BlogApril 2021

6 Best Salmon Lures for River Fishing

6 Best Salmon Lures for River Fishing

By Ken Schultz

Apr 19, 2021

These five offerings are the best salmon lures for rivers. Learn about each of them, with tips for how and where they’re best used

If you’re assembling a tackle box with the best salmon lures for river fishing, be sure to have spinners, buoyant drift rigs, casting spoons, flies, and wide-wobbling diving plugs in it.

1. Spinners

For some anglers, standalone in-line spinners are tops among the best salmon lures for river fishing. Versions with a single, broad revolving blade are best. Heavier models are necessary in swift and deep water.

2. Winged drift bobber rigs

These are buoyant floats with wings and are a component of drift rigs. Some anglers feel that this these are the best salmon lures for river fishing. A weight or sinker gets the rig down. The float spins in the current and helps keep a trailing hook, which is baited with eggs, just off the bottom, while providing color and action. Preserved or imitation fish eggs can be fished simply with a weight and a bare hook, or as part of a drift rig.

3. Casting spoons

Appropriate casting spoons for salmon are heavy-bodied, with large versions used in big rivers, swift flows, and deep water. Like most salmon fishing lures, they shouldn’t be retrieved fast. A moderate wobble is preferred.

4. Flies

Flies vary widely in appearance and size. Streamers with a flashy dressing and bright colors are popular in big water. Sparsely tied flies that are little more than colorful yarn on a small hook are effective in smaller and shallower rivers. Where legal, weighted flies help achieve depth.

5. Wobbling plugs

Aggressively wobbling diving plugs are river salmon lures used to scour deep holes and runs while fishing from an anchored or slowly drifting boat. These are not cast and retrieved, but held in place downstream against the current.

6. Colors

Silver or chrome are especially popular hard-lure finishes, and many river salmon lures are enhanced with a bright color, particularly orange or red/pink. These colors stand out in generally clear rivers and mimic naturally appearing salmon eggs.

Tips on river fishing for salmon

No matter which river salmon lures are used, pay attention to the following:

  • Get your offering deep and right in front of the fish.
  • Salmon are seldom caught in fast water. Focus on pools and deep water.
  • Cast lures slightly upstream and across. Drift them down current to the end of the swing.
  • The right weight of lure or sinker is important. Too little and the offering never reaches the bottom; too much and it drags unnaturally or snags repeatedly.

Finally, make sure you have your fishing license no matter what lures you use!

Ken Schultz
Ken Schultz
Ken Schultz was a longtime staff writer for Field & Stream magazine and is the former Fishing Editor of He’s written and photographed nineteen books on sportfishing topics, plus an annual fishing tips calendar, and his writing has appeared on various websites for more than two decades. His author website is