Choosing the best bait for salmon will depend largely on how and where you are fishing.
As an example I’ve had little or no success when using herring strips in a river, but when mooching in 100 plus feet of water they are absolute dynamite.
There are many ways to catch salmon whether in both rivers and in deeper lakes or saltwater coast lines and the many of them can involve the use of a natural bait:
You can use either artificial lures or real salmon bait.
This article will focus primarily on real or natural bait for salmon fishing. It you would like to see a list of artificial lures that we have covered in depth check out our article on the best salmon lures.
Most salmon baits will have some form of natural scent and they will closely mimic what the salmon are already feeding on throughout their life cycle.
Arguably the best bait for salmon ever salmon roe can also be fished in the most simplest of presentations.
You can either drift salmon roe or run it underneath a bobber or float.
Drifting allows you present the salmon roe in a very natural way. Bouncing it off the bottom or suspending it about a foot above the bottom with a weight are two of the most successful salmon strategies available.
Using a float setup allows you to carefully control the depth at which the roe will run and it also gives you great visual feedback, nothing beats seeing that bobber dive under the water!
You will also get less snags on the bottom if your float setup is correct, this means less lost hooks and more time for fishing as you do not have to re-tie your rig.
You can either buy commercially cured salmon roe or skein or do the curing your self.
Brands like Pautzke having been producing small jars of salmon eggs for decades and they are super handy to keep in your tackle box.
The local tackle shop to the stretch of river that you are fishing is one of the best ways to get your hands on well cured roe and chances are it is the best cure for that stretch of river as the owner is probably using it himself.
Ever angler likes to think that their particular cure is the best but ultimately it comes down to preserving the size and shape of the eggs(without burning them with the cure) whilst adding some scent to them.
Using an artificial salmon egg bead is also a great alternative especially if you do not have regular access to salmon roe or skein.
They are super simple to use and can be stored indefinitely as they are just small plastic beads.
You can also treat you salmon beads with scent for that added attraction.
Beads are incredibly effective if rigged right and some salmon anglers will use them exclusively and no longer bother to use natural eggs.
As with most salmon baits the natural fresh version is nearly always the best option.
Using sand shrimp as salmon bait makes complete sense as shrimp make up a large portion of their natural food.
You’ll want to use the tail end and cut or tear it off just about where it attaches to the upper body.
Shrimp can be tied on and drifted downstream or they can tied to a lure. Personally I prefer to use them on their own as a more natural bait presentation.
They also make a killer combination when used with salmon skein when tied on the same hook.
They can also be back trolled behind a diver if you are in a larger river.
You can buy sand shrimp in a lot of tackle shops but they big issue with it is that they are usually quite expensive.
One way to reduce that expensive is to find a good local spot on your coast and go and dig them yourself.
This way you get a really cheap bait but they are also nice and fresh. It is much easier to rig a fresh shrimp than an old thawed out previously frozen one as the non-fresh ones tend to go soft once thawed.
One way to keep them firm is to cure them in salt as it dries them out a little and makes the flesh that little bit tougher.
Cut herring can be used on almost all salmon rigs and techniques as they give off a great scent in the water.
One of the best salmon baits around they are pretty easy to cut or wrap and like most oily fish the scent is the key so try not to spill any kind of chemicals on them when storing or handling.
They can either be threaded onto a hook or tied on to the body of a plug or Kwikfish.
They also work well when used on a hoochie that is trolled behind a fishing flasher.
Just be sure not to use to big a piece as you can end up ruining the natural action of the lure.
If you can try to use herring that have not been frozen as this seems to deaden the intensity of the natural scent and dries out some of the natural oil in them especially if they have been frozen for a long time.
As with most salmon bait fresh is nearly always best but frozen is good enough if you can’t get your hands on freshly caught bait.
Minnows can work quite well as a herring substitute but they do not have anywhere near the same level of smell so you may consider adding some artificial scent to them for the best results.
They are also smaller and a little bit weaker in the flesh so be careful when hooking them.
The type of salmon fishing tackle you use will depend on what style of fishing you are doing and whether it is from the bank or in a boat.
Trolling rods for when out in deep water and a decent rod for casting salmon spinners or bait rigs in rivers.
The best salmon fishing rods all have one thing in common and that is a lot of backbone and a high quality rod blank.
High quality salmon reels are also a must and you really do get what you pay for when it comes to reels.
The drag quality is one of the most important aspects of a decent salmon setup as a large salmon can burn up a cheap drag in no time.
There are many ways to catch salmon whether that’s drifting a plug, casting a spoon or trolling a hoochie behind a flasher.
One thing is for certain the best salmon fishing reel is the one that matches your rod and line so that you can get the best performance out of you setup.
It we exclude centerpin and fly fishing reels there are roughly three main types of salmon reels that are commonly used:
Regardless of what type of fishing you are doing and which salmon reel you choose every one of them need to satisfy a few basic features in order to be suitable for salmon fishing.
Salmon can pull a lot of line off of a spool and they can wreck a cheap reel with a weak drag system.
That is why investing in a decent reel is important, I’d rather spend twice the money on a reel than on any rod.
