Steelhead worms, fishing soft worms for steelhead

Oregon Spring Chinook season opens in Hells Canyon on April 25th
April 21, 2020
Oregon Recreational salmon and steelhead fishing on the Columbia River will reopen in May
May 2, 2020



When it comes to fishing in the Pacific Northwest, everyone knows it’s all about salmon and steelhead. These two species are the most sought after fish in the region drawing anglers from around the world to target these beautiful hard fighting fish.

Over the years natural bait has was always been the name of the game. Natural baits like herring and salmon roe being the two primary and most effective for catching these beasts. However, with ever changing fishing regulations and increased natural bait restrictions, anglers have had to find effective artificial baits to stay in the game. This has opened the door to the creation of several artificial lures that have taken their place in the history books as being some of the most effective lures for catching these fish in the region. The soft gummy bear like rubber worms known as Steelhead worms, are definitely among the most effective for catching Northwest steelhead.

Fishing soft worms for steelhead

Ironically one of the late comers to the Northwest salmon and steelhead scene are the infamous soft worms. These soft baits first gained popularity because of their effectiveness for catching small mouth and large mouth bass in the southern region of the United States. Soft worms are old news in Dixie Land but here in the Northwest, these stick baits are starting to make a name for themselves for their effectiveness, especially with salmon, trout, and steelhead.

Today, the most popular companies producing these baits are Mad River MFG, B&R Tackle, and Horker Soft Baits. All of which produce great baits but our personal favorite are the Horker Inhaler soft worm lineup. They manufacture three variants called the Northwest Finesse, Spade Tail, and OLY Steelhead Worms, which are awesome for catching Pacific Northwest fish.

Soft worm jig for steelhead

4″ Inhailer Oly Steelhead worms on a jig.



Best of all, Horker Soft Baits does it right. Rather than mass production like other bait makers, Horker does small batches of killer salmon and steelhead worms in several effective colors. Get them plain of infused with a variety of proven fish attracting scents like shrimp, anise, garlic, earthworm, and coffee. Similar to Micro Brew versus mass produced beer the end product is much better. This combination provides the ultimate soft fishing worms that just plain catch fish. Don’t take our word for it, both Oregon and Washington fishing guides use Inhaler Soft worms when taking their clients our salmon, trout and steelhead fishing.


If you’ve never fished soft soft baits, one of our favorite ways to fish for steelhead is bobber dogging a 4″ Oly Steelhead worm under a float. Just thread the worm onto an 1/8 oz jig head and set the bobber stop to get the worm jig to the preferred depth. Run that setup through tale outs, next to overhangs and deep holes where salmon and steelhead hold up and it’s fish on. Try to target tail outs behind rocks, under trees, or bridge trestles. These are some of the preferred places steelhead hang to ambush prey. On bright sunny clear days with clear water conditions remember to stay further back from the side of the river. You want the fish to pay attention to your bait, not you. This will not only increase your success but it really separates you from the amateurs.




Another great technique for catching steelhead is drifting steelhead worms off the bottom. Some anglers run a bead korky worm combo or just a straight worm threaded on a hook with about 2-3 foot of leader under about a 1/2 oz lead weight. Depending on the regulations for the area you’re fishing. We like to add shrimp, anise or earthworms scent for added attraction to help stimulate the bite.

For this method we use the Horker Northwest Finesse or the longer inhaler spade tail worms which are both very effective. One benefit of fishing Horker Soft baits is that they use the more eco-friendly plastics for their baits that is  Phthalate free! Scent bleeds through the plastic better and overall produces more effective steelhead worms.

If you’ve been fishing the other brands we at the Lunker’s Guide recommend you try Horker. These guys have killer soft baits that have put fish on the bank over and over again. If you don’t believe us just try some for yourself.

Another awesome product by Horker are their Monster Chomps Steelhead Beads. These larger than life soft beads are redefining the bead game and catching some real monsters. The Bloody Disco ball is a Steelhead catching machine, same with their Death Prawn and Ghost Shrimp beads. All killer effective and UV delicious. Start fishing Horker Soft baits today and start catching the big ones.


best steelhead worms


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