There are a number of different techniques that can be used to catch salmon but one thing for certain is that the best salmon lures force a salmons predatory instincts to strike.
Salmon are one of the most sought after prize in the fishing world and going home empty handed is not uncommon for a beginner.
Depending on how/where you are fishing and what stage the salmon are at during their spawning cycle will influence your choice of lure greatly
More often than not salmon lures will draw in the fish from quite a distance with a combination of vibration and flash.
The most common methods to catch salmon include:
Most anglers would probably agree that the best bait for salmon is using salmon eggs and drifting them downstream under a bobber.
However this has limited applications and is really only applicable to fishing in rivers in certain seasons.
Using artificial fishing lures for salmon allows you to be a lot more adaptable in terms of location and style of fishing.
Trolling and spinning are the two best ways to catch a salmon on a lure.
Trolling takes place in larger, deeper waters and spinning/casting will normally be on a river, although there are many salmon river fishing techniques that use bait.
You can also back troll on rivers if you both from a boat and from the shore if the shore is easy to walk without obstructions.
A lot of salmon anglers however do like to combine the use of a lure with either some fresh bait or a preserved bait that has be soaked in brine or some other additive that will help to add scent to the bait.
The bait can either be hooked onto a trailing hook rig or you can use what is called a bait wrapped lure(a strip of bait is attached onto the lure by wrapping it tightly with some line.)
Herring strips, prawns and anchovies are the most popular additions especially when trolling behind a flasher.
The Coyote might well be considered the all time classic trolling spoon. Always fished well behind a flasher with a up to a good 40" leader as you do not want the flasher to affect the natural wobble of the spoon.
This a usually trolled with the aid of a downrigger for saltwater trolling and in the great lakes.
One of the best salmon lures for deep water trolling and is a common sight on just about every salmon charter boat you'll see.
A size 4.0 in Nickel Green Neon is a solid performer. A lot of anglers will replace the hooks on this lures, personally I run them for a season and once there is any kind of wear and tear on then switch them out for higher quality Gamakatsu hooks.
Although not strictly a salmon fishing lure, when trolling with certain lures a flasher is a must. The amount of flash and vibration that they give off is massive and they are responsible for drawing salmon in from great distances towards your lure.
They can be used with a variety of different lures however certain crankbaits or plugs do not perform well behind a flasher as the flasher will affect the natural swim action of the plug.
They are generally used a great depths so a standard downrigger setup is the norm when using flashers.
One of the most popular "hoochie" or squid lures used in the salmon fishing scene the Ace Hi Fly Lures are designed to run behind a flasher or dodger.
On their own they have little to no swim action, when used with a dodger or flasher they come alive.
Run them back from the flasher about 24 to 40 inches and you will get the best swim action from them.
They come with glow UV built into the head for that added attraction.
Brad's Killer Cut Plug and the Mini Cut Plug are an absolute stable in the salmon fishing world. They can be used on the troll in deeper waters with a standard downrigger setup but are also just as effective when use in rivers for back trolling and bouncing downstream.
Available in a two sizes and a huge range of colors. Although you can use an actual real cut herring an artificial like this is re-usable over and over again.
They come with an included scent pad if you want to add your own, but I rather use strips of real bait in the special cavity.
The Kingfisher Lite is basically a Luhr Jensen Koyote spoon made by Silver Horde but they are available in a larger range of colors and some with a really great UV glow pattern.
As with most salmon lures run these behind a flasher and you have an exceptional salmon rig that will pull fish all day long if run at the right depth.
The Kwikfish is responsible for many a record salmon whether that's trolling in deeper waters or bottom bouncing in a river.
One thing is for sure the action and vibration that they give off drives salmon wild.
You need to be careful with how fast you fish them as they correct swimming action can be affected if you run them too fast.
They will simply start to roll over on themselves in a circular motion and will be all but useless.
They are a particular favorite of large king salmon and have landed many a monster king in their time.
The Coho Killer lures are a bit more slender than either the Coyote spoon or the Kingfisher.
Despite being so small they are really good for large Chinook especially when they are feeding on smaller bait fish that congregate around deep sand bars.
Again run these behind a standard flasher salmon rig and down as deep as possible. Look for large bait balls or shoals of bait fish on your fish finder and set your trolling rig accordingly.
Salmon fishing lures come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Each has their own specific use case in terms of species of salmon, time of year and location.
One thing that the all have in common is some form of movement and color/flash.
Salmon love to home in on prey and they do this by sensing vibration in the water and if possible by seeing the flash that small bait fish give off as they dart from side to side.
The best salmon fishing lures as listed above provide a combination of flash and vibration with one exception which is the hoochie or squid lure this is why a flasher is essential with any soft plastic lure.
