Called the ultimate game fish, Steelhead is elusive and notoriously challenging to catch, even for seasoned anglers. That’s why they are also known as the “Fish of 1,000 casts”.
Steelhead fishing usually involves drift boat fishing and bank fishing. The latter is by no means less productive and effective if you’re geared up with the right rig setup (and a bit of patience and perseverance).
If you’ve ever tried to catch a steelhead from the shore but gone for months without landing one despite that good amount of time in the water, it’s time to change things up.
Here we’ll show you the best steelhead rigs for bank fishing for a successful catch. So, get ready to head out in the water and hook into a trophy steelhead!
8 Best Steelhead Rigs For Bank Fishing
1. Bank plunking
Unlike other rigs in this list, steelhead plunking is a stationary rig. This type of rig is commonly used from a stationary boat and as effectively fished from the bank.
Basically, the line is anchored at the bottom of the current with a weight. On top of the weight is the spinner or lure. As anglers usually use Spin-And-Glo for this setup, bank plunking also goes by the name Spin-And-Glo rig.
Only the spinner spins freely in the current right above the bottom, and the rest stays put in the current. Bank plunking is preferred with high water levels, notably in early spring and winter, and slower-than-usual currents.
The main advantage of plunking rid is that it allows you to have multiple rods set in parallel at a time, so the chance of catching steelies is significantly higher.
With plunk banking, you need to have the right weight to secure the rig in place. Too much weight and the steelies will spit out the lure.
How To Tie
- Tie a 50-pound test braided line to a 3-way swivel
- In one of the other eyes of the swivel, tie a monofilament dropper line (8-20 inches long). The ideal weight for the dropper line is at least 10 pounds smaller than the mainline, so it can easily break off when the weight gets snagged.
- Next, attach a weight to the end of the dropper line (1-10 pounds)
2. Bobber doggin rig
Like bank plunking, bobber doggin rigging is incredibly effective on a boat and works wonders from the shore.
Bobber dogging rid is the combination of a worm rig and a slip bobber rigged above the weight. With this rig, you need to use more weight to slow the bait with the high water level or when the water seems cold and off-colored.
Otherwise, keep your bait ticking the bottom by using less weight when there is higher visibility in the water.
This rig is highly recommended when the bottom has a lot of covers that normal drift gigs are usually snagged. A bobbing rig resembles a small tug boat and drags the gear along with the bottom downstream, which is the prime strike zone.
It does this without getting snagged as frequently. It’s worth noting that the rig is meant to drag the bait along the bottom, so it is advisable to set the bobber stop greater than the maximum depth of the river. The float will lean downstream while dragging the pencil weight underneath.
How To Tie
- Tie a bobber stop to the mainline
- Thread the line through a plastic bead to prevent the bobber so that the bobber stop won’t get stuck inside the slip bobber
- Thread another plastic bead underneath the bobber to prevent it from getting stuck on the snap swivel
- Tie a 3-way snap swivel to the mainline, and then attach the pencil weight to the snap
- Attach a fluorocarbon leader with a baited hook at one end of the swivel. The leader should be from 1 to 3 feet long with a weight of 10-12 pounds.
Note: Besides plastic worms, you can bait your hook with several other options such as shrimp, prawns, pegged beads, nightcrawlers, shrimp tails, yarn balls, etc. It’s all about experimenting with different lures to see what works best for the steelhead in the river.
3. Bobber and jig
Bobber and jig are the simplest to set up and perfect for those just starting to fish steelheads. The concept is foolproof. A weighted bait or jig is attached underneath a floating bobber.
Then, you start to cast upstream and let the rig drift freely downstream in the current. Once the bobber dives under the surface, it’s time to set the hook.
When setting up this rig, the depth that the bait reaches is key to bringing home steelheads. The jig should drift along with the current just right above the bottom.
The bobber will slip and give you a false signal if it hits bottom. If you’re fishing winter steelhead, ⅛ to ¼ oz bobber and jig combo should be ideal depending on how strong the current is.
