Steelhead Jig Setup: 5 Most Effective Setups

A steelhead caught on my steelhead jig setup

There are 4 effective steelhead jig setups that I and other guides use when guiding and fishing for steelhead in rivers. These jig setups are proven to work on Great Lakes and West Coast steelhead.

Jigs are an often overlooked bait, but steelhead jigs can be very effective in many situations. Jigs can also be used with different methods used by steelhead anglers.

I use a different jig setup when I am fishing jigs under a float than I do when using other setups like when I’m casting and twitching jigs along the bottom, or Drift Fishing, or when Bottom Bouncing jigs.

Float Fishing Steelhead Jig Setup

Float Fishing Steelhead Jig Setup
This is the standard float fishing Steelhead Jig Setup that I use most of the time when I am guiding.

I float fish jigs under a float the same way that I float fish with a spawn sac or with a worm under a float.

I even follow all the same fundamentals for getting an excellent presentation, often a jig under a float is most effective method.

Make sure you are using lightweight jigs that won’t sink your float.

To see my favorite steelhead jigs for under a float or to see my favorite steelhead jigs for casting, also when and why I use them, check out my page Steelhead Jigs: The 11 Best Steelhead Jigs And How To Fish Them.

The key with this setup is getting an excellent presentation, check out my page Float Fishing For Steelhead – A River Guides Advice, or if you use Centerpin reels check my Centerpin Fishing page.

The Float Fishing Drop Shot Steelhead Jig Setup

Drop Shot Steelhead Jig Setup
This is my Drop Shot Steelhead Jig Setup

The float fishing drop shot steelhead jig setup is similar to what the bass and walleye guys call drop-shotting. Yes, drop-shotting under a float or without a float can be a great method for steelhead in rivers.

With this method, I’m actually dragging a set of weights, usually split shots along the bottom while using the same lightweight steelhead jigs that I use in the above float fishing setup.

As the weight bounces along the bottom, the jigs will bounce along in the current at the steelhead’s eye level, or above the steelhead if you use the optional upper dropper jig.

I have also used a small fly like a Stonefly, or Michigan Wiggler fly, or plastic pink worm on the upper dropper. You can see my favorite flies for steelhead on my page 5 Best Flies For Steelhead – An Expert Guides Advice and Fishing With Worms For Trout and Steelhead: 10 Guide Tips.

One of the reasons I like this steelhead jig setup so much on some rivers is that I don’t lose any jigs, especially if the bottom is full of logs and sticks. The split shots might snag up and I might lose a bunch of split shots, but split shots are easier and cheaper to replace than steelhead jigs.

I can also make the bottom tag as long as I want, and there are times when I will make it 24 inches long to avoid the logs on the bottom.

Bottom Bouncing Steelhead Jig Setup

Bottom Bouncing Steelhead Jig Setup
Bottom Bouncing Steelhead Jig Setup

There are times when I’m fishing fast and shallow runs, or I need to fish pocket water, and the best method for fishing this type of water is called bottom bouncing. I do not use a float for this method.

If you are not sure what bottom bouncing is, I suggest you check out my page Bottom Bouncing – 5 Proven Guide Tips For More Fish.

For this method, I use a dead drift using the same steelhead jigs that I would use under my float because they are lightweight and provide a lot of action.

I fish the jigs the same way that I would fish a spawn sac or a worm and fly combo.

Standard Bounce and Twitch Steelhead Jig Setup

Casting Steelhead Jig Setup
This standard steelhead jig setup is used for casting and then bouncing the jig, dragging the jig, or twitching the jig.

I use this steelhead jig setup when I am casting jigs in all types of river conditions.

With this steelhead jig setup, I can cast the jig across the pool and lift and drop the rod tip causing a bouncing of the jig. At times, a lot of erratic action from ripping and twitching the jig will get their attention.

Other times they will be less agressive, so I use slight twitch and lift motion, or even jiggling of the rod tip to make the jig look like a creature crawling across the river bottom. This setup requires a heavier casting or twitching jig.

If you are using mono for your mainline, I recommend using a small swivel with a 14 to 24-inch fluorocarbon leader to prevent the fish from seeing the line, but it’s also good for preventing abrasions in the leader and break-offs.

The Attractor Jig Setup

Jig and Spin N Glow Combo
The steelhead Jig and Spin N Glow Combo is a great attractor setup that has been very effective at catching steelhead.

This is the most unique steelhead jig setup and one that most anglers would have never seen. I use this in bigger deeper water with medium currents.

This setup incorporates a heavy steelhead jig and what is known as a Spin-N-Glo. This method can be deadly in some situations.

The way this works is I cast it out and bounce or twitch the jig across the bottom of the river. I use a heavy jig that almost anchors to the bottom, and as this is all going on the Spin N Glow, which can be 24 to 48 inches up the line, will hang downriver of my line and spin and dangle in the current attracting even more steelhead.

The steelhead can grab the Spin N Glow or the jig at any time.

See all my best steelhead rigs for float fishing, bottom bouncing, drift fishing, and even still fishing on my page, 6 Best Steelhead Fishing Rigs.

Steelhead Jig Setup Questions

If you have a question, tip, or an idea about the steelhead jig setup that you would like to share, leave it in the comments section below.

Tight Lines


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