Spoons can be fished with either a cast and retrieve method on a river for coho salmon or they can be trolled for kings with the use of a downrigger to help set the depth.
The main reason spoons work is the vibration that they give off as they wobble through the water.
Longer more slender spoons will tend to give off less intense vibrations but they will be at a higher frequency due to the speed of of the movement.
Shorter fatter spoons will give off a big vibration but at a lower frequency.
The majority of spoons will be based on one type of metal finish of either copper, gold or silver. Many spoons will have a pattern painted on over the underlying metal finish.
Although not strictly a lure flashers are actually used to bring salmon in from a distance with their big vibration and flash.
They are always trolled behind a boat in deep water and are mainly used as part of a downrigger setup.
Flashers are essentially a really large spoon usually made from plastic and can come in a variety of different colors.
There is always either a lure such as a hoochie/squid lure or a herring strip trailing a few feet behind the flasher. This what the salmon will actually strike at and not the flasher.
Hoochies as they are sometimes known are actually squid lures that are used by salmon fishermen during trolling with the addition of a flasher.
They are one of the most popular salmon fishing lures especially in deep waters. Sometimes they will come with tandem hooks, in this type of rig you can add a small herring strip to give off a scent.
A flasher really is important when using hoocies as with nothing more than a soft plastic/rubber skirt they do not give off a lot of vibration or flash.
Plugs can be trolled or cast for river salmon. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.
Some have deep dive bills on them that help them to dive as they move through the water and others have fairly stubby noses.
The Silver Horde in size #4 and #5 are very popular and do not have a dive bill buy instead a cupped nose.
The Luhr Jensen Kwikfish is one of the most popular types of plugs as it gives out a very strong vibration as it moves.
When trolling you should never use a flasher in front of a plug as it will impact the natural swim action of the plug.
If you are using plugs in a river then there are a variety of techniques that you can use especially if you are in a boat or a kayak.
Spinners are generally reserved for use when casting although you can troll with very large salmon spinners in deeper waters.
A cast and retrieve like action in a large fan pattern can help to find where salmon are lying especially if there are a lot of deep pockets in the river.
The spinning blades create all the flash and the vibration. You will occasionally see a dressed treble hook used on a spinner which helps to add a bit more life to the lure and also disguise the hook.
There are many different salmon river fishing techniques and learning to master them all will mean that you can fish just about any water and in any conditions.
Some can be done from the shore and others require the use of a boat using a variety of different rigs and tackle.
One thing is common throughout all of these techniques and that is getting your bait, fly or lure down to roughly the same depth as the salmon.
This really cannot be stressed enough as your chances of a bite improve dramatically once you keep your rig at the right depth.
Learning how to read all of the contours and features of the river will also make a major difference.
There really is no point in spending time and energy working a stretch of river that is just too shallow. In shallow waters if you can't see the salmon then chances are they are not there and you are just wasting your time.
Pockets, deep swim lanes, eddy's and breaks basically anything that has some form of structure to it or even deep open water is where you will find them.
Drift fishing usually involves floating downstream on a drift boat and bouncing or drifting you bait along the bottom.
You will need enough weight on your rig it get down to where the salmon are but not so much that you either get snagged or your rig stays stationary on the bottom.
When on the drift you can cast upstream of any potential deep pockets where salmon may be lying, allow your rig to bounce it's way downstream towards the salmon.
I normally use a slinky rig when drifting and it is one of the best river salmon fishing rigs for when you are using bait like salmon eggs.
Bobber fishing particularly when using salmon eggs is still one of the most popular techniques for salmon river fishing.
Nothing beats seeing your bobber disappear under water as a salmon takes your bait. Visually it's one of the most exciting ways to fish.
Given that salmon like to stay deep you really need to tune your bobber so that your bait is suspended at roughly the same depth as the salmon.
Salmon will rarely if ever strike at a bait if it is several feet above them.
It is a very common mistake to set your bobber up so that your bait is running too high in the water column.
Plunking is a pretty simple salmon fishing technique for rivers but to get it right you need to match the flow of the river and the weight that you use correctly.
Plunking involves casting a lure or bait from the shore. The weight in your rig will then hold the lure in a stationary position.
If you get it right your lure will get all of it's action from the flow over the water over it, even though it is stationary it will look like a small fish holding itself in one position against the current
Casting salmon spinners or spoons gives you the ability to cover a lot of open water. If you are new to the particular river you are fishing it can be one of the most effective methods to learn the contours and topology of the river bottom.
A lot of anglers will just make a few casts and then move to another area. Instead of this cast in a fan like patter n making sure that you cover pretty much every part of the water in front of you.
