The impact of the "pink worm" on steelhead fishing has brought impressive steelhead to the bank for scores of anglers. As the popularity of the technique has flourished, so have the options available to anglers.
The authors 4 favorite colors from 2021 (Addicted Steelhead Worms)
Based on angler recommendations I started fishing the worm and developed major confidence in it as a float fishing technique on a jig head. The Berkeley Bubblegum and the (now-discontinued) Clearwater Pink produced. Summer steelhead, and winters both found these baits to be worthy of attacking.
After a season or two I found out about the Mad River Nightmare and caught some of my biggest steelhead ever on it, while being able to fish it in clearer conditions. I was shocked at how effective the nightmare was.
From there the Mad River options just kept coming, and Addicted Fishing brought out their own colors utilizing Mad River to produce them. Their options hit some of the most effective colors you can use. I've caught fish on almost all of them now.
The strange thing about a worm is the big tail hang, even on a 4-inch worm with a reasonable size jig-head, there is a lot that a fish could "short-strike".
What's odd is that they don't short-strike very much at all.
An extremely powerful buck that went for a 6 inch "Red Fever" worm on a 2/0 Jig-Hook.
A good size steelhead will sink your float and have that jig head in their mouth. Perhaps its the way they go in for the bite, perhaps its that they engulf the entire worm itself. Either way, they have a very aggressive response to them.
There are rivers and places that you'll catch lots of fish on some odd colors. Places where wacky, clowny stuff will work. Places where flat blacks, browns, blues...many colors may get a response.
But for the majority of steelhead? I believe the answer lies in between pink and red.
I use a simple rule with steelhead worms.
The lower the vis the more bright of pink I go, and if legal, I apply scent liberally. I will also experiment with contrasting jig heads (chartreuse, blue, peach, white)
In clear water I will move towards red on the color spectrum, often going with more reserved colors for the head and tail (blacks, purples, whites)
The jig-head is a target, so it is good to try a few different colors to see what the steelhead key in. When in doubt? Go with a white jighead. White is one of the best contrasting colors you can ever use.
If I were to go with one color all the time? Something in between pink and red, fleshy with a white tail. Switch the jig head colors up for contrast...the worm above for instance.
In regular water I don't go heavy on scent. I put squid oil on my fingertips (shrimp oil, tuna oil and others work well I just have a lot of confidence in squid on the coast) while I put the worm on and that seems to be plenty for them to like it.
Fishing the Worms
That's a whole other article. If you're a worm angler though - it's well worth diving into a few colors in between pink and red, switching them until you figure out what the fish want. Once you do - rinse and repeat. They'll eat it again.
- Lucas H