Fishing beads, they’re not a stylish accessory worn by fashionable trout, but they are a viable alternative to traditional lures, flies, and live bait when the action is slow.
Fishing beads come in a wide variety of sizes, and myriad colors. The beads mimic fish eggs. They are often wildly effective with trout, steelhead, and often the best way to attract brook trout.
Why Fishing Beads?
Artificial fish eggs like plastic or glass beads are legal everywhere since they’re a manufactured, artificial bait, and not a naturally occurring attractant. These beads have no odor so the size, color, and presentation of the beads attached to your fishing line are all important aspects of catching fish with them.
Which Fishing Beads to Use?
There are some general rules to follow whether fishing for trout, steelhead, or even salmon. The size of the bead, along with the clarity of the water are the two major factors in getting the right equation to catch fish.
In clear water, smaller beads do an excellent job. The fish can easily spot beads in shades of yellow, to gold color, a common color for naturally occurring trout eggs.
A small bead measures six to eight millimeters in size, or about the same size as a rainbow, brown, cutthroat, or lake trout egg.
In slightly more turbid water, the eight-millimeter bead is your best bet. Since vision is a bit more limited and trout don’t have as clear depth perception, the larger bead can bring them in. Colors in slightly dirty water should be brighter shades of yellow, pink, and light red.
In dirty water, where sight is limited to something very near the fish, large 10 to 12-millimeter beads provide the greatest chance of attracting fish. These larger beads are best in gaudy bright red or chartreuse colors.
Fishing beads are made of glass, hard plastic, and soft plastic. The benefits of each one are determined by how you’re fishing. A glass bead will sink, making it useful in deepwater applications or when jigging or bottom bouncing.
Hard plastic beads float and work best in moving water with a lightweight attached below them on the line. They follow the water current, creating a natural presentation tied to current flow.
Soft plastic beads mimic eggs the best and can be pushed on the hook directly just like live bait. You’ll need a very small hook to wrap a soft plastic bead around. These often work best for brook trout by letting your life float in small streams through eddies and undercut banks.
What is the Difference Between Wild and Hatchery Trout Bait?
Wild trout are attracted to different bait than hatchery fish are. Artificial bait like salmon eggs or concoctions made with cornmeal may work with stocked trout while not getting the slightest interest from native species spawned in the wild.
Fishing beads attract both hatchery and naturally spawned trout and steelhead. Regulations vary between states with some allowing natural fish eggs as bait and some declaring the bait illegal. It is good practice to carefully read the regulations in your area before heading out to the water.
How to Bait Your Line With Fishing Beads
Using fishing beads requires a totally different way of preparing your bait. In all other fishing methods, the fish hits the hook with a minnow or worm attached directly to the hook, or it strikes a lure with trailing treble hoods. Flies are created around the hook, with the hook becoming an integral part of the bait.
Fishing beads don’t work that way.
A fishing bead has a hole through it. The smaller the bead, the smaller the hole so line size is important in getting the beads to slide on and to present a natural appearance in the water. Most anglers use light monofilament line to string beads or a fluorocarbon leader tied to braided line.
While there is an ongoing debate on whether fish are line shy with certain types of fishing, there is little argument in bead fishing that the less visible the line, the better chance you have of getting strikes on beads.
The Single Bead
The basic method is to string one bead onto a light line, slide it up the line about six inches, then tie it in place with a double-knot. This holds the bead, but it also has line wrapped around the bead which could deter fish. Tie a bare hook below the bead between one-and-a-half and two inches. The hook should be similar in size to the bead. When you’re after trout a six-millimeter bead tied to a number 12 hook presents well to these smaller, aggressive fish.
Strings of Beads
Another method is to let the beads slide on the line. Thread the beads onto the line and tie a knot that stops the beads the same inch-and-a-half to two inches above the hook. This presents a natural-looking string of beads in the water. With this method, you can use a single bead or up to five beads strung together.
You can string more beads, but remember, you want this setup to look natural. In nature you might see a few beads floating in a line, but more than five doesn’t look right to the fish and they’re likely to shy away.
Rubber Band Bead Clusters
Another method is to string the beads together with a rubber band fed through the holes. With this method, you can create a cluster of eggs that appear very natural. Tie the assembled eggs onto your line the proper plus or minus two inches from the hook and let it do its magic. The problem with this method is that a hard strike will often break the rubber band sending the beads flying away. You’ll spend a lot of time restringing your line with this method, but you might get more strikes with it.
How to Fish With Beads
This is going to be a very different process than anything you’ve done before. There are a few common methods of presenting the beads, but after that, the hooking process is unique.
Drop shotting or jigging with fishing beads in deep water is a popular technique, but it requires a slower pattern. You’ll need to use glass beads since they’re heavier than water and will sink after you pop the line in.
With a single, a string, or a cluster of beads the action is the same. Cast your line and wait until it hits bottom. If you’re jigging, pull the line up slowly and let it sink. You are not mimicking the action of a nightcrawler, minnow, frog, or leach which are all free-swimming creatures. You’re trying to present the fishing beads as naturally floating eggs that drift with the flow of the water.
If you’re drop shotting, you’ll have a weight below the hook, and the bead assembly allowing the beads to stay clear of underwater weeds and moss. Once you’ve established depth, jig slowly with smooth upward motions followed by the beads slowly sinking down.
If the water has a sandy, smooth bottom you can bottom bounce the beads along the sandy surface. This is a very natural appearing presentation. Trout, steelhead, and salmon cruising along the bottom will spot the beads and hit.
Still Fishing – A Bad Idea
Still fishing isn’t a good practice with beads. They’re made of glass or plastic, have no odor, and with no spinning blades to create a sonic disturbance they don’t have much in the way of drawing a fish’s attention.
This works best with soft plastic beads but can be down with small strings or hard plastic as well. Hook the soft plastic directly to the hook, or tie a short string of three hard plastic beads to your line.
This technique is great for wadding in small streams with lots of rocks, structure, and undercut banks.
Let the line float away from you and into those areas where brook and cutthroat trout like to hang out in fast-moving water. You won’t get snagged as often as you would with live bait on a hook since the tiny hooks don’t grab sticks, moss, and weeds as quickly.
A final method is to tie the fishing beads below a floating bobber. You’ll want a longer leader under the bobber than when fishing with minnows or worms, but the action is similar. When the bobber dips in the water, set the hook.
Setting the Hook
Getting a fish on the hook is probably the biggest difference between angling with fishing beads and lures, live bait, or jigs. Proper placement of the hook about one-and-a-half to two inches below the bottom bead in your fishing bead assembly takes a lot of guesswork out of getting a fish on the hook when they strike.
Trout especially, but salmon and steelhead too, will only hit a glass or plastic bead once. It has no taste, and in the case of a glass bead, it’s hard and the fish will quickly spit it out. You have just a second or two to set the hook when a fish bites a bead.
The idea of the closeness of the hook is to let the fish hook itself when it takes the bead in its mouth. If the fish has momentum, the hook will pull up as it hits the bead, moving the hook close enough for quick action by you in setting the hook.
They’ll only hit a bead once, and lose interest so you’ll have to bring your “A” game when it comes to feeling the line or watching the bobber for strikes.
It’s a challenge, but a new challenge that can often bring good results when nothing else is working on the lake or stream. String those beads, present them with your favorite spinning, spincast, or baitcast setup with a clear leader, and have some fun.
My name is Ruben. I love fishing like most guys I know. Fishing is so much more than just an outdoor activity- its an escape, its therapy and so much more. I put together a team of other professional anglers in order to create the most inclusive fishing resource.