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Best Bait for Salmon

Best Bait for Salmon

Choosing the best bait for salmon will depend largely on how and where you are fishing.

As an example I’ve had little or no success when using herring strips in a river, but when mooching in 100 plus feet of water they are absolute dynamite.

​There are many ways to catch salmon whether in both rivers and in deeper lakes or saltwater coast lines and the many of them can involve the use of a natural bait:

  • Trolling – pulling a lure behind a boat usually herring strips tied to cut plug or a hoocie behind a flasher
  • Mooching – dropping a herring strip down between 100 and 200 feet and reeling it back up, a bit like vertical jigging
  • Plunking – casting a heavy weight on the bottom and running a lure down your line, cut plugs with herrings strips or Kwikfish lure with tied bait. Salmon plunking is often done using a three way swivel rig and using a Spin ‘n’ Glow in front of some cut bait or shrimp
  • Drifting –drifting salmon roe or skein down along a seam in a river with added weight to control the depth or sometime with no weight for a natural presentation
  • Bobber/Float – similar to drifting above but with the use of a bobber or float

​You can use either artificial ​lures or real salmon bait. 

This article will focus primarily on real or natural bait for salmon fishing. It you would like to see a list of artificial lures that we have covered in depth check out our article on the best salmon lures.

​Most salmon baits will have some form of natural scent and they will closely mimic what the salmon are already feeding on throughout their life cycle.

​Best Bait for Salmon

1. Salmon Roe

Arguably the best bait for salmon ever salmon roe can also be fished in the most simplest of presentations.

You can either drift salmon roe or run it underneath a bobber or float.

Drifting allows you present the salmon roe in a very natural way. Bouncing it off the bottom or suspending it about a foot above the bottom with a weight are two of the most successful salmon strategies available.

Using a float setup allows you to carefully control the depth at which the roe will run and it also gives you great visual feedback, nothing beats seeing that bobber dive under the water!

​You will also get less snags on the bottom if your float setup is correct, this means less lost hooks and more time for fishing as you do not have to re-tie your rig.

You can either buy commercially cured salmon roe or skein or do the curing your self.

Brands like Pautzke having been producing small jars of salmon eggs for decades and they are super handy to keep in your tackle box.

​The local tackle shop to the stretch of river that you are fishing is one of the best ways to get your hands on well cured roe and chances are it is the best cure for that stretch of river as the owner is probably using it himself.

Ever angler likes to think that their particular cure is the best but ultimately it comes down to preserving the size and shape of the eggs(without burning them with the cure) whilst adding some scent to them.

Using an artificial salmon egg bead is also a great alternative especially if you do not have regular access to salmon roe or skein.

They are super simple to use and can be stored indefinitely as they are just small plastic beads.

You can also treat you salmon beads with scent for that added attraction.

Beads are incredibly effective if rigged right and some salmon anglers will use them exclusively and no longer bother to use natural eggs.

As with most salmon baits the natural fresh version is nearly always the best option.

​2. Sand Shrimp

​Using sand shrimp as salmon bait makes complete sense as shrimp make up a large portion of their natural food.

You’ll want to use the tail end and cut or tear it off just about where it attaches to the upper body.

Shrimp can be tied on and drifted downstream or they can tied to a lure. Personally I prefer to use them on their own as a more natural bait presentation.

They also make a killer combination when used with salmon skein when tied on the same hook.

They can also be back trolled behind a diver if you are in a larger river.

​You can buy sand shrimp in a lot of tackle shops but they big issue with it is that they are usually quite expensive.

One way to reduce that expensive is to find a good local spot on your coast and go and dig them yourself.

This way you get a really cheap bait but they are also nice and fresh. It is much easier to rig a fresh shrimp than an old thawed out previously frozen one as the non-fresh ones tend to go soft once thawed.

One way to keep them firm is to cure them in salt as it dries them out a little and makes the flesh that little bit tougher.

​3. Cut Herring

Cut herring can be used on almost all salmon rigs and techniques as they give off a great scent in the water.

One of the best salmon baits around they are pretty easy to cut or wrap and like most oily fish the scent is the key so try not to spill any kind of chemicals on them when storing or handling.

They can either be threaded onto a hook or tied on to the body of a plug or Kwikfish.

They also work well when used on a hoochie that is trolled behind a fishing flasher.

Just be sure not to use to big a piece as you can end up ruining the natural action of the lure.

If you can try to use herring that have not been frozen as this seems to deaden the intensity of the natural scent and dries out some of the natural oil in them especially if they have been frozen for a long time.

As with most salmon bait fresh is nearly always best but frozen is good enough if you can’t get your hands on freshly caught bait.

4. Minnows

Minnows can work quite well as a herring substitute but they do not have anywhere near the same level of smell so you may consider adding some artificial scent to them for the best results.

They are also smaller and a little bit weaker in the flesh so be careful when hooking them.

​Tackle Considerations

The type of salmon fishing tackle you use will depend on what style of fishing you are doing and whether it is from the bank or in a boat.

Trolling rods for when out in deep water and a decent rod for casting salmon spinners or bait rigs in rivers.

The best salmon fishing rods all have one thing in common and that is a lot of backbone and a high quality rod blank.

​High quality salmon reels are also a must and you really do get what you pay for when it comes to reels.

The drag quality is one of the most important aspects of a decent salmon setup as a large salmon can burn up a cheap drag in no time.

  • Updated October 16, 2021
  • Salmon