Learn How to Wrap Plugs For Steelhead Fishing

By: Jeff Goodwin

For diehard steelhead anglers there’s nothing like the violent takedowns that occur when pulling plugs. It’s a peaceful technique that allows anglers to relax while anticipating that savage strike. It’s a technique many endure extreme conditions for just to experience the excitement and chaos that follows a rod tip surging towards the water and a screaming reel.

We all have favorite plugs and prepare run them with one goal: to get them hammered by a hot steelhead after invading their space in holding water or travel lanes. I’ve tried most steelhead plugs and many have worked, but my favorite plugs in the Mag Lip 3.0. I have, however, found that adding a small piece of crawdad meat to the bottom of these plugs increases strikes.



Every summer I acquire 20-30 pounds of live crawdads for the upcoming salmon and steelhead seasons. I extract the tail meat from the crawdads when they are fresh (alive) and then freeze them. I place 6-12 pieces in a plastic baggie and store in a freezer. They only take 30 minutes to thaw.


*Special Note: Using raw meat works, but spoils quickly if not kept cold or used right away. To prolong their fishability and effectiveness I marinate them (before use) in Pautzke Nectar.



After thawing the crawdad meat I put them in a small container and add Pautzke Nectar. The Street Walker and Dr. Death Mag Lip colors are productive and the Nectar is a good match for those plugs. Once the crawdad meat is submerged in the Nectar place the container in the refrigerator for several hours to let the contents saturate the meat.



When the Nectar infused crawdad meat is ready to fish remove a piece from the container and cut it into a smaller piece, which is usually half of the original size. It’s important to note that the plugs swim well with a wrap as long as it is the appropriate size and is properly located. I generally locate the piece of crawdad meat on the underside of the plug and center it using the plug’s eye as the centering point. Too much meat or placing the meat too far forward or back makes it difficult to tune your plug before sending it out.

Once you have the meat ready simply center it (as described above) and wrap it onto the plug with stretchy thread. While wrapping the meat onto the plug make sure it stays centered. If it moves during the stretchy thread application use your thumb to relocate it into the proper position.



Don’t assume because you wrapped the meat on straight that the plug will swim properly. Check it to make sure. I find small adjustments make a big difference in how the plug swims.


Pautzke Nectar essentially cures the crawdad meat (because there is salt and sugar in it) so storage is flexible. If you plan to fish again in the next week simply store the meat in the refrigerator. If you plan to store it longer I recommend draining the juice and refreezing. As always, vacuum sealing is best. The bait holds up better over time and is less likely to get freezer burn.

Editor’s Note: Jeff Goodwin operates Jeff Goodwin’s Guide Service. For more information on his guided Sacramento River trips please visit https://www.facebook.com/jeffgoodwinfishing or https://www.jeffgoodwinfishing.com.