Obviously you may want to avoid working over the really shallow areas as salmon do tend to favor deeper waters.
Aim to target deep pockets or holes first and then work across any natural swim channels that you can see.
You will need to control the depth of your lure as it moves across and down the river. The easiest way to do this is to vary the retrieval speed.
When working salmon rivers that have a lot of holes and pockets in the river bottom a slow retrieve is almost always the best.
Slowing done either a spoon or a spinners will help it to stay deep. It will also make the blades/spoon spin slower giving you a really deep vibration lower frequency of flash.
Back trolling as the name suggest involves working a salmon fishing lure from a boat by letting it out to the required length and then slowly moving downstream with the current.
The real trick with back trolling is to ensure that your lure is moving a the correct speed to get it to dive and and give off it's inbuilt vibration whether that's with a plug or a spoon.
When back trolling for salmon you will spend a lot of your time adjusting your speed to match the changes in the rivers current.
You can do this using a drift boat with oars on generally calmer smaller rivers or using a trolling motor on larger rivers, some salmon fishermen will even back troll from a jet boat.
You can also back troll from the shore, to do this you will need a shore line that is free from obstructions so that you can walk slowly downstream with your rod held out over the water. A good set of chest waders and boots is essential here as too is making sure you are safe when walking along the river bank.
Twitching jigs along a river bank of from a boat had fallen out of favor for many years but it seems to be making a bit of a come back in recent times especially with more modern salmon fishing rods that that have fast actions.
Choose your favorite jig and cast it out to just upstream on the river where you think the salmon are lying. Allow it to sink and touch the bottom.
Once it touches you can either twitch the rod tip to make the jig dart upwards or you can allow it to bounce on the bottom for a few feet and then twitch it up.
Often you will find that a salmon strikes your jig on the way down after you have twitched it up.
The speed at which you troll for salmon can have a dramatic affect on your hook up rates.
This depends mostly on the type of gear and lures that you are using and the kinds of depths that you are targeting.
Whether you are using a salmon flasher or a dodger in front of your lures will also determine how fast you troll for salmon.
If using a dodger then you might want to stay below 2.5 mph as they will end up spinning rather than darting back and forth. With salmon flashers you can go a little faster up to 3.5 mph.
The best trolling speed for salmon will lie somewhere in the range of 1.5 to 3.5 mph depending on your exact setup.
Dodgers are designed to dart from side to side without much spinning. If you start to run at speeds above 2.5 mph you may well end up making the dodger spin.
Once a dodger spins the whole point of it becomes redundant as they are used so that they put some life and movement into the trailing lure behind it.
Flashers on the other hand are designed to run a little faster. The whole point of a flasher is to spin erratically and give off a big flash and lots of vibration through the water.
An 11 inch salmon flasher can comfortably take 3.5 mph. But can be usable from 2 mph hour upwards.
Ultimately the best way to test you flashers and dodgers is to run them along side the boat a few feet down so you can see them.
Adjust your speed so that you get the action and flash that you are most happy with. Some of the best salmon fishing lures run great at one speed but are almost useless at another.
Trolling speed for salmon will also impact the depth at which your gear will be running.
Once you hit 4 mph or more you may start to find that your downrigger ball starts to run a little higher than normal.
Drag anything from the back of a boat above a certain speed and it will start to rise naturally due to the speed.
Personally I like to troll in a range that suits the gear I am using.
Can a salmon really tell the difference or even care if you are running at 2.2 mph or 2.4 mph ?
A lot of anglers will have a preferred speed for salmon trolling rig but what is right for one may not be right for another.
Long lining without any kind of weight involved will mean matching your speed to the natural action of the lure you are using.
You can fine tune the speed just by letting the lure out a few feet and seeing how it swims. This is particularly important if you are using a lure like a Rapala as they are tuned to run at a certain speed.
Some lure can be tuned by hand like a Kwik Fish, experimenting with them can often yield the best results.
There are a few types of salmon rigs for trolling that are wildly used by anglers today.
There are lots of lure choices and bait combinations that can be used on these salmon rigs and knowing how and when to use each of these is a smart way to approach salmon fishing.
The gold standard though is and has been for a long time using a salmon flasher in combination with a downrigger.
Before the invention of downriggers lots of lead on your line was needed to get down beyond 30 feet and that meant a big lack of sensitivity once you had a salmon on the hook.
That being said technology has really moved on in recent years and you can even buy flashers that give off an electronic pulse which mimics the same tiny electrical charge that bait fish emit and that salmon will naturally home in on.
This will be the most common of trolling rig for salmon and 90% of salmon charters will run this as their only rig for most of the season at varying depths.
