Best Bait for Salmon Fishing In the River

What Are The Best Baits and Lures for Salmon?

Salmon fishing is extremely popular because salmon put up a tough fight, and they’re an incredibly good eating fish with a lot of meat on them. 

If you’re wondering what bait to use for salmon fishing, you’re not alone. These fish are wily, so you’ll need solid bait or lures, and solid presentation to land these suckers. They swim and feed deep in the water, and they have a tough and resistant jawline, so you’ll want to make sure that your hooks are sharp and tackle is up to snuff.

Since there are 5 different kinds of salmon however, and people fish them in both rivers and oceans, there’s a variety of different bait and lures to get the job done. And if you’re new to salmon fishing, it can be a little confusing–flashers, hoochies, salmon roe, spoons, plunking, mooching, trolling, jigging, and much more!

Luckily, we’ve streamlined the process for you. Here’s the shortlist of the most time-tested, results guaranteed salmon baits and lures out there, spanning the entire range of salmon fishing. 

Best Salmon Lures

If you prefer to use a salmon lure over live bait, there are several options available. Spinners and spoons in particular can be very successful, because the Salmon respond so well to anything shiny. The main thing to keep in mind is that Salmon are deep feeders, so whatever setup you prefer, you’ll need to keep your lure bouncing slightly along the bottom.

1. Silver Horde Goldstar Kingfisher #3 Spoons Salmon Lures

  • Best lure for chinook salmon
  • Great for fresh and saltwater fishing
  • Wobble attracts fish from farther distances

Silver Horde’s Kingfisher salmon spoons took the top spot on our list because of this product’s proven track record for durability. The sturdy but lightweight material withstands both freshwater and saltwater alike.

Whether you’re fishing off the coast of Lake Erie or the open waters of the Pacific, you won’t have trouble landing any kind of salmon. This product has found particular favor amongst anglers looking to hook chinook salmon, especially when paired with live bait.

When you order one of these salmon lures, you’ll get to choose between thirteen unique colors. The elongated, concave shape of the Kingfisher salmon lures reflect light erratically to draw in fish, even in murky waters.

You can also increase the chances of landing a fish rigging live bait with this spoon. The scent of anchovies, herring, or minnows will draw in fish patrolling farther out from your line.

2. Acme’s Kastmaster Spoon

  • Great lure for pacific salmon
  • Manufactured from solid brass, so it won’t break, bend or corrode and it retains its luster
  • 10-15 lb test – medium-heavy spinning, baitcasting, trolling, in fresh or saltwater

The Kastmaster is actually more of a jigging spoon than a “cast and retrieve” spoon, but it has a great fluttering action as it drops (and a decent wobble if you are cast and retrieving it with little pauses).

Acme’s Kastmaster salmon lure is a reliable spoon bait constructed from solid brass. It won’t break or degrade when you take it out in the saltwater, a drawback of many lures that didn’t make this list.

It’s awesome for the King Salmon when they’re down and hugging the bottom. We like the straight nickel, the blue nickel, or even the gold pattern.

3. Hot Spot UV Series Flasher Salmon Lures

  • UV technology maximizes ultraviolet light reflection
  • Kicks, darts, and sways in the water
  • Sampo ball bearing swivels and stainless steel snaps
  • Great for saltwater fishing

This salmon lure maximizes UV light to resemble a fish attacking its prey or a wounded baitfish. The unique UV technology draws in Salmon from further distances than competitors.

Commercial anglers from the Great Lakes, as well as the open ocean, love these lures since they attract bigger salmon at lower depths. If you’re trolling for salmon, these lures pair well with herring baits and hoochies.

Thanks to this salmon lure’s unique design, it kicks, darts, and sways at lower depths where the current runs more tranquil. These salmon lures pair well herring bait, as well as hoochies.

4. Piscifun Floating and Sinking Fly Fishing Salmon Lures

  • Best salmon lures for fly fishing
  • Lightweight options to suit your preference
  • Variety of colors to match your environment
  • Well-made patterns and design will trick the wisest salmon

Piscifun’s fly lures look as real as any other bug zipping on the water’s surface. The sharp and strong hooks make sure you’ll hook more salmon than the sloppier options on the market.

