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Spoons and spinners are very effective at covering lots of holding water.  Make sure your lure is getting to the bottom to maximize your coverage of the hole.  

Steelhead hide under brush and behind rocks ithat create current breaks. A proper presentation with a spoon or spinner can get a steelhead to chase the lure across the hole, but a strike is easier to coax out of them if it thumps right into there attack zone.

When the river conditions are low and clear change your tactics by going to smaller lures. Blade colors can be changed by placing colored tape on the inside of spinner blades or back of spoons. To make color tape dots use a hole punch or use strips of colored duct tape.

Single or Triple hook?..........Single Siwash!!! I strongly recommend all your hooks be switched out to a siwash  that is sticky sharp. (This is for river fishing , trolling lures can be better suited with trebles and may need to be zinc coated if used in the salt).


 You can tie on a small yarn tuft on the hook shank that scent can be added to very easily. Keep the tuft small or it will ruin the action of your spoon. A single siwash will also help you from losing your spoon from snagging bottom.

Do not buy cheap hooks!!! Why spend three dollars for a spinner and lose fish because you saved 10 cents on your hook? 

When the water visibility is poor do not use nickel finish on your spoons and spinners. Nickel finish appears black in color a couple feet  under the water surface. In clear to steelhead green water Nickel can be a effective color by itself or with other color combinations.

On black blades (spoons and spinners) you can take a file and stoke paint off blade to add small amount of flash or add a small spec of color to the back side of your blade. Don't underestimate the power of black... fish love it.

If you get a short strike .......change colors or size if your next cast doesn't produce a strike. A color change will often result in a repeat strike from the same aggressive fish. I have personally witnessed this in gin clear water as the fish became "educated" to various colors and came back three separate times to different colors, but not the same color twice.

Spoon and spinner blade shapes really make a difference in how they fish in the current. Thinner width blades will sink faster than wide body blades. Adjust the type of blade to match your fishing area to get the proper swing and wobble. In fast water use the thinner width designed blades. In tail outs  use the wider designed blades as these will fish shallower conditions.  Spoons in various thicknesses can help adjust where in the water column your fishing. I commonly carry the same spoon in various thicknesses and color finishes to be prepared for conditions.

To fish spoons and spinners cast directly across stream and allow it to sink to bottom. Do not slack line lure or it will hang up, unless your fishing a deep slot. Using a mending technique will allow for a spoon to sink deeper before it starts its swing in those deep slots. Retrieve lure so it has just  enough action to scrape bottom occasionally or just above.. As the lure starts to swing across river, dip rod to counteract the push of the current causing the lure  to rise. Spoons should have a nice thumping action as they work there way down stream and start to swing. You should try to avoid a tumbling spoon....(to fast of a retrieve or wrong spoon for water current). I counteract the force of the current that is trying to push the spoon up the water column out of the fishing zone, by changing line angle or feeding line into the swing. Pay attention to your rod tip and feel of the spoon thump to see when this starts happening so you can couteract it. Also when the spoon swings into the softer water you can "put it on the reel" and change rod angle to help it keep fishing properly as  its swinging thump along.


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Steelhead Water conditions Spoon Color Weight Line test
Summer runs  low clear Black, copper, tarnished brass, small color spots of tape  1/4 oz 4-10#
normal flow 5- 8 ft visibility red, yellow, orange, green, blue, pink 3/8-5/8 oz 10-15#
High, 6 inches - 2 ft visibility silver, gold, brass 5/8-1 oz 12-20#

Get the spoon bouncing along the bottom on the swing with a nice thump thump with out the spoon rolling. Not as easy as it seems but that is the key  to good spoon fishing.



Steelhead Water conditions Spoon Color Weight Line test
Winter run  low clear Black, copper, tarnished brass, nickel with small spots of colored tape 1/4 oz 4-10#
normal flow 5- 8 ft visibility red, yellow, orange, pink, silver gold, brass 3/8-1/2 oz 10-15#


High, 6 inches - 2 ft visibility silver, gold, brass 3/4-1 oz 12-20#

Get the spoon bouncing the bottom and slow it down to a wobble with line control (angle).  In deep pockets switch to a heavier spoon to sink it so the fish lurking deep can attack,

Conversion chart to change triples to siwash

Hook Chart            
Lure Size 0 1 2 3 4 5 and 6
Single Hook #6 #4 #2 #1 #1/0 #2/0
Treble Hook #8 #7 #6 #4 #3 #2

 Siwash hooks should be placed with point towards the concave side of spoon

Diagram shows the proper direction for a siwash hook place on a spoon to be used in river fishing. The spoon fishes properly when it wobbles as shown in upper diagram with he correct hook orientation,


Spoons come in different styles and shapes so adjustments can be made for water conditions. I find I can fish most effectively with a wobbler or oval style spoon in most of my fishing conditions,

  Check out Herzogs book for spoon fishing as its a great book on the art of spoons fishing.  Don't forget to check out our bulletin board forums for even more great information.

Spoon Fishing for Steelhead

by Bill Herzog, William T. Herzog






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A spinner blade should be turning as slow as possible on the retrieve, but still be giving the thump thump thump back to the rod tip. Vary the direction of the spinner and retrieve speed in calm water. Spinners are fished like a spoon and can be fished even more slowly than a spoon, but should be fished in a very similar style.  In snag free areas you can cast upstream and put the spinner on the reel as it flutters down the hole. This isn't recommended in boulder garden type holes as the spinner will fall between the rocks and you will lose it.

Spinners can be tipped with bait (night crawler, roe, or smeared with a scent) or rubber worms. Be sure to check local fishing regulations before using bait and beware of the barbless hook rules in selective gear areas. Steelhead will sometimes stage behind a bait before they strike......scent them for better enticement.

DO NOT TIP SPOONS........this will ruin the action of the lure. 




Steelhead Water Conditions Spinner Blade Color Spinner size Line test
Summer run low, clear black ,tarnished brass, copper, small color spots of tape #1,#2,#3 4-12#
normal  flow,5-8 ft. visibility Red, yellow, orange, green, blue, black #3,#4 8-15#
high gold, silver, brass, mixed finishes and fluorescent tape addons #4,#5 12-20#

Early summer run are fished like winter run fish because of the heavy water flows. Vibrax spinners can be deadly effective as a change of pace lure on pressured fish.


Steelhead Water Conditions Spinner Blade Color Spinner size Line test
Winter run low, clear black ,tarnished brass, copper,  light color blends #1,#2,#3 4-12#
normal  flow,5-8 ft. visibility Red, yellow, orange, green, blue ,white #3,#4 8-15#
high gold, silver, brass #4,#5 12-20#

Slow down the presentation in the cold water, even in low and clear water.

Spinner fishing for steelhead ,salmon and trout

By Jed Davis