The flasher is attached to your mainline, on the other side of the flasher is a fluorocarbon leader rated somewhere between 20 and 50 lbs of roughly 20 to 50 inches in length.
Your lure is then attached to this leader. There needs to be a minimum of two swivels in this salmon rig one either side of the flasher.
Only high quality ball bearing swivels should be used and not the cheaper inline variety. Having multiple swivels ensures that if one fails there will still be one good one to help reduce line twist on your main line.
The main line is then let out the required distance and then attached to you downrigger setup.
The downrigger is then lowered down to the required running depth. Sometimes this can be as deep as 200 feet.
A dummy flasher rig means that the flasher is actually attached to your downrigger ball and not onto your main line.
This is usually done when you want to remove the fishing flasher yet still get the benefit of the vibration and flash that it gives off.
Running a flasher on your main line will effect how you end up playing a salmon once it is hooked as they do add a bit of drag when retrieving.
They can also allow a salmon to get a bit more side ways leverage when trying to shake a hook so you may have a better landing rate when not using one directly.
When using a dummy flasher you will usually be running your main line closer to the boat than you would normally when the flasher is inline.
This makes sense as once the salmon are attracted to your dummy flasher you really need to present your lure or bait whilst they are still close by.
Running too long a main line behind a dummy flasher will just mean that the salmon investigates the flasher hangs around for a few seconds and then heads away from your boat and trailing lure, so don't set it back too far.
A long line rig is just a main line and a lure occasionally with some added weight. It basically means that you are not using a downrigger or a diver to help get your salmon fishing lures down to really deep depths.
Lures like a large jointed Rapala work really well on a long line as their swim action is not affected by something like a flasher or dodger.
This type of salmon trolling rig is usually only used for shallow water work. However you can run a combination of different rigs with this one.
It is rare that all rods on a boat would be long lines. And you will usually find on a lot of salmon charter boats that downriggers will be run on either side and a long line run directly off the stern a considerable distance back form the boat.
Lead core lines can be used to great effect with these kind of rigs if you need to get to roughly 20 to 30 feet in running depth.
Always make sure that you run a fairly large leader of either mono or fluorocarbon line though preferably of at least 20 lb in breaking strain.
Tolling spinners for salmon is not really done very often but it is actually gaining in popularity and running one behind a diver is the preferred method.
A flasher or dodger may well affect the spin of the blades of the spinner.
Ultimately a spinner is already providing it's own flash and vibration from the blade. You will usually need to run a fairly large spinner in order to be successful.
Spinners will also work well behind a dummy flasher as mentioned above. You get the best of both words all of the attraction of the flasher and then the inbuilt flash and vibration from the spinner.
You can also run a trailing hook off of the back of your spinner with a small piece of bait on it like fresh herring or anchovy.
If you a switch out the treble hooks for a high quality single hook you can also thread a small plastic/rubber squid or hoochie skirt on the back of the spinner to give it even more life.
As the coho make their return from September to late November in the rivers and streams of their origin anglers are keen to dusk off their favorite coho salmon lures in keen anticipation of the fun to come.
The best coho salmon lures for rivers tend to be one part flash and one part vibration.
Lures that give out a lot of vibration will draw in coho for a closer look, with the added flash you can be sure that there predatory instinct gets triggered and they can help but strike at your lure.
Although every angler will have their favorite they will usually fall into one of the following different types of coho lures:
Spinners and spoons both give off a lot of flash and vibration. They can be fished a number of different ways, but a simple upstream cast and retrieve technique is probably the simplest.
Plugs can be back trolled, bottom bounced and also cast and retrieved depending on the stretch of water in question.
Jigs will need a pretty decent weight as the jig head if you are casting on a river however when everything else is failing sometimes a simple jig is to the rescue.
A common mistake is fishing a coho lure too shallow. You need to get down to a similar depth to where the coho lie and get that lure in front of them for better success.
A lot of anglers will switch out the treble hooks on their coho salmon lures for a larger higher quality single hook.
Single hooks with a larger gap than a treble have a much higher probability of hooking the coho in the side of the mouth and not foul hooking them as you can with treble hooks.
The Kwikfish lure from Luhr Jensen has a long history of producing monster salmon whether that's out in deeper waters line lining whilst trolling or even on rivers bottom bouncing.
It is essentially a very extreme looking crankbait with a very extended dive bill that is actually part of the lure body itself.
They have an exceptionally strong swim action that gives off a lot of vibration.
One word of warning if you fish them too quickly like a lot of crankbaits they will start to roll and loose that all important vibration.
