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6 BEST Steelhead Rigs For Bank Fishing (In [year])

how to catch steelhead from the bank

Steelhead Rigs For Bank Fishing With Tips and Techniques

If you’re new to steelhead fishing, welcome to the club.  We steelheaders are the rare breed that can’t wait for the warm weather to leave and winter to nestle in.  Because with the winter, come the steelhead. We gear up and face the cold air and the cold water all for the hope of feeling that one violent strike that comes from the other end of our line.

And unless you have access to a drift boat or some other kind of floating contraption, then you’ll be joining me and hundreds of other steelhead anglers on the banks of the river.  


Bank fishing for steelhead is what I know.  I’ve drifted for steelies, but I’m most comfortable and the most in my element fishing for steelhead from the bank.

But what are some of the best steelhead rigs for bank fishing? That’s exactly what I want to go over with you in this post.  Over the years I’ve caught steelies a variety of different ways from the bank. Of course I’ve got my favorite methods of bank fishing for steelhead, and I’ll share that with you too.

But after going through this list, I hope you’ll be able to give bank fishing for steelhead a fresh new look.  You have nothing to lose by trying something new.

So pull up your waders, grab your corkies and lets get out there this winter and land some monster steelhead!


How To Catch Steelhead From The Bank With These Steelhead Rigs

1. Drift Fishing For Steelhead

Drift fishing for steelhead is exactly what it sounds like. In this style of bank fishing, you essentially bounce the corkie, or other lure or bait along the bottom of the river.  To do this you have to use a fair amount of weight. 

The trick is to figure out just the right amount of weight that takes the bait to the bottom and allows it to stay on the bottom and move with the current at about the same speed as the current. Too much weight and the lure won’t bounce along like it should.  Too little weight and the lure won’t even make it to the bottom.

Steelhead stay at the bottom of the river and are facing upstream. The trick is to present the bait in such a way that it remains as natural as possible.  As you can imagine, the sensation of the weight bouncing along the bottom can be quite deceiving. It only comes with a lot of experience and practice to get to the point where you can really differentiate between bumps against the rocks and actual steelhead strikes, which are very subtle.

Drifting is my preferred method of bank fishing for steelhead and is by far one of the most popular. That’s because it works so well.  It’s how I was taught and is probably why I tend to always revert back to it.

2. Casting Spinners For Steelhead

It’s not too difficult to cast and retrieve. And chances are, most of us have done it while bass fishing or trout fishing. But casting a spinner from the bank for steelhead is a little bit different of a story.  

Since we’re casting the spinner into a fairly fast moving current, it takes some skill and practice to get to the point where it becomes second nature.  But casting spinners from the bank for steelhead is another excellent way to get into some nice fish.

The main difference in casting spinners for steelhead compared to other fish is that you’ll be casting upstream and allowing it to drift downstream in the current.  Once the lure reaches the end of the drift, it then swings back toward the bank.

I almost always end up casting a spinner or two on my steelhead trips.  This is especially true if the stream empties into some kind of pool or slower body of water where I believe the steelies are held up, waiting to make their next run.

3. Bank Plunking For Steelhead

A plunking rig is another great steelhead rig for bank fishing.  You might be familiar with the plunking rig from using it in a stationary boat, but this awesome rig can definitely be used from the bank as well.

Essentially, the basic plunking setup allows you to position your line at the bottom of the current by the use of a weight.  Then above the weight, you would have a lure or spinner, like a Spin-And-Glo coming off the main line. This spinner will then spin freely in the current just up from the bottom of the river.  The entire rig is stationary and is not intended to drift along with the current.

So be sure to find the right amount of weight that will keep the rig in place. But not too much weight where the striking steelhead will spit out the lure from having too much weight.

Plunking for steelhead from the bank is a great option when the river levels are high and the water is moving a little slower than usual. As you can imagine, it’s a great steelhead rig for beginners, or in my case, where casting is limited due to overhanging brush, etc.

4. Pulling plugs (Hot-Shotting, Backtrolling) 

Again, you might be familiar with fishing with plugs from the warmer summer months when you’re fishing for bass.  Well good news, plugs work well for steelhead too.

Most steelhead fishermen will tell you that you need a boat to pull a plug, but don’t let them deter you.  Plugs are another good steelhead rig for bank fishing.

You’ll fish plugs much like you fish spinners.  Cast them up stream and allow them to drift and swing in the current.  Steelies can’t resist the wiggle of the plug.

Popular plugs to use for steelhead are Mag Lips and Brad’s Wee Wigglers.

5. Bobber and Jig For Steelhead

This setup is one of the best steelhead rigs for those of you who are just starting out and learning how to fish for steelhead. Not only is it a great rig to use from the bank, but it works!

This rig works just like it sounds. You have a weighted jig or bait that’s tied below a floating bobber.  You’ll cast this entire rig upstream into the current. Then you simply allow the rig to drift downstream in the current.  And just like bobber fishing for any other species, when the float slips under the surface, be ready to set the hook.

With this rig, you want to take time to set the depth of the jig or the bait appropriately.  Aim to have the jig travel through the current just above the bottom of the stream. Be careful though, because if the jig hits bottom, the bobber will dive under the surface and give you a big rush of adrenaline for nothing!

6. Fly Fishing For Steelhead From The Bank

The very first time I ever even heard of steelhead was when I was a kid, and I found an incredibly hand tied fly in my Dad’s old tackle box.  When I asked about it, he told me it was my Great-Grandfathers steelhead fly. I’ve been intrigued not only by steelhead ever since…but fly fishing too.

Fly fishing for steelhead can be a more advanced method of fishing for steelhead.  But it is well worth the time and expense to get started and practice.

This particular steelhead rig for bank fishing will get easier and better over time as you get more and more experience.  If you decide to give it a go, what you’ll do is cast your fly up stream as far as you can and allow the fly to drift with the current.  

If you’re truly interested in fly fishing, you might want to consider practicing throughout the year on fly fishing for trout.  It’s a great way to gain experience at handling a fly rod as well as handling a fish with a fly rod.

You Might Also Be Interested In…

Bank Fishing For Steelhead & Salmon

Bank Fishing for Steelhead & Salmon
  • Full of steelhead fishing tips and techniques for both beginners and experts.
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02/18/2024 03:46 am GMT

This steelhead bank fishing book is an excellent resource for those of you who might just be starting out or looking to better your steelhead fishing game.

The principles and teachings inside this book are timeless.  The habits of steelhead have not changed over the years.

Things you’ll learn are: 

  • Pre-trip preparations you can do at home
  • researching rivers and reading maps
  • specific bank-fishing techniques and tips
  •  reading water and understanding the various water conditions in which fish hold
  • Much more

From learning how to read the river to knowing all about the fish itself. You’ll be ahead of the game by adding this steelhead fishing book to your own library.

Purchase Here (Amazon)

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how to fish for steelhead

Written by Don

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure.

I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!

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