7 Best Salmon Lures for River Fishing

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When people think of Salmon, the image of a grizzly swatting a colorful, large fish from a cool mountain stream somewhere in the American Northwest comes to mind.

Fly fishing, reds, greens, ocean runs, and the Pacific Ocean are all at the forefront of the imagination when salmon are discussed.

These beautiful, majestic fish are not only incredibly nutritious but a delicious staple in American seafood for both the health-conscious and the aquatic cuisine enthusiast.

The salmon can be fished in various environments; angling for them in rivers can be an enthralling challenge. 

When angling for salmon in rivers, it’s essential to have the correct tackle and lures to achieve success on a fishing expedition. Here are the best salmon lures for rivers!

best salmon lures for rivers
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7 Best Salmon Lures for River Fishing

1. Kwikfish Lure

Best All-Around Lure

With a built-in rattle that can be heard over long distances and a severe wobble, the Kwikfish lure is one of the best in the business for Salmon in rivers.

Because salmon can listen to or feel well before getting a visual of their prey, the Kwikfish allows them to hone in like sonar. 

With styles such as flo chartreuse, silver blue, fickle pickle, and flamethrower, this lure comes in almost every color of the rainbow.

If retrieved slowly and allowed to dangle in suspension in front of a hungry salmon, the strikes will be aggressive and come often.  

Key Features:

  • 4-5” lure works best in estuaries and near river mouths.
  • 3” works best in clear water when the salmon are pressured and holding. 
  • Target pools just off or out of running water

2. Yakima Bait Original Flat Fish

Most Colorful

Incredibly similar to the quick fish, the Yakima Bait originally set itself apart with colors such as fluorescent orange, perch scale, and black orange spot. Given the habitats of salmon, this color stands out like a sore thumb and looks every bit an inviting meal.

A slow retrieve is best for this lure, as reeling too quickly can cause spinning or a return to the surface. To ensure the lure will wobble in an appetizing manner, a slow, steady retrieve is all that is needed.

In currents, it’s best not to retrieve at all, as the moving water will provide all the action necessary for the lure.

Key Features:

  • Bright, appetizing colors
  • Enticing Vibrations
  • Attention-grabbing wobble

3. Blue Fox Classic Vibrax

Best Multipurpose Spinner

An excellent multipurpose spinner that could be used in fast, slow, shallow, or deep river water, the Blue Fox Classic Vibrax works well in every environment.

With a distinct vibration that calls to all hungry salmon, colors such as glow green chartreuse or orange/pink stand out distinctly as food in the river water. 

It’s best to retrieve the Vibrax in two ways. The first is a steady retrieve, allowing the vibrations to make the most out of the reeling and current. The second is a stop-and-go, which rips the spinner 5 to 10 feet before allowing a one-second rest between tugs.

Varying up these two techniques will ensure that any salmon ignoring one will be sure to hit on the other.

Key Features:

  • Works well in any riverine environment
  • High vibration frequency
  • Stand out colors

4. Panther Martin Spinner

Most Colorful Spinner

The concave blade that sends out vibrations proven to attract fish sonically, this weighted body spinner casts like a bullet and spins even better. Ranging in color from Black with fluorescent spots to holograph blue, the Panther Martin spinner shines like a beacon in river water full of hungry salmon.

Its #4 convex/concave blade flickers, imitating an injured baitfish, while its well-built size 10  Hook is as sharp as they come. 

Key Features:

  • Colorful
  • Vibrant, vibrating blade
  • Easy to cast

5. Krocodile Spoon 

Best Spoon for Jigging

When appropriately used, spoons can be one of the best salmon lures. When angling from the boat, salmon are caught from trolling spoons. However, anglers seem to forget that spoons are a viable option upon entry to a river.

With colors such as chrome silver prism, hammered brass fire, metallic perch, and chrome green mackerel, the Krocodile spoon works best if allowed to sink to the bottom and then slowly retrieved instead of the conventional steady retrieve. 

Key Features:

  • Best in 3-4.45 size
  • Great for stop-and-go retrieve
  • Crossover from boat trolling to river angling

6. Rapala Shad Rap SR09

Best Crankbait

Crankbaits work well for salmon running fresh in the lower ends of the river. A rip retrieves with pauses and some steady reeling work well with this lure. Erratic behavior is often rewarded with more aggressive strikes, and species such as bull trout or bass will also hit on crankbaits.

The Balsa wood Rapala Shad Rap looks the part with its lifelike design, crisp finish, and 3 1/2 inch body. This crankbait was designed for hard-hitting fish with two solid trouble hooks, a deep-diving lip, and durable construction.

Key Features:

  • Over two dozen color schemes
  • Twin Treble hooks
  • Built to last

7. Strike King KVD Jig

Best Jig

Jigs are incredibly versatile, which works well for angling and salmon in multiple environments; the heavier the jig, the deeper the water, and vice versa.  Casting up and down pools work incredibly successfully with 3 to 4-inch jigs—a gentle tug and then allowing the jig to settle works and a steady retrieve. 

It’s entirely up to the angler how they wish to utilize this deadly lure as the Strike King is no joke of a jig. With its exclusive perfect skirt, multiple weights, and 4/0 hook, the strike king is a force to be reckoned with in a salmon-infested river.

Its unique hair design and natural profile, along with a sturdy, razor-sharp hook, mimics any baitfish with life-like action and realistic colors. 

Key Features:

  • Unique skirt
  • Sturdy hook/jig head design
  • Extra-long Shank

When on the water for salmon in the rivers of North America, the first thing on every angle is mine should be the lures. Depending on the location, water, and environment, anglers have a broad spectrum of lures to use.

The rivers are not always at the forefront of anglers’ minds when it comes to salmon fishing; the right lure in the right place at the right time can make all the difference. As always, good luck and stay safe on the water.

Jacob Pelle
Fishing Expert
Jake Pelle is a third-generation outdoorsman and Eagle Scout. He grew up fishing ponds and rivers in South Louisiana and Mississippi and graduated to fishing brackish/marsh and coastal waters for redfish, drum, and speckled trout. When not on a flat range, he can be found with rod and reel in hand searching for the next greatest fishing hole in South Louisiana.
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