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Our Best Lures for Steelhead Fishing in Rivers

Steelhead Lures - Our Top Picks for River Fishing

Throughout their range, Steelhead are considered one of the most prized catch in the rivers where they return. They are sometimes aggressive, often elusive, and are always a memorable catch. There are so many lures that are marketed for Steelhead fishing, and we have carefully selected the very best Steelhead lures for fishing the rivers of the West Coast. 

Float Fishing Lures for Steelhead

Float fishing has become synonymous with Steelhead fishing. The best fishing spots in rivers all over the Pacific Northwest are bombarded by a steady stream of bobbers. This technique is very forgiving, and it’s much more rare to lose lures on the bottom compared to drift fishing, plus there is no question when you are getting a bite since you will see your bobber drain underwater when it happens. Check out our recommended floats, sinkers and stops.

Float Fishing with Steelhead Jigs

Typically we will fish with a 3/8 or ½ ounce float, a 1/8 or ¼ ounce steelhead jig, such as an Aerojig Rabbit, Aerojig Hackle, Aerojig Marabou, Beau Mac Pro Series, or Yakima Bait Maxi Jig.

Best Steelhead Jig

 

Float Fishing with Soft Beads

A soft bead is another great lure choice for float fishing. Soft plastic beads in 10mm to 20mm are threaded on a standard steelhead leader and pegged an inch or two above the hook with a bobber stop. While it’s an odd looking rig at first, the distance between the bead and hook increases the hookup ration exponentially. BnR Soft Beads and Aero-Baits are our top choices, make sure you have a couple different size with you to match the conditions. Any variation or red, pink or orange are going to be your best bet for West Coast Steelhead.

Steelhead Soft Bead Lures

Drift Fishing Lures for Steelhead

Drift fishing is one of the most widely used Steelhead fishing techniques. Steelhead will often hold in runs where the water is walking-speed pace and 3-6 feet deep. In these runs that are relatively free from snags, drift fishing can be a great tactic to use. Drift-fishers arm themselves with a pair of lead-posting pliers so that they can cut off the exact length of pencil lead sinker that will allow their setup to drift along the bottom at eye-level with Steelhead.

Drift Fishing with Corkies

The original old-school Corky & Yarn Setup is still a great option. You can use a Corky or Cheater drift bobber to float up your bait or yarn, threaded on a simple steelhead leader. Tie this off to a swivel with your pencil lead.

Best Steelhead Drift Fishing Lure

Drift Fishing with Pink Worms

In rivers where Steelhead tend to me most aggressive, such as Washington’s late winter Wild Steelhead rivers, drift fishing with Pink Worms catch plenty of trophy fish. We recommend BnR Holey Worms in either the 3.5" or 5".

Steelhead Pink Worm Fishing

Spoons for Steelhead

When you are standing in front of a sweeping run, a spoon is one of the best lures to cover its entirety from head to tail-out. Swinging a Steelhead spoon is an art, and managing the spoon’s depth while keeping it it near the river bottom without snagging it up, maintaining a good drift speed to keep the spoon’s flutter perfect is tough to master but really effective once you do. We recommend a variety of P-Line Pro Steel Spoons in ¼, 2/5, 2/3 ounce. Nickel, Gold, Metallic Blue, Metallic Green, Copper, or a combination of these are all winners in the right condition.

Steelhead Fishing Spoon

Spinners for Steelhead

When you’re looking at a stretch of river that looks like it holds Steelhead, but may be a little too slow to swing a spoon, try rolling spinners. The blade rotation on a spinner doesn’t allow them to sink as fast as a spoon, so managing the depth with a spinner becomes a major factor. Often a cast across and slightly upstream of your standing position is the ticket to getting your spinner down into the strike zone. We recommend Steelhead Slammer Spinners size 3, 4, 5 and Blue Fox Vibrax Spinners size 3, 4, 5.

Steelhead Spinner Lures

Plugs for Steelhead

Backtrolling plugs is one of the top boat fishing techniques for Steelhead. Deploy your plugs at the top of a run and slowly allow them to back down into the current. If you’re fishing multiple rods make sure you run your plugs back the same distance, as a way of creating a wall of plugs, the hope is that they will keep pushing the Steelhead backwards down the run, and eventually will cause one to strike at it. We recommend Yakima Bait Mag Lip 3.0, 3.5 and Brad's Wigglers as our top choice for Steelhead plugs.

Best Steelhead Fishing Plugs

Plunking Lures for Steelhead

Plunking out a heavy sinker and lure in the current is a classic Steelhead fishing technique in the larger river of the Pacific Northwest. Using a plunking setup, you can choose from a variety of lures. For rivers with a ban on bait fishing, sliding a Mag Lip 3.0 down the mainline can be a great option. If you wand to plunk and find yourself on a river that allows for bait use, a Spin N Glo and eggs or Spin N Glo and sand shrimp are usually the top choices.

Steelhead Plunking Lures