Steelhead Fishing With Powerbait: A Guide’s Perspective

Steelhead fishing with Powerbait can be good for fresh run steelhead like this one I am holding.
The author, with one of over twenty steelhead he and his buddy landed using baits. Using Powerbait for steelhead fishing can be good for fresh run steelhead like this one, but I am certain I would not have landed over twenty using just Powerbait. I will explain why.

Over the years, I’ve gained substantial experience in steelhead fishing with Powerbait. I’ve been testing Berkley Powerbait Dough baits and other Powerbait products in all kinds of conditions for wild and stocked steelhead.

I will also include my true opinions of Powerbait fishing for steelhead, whether or not I use it on guide trips, whether other guides use it, as well as its comparison with other baits used in steelhead fishing.

I’ll even reveal my most effective Berkley Powerbait product which has caught me and my clients thousands of large steelhead.

Steelhead Fishing With Powerbait

one of my clients fighting one of many large steelhead from this spot.
This is one of my clients fighting one of seven large steelhead from this spot.

I can assure you that Berkley Powerbait dough and some of their other baits can successfully be used to catch steelhead once they enter the river. However, you should read to the end of this article before you rush out to stock up on Powerbait Dough for your next steelhead trip.

The Appeal of PowerBait for Steelhead Fishing

A jar of Powerbait Dough
A jar of Powerbait Dough

PowerBait, or Powerbait dough bait as it’s commonly referred to, is a pliable substance that you can easily mold into a small ball with your hands.

I have read that the manufacturer claims that the bait emits an enticing scent that is better than some natural bait.

According to the company, scientific tests have verified that it outperforms salmon eggs and other pre-packaged baits.

Yet, from my experience, if Powerbait truly surpasses salmon eggs under real-world conditions, I would see all the best anglers and guides using it at the river. But I don’t! In fact, I almost never see anyone using it.

As a guide, I’ve had a lot of time to experiment and find out if Powerbait can be more effective than many of my proven steelhead baits, and it has never outperformed the same baits other guides and I use.

So, if the top guides don’t use it, should you?

Is Powerbait A Natural Product?

PowerBait is marketed as a natural-scent trout bait that simulates the taste, scent, and appearance of live bait.

It’s composed of PVC, oil-based resin, and a variety of fish scent-related compounds.

Why Steelhead Are Attracted To Powerbait

A jar of Powerbait Glitter Dough
A jar of Powerbait Glitter Dough

Contrary to popular belief, at times, a hungry steelhead will put almost anything that drifts by them (provided it’s small enough and resembles potential food) into their mouths.

They see the object and are not sure if it’s edible, so they grab it and sample it, and then either swallow it if it’s edible or they quickly spit it out.

This means that there will be instances when steelhead will consume baits like Powerbait.

I mean, why wouldn’t they consume a Powerbait molded into a tiny sphere that looks like an egg on a hook if they would eat a hard glass or plastic bead that is hard and has no scent and no flavor?

In fact, many anglers report that glass and plastic trout beads have been their most successful bait for steelhead in recent years, and since it’s easy to make your Powerbait dough small and round like a bead, there’s no reason why a steelhead would not grab it.

Choosing PowerBait for River Steelhead

Powerbait Eggs
Powerbait Eggs

Various color options and a handful of formulas are available, some of which even incorporate glitter, believed to be an attractant.

Berkley also offers other effective Powerbait products, such as trout worms and fish eggs, which are very effective for steelhead.

Pro Tip: The Powerbait worm has contributed to thousands of steelhead in the net for my clients and I. I’d use the Powerbait worm over the Powerbait dough.

Some Berkley Products To Consider: I’ve caught steelhead on all of these.

  • Berkley PowerBait Magnum Power Eggs
  • Berkley PowerBait Magnum Garlic Power Eggs
  • Berkley PowerBait Power Wigglers
  • Berkley PowerBait Floating Trout Bait Dough
  • Berkley PowerBait Natural Scent Glitter Floating Trout Bait Dough
  • Berkley PowerBait Power Honey Worm
  • Berkley Steelhead Worm: My most effective Berkley product

I must emphasize that, like any other bait, the bait can be ineffective if paired with a bad hook, the wrong size leader, or a bad leader rig.

Selecting the Right Powerbait Hook

How to put a bait on a hook
This image is an example of where you want to put your bait on a hook to be sure most of the hook is covered but also to be sure the hook gap is wide enough, and the hook point is not covered.