Spinning reels will be used predominantly when casting on rivers especially if you are using lighter bait rigs and smaller lures.
A spinning reel is quite versatile and can also be used for drift fishing as well as casting or spinning from the bank.
When trolling although you can use a spinning reel if you absolutely have no other choice, they are usually more hassle than a dedicated trolling reel or even a baitcaster.
A good size spinning reel for salmon would start at a size 2500 and finish at a size 4000.
A 2500 can be used for bobber fishing, drifting and light spinning work.
A size 3000 or 3500 is probably the most versatile size spinning reel for salmon as it gives you a much larger spool and a beefier drag system.
Paired with the best salmon fishing rod that you can afford a size 3500 is usable on just about any river and should hold enough line to manage even the hardest of running fish.
Trolling reels for salmon need to be capable of storing a lot of line, have a pretty powerful drag rating and be well sealed especially if you are using them in saltwater.
Line counter reels are extremely popular however they are not an absolute necessity.
Conventional trolling reels are built much tougher than a smaller baitcaster and they are usually capable of holding 200 to 300 yards of 50 lbs braid.
Towing large salmon rigs with flasher can put a lot of strain on a reel and you need one that has the right kind of build quality to withstand the constant pressure trolling puts on them.
Some anglers will use a spinning reel all their life and never make the change to a baitcasting reel.
Once you do make the move to using a salmon baitcaster you may well never go back to a spinning setup except for the lightest of rigs.
A baicaster once you master the technique is a lot less work than a spinning reel especially if you are casting all day long working your way along a large stretch of shore line.
Baitcasters usually have a higher gear ratio than a spinning reel so you can pick up line a lot quicker with them.
I favor the classic round style over more modern low profile baicasters as they usually have a higher line capacity and are normally built a lot tougher.
The Stradic line of spinning reels from Shimano are one of their longest running and also one of the highest rated for both fresh and saltwater use.
The Stradic FL is a slightly cheaper version of the top of the range Stradic Ci4+.
The only major difference between the FL and the Ci4+ is that FL has a Hagane body as opposed to the Ci4+’s Carbon Infused(CI) body.
The CI body is slightly lighter and stronger than on the FL model. Most anglers will never know the difference between the two.
With the FL model you get virtually the same reel as the flagship Ci4+ only minus the CI body material.
On the FL the body is made using Shimano’s Hagane process which means that it is cold forged for added rigidity and strength.
Body flex on a spinning reel for salmon is a serious issue as salmon will put huge pressure on any reel especially if they turn and run with the current.
On the Stradic that flex is virtually eliminated thanks to the Hagane body.
It comes with one of the best drag
A size 3000 will hold about 140 yards of 20 lb braid and has a drag rating of 20 lbs.
The size 4000 holds 180 yards of 30 lb braid and has a drag rated up to 24 lbs.
If you are looking for a low cost salmon spinning reel for lighter setups then the President XT is a solid bet.
For the money these reels are very high quality and are perfect for target smaller Coho’s on light gear.
They run really smoothly thanks to 9 main stainless steel bearings and one anti-reverse.
Compares with a regular President the XT model comes with a braid ready spool, sealed drag system, lighter in weight and with a higher gear ratio.
The Penn name is synonymous with high quality reels and the Spinfisher VI is no exception.
These reels are built tough and can withstand a lot of abuse, even being submerged in salt water will not phase them.
Penn are well known for building big offshore trolling reels and large saltwater spinning reels but they also make reels in the mid-range sizes and these share all of the best qualities of their larger brothers.
The Spinfisher line is built with maximum durability in mind.They are one of the most water tight reels available with an IPX5 sealed body and a fully sealed spool that houses the drag washers.
An all metal body keeps the internal CNC machined gears in place and free from warp even under maximum load.
The size 3500 makes a great salmon fishing reel and it will hold 220 yards of 20 lb braid with a drag rating of 15 lbs.
If heavy trolling with downriggers and flashers is your game then the Tekota line of trolling reels from Shimano is the perfect match.
Available in 5 different sizes and also with a line counter model available on each size.
The range starts at a 300 and goes all the way up to a massive size 800.
Not really built for casting these reels are engineered with one thing in mind and that is trolling.
A level wind ensures that you line lays evenly on the spool every time. Whilst the line counter models(denoted by LC) give a really accurate measure of how much line you have out.
The smallest model 300 can hold up to 255 yards of 30 lb braid and 185 yards of 16 lbs monofilament.
These reels are built tough with both the frames and the side plates engineered from anodized aluminum, which means very little or any twisting or warping in the reel when under even the heaviest of loads.
The spool is forged from aluminum and has a non-disengaging level wind on all models that lays your line down nice and evenly even when the reel is free spooling.
The 300 models have a double paddle handle whereas the larger ones come with a counter balance style handle.
If you are looking for a more wallet friendly salmon trolling reel then the Cold Water series from Okuma offers great value for the money.
It is packed with lot’s of features that you would ordinarily only find on a trolling reel that is 2 to 3 times the price.
It is available in four different sizes and with both left and right hand retrieve on most of the models there is also a model that is aimed at those that are using wire line or lead core lines.
