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Steelhead Spoons – What to Use and How to Fish Them!

Drifting a small jig can be super productive for steelhead however, throwing a steelhead spoon across an open stretch of water can be the difference between landing a beauty and going home empty handed.

If salmon eggs or jigs are just not producing on any given day then make the switch to a spoon or a spinner.

Spoons, spinners and plugs should form the basis of any decent collection of steelhead lures.

Although a steelhead spinner can give great results when fished near the surface, it is the spoon that can be worked to great effect down in deeper water.

The wobble that a spoon creates cannot be recreated by a spinner

The wobble that a spoon naturally has creates a massive amount of low end vibration through the water.

When fishing a spoon the speed at which it runs has a massive affect on it’s action.

With steelhead “low and slow” is the name of the game. Fishing a spoon just off the bottom with a slow and lazy retrieve will reduce much better results than high and fast.

When a steelhead hits a spoon they hit hard so you’ll know immediately once they bite.

This is not really finesse fishing but you still need to avoid spooking the steelhead. Always try and remain as hidden as possible in your surroundings.  

Work along the river bank targeting deep holes and natural drop offs. 

Some anglers will actually drift a spoon along the river bed. Although this does work quite well you need to know what the bottom is like. Bouncing spoons for steelhead can become very expensive if there are a lot of snags on the river bed.

If you are going to try this then it is best to stick to gravel or sandy bottoms. You can combine the two approaches if the water transitions from rocky faster moving water to slower moving water with gravel/sand on the bottom. 

Spoon NameDescription
1. Acme Little CleoHighly popular, effective in small size. Available in various
sizes and colors.
Best used with simpler colors and size based on water depth.
2. Luhr Jensen KrocodileLonger, more slender shape with different swim action.
Effective in open water, especially in
slower rivers.
Best placed directly in front of steelhead.
3. KastmasterHeavier due to thickness, can lead to snagging. Chunky shape
with great swim action. Suitable for deep rivers or strong
currents due to weight.
4. Dardevle OriginalA classic choice, found in many tackle boxes since the early
20th century.
Iconic red and white striped color effective for various fish.
5. Acme KO WobblerSimilar in shape and action to Dardevle spoon, slightly larger
than Little Cleo. Can be fished deeper.
Another versatile option for steelhead fishing.

Best Steelhead Spoons

1. Little Cleo

Acme Little Cleo

The Acme Little Cleo could well be the most popular spoon for steelhead. Although they are small in size steelhead seem to love them.

Available in a range of sizes and colors, I tend to stick with the simple colors and the size should match the depth of water you are trying to fish.

2. Luhr Jensen Krocodile

Luhr Jensen Krocodile

The longer more slender Krocodile has a very different swim action than the Little Cleo above. This can be fished a little bit faster than a thicker spoon. 

The Krocodile can work quite well in open water, particularly in slower moving rivers where steelhead may seem a little lazy when feeding.

They will often follow one of these spoons a then turn away as if uninterested. The key is to try to place it right in front of the steelhead so that they strike out of predatory instinct.

3. Kastmaster

kastmaster spoon

The Kastmaster due to it’s thickness is a lot heavier than other spoons so you need to be careful as they can snag quite a bit. However, the chunky shape has a great swim action. 

Kastmaster are great for deep rivers or really strong currents as the extra weight helps to get them down deeper much quicker and they are les likely to be bounced around in strong currents.

4. Dardevle Original

Dardevle Original

The Dardevle Original spoon can be found in almost any tackle box since the start of the 20th century.

The original color of striped red and white will catch just about anything.

5. Acme KO Wobbler 

Acme KO Wobbler 

The Wobbler is of similar shape and action to the Dardevle spoon above. The are a little larger than the Cleo and can be fished a little bit deeper.

Spoon Fishing for Steelhead

How you fish a spoon for steelhead will depend on the type of water you are fishing. Chances are you are either going to be on a lake or river. The two main approaches would then be:

  • Casting/spinning – casting from a river bank using either a casting or spinning setup
  • Trolling – Trolling spoons for steehead from a boat


Throwing spoons for steelhead is just like fishing spoons for any other fish in a river. However, the major difference is speed!

When retrieving a steelhead spoon the speed at with you move the lure through the water is crucial. 

Bouncing the along the bottom or slowly retrieving them just off the bottom are the best approaches. This seems to drive steelhead wild and they will strike extremely hard. 

You need a spinning or casting setup, an ultralight one will not be able for a steelhead in fast water.

The majority of steelhead spinning reels are usually in the 2000 to 3000 size range.

While most steelhead rods will usually have a fast action ad be 8’6″ minimum in length.


If you are trolling from a boat using spoons then your setup will be very different from what you would use on a river. 

You’ll need a trolling rod and a good conventional reel. Line strength will be heavy than on a spinning setup.