Steelhead aren’t talked about that much compared to salmon or other species of trout. Everyone is focused on catching something bigger or something easier to catch. But for those fishermen in the know, steelhead are a blast to catch – especially with spin casting gear. So what are the best spinners for steelhead?
Glad you asked! In this article, we’ll divulge our top 7 best spinners for steelhead. These spinners work in all seasons, with some spinners working better in the winter and others better in the summer. We’ll cover exactly which colors you should for each, as well as share some general tips on how to fish for steelhead.
So strap in, grab your laptop or phone, and get ready to learn what the best spinners for steelhead are!
In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks
The 7 Best Spinners for Steelhead
The Blue Fox Vibrax spinner is our best spinner for steelhead, hands down. We’ve caught more steelhead spin casting with this lure than any other spinner. The spinning action combined with the vibrations the lure makes while swimming through the water proves irresistible to all sizes of steelhead.
It’s also a great lure to have in your tackle box for many species of fish. Pick the white, light blue, or green colored lures. You really can’t go wrong with the Blue Fox Vibrax spinner!
Coming in at a close second on our list is the Panther Martin FishSeeUV Salmon & Steelhead Spinning Lure. This spinning lure was specifically designed with steelhead in mind! It’s built a bit heavier and larger than similar spinning lures to allow you to cast it further distances where big steelhead may be hiding.
It also comes with a colorful rooster tail to cover up the big treble hook. The added bright colored salmon egg on the body proves irresistible to hungry and territorial steelhead. We recommend fishing either the pink or chartreuse colorways for steelhead.
The Yakima Bait Wordens Original Rooster Tail Lure is another timeless classic for steelhead spinning lures. Its sleek design allows you to cast it far even in the smaller young steelhead or cutthroat trout sizes.
If your Blue Fox or Panther Martin FishSeeUV Salmon & Steelhead spinners aren’t getting any bites, we often switch to a Yakima Bait Wordens Original Rooster Tail Lure. Our favorite colors are light pink and light green as well as silver for steelhead.
If you’re looking to get several spinners for steelhead at once and save some money, we recommend going for the Mepps K7 Alaska Bonanza Kit. The Mepps K7 Alaska Bonanza Kit comes with six steelhead sized spinners all in steelhead friendly colors. Red, pink, and orange all do wonders when fishing for steelhead no matter the season.
The other great thing about the Mepps K7 Alaska Bonanza Kit is that the spinners come with single hooks. Some regions and fisheries require steelhead lures to only have single hooks, which makes these lures unique. They might not have as high a hook up rate as treble hooks, but you won’t have to switch them out if you’re fishing in a protected region.
We would be remiss if we didn’t include another classic Panther Martin lure on our list of best spinners for steelhead! The Panther Martin Deluxe Fly Spinning Lure is an old school classic and does great against all sizes of steelhead.
We recommend getting the brown and trout colored spinners as well as the silver and gold for summertime fishing. One-eight ounce and up are the best sizes for steelhead.
Another great option if you’re looking to buy several lures at once, the Blue Fox Flash Spinner Kit in the one-fourth ounce size is perfect for medium-sized steelhead. We love fishing these lures close to the ocean for steelhead that come into the estuaries of rivers.
The extra flash of these lures works particularly well with steelhead that still spend some of their time in the ocean. The Blue Fox Flash Spinner Kit simulates a flashing baitfish in the water which steelhead can’t resist.
If the other types of spinners don’t do it for you, you can always go with a Panther Martin Classic Spinning Lure. The Panther Martin Classic Spinning Lure is slightly stockier than the Yakima Rooster Tail spinners and the Panther Martin FishSeeUV Salmon & Steelhead Spinning Lure, which makes it a great option when fishing for smaller steelhead.
For summertime steelhead fishing, get it in silver or gold. For wintertime fishing, get it in light green with black dots or white with green dots.
How Do You Fish Spinners for Steelhead?
So you have bought some of the spinners we recommended. Now, what’s next? Learning how to fish them obviously! Here’s how we like to fish spinners for steelhead.
- Cast your spinner past where you think the steelhead are. You do not want it landing in the water on top of them! This is the quickest way to scare steelhead away. Cast your spinner smoothly and quietly past where you think the steelhead are hiding. This is especially true if you’re fishing for steelhead in off-seasons.
- Let your spinner sink for a few seconds. Steelhead tend to swim slightly deeper in the water compared to other species of trout. They often find food near the bottom of river beads, whether it’s nymphs or other fish’s eggs.
- Begin to reel your steelhead spinner in. Reel it in at an average pace. Don’t add an additional action to the lure at first, just try retrieving it at an even cadence. If you don’t get any bites after 15 minutes, feel free to start varying your retrieval speed. Sometimes steelhead will respond to quicker or slower lures.
- If you feel a bite, do not set the hook aggressively! Just reel in quickly and firmly. This should be enough to hook the steelhead.
- Try to land the fish making the least amount of noise. It will be hard to prevent the fish from splashing a ton, but try to stay as quiet as possible. Making a big scene when landing a fish will scare away any other steelhead in the area!
- Give the Steelhead time to recover. Once you’ve landed them, allow them to catch their breath by holding them in the water. After a few seconds, they’ll flip out of your hand and swim away.
Get Proper Steelhead Fishing Gear
We thought it made sense to go over the other gear you should have or get before fishing for steelhead. Besides just having the right kinds of lures, you should also focus on getting this equipment as well.
- Get a proper sized rod. We like using a medium to large-sized trout rod when spin casting for steelhead.
- Use a medium to a large saltwater spinning reel. We like using a saltwater spinning reel for added protection in case you end up fishing for steelhead in brackish water. Plus you’ll be able to use this reel for other saltwater species as well!
- Use 15 to 20 lb test monofilament line or braided line with a mono leader. Steelhead have very good eyesight and will be able to see the braided line if it is close to your spinner. We also like to use a heavier test fishing line in case you hook into a monster steelhead or a nearby salmon.
- Get a fish-friendly net. One of the more important things in our steelhead kit (and something many fishermen forget) is our fish-friendly net. Get a nest that has a rubberized netting to protect the steelhead when you land it. Normal nets scrape off the protective slime on fish’s skin which can kill them if too much is worn off. These rubberized nets help prevent this!
- Always have a variety of spinners at your disposal. Steelhead can be extremely picky. One day a certain colorway will catch tons of fish, and the next day you’ll get skunked. Having a wide variety of lure sizes and colors will allow you to tailor your fishing to the fish.
What Exactly are Steelhead?
Steelhead are a type of rainbow trout that migrate to the ocean as young fish and return to freshwater as adults to spawn. They have streamlined bodies that are silver with less of a rainbow tint than rainbow trout have.
Their pilgrimage to seawater as young fish allows them to reach much larger sizes than mainland rainbow trout, with some reaching up to ~30 pounds! This makes them even more fun to catch on spinner setup. In this sense, they are lot like coho or king salmon.
Author Note: Often different colonies steelhead are categorized into “runs” by state according to how many trips they make to the ocean. The more runs they make to the ocean before spawning, the larger they grow – just like their larger salmon cousins.
If you have been wanting to go fishing for steelhead for a while, now is the time to do it! They’re still a relatively unknown fish that is widely ignored for other species. A lot of fishermen think you can only fly fish for them, so they avoid trying. But as you have hopefully learned after reading this article, spin casting for steelhead can be a blast.
And now that you know what the best spinners for steelhead are, you’re ready to catch some on your own! We hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful and informative. If you are looking for steelhead rods, check out our best steelhead rods buying guide.
If you have your own favorite steelhead spinner, let us know about it in the comments below.