Gearing Up For Winter Steelhead

By: Mark Romanack

This buck steelhead struck a Mag Lip 3.0 in the popular Double Trouble color.

On the West Coast and also in the Great Lakes region, winter steelhead fishing is a cult-like activity. Those who live to target big chrome sided steelhead simply can’t get enough these magnificent fish.

A number of different presentations routinely produce steelhead when they are found in rivers. The iconic Yakima Bait Spin-N-Glo, Maxi Jig and Mag Lip are must have products for any angler who targets steelhead in rivers.


The Yakima Bait Spin-N-Glo is a buoyant attractor that spins with the slightest movement and is commonly fished along bottom for steelhead. The rig used to cast a Spin-N-Glo is similar to those commonly used to drift a spawn bag along bottom.

Many anglers simply thread on a No. 6, 8, 10 or 12 size Spin-N-Glo onto the main line and terminate by also threading on a small bead and then tying on an appropriate sized octopus hook. The bead provides a bushing that allows the Spin-N-Glo to spin freely.

Two or three feet up the main line a split shot is added to the line. The trick is to add just enough weight so the rig will sink to the bottom and the current will drift the offering naturally downstream.

In heavy current, this same rig can be modified to include a three way swivel with a pencil weight or slinky style sinker in place of the split shot. The Spin-N-Glo rig is casted quartering upstream and as the rig drifts downstream the angler picks up the slack line and keeps pace with the rig.

Any hesitation in the downstream drift signals that a fish has picked up the Spin-N-Glo.

The author, Mark Romanack enjoys targeting steelhead in a host of different rivers scattered across the Great Lakes region. Fish like this can make even the coldest days on the water rewarding.


The Yakima Bait Maxi Jig was designed with river steelhead in mind. Built on a 2X strong Owner hook, the Maxi Jig is dressed with colorful beads, maribou and tensile in dozens of fish catching colors. Available in 1/32, 1/16, 1/8, 1/4 and 3/8 ounce sizes the Maxi Jig is most often fished below a float that suspends the jig just off bottom. Shallow gravel runs and lazy holes are prime places to float a Maxi Jig near bottom.

When using the smaller sizes of the Maxi Jig, anglers often use a few split shot about 12 to 18 inches above the jig to help get the rig to depth quickly. The trick is to use enough weight that the float rests low in the water. The slightest take will cause the float to sink, telegraphing the strike and providing little resistance to the fish.

A number of baits are used in combination with the Maxi Jig to entice river steelhead. Wax worms and mayfly larva often referred to as “wigglers” are commonly added to the jig as extra enticement. The Maxi Jig is also more productive when a squirt or two of Rooster Tail® Spray Scent is added. This water soluble scent allows the maribou to pulsate naturally in the water, while at the same time putting out a powerful scent stream in the water.

Steelhead fishermen like the Shrimp, Trophy Trout and Trout/Kokanee formulas.

A nip in the air and a little snow on the ground makes for the perfect day winter steelhead fishing.


Yakima Bait’s Mag Lip crankbait is legendary among stream steelhead fishermen who back-troll these plugs from a drift boat, jet sled or small skiff. The boat is anchored in the current and plugs are played out downstream of the boat just far enough that the plugs wobble down near bottom.

Rods are strategically spaced out using rod holders, creating a wall of wobbling plugs. When the anchor is lifted, the boat is then controlled using oars or an electric motor that can swing the boat from side to side and also hover the boat in the current.

Gradually the boat is allowed to slip downstream while the current pushing against the Mag Lip brings their wobbling action to life. When steelhead hit a Mag Lip the strike often buries the rod making it difficult to pull free from the rod holder.

For most river fishing situations the 3.0 and 3.5 sizes of the Mag Lip are the most popular. In ultra clear water streams many anglers prefer the smaller 2.5 and even 2.0 Mag Lip.

Mag Lip comes in dozens of fish catching colors. Some of the consistently productive steelhead color patterns include Metallic Gold/Flame, Grinch, Double Trouble, Green Machine, Mad Man, Payday, NFL and Metallic Gold/Green Pirate.


The Spin-N-Glo, Maxi Jig and the Mag Lip are three legendary Yakima Bait Company products that produce steelhead day in and day out. Teamed up with Rooster Tail® Spray Scent all three of these baits enjoy even more success.