Bead fishing for steelhead

Double Bead Rig for Steelhead Fishing

Bead fishing for steelhead, whether you are float fishing with a centerpin, baitcaster float rod or spinning flat out deadly.     

Beads, either hard or soft, mimic an egg washed down river from a spawning salmon or trout, and steelhead love them!   Frankly, salmon, trout, bass and everything else love them too.

Colors, sizes and other factors are a topic for another article.   But presentation is the most important thing to dial in first, and we feel to be the most important part of effectively fishing a bead program for steelhead.

A standard bead setup is a leader of 18" up to 36" down from your swivel with either a soft or hard bead pegged about 2" above your hook.   Always remember, your hook size should match your bead size...meaning, your bead should fit within the gap of the hook.

A presentation tactic that has caught on over the years from the pacific northwest and throughout the Great Lakes region is a double bead rig.

The rig is quite simple to set up, starting with your standard bead rig presentation.   The twist, so to speak, is to tie an additional leader/hook/bead rig to your first hook using a simple fishermen's knot.     We like to sometimes run our dropper (second leader) a little longer than the top leader.

On average, our swivel to first hook leader is between 20-24", and our second leader is minimum 24" up to 30".

We generally like to contrast our bead color selection, with the top bead being something like a bright yellow, and the bottom bead being something in a peach shade.    Sometimes we do run the same exact bead, and it does work also, but contrast seems to work a little better.

Most interestingly, it is the top bead that get's hit the most.  For whatever reason, it seems to be the top bead getting most of the action when fishing a double bead rig.

You might think "Oh, they really want that color" and just run a single bead rig with that top bead.   No, no, no, no, and no!    Keep it exactly the way you have it, even if the bottom bead never gets bit.   There is something about the contrast, or the distance, or whatever it might be that really gets steelhead to hunt double bead rigs down.

We fully believe in not changing up a winning combination, and not drawing conclusions from just the top bead getting hit.   We notice this due to our extensive offshore salmon trolling experience, where we often run what is called a "slider" rig above a mainline lure when trolling with downriggers.   Same concept, one lure on the mainline, and then another similar type lure above it a few feet.   Again, oftentimes it's the top lure getting all the action.    We have extensively tested running the same style lure, or just switching to a single lure of that hot color and size on the mainline without running the "slider".....and it just doesn't work the same or at all.   There is just something about two lures or rigs running close to one another that drives fish crazy.

So the next time you are bead fishing, tie on another leader to your hook and run a contrasting color bead below it and see for yourself!   In fact, we can't remember the last time we ran a single bead rig, because double rigs far out produce single bead rigs.

For rigging, definitely make sure you are running at least 10lb if not larger leader.    With all that leader in the water, fish get wrapped, and anything lighter will likely break during the fight.

And always be sure to pay attention to your gap size and bead size.   Generally speaking, a 10 mm bead would fit within a size 6 Blood Run Skeena or Tail Out hook, an 8mm bead would work perfect with a size 8 Tail Out or Skeena.

Give it a shot your next time out, and really maximize your success when bead fishing for steelhead.

And yes, there is such a thing as a "triple bead rig"...


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Thoughts on 10 mm bead on top and 8mm on bottom or keep them both the same, or 8 on top 10 on bottom.
Blood Run Fishing replied:
Both the same

Greg Whaley

do you usually run some shot on upper leader in typical “walking pace” water
Blood Run Fishing replied:
No never. Shot stops at swivel nothing on leader. You really want the leader to kick straight downstream.

John johnson

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