Steelhead Jigs: The 11 Best Steelhead Jigs And How To Fish Them

A big steelhead caught with steelhead jigs
One of my most effective methods in slower water is jig fishing for steelhead.

There are 2 types of jigs that anglers use when jig fishing for steelhead. Steelhead jigs have been my secret bait for many guide trips and my clients often ask me which steelhead jigs I recommend.

Anglers can use marabou steelhead jigs under a float when fishing for steelhead and the best jigs for that are the Jiggy Bugger Steelhead Jigs or the Worm Jig. Anglers can also cast and retrieve swim jigs, and the best jigs for that are the KVD Swim Jigs and a simple paddle tail jig.

In this article, I will discuss the best steelhead jigs and my best tactics for jig fishing for steelhead.

Steelhead Fishing With Jigs

Steelhead fishing with jigs is something you don’t hear about often because it is usually overshadowed by float fishing for steelhead, bottom bouncing for steelhead, and casting lures for steelhead.

The truth is that jig fishing for steelhead can be very effective and as long as you know which jigs are best with each method and what sizes and colors are best, jigs can be used in all 3 of those methods.

What color jigs are best for steelhead?

Steelhead jig colors
Many jig colors will work when jig fishing for steelhead and I find that most companies that make steelhead jigs offer lots of great colors to choose from.

I have caught steelhead on just about every color of jig I can think of but my most effective colors are black, white, pink, chartreuse, and olive.

The best color jig for steelhead on some rivers or when I’m fishing greenish color water is pink or black. When the river is off-colored and dirty I will use Chartreuse or red. For clear river fishing with jigs, the best colors are olive, black, and white. I rotate my baits and that includes fishing with jigs for steelhead.

I change sizes and colors until I find out which one works.

What Size Jig Is Best For Steelhead

The size of steelhead jigs that I use when I am float fishing is smaller and lighter than when I’m casting and jigging for steelhead. In fact, some steelhead jigs like Jiggy Bugger Steelhead Jigs hardly way anything at all and I will often use these jigs on my standard bait steelhead leader which already has weights on it.

The actual length when jig fishing for steelhead under a float will range from small Crappie sized jigs that are about 1 inch long to larger Marabou jigs up to 4 inches long. On average, a 2 to 3-inch steelhead jig is best when jig fishing for steelhead under a float, and 3 to 4-inch steelhead jig works well when casting and jigging it.

The size of the jigs I use under a float is the 1/64 and 1/32 sizes the most.

When I use steelhead jigs for casting, I will often use a 1/8oz to 1/4oz jig for the added weight so they cast further and so they get down to the fish faster. I will use a larger jig fr faster and deeper water and a smaller jig, even one down to 1/16oz or 1/32 in shallow and slow water.

Jig Fishing For Steelhead Under A Float

Jiggy Bugger Steelhead Jigs
This is the Jiggy Bugger Steelhead Jigs which is one of the best steelhead jigs I use. Last I heard it is tied by local legend fly tier Jay Passmore who has been steelhead fishing around the great lakes region for longer than most guys.

Float fishing for steelhead is often the most effective method and float fishing with jigs is the same as float fishing with any other bait with the exception of one tactic.

Float fishing requires a good presentation if you want to catch the maximum amount of fish.

I tell my clients to learn and practice the fundamentals of float fishing and they will catch a lot more steelhead. If you don’t, you will forever struggle.

You can see my 5 fundamentals of good float fishing and my tactics and tips on my page How To Float Fish.

Aside from just getting a good dead drift under the float with a jig, some anglers will try a jigging or stop and go method.

Jig fishing for steelhead under a float with a jigging action takes some skill. The guys that do this well simply hold or pull back their float with the rod tip, which then lifts the jig, and then they release the tension on the line and the jig drops down. This is an up and down motion that can create life-like action on the jig.

When you do this you can either hold your float for a second or two by stopping the line which will cause the jig to swing ahead and rise up and then when you release, the jig will drop again.

You can also pull the float back quickly with the rod tip, without making a splash on the surface, and then release it quickly to create a jumping action. Both of these methods create an up and down action.

I personally have found that dead drifting a jig under the float works best. I do this the same way I would with a spawn bag, or worm, or any other steelhead bait. See my best steelhead baits page for more on what baits I like to use and how I rig them.

When I dead drift my jig I try to keep the jig a foot or two off the bottom and I ensure that I trott my float to allow the current to pulsate the fibers or marabou of the jig and to slow the bait down in the current. If you are not sure about trotting and slowing your bait and why this is very important, see my page Controlling Your Speed For More Fish When Float Fishing.

My favorite jigs to use for fishing steelhead under a float are smaller marabou jigs and worm jigs. These are my 7 most effective steelhead jigs under a float: Click the links to view them at Bass Pro Shops or at

The Nightmare Jig For Steelhead : A Hot Steelhead Jig

The Steelhead Nightmare Jig is an effective swim jig for steelhead and salmon. I use the 1/8oz and 1/4oz sizes.

The Steelhead Nightmare Jig is a steelhead jig pattern that is very popular among steelhead anglers and for good reason, it works.

I have been tying this jig at home to test it out and I have found that it is an effective bait to use under a float in very small sizes but the Nightmare Jig for steelhead is a jig that is meant to be cast out and jigged and retrieved on the swing.

If you don’t tie your own steelhead jigs and you want to buy one, the best version you can buy at bass pro shops is the AeroJig Hackle Jig

See my float fishing and my casting steelhead jig set up below.

Casting And Jigging For Steelhead

The other method that I use when fishing with jigs for steelhead is to cast them like a lure and use a lift and drop jigging method.

I cast straight across the river and wait until I think my jig has hit the bottom and then reel up the slack and lift the tip of my rod 2 to 3 feet and then slowly lower the tip as I slowly reel in some slack, and then keep repeating until the jig is directly below me.

This method jumps the jig in an up and down motion as it swings its way across the river. Dropping your rod tip too fast is a beginner mistake and if you drop too fast you will put slack in the line and will not be able to detect the strike. The key is to always have gentle tension as the jig drops back down to the bottom.

When I Cast Jigs, I like to use swim jigs and jigs similar to what the bass and walleye guys use.

For the best casting steelhead jigs try these:

See my casting steelhead jig set up below.

Steelhead Jig Heads

For most rivers, when casting jigs with plastic grubs or twister tails I prefer steelhead jig heads in sizes 1/8oz to 1/4oz and I like the Hawken AeroJig Jig Heads. Almost any standard painted jig head should do.

Steelhead Jig Patterns

Some of the steelhead jig paterns are solid one color and others will have one color on the head and one color on the body and tail. Most of the time I like steelhead jig patterns that are all one color.

I also prefer steelhead jig patterns that use marabou in the tail. The marabou gives the jig lots of action and movement like a creature with moving legs as the current passes over it.

Many of the steelhead jigs come in many different patterns and colors.

The Steelhead Jig Setup

This is where I cover the steelhead jig set up that I use when I’m fishing below a float and when I’m casting jigs for steelhead.

TO BE CONTINUED – Sorry guys but I’m off to bed to get some sleep because I’m guiding in the morning. Check back in a day or two for more information

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