This set of fly salmon lures come in a variety of weights to suit your preferences. Meanwhile, you’ll have a variety of color options to best suit the environment and climate conditions.

With both wet and dry flies, this is unquestionably our top pick for salmon lures to use when you’re out to fly fish. At a fair price, you can pick them up here.

5. Silver Horde Goldstar Kingfisher Lites #3.5 Salmon Lures

  • Best salmon lures for saltwater fishing
  • Popular for trolling
  • Pronounced wobble and flash in the water
  • Ten different color options

The latest in Silver Horde Goldstar’s Kingfisher line, the single strong hook with the #3.5 model, makes all the difference. You can take these salmon lures out on the water to catch chinook salmon, as well as other gamefish that might come along your line.

The older model ranked higher on our list because of its proven track record of durability and performance. However, the #3.5 salmon lures do a great job of wobbling in the water to mimic the erratic swimming of wounded baitfish. Pairing this product with bait like anchovies or herring will do everything possible to trick nearby salmon into biting the hook. The saltwater-grade hardware means you’ll get your money’s worth with this salmon lure.

You have ten different color options to choose from with this product line. This diversity allows you to customize the product to suit your needs, whether you’re trolling or fishing from land.

6. Luhr Jensen Coyote Spoon

  • Durable, corrosion-resistance for all-around salmon fishing
  • Manufactured with a welded ring on head-end
  • Premium plating and polishing provides great flashes
  • Crafted with a heavy-duty split ring with metal flipper hook on the end

The Coyote Spoon is a popular salmon lure for fishermen on the west coast in Oregon and Washington, where the conditions test salmon lures to the limits. Luckily, this product comes manufactured with a premium plating and design to resemble a distressed fish.

This motion in the water, in part, has to do with the tail fin, constructed of the same heavy-duty metal as the razor-sharp hook. Many people have reported this spoon works well with a flasher if you’re fishing in murkier waters. Regardless, you should rig a baitfish to your line–just to make sure the fish bite when they see the realistic motions in the water.

With the quality performance in mind, as well as the affordable price of the salmon lure, it’s no wonder west-coast fishermen love this product. Everything is welded securely and constructed from corrosion-resistance materials, meaning these salmon lures will last for countless fishing trips on the open water.

7. TRUSCEND Paddle Tail Salmon Lures

  • Best Lure for freshwater salmon
  • The paddle tail twists 360º to kick even at low currents
  • Tail design keep the hooks in their optimal striking positions
  • Sharp hooks on the belly and dorsal areas

This product from TRUSCEND differs from the other, cheaper lures with the 3-D. Instead, this salmon decoy has a paddle tail with a 360º spin radius. This feature allows the bait to spin and adjust in the water, which accomplishes two goals.

For example, first, there’s the goal of your lure resembling a feeding salmon by spinning, kicking, and reflecting light like a living fish. And secondly, the tail and fin design helps keep your hooks in the optimal position for whenever a salmon strikes.

TRUSCEND designed this fish-bait with an internal jig head, the extra weight making it easier to cast at longer distances. While casting at longer distances, the tail will also reflect light to attract any predator fish, especially freshwater salmon.

We would recommend this product for anyone planning on fishing in lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. However, you can also use these fishing lures in saltwater situations. The internal weight at the head of the fake fish means the bait can sink to lower depths, and you’ll have more feeling when you need to manipulate the bait.

8. Mepps Spoon Kit Salmon Lures

  • Great in both fresh and saltwater
  • Manufactured for durability with silver plating
  • Six different sizes with a double fishing hook

In terms of broad utility, this product had to make our list. Whether you’re fishing in Alaska or the Pacific Northwest, you won’t be disappointed with the selection of six salmon lures. The variety in shape, size, and colors allows you to pick the spoon best suited for the day.

