August 2009

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August 2009

Bait Trolling the Easy Way: Part 2
Tips & Tricks for Better Results

In the first installment of “Bait Trolling the Easy Way,” I explained the basics for setting up herring or anchovies in any of the popular bait holders that anglers either have in their tackle boxes or can easily obtain from their local tackle shops. The basic setup is as follows: First, take thawed bait and secure it in the lure with a pin or toothpick. Second, set the hook into the bait behind the dorsal fin on the lateral line. Third, put a slight curve in the bait and make it even from head to tail to produce a roll rate of one to two turns per second. Fourth, adjust the speed of the roll by adding to the curve for a faster roll and reducing the curve for a slower roll. This is the standard trolled bait presentation which is described in the instruction sheets for most of the popular bait-retaining lures. In my fishing classes I refer to it as the “McDonalds” setup because it was, and continues to be, easy, fast and convenient. However anglers need to learn a few more tricks if they want to master the art of trolling with bait.

Changing the Shape of the Bait Roll
Would you ever consider running the same colored hootchie, spoon or plug every day of the year for all species of salmon? Probably not, and your tackle box would be a lot smaller. But if you did, you’d have a real struggle on those days when the fish wanted something different. Consequently, savvy anglers have a selection of hootchies, spoons and plugs with different colors and sizes to fall back on when the number one or number two producers take a holiday. These anglers can also alter the action of their favorite artificial lures by changing leader length, adjusting trolling speed, switching from flashers to dodgers, or changing the size of the attractor as well as modifying the action on some of the lures. Bait trollers have all of the same options. However, modifying the action of the bait/lure combination is perhaps the most important skill required to become an excellent bait troller. Put another way, you need to know what happens to the bait when the hook position and the amount of curve are different than the stock McDonalds setup. What makes the bait roll wider? What makes it roll tighter? What alteration produces a corkscrew roll and what adjustment produces a drill-bit roll? Anglers should try to understand this because not only does it expand the number of presentations you can put into the water, it is a basic fundamental for making sure you can fix any bait that doesn’t work properly on the first try.

Let me use a hypothetical example by starting my fishing day with three McDonald-rigged anchovies in Purple Haze bait heads behind identical flashers and leader lengths and all run at the fifty-foot depth. I do have three lures fishing for me, but I only have one presentation. I think you are much better off, particularly if you haven’t been on the water for awhile, to run some baits with different actions. So as a better option I would use one stock setup, one drill-bit, and one corkscrew roll to see which action the fish wanted that day. I might add an additional variation by having one of the three baits rolling either faster or slower than the others. Now I’ve got three very different bait presentations. With all of them at the same depth I should get a pretty good read on the “flavour of the day” at least as far as action goes. If the McDonald one fires first, I will change one of the others to the same stock roll. If one of those two fires again, I will switch all three to that action. If the bite drops off I’ll change back to a tight drill-bit or a corkscrew roll to ensure some variety. Now in a real fishing situation I’d probably run one or two different bait head colors with different flashers at different depths. However, the point of the example is that you can actually create three different presentations from one bait setup.

The trick is to put some variety out there because different actions produce different results. A lot of this variation in lure preference has to do with the life stage of the fish you’re after, but daily conditions like the type of feed, light level, barometric pressure and current flows also play a huge role. Here are just a few examples. Late season adult Chinooks that are permanently off the feed like slower rolling baits while winter feeders and early season adults will take active baits with snappier rolls and darting actions. Summer coho bite almost anything, but matures are much pickier than anglers might think. I have taken nearly all of my bigger coho on spring salmon presentations with slightly shorter leaders trolled with just a bit more speed. These were not accidental encounters since I intentionally use this setup for coho on at least one rod after the middle of September.

 Sketch No. 1 illustrates where to put the hook to produce three different rolls; the tight roll, the wobble and the corkscrew.

How to alter the shape of the bait roll.

The black dot on the lateral line behind the dorsal fin is the hook position for a stock-rigged anchovy or herring. With the hook in this position and an even curve, the bait will revolve with the head and tail in line and with a bit of wobble. To tighten up the roll, move the hook position above the lateral line (See arrow marked T for tight). The higher the hook is set the tighter the bait will roll. To get more wobble in the roll move the hook below the lateral line (See arrow marked W for wobble or wider). The further you move it down from the lateral line the wider the bait rolls. To produce a corkscrew roll, which is a deadly action for big late season trophy Chinook, set the hook below the lateral line and further back towards the tail. To get a tighter corkscrew roll set the hook above the lateral line and further back towards the tail (See the arrows marked CT and CW). If you want to alter the speed of the roll just increase or decrease the amount of bend for each setup. For example you can create a slow drill-bit roll by moving the hook well above the lateral line and running the bait so it is almost straight. However, it still needs some curve; otherwise it will try to spin the other way which causes an odd looking and non-productive propeller spin.
Another one of my favorite adjustments is called the “shoulder” bend, or the “bent-neck roll” as it is called by the angler who first showed it to me. It performs well with smaller anchovies or herring and is best for winter Chinooks or aggressively feeding coho salmon. Anglers are taught to put an even curve into the bait from head to tail. The reason for this is to be sure that the bait is free of twists, kinks, or reverse bends and, of course, to
get a decent fish catching action. However, feeding salmon really like snappy baits. To get this type of roll, set the hook in the normal spot and put the curve at the shoulder of the bait (near the front of the dorsal fin) with the rest of the bait angled straight back to the tail with no curve past the dorsal fin. It doesn’t take much bend to produce this roll and it can be a killer for active fish.

