How to rig beads for bead fishing. Finished bead fishing rig.

Bead Fishing 201: How to rig for bead fishing.

There are tons of different ways to fish with beads for Steelhead, Salmon, and trout.  A lot of fishermen overthink their presentations.  In our Bead Fishing 101 article we walked you through why egg imitators work so well. In a river eggs float aimlessly downstream – they are not dragged by weights, or pulled by a line.  The most effective way to mimic this presentation fishing with beads is by dead drifting.   You want your bead to float downstream effortlessly  – just as an egg would.

In this article we show you how to rig beads to dead drift.  This can be done under a baitcasting, spinning, or fly rod.   Here is a basic overview of the setup for Steelhead.  For other species you will rig beads the same, but change the line weight.

double bead steelhead fishing rig

A Double Bead Steelhead Fishing Rig

What you will need.

  • Hooks.  We recommend a good brand such as Owner or Gamagatsu.  Hook size will vary based on the species you are targeting.  We use size 4  barbless hooks for Steelhead and Salmon fishing.  Many people recommend bigger hooks for bigger beads.  They believe that the larger bead will block the hook opening from the fish’s mouth.  This is true for corgies or spin-n-glo’s which sit directly above the hook.  It is not true for beads which are pegged further above the hook.
  • Fluorocarbon Leader.  While mono will certainly work fluorocarbon has some benefits.   It is stiff which will force your bead down in a vertical line below your float.  It also has greatly less visibility than mono.  The weight of your leader will vary by species.  We use 15 and 12 lb test while bead fishing for Steelhead and Salmon.  The most important aspect is to use a lighter line on your bottom bead so if you do snag you do not break off your entire rig.
  • Beads.  Obviously.  Do not worry about color and size for now.  Pick any bead that matches the color of Salmon Roe.  We will go more in depth into color and size in our next article: Bead Fishing 301: Bead color, tips, and tricks.
  • Split Shot:  Buy the smallest split shot that you can easily fit onto the size line you are using.  Dispersing the weight down the line with multiple splitshot will increase the quality of your presentation.
  • Swivel:  Any barrel swivel will do.  If you are using a fly rod smaller is better.  This should already be on the end of your running line.  You simply tie your finished bead rig to it.

How to rig for bead fishing:

Step One: Rig the leader/hooks.

You can use any of your favorite knots to attach your leader line.   We prefer the uni-snell pictured below  This knot has better tensile strength than a improved clinch knot, and in our opinion is easier to tie.

Grab  around 2.5′ of your lighter line.  This will be your bottom bead.  Attach the hook to the line and set aside.  Use a longer section of your heavier line (~ 3′) and attach your top hook.

how to tie uni snell knot for bead fishing

Step Two: How to rig beads.

Here is where things get tricky.  Toothpicks, rubber bands, intricate knots.  None of these things are necessary.  Here is how we rig beads.  We have never had a problem with this rig and recommend it to everyone.   Every time we break off it happens at the knot and not the bead.

The bead is pegged ~2″ above the hook to protect the fish.  When fish eat drifting eggs they pop their gills.  This sucks the egg into their mouth and down their throat.  These beads are light and mimic eggs well.  If rigged directly above the hook the fish would inhale both the bead and the hook.  This leads to more deep hooks and fish mortality.  Pegging the bead above the hook results in perfect hookups in the corner of the mouth.   There is far less damage and the hook is much easier to retrieve.

How to rig beads for bead fishing step one.

Take you bead and thread it down your line towards your hook.

how to rig bead for bead fishing step two.

Take the top end of your line (above your bead) bring it under and through the bead.

How to rig beads for bead fishing step three

Repeat this process a second time. After you have two complete loops slide your bead to where you would like it to sit (1.5″-3″ above the hook)

How to rig beads for bead fishing step four

Repeat again for the third and final time. Your bead will now be securely attached to your line.


a finished bead fishing rig.

A finished bead rig. 12mm Glo roe bead above a #4 hook.

Step Three:  Attaching the two bead rigs.

Next you have to tie your lighter and shorter  rig onto the hook of your heavier top rig.   To do so you can use any knot you like.  We recommend the uni knot which is pictured below.   Again this knot has good strength but most importantly is easy to tie and dress.    In the diagram the knot is being tied on the eyelet of a hook.  Simply tie it to the bottom of the hook as pictured to the right below.  You want your bottom bead to be 2′-16″ below the top hook.

how to tie uni knot for salmon steelhead bead rigginga photo of the uni knot

Step Four: Add your splitshot.

This is often what separates a successful bead fishermen from the unsuccessful.    All beads have different buoyancy and need different amounts of lead.  For example Trout Bead’s 12mm fluorescent orange are incredibly buoyant.  They will need more splitshot than any other.

To begin with attach two split shot ~16″-2′ above the top bead with about 4″-6″ between each.   Watch your presentation.  If you are seeing your bead swirl around near the surface, you need more lead.  The opposite is equally as unproductive.  A bead rigged with too much lead will not drift naturally downstream.   It will not behave similar to an egg, and you will miss strikes.  Get to know the beads you fish with and how much lead they will need.   This includes at time adding splitshot to the bottom bead, if it is highly buoyant.

Step Five:  Tie it on and fish!

You can tie this rig below a slip bobber, fixed float, strike indicator, or even tight line nymph it.   Whichever style you use make sure the bobber, indicator, and line is rigged and casted properly.  Beads are very light and slight pulls from a dragging line or improperly weighted float will pull them to the surface.   You want your entire rig (including float/indicator, and line) moving the same speed of the current you are fishing.   This will give the beads the dead drift they need to properly mimic an egg.

A Final Note:

Using two hooks or a dropper setup is not legal on all rivers.  Some rivers simply have too much pressure.   Please check the regulations and fish appropriately.  A good way to shut these rivers down completely is by not following the local regulations.  Also consider always pinching your barbs.  It inflicts less damage to the fish, and does not reduce landing rates.

More information on techniques, colors, and rigging options coming in our next article of the series – Bead Fishing 301 – Bead color, tips, and tricks.  Subscribe below and we will let you know when it is published.

1 Comment
  • Thomas Cappiello

    May 27, 2018 at 5:36 pm Reply

    Tying a second bead to the hook seems odd to me. Doesn’t that interfere with the hooking ability ? Does one hook typically work better?

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