Bottom bouncing from a boat is one of the best ways to use a Kwikfish in a river and you can feel all that vibration come back through the rod so the feedback is quiet good. Back trolling is also a popular choice.
Size wise look at the K14 or the K15, these size lures can easily take a wrap of bait such as sardine or herring.
They also come in a massive range of bright colors, most angler settle on only a few colors or patterns but then they swear by them for ever!
One of the all time best salmon spinners the Blue Fox Vibrax is well known for catching brown trout in small rivers and streams but is also a killer coho salmon fishing lure.
I like to run these in a size #4 or a #5 on a simple cast and retrieve strategy. I tend to run these a little slower as a coho lure as it helps to get them down deeper.
With a quicker retrieve you will end up fishing most spinners to high in the water column and that's exactly were salmon are not! Stay slow and deep and really let that blade thump out some nice vibrations.
Color wise just about anything with a nice bit of flash will do, although I have seen a lot of success with a Firetiger pattern for some strange reason.
If you really want to beef them up so that the salmon have a bit more of a target to hit then switch out the treble hook for a large single and slide on a small plastic squid lure over the hook.
Kastmaster spoons are some of the beefiest spoons available. They have a really thick short body when compared to the majority of other fishing spoons.
That thicker body has a number of advantages. Firstly they can be cast quite a distance for their size and because of their heavier weight are a lot easier to get down into deeper waters especially in fast currents.
There are three really productive colors that are great for coho salmon, gold, silver, and chrome/blue. Having at least one of these in your tackle box is a smart move as no other spoon is like them.
You can also bottom bounce this kind of spoon particularly if you are a very strong current.
A true classic of the salmon plug world the Brad's Killer Cut Plug is a stable salmon lure for rivers the world over.
You can rig them with some cut herring for that added scent. Best to use single hooks a heavy treble can affect the swim action.
They are generally used behind a salmon fishing flasher when trolled but can also be used on lighter setups in shallower waters.
Jigging for coho is an great alternative to using lures or a regular salmon bait like salmon eggs. When selecting a jog you need to make sure that there is a decent amount of weight in the jig head.
A heavier jig head not only helps with casting and getting the jig down into deeper waters where salmon like to lie but it also helps add a bit more life to them as you twitch the rod tip.
I tend to only use colors like red, orange or pink, basically anything that has a similar color to a natural salmon egg.
You can jig these on a spinning setup as I find a baitcasting reel is not as good as a spinning reel when using lighter lures like jigs. Even though they are somewhat of a finesse technique you still need your tackle to have a bit of backbone.
Once the coho start to enter river systems they can tend to become a little spooked by larger lures and your best option is to stick to smaller presentations.
When this is the case the Dick Nite Original is the go to salmon lure for rivers. The have a very small profile and a single hook.
They have a more gentle action whilst still giving off that all important flash.
The Silver Horde is another really great slim profile river salmon lure, that being said they are also used to great affect when trolling for salmon at depths of up to 100 feet despite there slim profile and relatively light weight.
Great for casting and back trolling if you get the speed just right. In deeper waters you'll need a bit of weight to get them into the really deep pools. Like most salmon spoons low and slow is the best tactic.
Wiggle lures are basically small crankbaits that have a really aggressive lip. That lip gives them a great swim action that puts out a lot of vibration.
They come in a pretty decent range of colors. There are treble hooks supplied on them as standard so you may want to switch those out if you salmon waters have a single hook regulation in place.
The Mepps Flying 'C' is often dubbed the Flying 'Condom' all joking aside it is one of the very best salmon spinners available and despite it's rather plain appearance is one hell of a performer.
There must be something to the soft rubber tail as it can often out fish a regular spinner even in low light waters.
As we discussed above the best salmon lures for rivers are all about flash and vibration. Most river run salmon will not feed that much and will strike a lure more so out of predatory instinct.
The best time to catch them will be at the river mouth just as they start running up river. At this time they are still feeding aggressively and will hit a small bait fish or squid like creature.
Once up river and the closer they are to spawning the less likely they are to feed.
When they strike a salmon egg or an artificial bead/egg it is believed they are doing so more out of territorial protection than hunger.
There are many river fishing techniques for salmon that use lures but even more so that use bait.
Spoons allow you to cover a lot of water in a big fan like pattern if you are casting from shore or from a boat.
When fishing spoons it's not so much about the specific colors that you choose more about making sure that there is plenty of flash.
The speed that you retrieve them at is a massive factor in how well they fish.
For river salmon low and slow is best. In other words slow them down so they have a chance of getting down deep where the salmon will naturally prefer to lie in rivers.
Just like spoons spinners are all about flash and vibration. Again working them slowly and down deeper will see better results.
