Chilly winter weather brings a lot of excitement for fishermen around the Pacific Northwest. Winter Steelhead fishing is one of the favorite targets for anglers from December through April. Here are a few of my favorite Winter Steelhead lures for tackling your next trophy. A variety of Winter Steelhead fishing techniques utilize these lures, so you have plenty of options!
Yakima Bait Corky
Buoyant and colorful, the Corky is the original drift bobber. Considered on of the best Winter Steelhead lures for several generations! Slide one on a leader and drift fish with a cluster of cured eggs, tuft of yarn, or by itself.
Beau Mac Cheater
Another popular drift bobber that is responsible for leading countless Steelhead to the bank. Always carry a selection of colors and sizes of Beau Mac Cheaters.
Spin N Glo
This is a classic Steelhead lure. It’s been around forever. Old timers still plunk Spin N Glo’s all around the West. I use these with regularity when I’m backtrolling bait divers and drift fishing as well.
WFO Steelhead Worm
Western Fishing Operations is a homegrown company that pours a mean steelhead worm. Steelhead worms are a top choice for Winter Steelhead fishermen. Pink seems to be the color of choice for the masses, but their black/chartreuse, nightmare, and purple patterns are very juicy.
Mad River Worm
Mad River Manufacturing Worms is another of my favorite Steelhead lures. Made in any size you will need, with different buoyancy options and plenty of colors.
BNR Soft Beads
BNR Soft Beads come in sizes 10mm to 16mm. A chewy-soft bead option with every size and color you could want!
Trout Beads are the original hard bead for Steelhead fishing. As with the BNR, fish these under a bobber, with a long leader. Great assortment of colors with their Original and Mottled Series. Peg a Trout Bead an inch above your hook and float fish for finicky Steelhead in clear water.
My very first bobber and jig caught Steelhead was on a black John’s Jig many years ago. That fiery Snoqualmie River Summer Steelhead ripped the bobber underwater and gave me a thrill with five minutes of acrobatics at the end of my line! If you are looking to add a few jigs to your float fishing arsenal, grab a couple John’s Jigs. For more info on the technique, visit: Master the Art of Float Fishing for Winter Steelhead.
I’ve got a healthy selection of Aerojig’s in my jig box. When Steelhead are selective, their Hackle Series is a real producer. Their Marabou Series is awesome for higher water flows and more aggressive biters.
Blue Fox Vibrax Spinner
One of the most aggressive bites you can get from Steelhead will come from a spinner. This time tested lure works well off the bank. I like to swing these like a spoon, and if the current is a little softer, I will slowly retrieve it. I lean towards Blue Fox Vibrax sizes 3-5. Favorite colors: blue, copper, gold, silver, green, purple.
Steelhead Slammer Spinner
Steelhead Slammers are a great lure for swinging through a run. Plenty of color options for fishing in every water condition.
Pentac BC Steel Spoon
Steelhead legend Bill Herzog’s namesake spoon is one of the best lures out there. Swinging spoons in the medium to heavy flows of winter rivers can produce violent strikes from the trophies we all dream about. You need to pick up a couple Pentac BC Steel Spoons for your winter steelhead fishing arsenal.
BS Fishtales Brads Wigglers
The original Storm Wiggle Wart was a decades-long favorite for steelhead fishermen, then BS Fishtales came out an even better lure called the Brad’s Wiggler in all the best colors! These are definitely on the list of best Winter Steelhead lures for boat fishing. I always have a box full of these in my drift boat. The standard Wiggler size is my favorite.
Plug Fishing Tip: Replace the factory hooks with sticky-sharp Gamakatsu trebles, which have greatly increased my bite-to-landing ratio. Go with double split rings and a single barbless siwash hook off the tail if you are fishing at a time when Wild Steelhead are around.
Yakima Baits Maglip Plugs
When the Maglip Plugs were introduced I thought, “do I really need yet another type of plug in my arsenal?”. Well the answer was yes! Like Brad’s Wigglers, these plugs come in many great salmon and steelhead colors. Their original 3.5 quickly became a favorite of mine, and now they have introduced 3.0, 2.5, 2.0, so now you can get any color and size you fancy!
Plug Fishing Tip: Use two plug snaps (snap the one from the end of your line onto the one that came on the plug), this will allow your plug to swim and dive consistently.
One of the most epic steelhead lures of all time is still producing takedowns. This is one of my favorite plugs for fishing when the river is lower and clearer.