Sketch No. 2: Shoulder Bend for Active Feeders.

Wired Teaser Heads
There are some anglers who may have laid claim to this technique but I am 99 per cent sure that Bob Harrison, and his son Tim, developed the technique while guiding out of their lodge in Barkley Sound in the 1970’s. They certainly get the credit for using it with modern bait lures because I know they rigged our Super Minnow and Minnow Teasers with wire years before the first anchovy lure hit the market. However, the metal/wire concept is not new. California commercial trollers used “crowbar” fishing hooks to thread baits and the Les Davis Company marketed their Herring Magic with a wire to lock the tandem hooks to the bait. However, it seems to me that their primary purpose was to secure the bait to the hook and not to enhance the action. Regardless of the origins, wired Teasers are popular with many west coast bait fishermen.
6a.6b.6c.6d.6eThe process of wiring the bait is easy. Drill two holes about half-an-inch apart on a line that points backwards along the plastic tail section of the lure. Then cut some light gauge stainless or galvanized wire into 6- to 7-inch lengths. Choose wire that can be bent easily, holds that bend, and has no spring to its temper. Secure one end of the wire through the two holes with a pair of pliers so that the long section of wire extends back behind the lure. Trim the wire so that once it’s inserted into the bait the end of the wire reaches a point halfway between the dorsal fin and the tail. Insert the wire by running it behind the gill plate and then inside the flesh along the backbone of the herring or anchovy. Once the wire has been fitted, pin the bait into the lure cavity and set the hook. To set the bend in the bait, just bend the wire and the bait at the same time. Don’t pull up on the leader to set the curve because it might rip the hook out of the bait.


 Sketch No. 3: A Wired Teaser Lure.

The wired bait technique is a great one and I used it consistently until a few years ago. It stabilizes and improves the roll and lets you fish effectively with softer baits. In fact, I was so confident about the durability of wired baits that I used to tell my fishing students the bait would rot off the wire before the action changed. Unfortunately, the downside to this technique is the preparation time required to fit the wire onto the Teasers. So over the last half dozen years I have relied on tandem hooks and salted bait to give me the same type of consistent roll and durable bait performances.
In the next article I will focus on running tandem hooks with whole herring an anchovies and salting these baits to improve their toughness which in turn will increase your hookup rate and overall fishing satisfaction.




Huxley’s Run: 

Curt Duddy is a pragmatic man. He was my boss. He was fair, understanding and always uncomfortably honest. When he asked questions he wanted answers. And if I didn’t have answers he preferred, an “I’ll get back to you on that” rather than bull. I learned quickly that his mind was quite adept at shoveling any bull I threw at him. He was like a lawyer – taking your testimony and, every now and then, writing in the margin beside my loquacious explanations things like, “liar!” or “fraud!” or “why is this guy still with us?”

And so a few years ago I sat across the desk from him discussing my summer holidays. I had booked one month, the last two weeks of August and the first two weeks of September. If I remember correctly he was asking perhaps if I might be able to break them up. But it was impossible, I told him, and then the interrogation began.

“So you take these four weeks off because of the Tyee season?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.“

And during this Tyee season, which is a Campbell River tradition, you row a boat for four weeks?” he continued.“Yes,” I said.

“You row first thing in the morning, the afternoon and then in the evening?”
“And when you row this boat one or two other people are also in the boat?” His brow furrowed.
“That’s correct.”
“And these one or two other people hold the fishing rods, while you row?”
“And sometimes you have never met these people before?”
“50-50,” I said.
“So when a fish bites, these people, sometimes total strangers, get to play the fish while you keep rowing?”
“And when they get the fish to the boat, you net it for them, row them to shore and, ahem, they keep the fish?”“Most certainly,” I said, sitting forward to accentuate my answer.

“So for four weeks, you get up first thing in the morning, row these strangers, row again in the afternoon
and then again in the evening?” He was leaning forward waiting for my answer. “That’s about it,” I said.

He looked down at his hands for a second and then looked me right in the eye. “And do they pay you anything for this?”

“Absolutely not,” I said. And he blinked. It was the kind of blink you see when someone gets sand in their eyes. It was the kind of blink when someone sees something they can’t quite believe that they’re seeing.
“And all of this is why you can’t break your holidays up?” It was said with a sigh as he leaned back in his chair.

“Now you understand,” I said, probably smiling a silly smile and thinking myself quite the communicator.
Then the look on his face took on the look of someone who all of a sudden smells a bad odor – not quite sure where it’s coming from, but sure that it’s coming from a close proximity. Suddenly a calm, placid gaze took a different stock of me.

“And because of all this, you can’t change your holiday schedule?” It was more statement than question.
“And change over a century of tradition? I don’t think so.” I thought then that I had made my point.

He took a deep breath and started to say something, his finger pointed at me. Then he smiled. Then he laughed out loud. He slammed his hands on the desk, his head rolled back as he laughed even harder. Then he stood up and went to leave.

“Okay,” he said. “I guess that’s the way it’s going to be.”

As I watched him go I thought then how well I had handled my new boss. But now I realize that, as he was leaving, he was making notes in the margin.

“Liar! Fraud!” and “Why is this guy still with us?”

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