There are 2 options when setting up this rig: a fixed bobber and a sliding bobber.
The fixed float works best with shallow water spots no more than 5 feet in depth, whereas slip or sliding bobbers are as effective in shallow water as in deep water.
We recommend using the sliding bobbers, as they offer more flexibility for you to catch the fish.
How To Tie
- Use fluorocarbon monofilament as your mainline
- Thread a fixed float or bobber to the line
- Tie a jig head to the end
- Thread a plastic bait to the hook
Note: Classic pink is the most commonly used color for worms for bait. However, the one pictured above is another color that has proven effective in low water with high visibility.
4. Bottom bouncing
The most demanding part of setting up bottom bouncing is choosing the right weight. The bait needs enough weight to go down fast. Too much weight will anchor it down at the bottom and not allow it to drift naturally in the current.
Too little weight and the bait will slide under too slowly or cause the whole setup to go out of the strike zone.
Bottom bouncing rigs are frequently used for drift fishing in large water areas like great lakes. It also works well in low currents since you can reduce the number of split shot weights.
However, bottom bouncing rigs are not for everyone.
New anglers find it hard to miss the subtle bites the steelhead makes under the water without floating rigs. The main advantage of this rig is that it deals with getting snagged better than other choices.
The split shot weights are positioned at the dropper line to prevent them from getting hung up. When the shots do get snagged, they can easily slide off the line, and you won’t damage the entire setup.
How To Tie
- Use an 8- to 12-pound mono as the mainline
- Attach your mainline with a 3-way swivel. The ideal dropper line is 10 pounds weaker than the mainline
- Depending on the current, add 2-3 split shot weights at the end of the dropper line
- Tie 12-24 inches of a 6- to 10-pound fluorocarbon leader to the remaining eye of the swivel
- Finally, add a size 8 octopus hook to the end of the leader
5. Bead rig
Single bead rig
Plastic beads are one of the most common lures around, and they are effective when fishing steelheads. These beads are designed to resemble salmon eggs which steelies regularly feed on.
When steelhead enters the stream in the fall, they mainly hunt for high-calorie salmon eggs. The concept is pretty simple: A plastic bead is placed just above the hook, representing an irresistible bait drifting down the river.
You can use this setup in any condition as long as the current is strong enough to create an illusion that the egg-like beads are being washed downstream.
Plastic beads can combine with a slip bobber to create an efficient setup. You can set the depth of the bobber to match the water, so the bead can reach the bottom as it drifts along with the current.
The bead will look more like a real salmon egg when behaving this way.
How To Tie
- Thread the leader through a 10 or 12-mm colored plastic bead
- Add a size 4 or 8 octopus hook to the line
- Adjust the bead so that it’s about 1 to 2 inches above the hook
- Keep the bead in place using its own pegs. If you don’t have pegs, tie it with a double loop knot or use a bobber stop to prevent the bead from sliding from the hook.
Double bead rig
Taking a few steps to set up a double bead rig can increase your odds of catching steelheads. With this rig, you present two baits under the water simultaneously.
However, it’s worth noting that some areas do not allow the use of two baits for fishing, so make sure you check the local regulations first before opting for this setup.
How To Tie
- Start with the setup just as you do with the single bead rig
- On the bend of the first hook, tie another leader of the same length as the first leader
- Add a plastic bead on the second leader. Use the same color as the first bead or any shade you want
- Leave out 1-2 inches above at the end of the leader line before you secure the bead with a peg
- Attach the second hook
6. Worm rig with sinker
This setup presents the bait closer to the bottom and is one of the best rigs for steelhead fishing from the shore. In addition, the worm rig is highly versatile as it can be used in different conditions.
You can choose the sinker’s weight to match the current’s strength for a successful catch. The setup quickly delivers your bait to the strike zone and is equally effective for summer and winter steelies.
As with many drifting rigs, you may want to start upstream and allow the setup to be washed downstream.