Classic spinners with silver or gold blades are the old reliables.
Dressed hooks are also a good bet particularly if you can get a small strip of silver tinsel in the dressing. Adding a small plastic squid lure can be a one of the best salmon lures for rivers going.
Plugs can be fished a variety of different ways whether that's casting, back trolling or bottom bouncing plugs a super versatile.
You can add a bait wrap of something like anchovies or herring to larger plugs, but if you are running smaller plugs then I prefer not to wrap them as it can affect the swim action.
Twitching jigs is still not that popular when compared to say spoons or spinners. You will need slightly lighter tackle as jigging does require a bit more sensitivity that when casting a larger lure.
Unlike other forms of jigging you do need a jig that has a pretty heavy lead head on it. The heavier head allows a better casting range and also stops the jig from being thrown around in the current too much.
Without a doubt salmon flashers are an absolute must when deep water trolling for salmon using most of the popular lures and setups.
They are an absolute staple on almost every salmon charter boat that I have seen and are responsible for a very large percentage of salmon caught on the troll.
A lot of lures and hoocies/squid have very little to no swim or diving action. A flasher not only helps to attract salmon in towards your troll but also helps to add a bit of life to what it is trailing behind it.
A salmon flasher is a long shaped piece of plastic that is trolled in front of a lure or bait and creates vibration and flash to help attract salmon.
It is theorized that the flash and vibration mimics another salmon attacking a small herring ball. Other salmon are then said to home in on this feeding and strike your trailing lure as if it is a lone bait fish or squid.
Because they have very little weight and have no diving action themselves they are usually used with the aid of a downrigger or a diver to help get you rig down to the required depth when trolling for salmon.
The best way to learn how to use fishing flasher is just to get out there and use one. Don't be afraid to experiment with different lures or bait.
You can also play around with the leader lengths and the size and colors of the flasher that you are using.
The majority of salmon rigs for trolling will incorporate a flasher or a dodger of some kind.
There are many different ways to run a fishing flasher but the most simplest method which is also the most common is to run one off the back of a downrigger out anywhere from 30 to 50 feet.
Your main line is connected to the flasher and on the other side between 2 and 5 feet of 20 lb flourocarbon leader which is then connected to your lure.
Always run flasher with stainless steel ball bearing swivels and not weaker lower quality inline swivels. You will want at least one swivel on either side of the flasher so that if one gets fouled up with weed or stops working you still have one working flasher in your rig.
Primarily for trolling on larger waters they are growing in popularity for use with salmon river lures.
Traditionally flashers were trolled at a speed of between 2 and 2.5 miles per hour. This sweet spot gives the flasher the best swim action and allows the tail to kick in such a way that it gives off a solid vibration through the water.
Modern trolling flashers have added agitator fins added to the back. This fin means you can troll at speeds as low as one mile per hour yet still retain plenty of tail kick action.
The usual go to color flashers for salmon are green, red and then either a silver from a metal flasher or a holographic pattern.
As you get deeper and deeper into the water column color really does tend to become less of an issue as less light penetrates down. A strong flash and lots of vibration is really what counts the most.
At shallower depths color can be a factor where the green or red will mimic different types of natural bait balls that salmon will target aggressively.
As a general rule you can match the flasher color to the prevailing water color at the time. Water color can take on hues of green and blue depending on the time of year and light situation.
Some flasher manufacturers such as Pro Troll have not only added UV glow in the dark colors to their flashers but have also added components that emit electrical pulses similar to that of the electrical nerve discharges that live bait give off. This technology is called EChip.
A lot of anglers will not have heard the term dummy flasher, a dummer flasher is when you rig a flasher to your downrigger ball.
The reason to do this is when you are fishing with salmon lures that don't perform well behind a flasher.
You still get the benefits of the flash and vibration from the flasher but without having to use one on your main line.
When playing a fish you also have a lot more feel as the fishing flasher will create drag in the water as you play the fish especially smaller salmon.
Modern fishing flashers are predominantly made from plastic and they will mostly have some form of stick on tape that is used to give them their flash. Through wear and tear this tape can get damaged easily especially if they are stored on top of each other.
One solution is to use a dedicated flasher storage bag. This a role up bag that has separate vented compartments for each flasher.
A flasher bag is one of the best ways to ensure that your flashers do not end up scratching each other.
A flasher is specifically designed to spin as it moves through the water whereas a dodger will dart back and forth from side to side without much spinning.
A lot of anglers will use the terms dodger or flasher interchangeably and in reality the two are very different.
Flashers are more about vibration and flash, a dodger however will also flash and give off a vibration but it is also used to impart an action into the trailing lure as it darts from side to side.