Top guides are very picky about the hooks they use.

Good hooks will hook better, hold better, and will at times hook themselves. All this is great for their clients.

Hooks such as the Raven Specimen or Gamakatsu Octopus hooks in sizes 6 to 10 are solid choices for Powerbait and many other baits.

How you put your bait you bait on the hook is also very important.

When rigging Powerbait on a hook, it’s crucial to ensure there is space in the hook gap and the hook point is exposed. Many anglers cover the entire hook with the power bait. In a river, this is a big mistake.

Selecting the Right PowerBait For Steelhead

To boost your success rate, it’s advisable to purchase PowerBait in a few different scents and colors.

This allows you to cater to the steelhead’s preference depending on the fishing conditions.

Floating baits are ideal for still fishing methods like plunking, but sinking types are best if you plan to fish under a float, or if you’re bottom bouncing or drift fishing.

Some PowerBait variants also come in pre-sized nugget shapes, making it easier to affix them onto your hooks.

Picking the Most Effective PowerBait Color for Steelhead

When it comes to selecting the color of your PowerBait, bright colors like orange, green, pink, and rainbow tend to be more successful in attracting steelhead.

These bright colors enhance the visibility of the bait, especially in turbid water conditions.

Moreover, PowerBait with glitter can reflect sunlight, which further enhances its attractiveness.

Colors like orange mimic steelhead and salmon eggs, a preferred food for steelhead. Yellow PowerBait, available in “corn” and “cheese” flavors, has also proven to be successful.

Basic Techniques Powerbait Fishing For Steelhead

PowerBait is particularly effective when targeting stocked hatchery steelhead.

However, it’s worth noting that PowerBait can also be good for wild steelhead, particularly in fast-moving water where steelhead have less time to examine the bait.

The most common method involves molding a marble-sized ball of Powerbait Trout Bait dough onto your hook.

Use effective steelhead fishing techniques like Float Fishing, Bottom Bouncing, Drift Fishing, Bobber Doggin, and even Plunking.

Pro PowerBait Tips and Techniques

Here are some additional tips to enhance your success when fishing for steelhead with PowerBait:

Bait Your Hook Correctly: Properly mold the PowerBait onto your hook by rolling it into a ball and pushing the hook through. Mold the bait around the hook, ensuring the hook’s point is exposed.

Consider Line Visibility: Steelhead have sharp eyesight and can often detect fishing lines, especially heavier test lines used in slow clear currents and under bright light. Ensure you use the right size and type of steelhead leader.

Fish in Suitable Weather Conditions: Steelhead tend to be more active during overcast weather conditions and in the early morning and late evening. Plan your fishing trips accordingly to optimize your success rates.

Experiment with PowerBait Varieties and Colors: If you’re not having much luck with a particular PowerBait color or type, don’t hesitate to switch colors and sizes.

Fish at the Right Depth: Steelhead typically swim about 1 to 3 feet off the bottom. Adjust your bait depth to align with their preferred level. Using the floating variant of PowerBait can help keep the bait suspended at the desired depth.

Explore Different Locations: Steelhead may have different preferences within a body of water. Try fishing in various locations to increase your chances of connecting with steelhead.

Utilize Multiple Hooks: Depending on local regulations, you might be allowed to use two to three hooks on a leader. I use two hooks and two baits often.

Rig Up Properly and Effectively: Whether you fish in small or large streams, you must use a bait rig setup that works. Check out my 5 most effective Powerbiat rigs that I use when guiding.

Is PowerBait the Best Option for Steelhead Fishing?

Based on my experience, spawn bags and worms are better than most baits for steelhead.

In my observation, other baits such as spawn bags, beads, flies, and even worms are often more effective in enticing steelhead to bite and hold on.

Even plastic and glass beads have been proven to be more effective for me than Powerbait dough balls.

Do Guides Use Powerbait For Steelhead

The guides I know tend to use other baits. They use baits that are proven effective for them and consistently produce good results. But, I don’t see or hear of guides using Powerbait Dough or nuggets.

I don’t use Powerbait doughs or nuggets because they have not proven to be more effective than other baits I use.

The exception is the Powerbait trout worm. I rarely fish a spot without running a Berkley Powerbait pink or red worm (or another brand of worm) through a steelhead run at least a few times before I’m ready to leave the spot.

In fact, on many guide trips, a properly rigged plastic worm has outproduced even spawn bags and beads and it is often the first bait I will try.

Tight Lines,


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