How To Tie
- Use a 50-pound test braid as the mainline. Tie it to one eye of a 3-way swivel. A 2-way swivel is fine, but a 3-way swivel can prevent tangled lines.
- Add a snap to one of the other eyes of the swivel
- Use a 10 to 12-pound test fluoro or mono as your leader. Next, use a worm threader to attach your chosen plastic worm to the leader
- Thread a plastic bead to the lower part of the leader line, underneath the worm. This bead helps to stop the plastic worm from sliding towards the hook
- Tie a size 6 or 8 octopus hook to the end of the line
- Attach the other end of the leader to the swivel
- Add a 1-3 oz sinker to the snap
7. Spinner rig
One of the most significant advantages of spinners is that they can attract bites even when the metabolism of steelheads is not the warmest.
Hence, it is our first choice when fishing winter steelies. The lure is set in motion when you cast the line across the river, and the blade starts spinning.
After casting the rig out, wait a moment to let it sink to the prime strike zone before you can retrieve it. While retrieving the line, it’s best to keep the rod pointed down to maintain a natural spin while keeping the spinner in the strike zone for longer.
How To Tie
- Tie a 2-way swivel to the mainline
- Add two split shot weights above the swivel to drag down the line under the water. This rig is prone to twist the line because of the spinner’s blade, so you need to use a swivel to prevent the line from getting tangled.
- Use 10 to 12 lb test fluoro or mono that is 2-4 feet long as a leader, and tie it to the other eye
- Attach the spinner to the other end of the leader
Note: Besides spinners, this setup can be used with crankbaits, plugs, and spoons.
See also: What spinner works best for trout?
8. Slip bobber rig
If you want to catch winter steelhead in water that’s more than 6 feet in depth, using a slip bobber is the way to go. Slip bobber rig is highly versatile as it can work with shallow and deep water just as well.
All you need to do is adjust the bobber stop position along the line according to the depth of water in the fishing area.
Slip bobber rigs are ideal for areas with many boulders, weed beds, and sunken trees. They are superior to other rigs because you can suspend the lures at the correct depth without getting snagged on the bottom cover.
The idea of watching the bobber slip down when the steelhead strikes are incredibly interesting for any angler.
How To Tie
- Rig a bobber stopper on the mainline. You can use either braid or monofilament since they often float on top of the water, great for float fishing.
- Thread the line through a plastic bead to prevent the bobber stop getting trapped in the slip bobber
- Thread the slip bobber below the plastic bead
- Next, add a sliding sinker (split shot weights) to weigh down the baited hook before adding a barrel swivel
- Tie a 10 to 12-lb test fluoro leader at 4-foot length to the swivel. You may want leaders to be as invisible as possible when it comes to leaders. Fluorocarbon is the best choice with low visibility and the tendency to sink well in the water
- Attach your baited hook at the other end of the line
Note: You can choose to tie the bobber stop yourself or get store-bought bobber stops such as egg bobber stops with a bead for more convenience. With these egg bobber stoppers, there is a wire loop through which you can thread the bobber stop to the fishing line. After threading, you can slide the stopper up and down to change the depth.
The challenging steelhead puts any angler to the test of patience and persistence, but with the best steelhead rigs for bank fishing, you’re ahead of the game to hook in more steelheads.
These rigs on the list have their own strengths and merits and fit certain circumstances, so make sure you pick out the right one.
It pays to know the depth, and current of the river that you’re going to fish, and the type of fish you’re targeting (summer or winter-run steelies) to have the right strategy.
That’s why we offer you several rigs which you can put to good use in different situations.
Born in Lakeland, Florida, Daniel has started fishing since he was just a tiny little kid. His father was a real good fisherman, as he taught Daniel tricks and tips to catch the fish better. From those childhood memories, Daniel has built up his love for fishing. Until now, he has been participating in several bass tournaments and currently serves as the Chief Editor of fishingonsunday.com to share his precious knowledge and experiences with many more people.