Flashers will generally create less of a sideways actions whereas a dodger will create a lot.
Certain lures do not perform well behind a dodger as the action of the dodger will spoil or ruin the correct swim action of the lure.
Small crankbaits and long slender plugs like Rapala's are generally best used without either.
Throwing lures such as salmon spinners and spoons has somewhat of a renaissance over the past ten years.
There was a time when salmon anglers were more concerned with back trolling plugs and using eggs as salmon bait.
Spinners however tap into the salmon natural instincts to attack anything that gives off a lot of vibration and flash.
Enter the humble spinner.
When fished at a slow speed their spinning blade gives off a rhythmic vibration that drives salmon wild.
The name of the game with using salmon spinners is low and slow
Some of the most popular spinners for salmon like the Blue Fox Vibrax have been producing trophy salmon for decades and are some of the best coho salmon lures for rivers you can find.
The best color spinners for salmon will vary greatly from angler to angler but you can't go wrong a basic silver/blue.
If using single hooks(and you should be) you can dress the hook with an artificial plastic squid skirt for added life.
You'll be using some fairly large spinners like a size #4 or #5 Mepps or on higher darker run waters even as high up as a size #6 so you'll need to match your salmon spinner setup accordingly.
You want a rod somewhere in the 8'6" to 9'6" range. A longer rod gives you better casting performance but less control close up so match your rod length to the size of river you are working.
Use a rod with a medium/heavy power rating and a fast action. This should give you enough backbone for working larger spinners and also enough tip sensitivity to feel what is going on at the sharp end.
Personally I always switch out the stock treble hooks that come on most salmon fishing spinners for higher quality single hooks.
Treble hooks can result in lots of foul hooking. Using a high quality single hook means a better chance of hooking the salmon squarely in the jaw.
Foul hooking a salmon in a fast flowing river can be a nightmare to actually bank the fish. If hooked correctly on a single hook it if much easier steer the salmon through the fast flowing current.
On a lot of rivers there are specific rules against using trebles so you should always check the rules and regulations that govern your local rivers.
The Blue Fox Vibrax could well be the best spinner for salmon as it produces trophy fish year after year.
The classic silver blade with a blue body is hard to beat and it would be the first spinner I will likely tie on at the start of the season.
Switch out the trebles for single hooks for better hook ups. You'll need a small split ring to attach the single once you have cut off the treble with a pliers.
The Alaska Single hook spinner kit has enough lures in it to fish a season on just about any water.
This kit is specially put together for salmon and steelhead fishing. I contains a range of Mepps's classic spinners plus the Flying C lure all with quality single hooks. They are pretty much ready to go straight out of the packet.
The Flying C is occasionally referred to as the Flying Condom due to the soft rubber tail that sits behind the spinning blade.
They make for great casting lures for salmon in rivers as for their size they have a nice bit of weight to them so are easy enough to work down in deeper waters.
Panther Martin spinners are along with Mepps and Glue Fox are the big three names in the world of spinner lures.
The Panther Martin spinners however differ in their blade design. They use what is called an inline spinner which has the shaft running through the blade as opposed to attaching to it directly.
This means you can fish a Panther Martin slower that with conventional blades.
The Hammered Go-Glo feature a trailing hoochie skirt that is attached by a convenient split ring so you can switch it out easily to some other kind of hook if you wish.
The King Killers from Wicked Lures are purpose built salmon spinners that are becoming some salmon anglers secret weapon when it comes to spinning for salmon.
They come complete with a big patterned blade, single hook and rubber squid skirt and leader.
You can fish these really slow and the blade gives off a really nice strong vibration once at the correct speed.
The Panther Martin UV line of spinners are some of the brightest lures you find. In darker waters their flashy colors can be a game changer. In clear waters however they can fall flat on their face and it is best to stick to the more basic colors such as simple silver or gold.
The Mepps Long Cast lures feature a much heavier longer metal body that really helps to get them down deep particularly in really fast waters.
They have a decent range of colors and sizes available. Definitely one to try if you are having problems getting your spinners down to a good running depth and do not want to resort to added weight on your spinner setup.
The list of salmon spinners above includes something for almost any situation. You only need a handful of the right spinners in a few sizes.
In faster running waters you will need to size up so that you have a chance of actually getting the lure down in the stronger current.
For the most part salmon on any average stretch of water will usually prefer to lie in deeper waters.
It is quite rare that a they will come out of the deep to hit a shallow running lure so you need to get yours down to roughly the same depth as where the are holding.
Deep pockets, middle swim lanes and just about any other deep natural feature on the river bed is where you need to start targeting them.
The classic swing technique is one of the most reliable when fishing a sinner for salmon.
