7 Best Hooks For Steelhead: What The Guides Use

The author holding a large steelhead caught on a small size 10 hook.

Steelhead fishing guides like me, and every other steelhead guide I know are very picky about the hooks that we use for steelhead. Using the best hooks for steelhead results in our clients land more fish!

Conversations with these steelhead guides reveal that they believe that some hooks hold better, some penetrate better on the hook set, and some are stronger so they don’t bend or break when fishing large steelhead. I believe this, too.

When I am choosing a hook to use, I also consider the size of the hook compared to the bait, and the color of the hook, which I will discuss below.

I have tested out all the best hooks for steelhead under just about every condition and with all baits. I guarantee that using the right hooks means more fish in the net!

There are a few exceptional hooks that seem to be used by the majority of steelhead guides and top anglers:

  1. Raven Specimen Hook: My favorite hook for bait.
  2. Gamakatsu Octopus Hook: Most popular hook for steelhead.
  3. Daiichi B-1150 Sedge Hook: Popular small stream hook for Great Lakes Steelhead.

See below for the best steelhead hooks including the new Daiichi 2581 New Boss Steelhead Hooks

The 4 Requirements Of A Good Steelhead Hook

A nice California Steelhead

There are four things I look for in a good steelhead hook.

Hooking Ability: I want a hook with a razor-sharp hook point and a hook point that provides better penetration on the hook set. The shape of the hook will also provide a better hook set and get the hook deeper.

Holding Ability: I want a hook shape that holds the fish better. Some hooks grab more of the fish and they tear out less often. This matters a lot when fighting steelhead, which can take a long time to fight. Wide gap short shank hooks are best for this.

Strength: when it comes to hook strength, I want two things. I need a hook wire that is proven strong but thin so that it is less likely to be seen by the steelhead but won’t bend or break when fighting a large steelhead.

I also want a hook made with hardened steel so that the hook point won’t bend or break when hitting rocks or the bottom.

Stealth: Thinner wire hooks are less visible and are less likely to be seen and refused by the steelhead. When fishing small clear streams, these hooks are often best, however, they can compromise hook strength.

Hook Type

There are two types of hooks you should be using for steelhead.

The best fishing line for trout is 4 pound Monofilament and is good for trout like this 5 pounder.
Octopus-type hooks are the best when using any bait.

Octopus Style Hooks: The first and most popular is the Octopus Hook, which is a great all-purpose hook that works on any bait and any river. This is a short shank, wide gap hook that checks all the boxes for a good steelhead hook.

Sedge Hooks: I use Sedge Hooks for low clear water and small streams when I need a stealthy hook. I also use them on smaller baits.

DO NOT use baitholder hooks, sickle hooks, or circle hooks!!

Hook Size

Trout Hook Size
On the left is a size #2 Kamasan Specimen hook compared to a size 10 Raven Sedge hook. The Sedge hook is a much better size for a roe bag of that size and the specimen hook is way too big.

Large Hooks: Larger hooks will hook and hold on better. But, they are heavier, snag more often, and are more likely to be seen and refused by the steelhead. They can also weigh the bait down and affect the natural movement of the bait.

Smaller Hooks: Smaller hooks provide stealth and allow the bait to drift more naturally. But, they grab less flesh and are more likely to tear out of the fish.

This diagram shows how to put a bait on a hook properly.
This is an example of where to put the bait on a hook and the right size bait for the hook. Be sure most of the hook is covered, the hook gap is wide enough, and ensure the hook point is not covered.

I always match my hook size to the size of the bait I am using, which is something many anglers do wrong. I try to keep my hooks in the size six to size ten range, unless using a very large bait, which is when I might use a size two or four.

FYI, I have landed twenty-pound steelhead on size ten hooks.

Hook Color

I’ll keep this short and simple. Use bronze or black hooks only!!

Avoid gold, red, or colored hooks. This is my opinion based on experimenting with hook colors for over 30 years.

1. Raven Specimen Hooks

The Raven Specimen hook is one of the best trout hooks for most situations
Raven Specimen Hook

It was another guide that got me started on this hook. Prior to this hook I used the Gamakatsu hook I discuss below.

I have found that the Raven Specimen hook penetrates well and holds on better.

I’m not sure if this is due to the wide bottom section, the light hook point curve, (which is shown to hold fish better), or the straight eye that changes the angle of the hook.

It is also a heavy-wire hook that is not too heavy but is still very strong.

This is my go-to hook for spawn bags, small to medium-sized beads, and plastic worms.

2. Gamakatsu Octopus Hooks

The Gamakatsu Octopus hook is one of the best trout hooks
The Gamakatsu hook has an outward eye and a slight hook point inward curve.

The Gamakatsu hook has been a favorite of many anglers for a very long time and is a hook I’ve been using for twenty years. This is a high-quality hook.

It is a very sharp hook that penetrates and holds well. After years of fishing this hook, I can tell you that the hook point doesn’t bend or break when dragging or hooking rocks.

I use and recommend the black hook, in sizes two to ten.

This is my go-to hook for bigger baits like shrimp and larger beads.

3. Daiichi 2581 Boss Steelhead Hooks

This is a new steelhead hook on the market that I have been testing. The rounded lower section and the slight inward hook point which is designed to grab a lot of flesh and hold on better.

So far, this hook has stood up to other great hooks like the Raven Specimen and the Gamakatsu, and I’m sure it will become a favorite for many steelhead anglers.

This hook is high-quality and strong with a super sharp point, so it could also be used for salmon.

Other Good Steelhead Hook Options To Consider

  1. Daiichi 1150 Heavy Wide-Gape Hooks – Good stealth, low-water hook. Also good for soft beads.
  2. Redwing Tackle Blackbird Sabretooth Premium Hooks – Very popular hook that is worth a try. Many guys use these for spawn bags and some guys use these for egg pattern flies.
  3. Raven Sedge – I’ve caught thousands of Great Lakes steelhead on this hook. It is one of the best hooks in low-clear water and small streams that require a stealth presentation.
  4. Raven Specialist Hook – The specialist is similar to the Octopus and Sabertooth premium hooks. I used these in red for tying egg patterns.

Tight Lines


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