​The Best Salmon Lures for Bites

By: Doug Straub

October 19, 2022

It seems like over the last decade anglers have shifted their mindset from how many fish they caught to how many bites they had in a given day. As a tournament angler, bites don’t equal weight at the scales, but they are a good representation of the number of fish around in a given area. Some of the best advice I received from a Captain while I was learning the ropes was “you can’t land 'em’ if you don’t hook 'em”. There’s a lot to think about in that phrase but it’s very true!

When it comes to lures for salmon, there are four main types of rigs that are generally used on the Great Lakes. Spoons, attractors and trolling flies, attractors and meat rigs, and cut plugs are all common go-to’s for salmon anglers. Let’s break down each of these setups and explain what makes each of these salmon fishing lures unique.

Spoons are the most common day-to-day setup and will produce fish from early spring when the Chinook Salmon start eating alewives all the way through early fall when they migrate into the rivers and streams. There are a variety of brands and sizes of spoons all of which catch fish. The most popular sizes are the magnum and standard sizes like the Dreamweaver Magnum Spoon and Dreamweaver DW Spoon. It’s recommended to try to “match the hatch”. Early in the spring, it’s typical to see six to eight-inch alewives. During this time, salmon key in on the magnum-size spoons. As the water transitions during the summer months, the preferred size changes to smaller spoons like the Dreamweaver DW Spoon. Spoons mimic baitfish which salmon are seeking out all year so they can grow as much as possible before running the rivers and streams. You can run spoons on divers, downriggers, coppers, or lead core. Their versatility and ability to generate bites make spoons possibly the best lure for salmon.

Attractors and flies and attractors and meat rigs are deadly at times and are typically what I would run when trying to target bigger fish. Every day on the water is different, but generally, an attractor/fly or attractor/meat rig combo will not produce as many bites as spoons, just better quality fish. Favorite setups include Dreamweaver Spin Doctor FlashersPro-Troll ProChip Fin Flasher paired with A-TOM-MIK Tournament Series Trolling Flys, or A-TOM-MIK Rhys Davis Meat Rig. These selections are usually trolled slower and require a little more patience.

Cut plugs are also among the more common salmon lures. These types of baits are less common than what I mentioned before when trolling for salmon but can be a very deadly salmon fishing lure. Your average-size fish will typically be larger than what spoons produce as well. Cut plugs can be used year-round but shine in August/September when the salmon are preparing for their run into the rivers/streams. This type of bait has an aggressive action that triggers aggression bites. Cut plugs can be fished off downriggers or copper but most of my success on them has come on running them off divers.

If you’re looking to generate as many bites as you can and you’re not concerned about weight at the scales, load your set ups with spoons. It’s recommended to get a wide variety of colors and sizes to cover all light and bait size conditions. Hope these tips helped and you’ll be loading the boat this year!