What Color Jigs Are Best For Steelheads?

Anglers frequently inquire, “What color jigs are best for steelheads?” Always start with natural tones when choosing jig colors! Jig fishing also necessitates careful rod selection, but that’s already a different story. When choosing a jig color, the time and light conditions are critical. And depending on the species you’re after, like the steelhead, these considerations may have an impact.

For fishing trips, steelhead jigs have been the angler’s secret weapon. Jigs are recognized for generating larger-than-average bites and can be used in place of a worm, creature bait, or tiny swimbait to rapidly increase the size of your catch. There are so many styles and hundreds of colors to choose from that even seasoned anglers will be overwhelmed!

You may never know what nature may reveal to you on a given fishing trip. However, you can get by with only a few essential colors for the entire year. For this reason, we made this fishing guide that will help you find more about which color jigs are best for steelhead.

What color jigs are best for steelheads when fishing clear water?

If the fish in clear water are apprehensive and line shy, you should start with a more natural head and body color. Something subtle, such as a blackhead with a black, brown, or olive body. Black and olive combos have proven effective for many anglers, though.

However, if the fish don’t consume the natural hues, you can experiment with different colors and sizes to discover what they like. A pink head fused with a white body might do its job in this situation.

What color jigs are best for steelheads when fishing greenish water?

You can use brighter and more obvious colors from the start in greenish, off-colored, or even unclean water. The jigs should stand out and immediately attract the attention of the steelhead. If you have steelhead jig heads in chartreuse, pink, and red, you can then mix them with different colored bodies. In this way, you can utilize them in colored or stained waters.

What color jigs are best for steelhead fishing murky, dirty water?

Would you be surprised to learn that the most effective color in murky, dirty water is vivid charcoal or black? It seems counter-intuitive to believe that a black would perform best in dim, hazy lighting. However, dark jigs with extreme color contrasts, such as light-colored lines or stripes, are especially effective in these situations.

What color jigs are best for steelheads in low light conditions?

Black or purple casts an impenetrable silhouette in bright water, whereas colored water or low-light situations cast a more noticeable dark profile. Most bright colors become nearly unrecognizable below five feet, depending on water purity and low light circumstances.

More so, steelheads tend to look up, not down. A typical lure or fly will most likely look like a silhouette with no color between the light and the fish’s eye. Steelheads are attracted to dark colors. 

What color jigs are best for steelheads in high light conditions?

On the other hand, bright fluorescent hues play a key role in winter steelhead fishing. They’re most effective in clear, cold water with bright light. Without sunshine, fluorescent colors do not glow. A steelhead needs a lot of stimulation to react. To make it simpler, here’s a summary for you to know the specific jig colors you should use in specific light conditions. 

For low light conditions such as early morning, late evening, or heavy cloud, use fluorescent colors or chartreuse. In contrast, softer black, red, and pink shades are preferable during high or bright light conditions with high sun and little clouds. As the day goes on, you can use jig colors in the shades of orange, pink, and white. 

Popular Types of Jigs

The Nightmare Steelhead Jig

Despite its unusual color combination, steelhead fishing with the Nightmare Jig is one of the most effective ways to catch a trophy fish. It works efficiently well, making it a favorite steelhead jig pattern among steelhead anglers. 

Why is the Nightmare a popular choice among steelhead anglers? It may be able to “sneak up” on prudent steelhead better than bright fluorescent hues, especially in low, clear, or pressured waters. At the same time, it still provides enough attraction to encourage fish to bite.

Steelhead appears to have a predatory instinct because of black, red, and white hues. There are several variations on the Nightmare jig pattern, but they all follow the same guidelines as detailed below.


The head is typically white and can be either a painted jig head or a white bead put onto the hook shank. When it is tied, it comes before the remainder of the body.

Body or Collar

The body/collar, also known as the throat, is composed of red chenille and usually takes up less than half of the hook length. However, it is more likely to be a lot smaller.


The tail is normally made of black marabou feathers. However, you can utilize rabbit hair too for a stronger tail.

Marabou Jig Tail

As the current passes over it, the marabou gives the jig a lot of activity and movement, like a monster with moving legs. Often, no additional grub or twister tail is required because the marabou is sufficient.

Jiggy Bugger Steelhead Jigs

Jiggy Bugger Steelhead Jigs are made to sit parallel under the float, with the delicate marabou body wobbling and oscillating with even the tiniest movement. This appealing movement works well in fast and sluggish waters, making this jig exceptionally multifaceted.

Bucktail Jig

Bucktail jigs are fashioned of fine deer hairs or bucktails around the jig’s tail. They come in various colors, and while they don’t “dance” in the water like marabou, they are durable jigs.

Dropper Jig

This jig is composed of two eyes to tie your line. The first eye is on the top of the jig head, with the jig hook upturned. On the other hand, the second eye is on the bottom. This enables you to attach a second leader to a yarn or a contrasting jig.

The Perfect Head For Steelhead Jigs

When fishing for steelhead, you’ll want to make sure you’re using a decent steelhead jig head that’s the proper size and color. Almost any normal painted jig head, on the other hand, should suffice.

White, black, and pink are the most common steelhead jig head colors. At the same time, these colors can be coupled with the same color bodies, such as a black head and a black body. Or mixed, such as a white head on a black body or a pink head on a white body.

The Best Jig Size For Steelhead

For float fishing, the size of steelhead jigs is relatively lighter and smaller than when casting and jigging for steelhead. A 2 to 3-inch steelhead jig functions best when jigging for steelhead in float fishing. On the other hand, a 3 to 4-inch steelhead jig works competently well in casting and jigging activities.


When casting steelhead jigs, it’s common to utilize a 1/8oz to 1/4oz jig to increase the weight. This will allow you to cast longer and get down to the fish faster. You can use a larger jig in quicker and deeper water. At the same time, a smaller jig is preferable in shallow and slow water, even down to 1/16oz or 1/32.

Final Thoughts

Every angler understands what kind of fish they’re hunting, where they live at different depths, how they feed, and when they mate. Remember that a simple search of steelhead and their patterns will reveal which color jig is better in any given situation. In this way, you’ll be able to identify the colors of the fish the steelhead wishes to eat and meet.

If you buy steelhead jig patterns rather than making them yourself, you’ll be limited to what’s available. However, don’t panic because you can still perform well with them. Even if you’re limited to steelhead jig patterns, you can always make them more interesting. To make size and color more interesting, you may always add a colored twister tail, worm, or grub tail.

Nothing beats a pulsating rabbit fur or marabou bait in varying water conditions to wake up steelhead holding in the slow ruffled runs. The sight of a gleaming bead and flowing feathers may turn even the most stalwart steelhead on. And consequently, convert any angler’s rod into a dancing wand easily.

Fishing for steelhead may be highly successful, especially if you know which color jigs and sizes to use for every method. Fish will remain simple, but we now use their modest intricacies against them due to our advances.

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