Top-rated for strength and durability, these spoons hook the biggest saltwater salmon with their combination of brass and silver-plated hooks. It’ll take a lot of luck for this fish to slip the hook. Also, the vibrant decals are silk-screened and designed to resist fading despite continuous UV exposure.

9. TRUSCEND Soft Worm Bait Salmon Lures

  • Easy to hook and customize for your needs
  • Great price ($15) for 40 worm lures
  • Versatile for fishing with all kinds of predatory fish, not just salmon

This lure is different than the other products we’ve listed so far since TRUSCEND designed to resemble a live worm. It’s easy to attach a hook, and there are a couple of different ways to hook the fake-work to resemble various kinds of baits.

For example, if you hook it at one end without a weighted leader, you can have this lure sweep across the lake floor. These fishing lures come in four different colors, such as pearl white and dirty shad laminate, to suit fishing trips to different climates with other kinds of predatory salmon.

This bait is a great all-around fishing lure because you can use it in reefs, estuaries, rivers, fresh or saltwater. And for $15, you’ll receive ten worms of each color in a pack of 40.

The only downside you might find in this product is the learning curve to fishing with these kinds of bait. It’s easier for novices to catch salmon with some of the products we’ve listed above because you don’t need much experience to use the fish-body lures. Also, the design makes it hard to tell when your bait is best-positioned to best hook a salmon.

Best Salmon Baits

10. Pautzke Salmon Eggs Bait

  • Most recognized salmon egg on the planet
  • Long-lasting shelf life (even after opening)
  • Can be used for salmon, trout, and lots of other fish

Straight up, the best bait for salmon fishing in the river (or virtually any situation) is salmon roe, and if you want to pick up some roe for your next Salmon trip, the Balls O’ Fire green label are a great way to go (they also work awesome for trout and other stream strikers).

Atlas Mike’s is another Alaskan brand of salmon roe, but the roe comes in plastic vacuum packed packaging, not a jar, and is sometimes badly damaged or popped by the time it arrives in the mail.

If you are a new angler, it may strike you as strange that salmon roe bait actually works. After all, why would salmon like to eat their own eggs? There are lots of theories out there about exactly why this is.

  • Some folks say that Salmon have no idea that they’re actually eating their own species, because they’ve never really seen them before.
  • Others say they know, but it’s purely survival instinct. Salmon roe is an excellent source of fat and protein, it has a distinctive scent, and so the fish aren’t discerning and go after it.
  • Other people say that Salmon are eating the eggs of others to eliminate competition for their own eggs.
  • And finally, you’ll find people on forums and blogs saying that Salmon don’t actually eat the roe, but rather they hold them in their mouths in order to transport them.

To be perfectly honest, we don’t have a dog in the fight, and we don’t care why it works…. just that it DOES work!

If for some reason you’re not getting any hits on salmon roe (or if you’ll be trolling a lot of open water), try running cut bait.

11. Herring Cut Bait for Salmon

If you want an alternative live bait to use when fishing for Salmon, lots of guys use a cut bait of Herring or similar fish. This simply means using a bait sized piece of fish with your hook of choice.

A piece of cut bait is also a popular way to fish when trolling, in the ocean or at the very bottom of rivers just before they open to the ocean. Obviously this scenario is where Herring makes the most natural sense.

Salmon Lure Crash Course – The Basics

Here’s a quick run-down of the different types of Salmon lures, and the purpose they serve. You can use many of these lures on the same fishing trip, depending on the water clarity and setting.

Spinnerbait Salmon Lures

Spinnerbaits come in a wide variety of designs, many of which come with UV-resistant coating to resist natural wear. Every spinner comes with a reflective blade that’s typically silver. The reflective blade spins around in the water, which allows it to reflect sunlight to resemble a struggling baitfish.

This feature is essential because a salmon is always on the lookout for an injured fish, which is an easy kill. You can spin the blade by reeling in the line, or by trolling while the spinner follows underneath the surface.

Another feature is the vibrations the spinner makes in the water. On top of the reflected light, this serves the attract salmon patrolling the waters nearby.


