Steelhead fishing basics - 3 Must have baits for Summer Steelhead

Posted by Jeff Warner on 7/11/2013 to Steelhead Fishing
In the last blog post, I wrote about catching steelhead during the hot summer days when water temps can creep up into the 70's, putting steelhead off the bite. Today, I want to talk about specific baits that you can use once you find those ready to bite summer steelhead. Let's take a look at a few baits you should always have on hand for summer steelheading.

XFactor Tackle Mini Egg Clusters

Summer Steelhead caught by XFactor Pro Staffer Steven Theel on a mini hot pink egg cluster.

These little baits have done some serious damage to summer steelhead over the last 4 years. The size and profile is irresistible to these hard fighting fish, so much so that they rank #1 on our list of must have baits. The top producers in your typical low / clear summertime water are Hot Red, Shrimp Pink, Peach and Steelhead Orange. If the water has good visibility but with a greenish tint to it (typical in the NW) you can add Hot Pink to that list as well. Drift fishing has been the most popular method for fishing this bait but float drifting is becoming increasingly popular. Float drifting is basically like drift fishing, but with a float. We'll have another article on float drifting (aka bobber doggin') very soon.

3" Miracle Worms

Summer Steelhead caught by XFactor Pro Staffer Rick Denham on a Natural Miracle Worm

This is another must have bait for summer steelhead. These baits are down right lethal in low / clear water. Rig one of these worms on a 1/16 oz or 1/8 oz jig under a float and hang on! Another popular method is to drift fish them, especially during a bright sunny day when steelhead are holding in shallow riffles that can be difficult to fish with a float and a jig effectively. The top colors for this bait are Natural Worm, Bubblegum, Shrimp Pink, Peach and Hot Red. If I had to pick my top 3, I would take Natural, Hot Red and Bubblegum.

Single Eggs

Summer Steelhead, caught by XFactor Pro Staffer Rick Denham on 2 Single Eggs (peach and shrimp pink)

This bait has been part of the XFactor line up for a little more then a year and the results  have been fantastic from day 1. These come with 100 eggs in a jar and they are absolutely LOADED with Pure Anise oil, so much so that opening a jar up, even after it has sat for 6 months is sure to fill the room with that distinct anise smell. When fishing for summer steelhead, the most popular method has been to drift fish a single egg all by itself. It's so simple that many anglers overlook it. When flows are low and clear, one of these little eggs drifted all by itself is so subtle steelhead will never know what hit em. Like the mini egg clusters, many steelheaders are starting to fish these baits under a float (float drifting) and they are catching tons of steelhead when other guys don't even get a bite. As float drifting (or whatever you prefer to call it) gains in popularity, I think you'll start seeing more and more summer steelhead taken with this bait under a float.

The top colors for summer steelhead are Hot Red, Peach, Steelhead Orange and Shrimp Pink.

Shrimp Tail Teasers

Summer Steelhead caught by XFactor Pro Staffer Steven Theel on the Upper Rogue River. This is actually the first steelhead caught on the Shrimp Tail Teasers!

This bait can be fished in low flows but I would only fish it after I am confident I covered all  holding water with either a single egg, mini egg cluster or Miracle Worm. These baits are most commonly fished on a jig under a float but many top fishing guides have great success side drifting them. The top colors are Hot Pink (even in clear water....weird huh?), Bubblegum, Shrimp Pink and Peach.

You may be thinking, "why don't you have steelhead slayers on that list?" Ok, let's talk about that.

4" and 6" Steelhead Slayers

Beautiful native Steelhead caught on the upper rogue river with a 4" Bubblegum Steelhead Slayer by Peter Emori

As the name implies, these baits are steelhead slayers indeed. However, these are what we call an "action bait". If flows are low and clear this is not a bait I would call a "go to" and the reason for that is because steelhead can get downright freaked out in those conditions. This is a time to down size your presentation and go with baits that are a little more subtle. Anyone that has fished this bait (in either size) knows they are anything but subtle which make them an excellent choice in moderate to high flowing rivers. The only exception I would make is if you find steelhead holding in water that is more then 8 feet deep, especially if there is a cold tributary dumping into that spot, making steelhead nice and cozy.

Keep in mind, there are exceptions to every rule...these are overall guidelines based on a large sampling of feedback and personal experience over the years. There have been lots of Summer Steelhead caught on the Large and Medium size egg clusters but those are usually in bigger rivers with higher flows. I hope this will help you narrow down the baits you travel with as well as the colors that best fit the situations described above. God Bless.

Jeff Warner
XFactor Tackle



Erin Eriksen
Date: 11/12/2013
Looks like I will be using some of those for winter run. The single egg with anise. I cure prawn in anise and the bite is so hard usually, that it surprises me. Guess steelhead bites are a little spaced apart. Erin

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