster.

Related questions:

Should I use a bobber for dough balls?

You can use a bobber when fishing with dough balls, although it’s not necessary. As long as you have a good weight, like a bullet-weight, and the bait floats, you should feel the fish bite. Just make sure not to have any slack in the line.

Is it illegal to fish for trout with dough balls?

Depending on your state’s laws, it’s normally legal to use dough balls to fish for trout. Although, if you’re planning to chum, you might want to check your local laws first as this is less accepted and dangerous to ecosystems.