Fishermen use plugs, solid plastic lures, with bait like herring. Often, companies paint these plugs to resemble a fish with paint resembling the luster of scales. This design makes them an effective salmon lure since salmon are predatory fish always on the lookout for an easy meal.

Some companies manufacture plugs with hinges, which allows for more wobbling that resembles a fish swimming in the current. These hinge joints create a vibration, too, which piques the curiosity of nearby, hungry salmon.


Flashers are small, plastic panels that reflect the light of a metallic surface. Often just solid metal, flashers move in the water to mimic live prey that a salmon would rush to snag. On top of reflecting light, most flashers produce vibrations that trick most predatory fish.

Since they linger at deeper depths than other lures, flashers can run up to a foot in length. Salmon won’t be able to distinguish a flasher and a feeding salmon, meaning they’ll approach without too much hesitation. People use flashers alongside lures that don’t move too much on their own, such as hoochies.


Hoochies had their genesis among Pacific Northwest fishermen in the early nineties, before moving over to the rest of the county. They resemble squids with a squishy, plastic body, and long tentacles that drift in the water.

Hoochies are incredibly low-cost, and they come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. When you buy them on Amazon or at a store, you’ll need to rig your lines with hooks and flashers to catch anything.

Kastmaster Spoon Lures
Fishing a spoon in lower water can be extremely effective on salmon. Bring a couple along and give it a shot.


Spoons get their name from the concave shape that kicks in the water and refracts light. You can purchase spoons in many shapes and sizes, but most products come with a hook at the end.

They work by kicking and wobbling in the water to reflect light, resembling a small baitfish. For the best results, rig your line with bait like herring. You’ll want to pick the size of your spoon by considering the size of the baitfish your salmon hunts.


Jigs are a compelling salmon lure since they’re a combination of a lead weight sinker with a hook and a soft rubber body that resembles a bait-fish. They work by bouncing vertically in the water to get your line to the bottom of the body of water to get your fish.

Luckily there’s a wide variety on the market, so you pick out the perfect jig based on size, shape, weight, color, and materials. It might take a couple of fishing trips to figure out which jigs work best for you, which is affordable since most jigs won’t empty your wallet.

Live Bait

The great thing about salmon is that they aren’t picky eaters. You can rig your line with almost anything edible, and you’re liable to have a great day on the water. Anything from roe, anchovies, herring, worms, minnows, leeches, insects, and shrimp will work for you.

The artificial lures we listed here work to mimic the motion of prey, while live bait is the actual prey itself. Combining live bait with some of the salmon lures we’ve listed here will go a long for toward your success fishing.

What To Look for In Your Salmon Lures

To give you a better idea of how we made our selection, here are a couple of factors that we kept in mind, including price and

Tough & durable materials are essential

This statement might sound completely obvious on the surface, but there are a lot of cheap brands out there selling plastic lures superglued to the hook. Then, once you’re out on the water, it snaps on you after the third catch of the day.

Whether you pick something from our list or the other products out there, make sure you’re buying lures made of carbon and stainless steel. If you’re anxious about the durability of your baits, make sure to purchase those designed for saltwater.

Most of the lures we’ve listed above check out in the saltwater category, making sea fishing for salmon a breeze. When companies design their baits for saltwater fishing, this also means you’re ready on the offhand chance you land a bigger gamefish than you anticipated.

Make sure you’re buying a high-quality fishing spoon

Fishing spoons became popular in the 19th century for areas with more clear water. Since then, companies eventually innovated to create five different kinds of spoons: trolling, casting, jigging, surface spoons, and weedless.

Quality fishing spoons are stamped, forged or molded from hardened metals such as brass, copper, steel, and lead. The spoons are typically coated along one side with a polishing material to reflect the sunlight. This reflection tricks the salmon, making them think a nearby fish is feeding on a potential meal.

With that said, fishing spoons are best suited for conditions with clear water. Anyone looking to fish on rivers and mountain streams, as well as certain lakes and coastlines, stand to benefit from implementing a fishing spoon to the rig they cast.

