Catching Salmon with Beads: A Practical Guide

Video bead fishing for salmon


Did you know that using simple beads can help you catch trout, steelhead, and salmon? At Hook’d Up Bar and Grill, we offer a wide range of drift beads in various colors because we know that these little beads can significantly improve your fishing success. In this article, we’ll show you how to effectively use beads to catch more fish.

The Tradition of Bead Fishing

For decades, anglers have been using salmon eggs to catch fish. Initially, they used the real thing, often cured salmon eggs. Over time, soft plastic salmon eggs and salmon egg flies were developed. Bead fishing is a continuation of this tradition. Beads can be used in areas with regulations that allow only artificial lures, but they also work in any location where trout and salmon are found.

Matching the Hatch with Beads

The key to successful bead fishing is to make the beads resemble the food that trout, steelhead, and salmon are accustomed to eating. In moving water, many fish species scatter their eggs over gravel. Trout, steelhead, and salmon frequently feast on these loose eggs.

We offer beads in different colors and sizes to match the various types of eggs. For example, chinook or king salmon eggs are approximately 8 millimeters in size and have a yellow to orange color. Therefore, we sell 8 millimeter orange beads. Additionally, there are beads that mimic the eggs of different species or appear like dead or moldy eggs. Some beads stand out with bright colors, attracting aggressive strikes from fish. In essence, all of these beads have proven to be effective in catching fish.

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Natural colors such as orange, yellow, and chartreuse work best in clear water, while bright or neon colors are more suitable for murky water conditions. Surprisingly, pink beads seem to entice bites consistently, regardless of the water clarity.

Rigging the Beads

You might wonder how to attach a bead to your hook. The technique is simple: you don’t actually put the bead on the hook itself. Instead, you fasten the bead to the line just above the hook. When a fish bites the bead, the hook gets caught in the side of the fish’s mouth, making hook removal a breeze.

To rig a bead, run your fishing line through the hole in the bead and tie a hook at the end of the line. Then, peg the bead about an inch above the hook. We offer purpose-built silicone bead pegs for this purpose, but you can also use thick monofilament line or a toothpick to securely position the bead.

Fishing Techniques with Beads

Fishing with beads effectively involves more than just casting a rigged bead into the water and waiting. Since beads are made of hard plastic and don’t taste or smell like fish eggs, you need to trick the fish into thinking they are real eggs.

Fish like trout, steelhead, and salmon typically hunt by finding a favorable spot and watching food drift by. They pick up anything that appears appealing and natural. Anything that looks unnatural is ignored. The same principle applies to fishing. If your bait, lure, fly, or bead doesn’t look convincing, the fish will ignore it.

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Dead Drifting Beads

To make your bead appear natural to the fish, you need to achieve a “dead drift” with the current. Your goal is to make the bead mimic a loose egg drifting along the water. If the egg drags against the current or moves faster than the natural flow, it will be dismissed or even spook the fish. Fortunately, beads, being round, lend themselves well to drifting naturally.

There are two popular methods for drift fishing with beads. The first involves adding split shot or twist-on lead above the bead on your line. Experimentation is necessary to find the perfect amount of weight that allows the bead to bounce along the bottom without snagging. Once you find the right balance, cast your rig upstream and let the bead drift with the current. If you feel a tug or the bouncing stops, set the hook.

The second method is fishing the bead under a float. This technique is incredibly effective and helps achieve a dead drift. Choose a float that matches your tackle and the size of the water you’re fishing. E-Z Floats and Ball Floats are recommended for light to medium approaches, while Clear Steelhead Floats are suitable for larger rivers. The float acts as an indicator on the water’s surface, allowing you to gauge the speed of the current. Adjustments are necessary if the float moves faster than the current or leaves a wake. Ideally, you want the float to drift naturally with the current. Using a float also enables you to control the depth of your bead and improves bite detection.

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Why You Should Try Bead Fishing

There are times when other fishing techniques fail to yield results. That’s when bead fishing shines. Even during the spawning run when steelhead and salmon may not be actively feeding, they still pick up drifting eggs in the current.

The reasons behind this behavior are still debated. Some researchers suggest that it’s a way for fish to eliminate competition for their offspring, while others believe it’s a reflex or a way for fish to obtain protein. One thing is clear: fish on a spawning run do consume drifting eggs.

Trout, specifically those that reside in rivers and streams, readily take beads without hesitation. Beads work exceptionally well during the spring and fall spawning seasons. Trout might mistake the beads for trout eggs or sucker spawn, or their reaction might solely be instinctual. This could explain why beads can even attract hatchery trout during the summer months.


The pursuit of angling is an ongoing learning experience, and bead fishing has proven to be a highly effective method for catching trout, steelhead, and salmon. Since beads are affordable and versatile, it’s always a good idea to keep a selection of beads with you when you’re out on the water. They might just help you catch the fish you would otherwise miss.

For more information and to explore our selection of drift beads, visit Hook’d Up Bar and Grill. Happy fishing!