Cast upstream and across of where you think they will be. Allow your spinner to sink down to the bottom.
When you start to retrieve resist the urge to pull the lure quickly through the water. Reel in at a pace that allow the lure to run about a foot off the bottom.
The natural arc that your line will take is not to be disturbed. If you are retrieving too fast then your line will start to straighten out, don't do this.
Allow the spinner to bump the bottom occasionally assuming that there are not too many snags around.
As the spinner drifts down through the arc it makes once it starts to move down river of you it will start to spin a little faster and begin to rise up through the water gradually.
Delay the temptation to reel it in too quickly as it straightens out.
A lot of times you will get a really aggressive strike right at the last moment as you spinner starts to climb out off of the bottom.
Your choice of salmon trolling setup will largely be determined by how, where and for what you intend on fishing for.
Trolling puts a lot of strain on your setup and you really need to choose the right combination to make sure that it is durable enough to do the job.
For example a downrigger rod needs a faster action on the tip so that it can bend easily down towards the weight ball. If you are long lining in the top few feet of the water column then it is better to go with a rod that has a more moderate action.
When trolling practically every outfit should use a trolling reel. Whether you choose one with a line counter on it is up to you.
If you are looking for what rigs to use with your setup check out our other article: salmon rigs for trolling.
Spinning setups are just a no! Using a spinning reel when trolling can be a royal pain so save your self the hassle.
That means when trolling you want a rod that is specifically designed to troll. They have more eyes on them than a normal baitcaster and are usually built a lot tougher.
Materials wise look for glass fiber or a glass fiber and graphite composite rod.
Look for a rod that falls somewhere within the following range of specifications:
The length of rod is often a big pain point for a lot salmon anglers who are trolling. A longer rod means it can be more difficult to net a fish, but it also gives you a big lever with which to fight them with.
Using a downrigger or looking to use it out wide with a planer board can also mean a different length rod and action.
My personal preference is to only run a dedicated downrigger rod on the downrigger as my main salmon trolling setup and for any other techniques I'll choose a rod that suit that specific technique, but the bulk of my trolling is down on downriggers.
Trolling reels are clearly the only choice to go for. Line counters can be great when looking to use a lot of line out the back or if you are specifically using lead core line to get down deeper as opposed to using a downrigger.
High quality reels are a must, but that is not to say that you have to spend a fortune on them. You can get some great value trolling reels that will last a decade of use providing you look after then and service then regularly.
Reels like the Okuma Magda Pro in a size 200 offer great value for money and are really solid performers.
You'll need a size 200 or higher as you would want to able to hold at least 200 yards of 20 lb line.
I tend to run 40 to 50 lbs braid as the main line and the either a 20 or 30 lbs leader of monofilament or fluorocarbon.
You need that leader to act as a shock absorber as braid has very little or no stretch.
Some guys will run lighter braid as their main line but the problem with more modern braids is that they are actually too thin and under pressure the top layer of line will dig into the line that is already on the spool which can cause a tangle and a massive head ache especially of you are on a fish.
When the salmon are holding deep the the best option is to use a downrigger. Using this type of setup for salmon trolling is the hassle free way of getting your lures down to the correct depth without a lot of guess work.
You can do it using other methods such as adding inline weights to you line or using lead core line but they are not as accurate when it comes to getting to a precise depth.
When using a trolling flasher gives you a massive advantage as they trick the salmon into thinking that another salmon is attacking a bait ball. Other salmon see this and want in on the action homing in on your flasher from afar.
Once up close they should see your lure as a small fish that is not in the bait ball and see it as easy prey.
Flasher work by emitting a lot of vibration and flash as they spin through the water. This is what the salmon are attracted to and a really deep depths the color of your flasher is not that important more so that it is vibrating and flashing strongly.
The best trolling speed for salmon when using a flasher will lie in the 2.5 to 3.5 mph range any slower and you would be better off using a dodger.
There are lots of lures to choose from, hoochies, spoons, plugs even large salmon spinners.
The best salmon fishing lures will generally give off a lot of vibration and flash except for maybe a soft plastic quid like a hoochie.
With these types of lures you will almost always need the added help of a flasher or dodger.
Depending on the type of lure that you are using the stock hooks may not be of the best quality.
A lot of salmon anglers will switch out the stock treble hooks for higher quality single hooks.
If you are using treble hooks than you run the risk of foul hooking your salmon. A high quality single hook reduces this possibility considerably and you will find that you get a lot more hook ups in the side of the salmons jaw which is the best place to hook them.
Switching out the trebles for singles also allows you to dress the single hook with a squid or hoochie skirt for added swim action.