Fishing hoochies are great companions to the average fishing lure

Fishing hoochies closely resemble the tropical skirts you’ll see people wearing at tropical resorts in Hawaii and the Caribbean Islands. The first companies initially designed them to resemble a squid. Hoochies first grew in popularity amongst northern Pacific fishermen before it found a customer base with freshwater fishing companies and enthusiasts across North America.

The huge advantage to hoochies are that they’re extremely cheap, meaning you can buy them in bulk and then not have to worry for a couple years.

You can buy hoochies in different sizes and color combinations, meaning you can choose the best product for the area where you’ll fish. While popular amongst fishermen looking to troll for salmon, hoochies are commonly used for other large game–both in fresh and saltwater.


What are the best lures for drift fishing for salmon in a river?

Drift fishing consists of casting the line upstream and drift down until you have to recast the bait. You can drift fish from an anchored boat or along the bank of a river or stream.

While the fishing lure makes it’s way downstream, you’ll want the bait to bounce along the bottom in harmony with the current. As a result, you’ll want something designed to sink low below the waterline, such as TRUSCEND and SHINEFISH’s lure product lines with the rig perhaps weighted down even more.

What are the best lures for trolling?

Trolling is when you fish out of a continually moving vessel, keeping various lines at specific depths. Freshwater trolling typically takes place in the shallow parts of lakes and rivers, so many fishermen take advantage of flashers to resemble a feeding salmon or distressed prey.

This technique attracts nearby salmon, eager to see if they can mooch off a fresh kill or wounded prey. To accomplish their desired depths, many experienced anglers weight down these lures to keep the elevation consistent.

What’s the difference in taste between fresh and saltwater salmon?

Due to the different environments, there’s a distinct difference in taste between fresh and saltwater salmon. Saltwater salmon, once they’re gutted, cleaned, and cooked, tend to retain a briny flavor that reminds you of the ocean.

For some people, this is the best part of saltwater salmon, while for others, this taste is a dealbreaker. If you’re looking for a milder essence of the sea, freshwater salmon is the way to go.

Regardless, salmon is excellent lean meat that provides a myriad of benefits, mostly because of the high concentration in omega-3 fatty acids. Anyone looking for heart health benefits, salmon and other game fish are excellent health boosters.

What are the biggest & smallest kinds of salmon?

At least in North America, the most substantial kind of salmon you can catch are Chinook and King Salmon. Both fish can grow up to 60″ long and weigh in at over a hundred pounds.

In contrast, the smallest salmon in North America are pink salmon, which grow up the 30″ at their largest. The more massive pink salmon weight up to twelve pounds, but in the wild, most only weigh up to five pounds.

Both spectrums of salmon are fun to fish, with the larger species requiring heavier-duty gear than fishing in the stream for a small pink salmon.

What is a landlocked salmon?

Landlocked salmon are a subspecies of Atlantic salmon that live in lakes or rivers and never migrate out to sea. As a result, there’s a stark difference both in the size and taste of freshwater and saltwater salmon. Because of the difference in size, you’ll need less heavy-duty gear when you’re trolling the Great Lakes in a small charter boat for freshwater salmon.

Bottom Line

In this article we’ve discussed many different salmon lures, but the top of the line is still Silver Horde’s Kingfisher salmon spoons.

Silver Horde’s Kingfisher salmon spoons made the top of our list, in part, because of this product’s proven track record for durability. Many reviews and accounts testify that these salmon lures last the long haul for many fishing trips. The sturdy but lightweight material withstands both freshwater and saltwater alike.

Whether you’re fishing off the coast of Lake Erie or the open waters of the Pacific, you won’t have trouble landing any kind of salmon. This product has found particular favor amongst anglers looking to hook chinook salmon, especially when paired with live bait.

When you order one of these salmon lures, you’ll get to choose between thirteen unique colors. The elongated, concave shape of the Kingfisher salmon lures reflect light erratically to draw in fish, even in murky waters.

Want more fishing bait?

Check out our other reviews on:

Trout Bait

Catfish Bait

Shark Bait