Concentrate your efforts to slower edges, back sloughs and wood piles. These coho conga lines are excellent places to enroll your favorite flashing intruder or wiggling wonder. In my opinion, there are four different ways to fish coho on the Skagit right now. This blog will address one of those techniques: plugs.
Plugs are a great way to target these traveling coho. They offer distinct advantages that other lures lack. Have you ever cast a plug and really listened to the river while you were reeling it? That’s right my bass lure chucking friends—they rattle. And this rattle is extremely obnoxious while under the surface. When fishing shallow water you can often hear your plug 40 and even 50 feet away from the boat. Salmon feel this vibration in their lateral line, sending impulses to their pea-sized brain reminiscent of days past in the salt chuck grabbing herring, anchovies, etc.
Plug Colors and Size
One of the greatest features of using plugs is the endless size and color options. Joe-weekend warrior can walk into a tackle shop and be amazed, confused, or downright scared of all the variations. Well greenie, here it is: a “how to buy a plug, that works for you” paragraph.
The first step is understanding the plug. A plug is a searching lure—it does a few things very well and it does a few very poorly. First, it emits sounds followed by flash and color. Those combinations make for one heck of an effective tool for finding the chrome.
A plug’s size and color should be matched to the water conditions you face each day. There is no perfect size, and there is no perfect color. Color and size are dictated by clarity, sunlight and feel—and what I mean by feel is, “I feel I need to try this color, because there are fish rolling and we can’t get them to hit.”
Wee-sized plugs should be used when the river is running extremely clear or being heavily pressured. Wiggle Wart, Brad’s Wiggler, Kwikfish 11, Mag Lips 3.5, and Fatfish are my general size preferences when it comes to plugs. Their weight, flash, and size will be the best all-around pick. They work especially great in off colored conditions (five feet or less visibility).
The next step in a plug choice is the body of the lure itself. There is an endless amount of color variations when it comes to plugs. Choices and options are a good thing, but it can be bad as well. Why bad? Well, most guys will buy 10 different plugs based on colors that catch their eye and never gain any confidence in any of them.
I know when my wife goes and buys nail polish she brings a nice educated list on what is needed … a certain one to match a outfit right? No way, she goes and buys based on what catches her eye. Colors catch fisherman first before they ever have a chance to catch fish.
A plug fisherman needs to buy based on the intent to use specific colors or shades matched with the appropriate size. Colors are that of the effect of the plug. As the size goes up so does the brightness of the color in most cases. If the river features limited visibility, you will want to increase the ability of your plug to be seen by a fish. Under conditions of three feet or less, a salmon might be able to see four or even five feet in the murky water. Use florescent colors, Metallic Pink or black. These colors give the fish optimum chance at not only seeing your lure, but following it.
Now you got your lure picked out, what else? Pick a rod — another often overlooked piece of the plug fishing world, at least in casting salmon plugs. Plug rods can be nothing special or they can be a weapon to not only catch more fish, but help save money on losing lures, etc. A plug rod is a rod that features a fast action with a lot of backbone, but an extremely giving tip. This extremely giving tip tells what is going on under the water and the fast action makes for quick hooksets and fish that are hooked solid.
Fetha Styx does a fine job of making some truly remarkable plug fishing tools. One little gem of a rod is the Homewater Walleye Series w-763. Although not a salmon or steelhead rod at all, this stick truly sticks out as the undefeated plug casting rod of all time. Another fantastic rod is the Fetha Styx Chrome series Salmon 861-1s — this rod is rated for 8-20 pound line weights and is eight-feet six-inches long. This is probably the best all-around coho rod you can get for the money. And not only does it tackle coho, it can also take on kings.
Reel and Line
Reel is not super important. In fact, using cheaper reels is often not a bad idea. Due to the nature of the retrieve it burns reels up pretty quick. Go cheap and throw it away. The reel should be able to hold 100 yards of 30-pound braid or 100 yards of 12-pound test. 2500 series spin reels are generally the best.
First of all, let me tell you that with the wigglers you could cast out a piece of steel wire with it attached and catch a coho. These fish are not line shy. This is fast paced presentation, fish are going to do one of three things: crush it, follow it or get spooked by it. When a coho is chasing a lure, it is often from the back of the lure. Through trial and error … the error being hundreds of dollars of plugs lining the river’s bottom like Christmas ornaments … I have switched over to running braid. 95-percent of your bass fishermen have already made this switch and I am no different. Braid is a highly effective tool in fishing with wigglers.
Number two: no stretch in the line makes for rock solid hooksets.
Number three: braid is ultra-tough and when fishing around the lumber yard, lures get lost. It’s a fact of life folks. If you are fishing coho and not losing lures, you are not in the right area. Braid helps me to bend out hooks and retain more lures. Once a plug is pulled free from a snag it must be checked and returned. Often times when pulling on the lure such a high stress is put on the eyelet it will bend it a little. Who cares about tuning and re-tuning a plug — at least I got my five bucks back. I have saved hundreds of dollars now since I switched to braid.
One tip I will grant you plug enthusiasts is tune the hell out of your plug. You want these things running straight. And what I mean by that is, when you pull against the plug and it dives it should go straight down. Not off to one side or doing a loop. Take the time to get in tune. These lures need your attention greater than a jig or a spinner. If not tuned it’s not going to get bit. And if it doesn’t get bit, you are going to send me a message on facebook or even the radio show and call me a plug sales man. Please stay tuned … if it’s the only thing you learn from this.
When our rivers drop from brown to that “I have a half chub green,” plugs are great lures. Cast and cranked is the name of the game. These things are so simple to use, it is almost not even fair to use them as guide. Here are the instructions…
Step One: Cast — straight out, and keep a low tip.
Step Two: Reel.
Congratulations, plug rookie, you have now been granted Jedi status on the art of throwing plastic prowler.
Plugs are a lure that are good, but are not perfect. When faced with clear water, plug strikes will lean to the wayside. In my line of work, I have the opportunity to watch other fisherman, boats, etc. on a daily basis. I can’t tell you how many times guys will fall into a creature of habit with these things. Day in and day out, the same guys throw the same Brads Wiggler 29 or the Storm 175. And you run into these same guys and they will tell you fishing sucks. That “they don’t know why they aren’t getting any fish” and I roll up with a box full of fish and don’t say a word.