With a 5.1:1 ratio they have a pretty decent pick up rate which is quite useful if you are trolling long lines.
All models feature a full carbonite drag system that has a maximum rating of 20 lbs on the larger models.
The 300 size can hold 310 yards of 30 lb mono thanks to a fairly large machined aluminum spool.
Whilst the 500 can hold 440 yards of 40 lb mono.
Available both with and without a line counter. The internal gearing is built with heavy trolling in mind and has a drop down, self-lubricating gearbox.
There are very few reels that can compete with the Penn Warfare when it comes to price.
You get the legendary Penn build quality and parts that are made to last decades of abuse if maintained correctly.
Although these reels are built with offshore trolling in mind the smallest size can hold 435 yards of 30 lb braid and has a drag rating of 15 lbs which is perfect for towing big salmon rigs behind a boat.
There are two types available in the line up the more conventional star drag model and the line counter model.
Aluminum ring plates re-enforce the graphite side plates for added strength to the frame whilst also keeping the wight down.
The ever reliable HT-100 drag system ensures smooth running with even the larger fish on your line.
The Ambassadeur C4 is probably the best baitcaster for salmon available.
It comes exceptional casting performance, build quality and all at a decent price point.
The Ambassadeur range has been firmly established as the best line of round style baitcasters available. The have been around for years and continue to impress in the latest models.
Keep one of these reels regularly serviced and it should last a lifetime of faithful service.
Casting is a dream thanks to a 6 pin centrifugal brake which applies consistent braking to the spool regardless of what speed it is running, this makes the C4 a great baitcaster for a beginner are there is less chance of the dreaded birds nest.
The drag uses a mix of aluminum and carbon fiber disks making it really smooth even under heavy load.
The 6600 size will hold 310 yards of 30 lb braid and the size 5600 will hold 235 yards of 30 lb braid both of which have a 15 lbs max drag rating.
The Calcutta B from Shimano is the best salmon baitcaster ever made.
It can cast just as well as any low profile high end baitcaster that is commonly seen in the bass fishing world but it is built to a much tougher standard and has a better line capacity.
When choosing a casting reel for salmon most low profile baitcasters do not hold enough line for salmon fishing.
You need a reel that can hold a decent amount of 30 or 30 lb braid and also have a heavy duty drag system.
The Calcutta has both and is more than capable of throwing lures all day.
It is a classic round type baitcaster and is designed with durability in mind. Built with forged aluminum frames and side plates make for a very rigid reel indeed.
They can also double as a pretty durable trolling reel for salmon too so you can save the expense of having on trolling reel and one casting reel for salmon.
The CT400 will hold 305 yards of 50 braid and has a max drag rating of 17.5 lbs.
The Daiwa Luna is one of the best high end round style baitcasters available and is built to an extremely high standard.
They can take a lot of abuse and are packet full of great features.
The frame and side plates are all made from solid bar stock of aluminum which makes them almost bullet proof.
Casting is where the Luna really comes alive and it is as good as any low profile baitcasters thanks to a free floating spool and an automatic centrifugal system on the 300 that virtually eliminates backlashes.
One of the nicest features of the Luna is the breaking adjustment, all you need to do to adjust it is simply press and turn the side plate to either tighten or loosen it.
A beautiful gold anodized frame houses five corrosion resistant bearings plus one roller bearing and a multi-disc drag system.
The 300 will hold 300 yards of 40 lbs braid and has a max drag rating of 15.4 lbs.
Plunking for salmon is an often over looked technique that a lot steelheaders seem to use to great affect.
Using a plunking rig allows you to put your lure or bait right in the swim channel of the salmon.
Most rivers will have some defined swim channels that migratory fish will use year after year although they will vary slightly due to water levels and if there are any sunken obstacles with submerged trees or if large boulders have blocked them over the winter.
But for the most part a seam or swim channel that works one year is pretty likely to work again on next seasons salmon run.
It is also a really social way of fishing as you can set up 3 or 4 rods with your buddies on the bank and then sit back and relax with a nice BBQ.
Plunking involves casting a heavy weight out into a river and either have a lure or bait attached to a leader on the main line with a spin ‘n’ glow or a bait rig or running a leader down the line on a snap link tied to a diving plug like a Mag Lip.
The lure will then dive down as the current runs across it’s diving bill. Or if you are using a spin ‘n’ glo it will start to spin rapidly sending out vibrations through the river.
The ultimate goal when salmon plunking is to put your lure right in the path of a fish as it is heading up stream.
These paths or channels will see a lot of fish using them so it is a much more targeted way of getting your hook right in the nose of a salmon.
The best salmon lures to use when plunking will be any kind of lure that will work best in the river you are fishing relative to the speed that the water is running.
Plugs, spinners, spoons and spin ‘n’ glows that have a tied shrimp on the hook are the most effective for these kind of river salmon techniques and will perform in a variety of different currents.
Classic lures that are used when plunking are the Mag Lip diving crankbait/plug that sends out really strong vibrations as it swims from side to side.
They can be tuned be varying your leader length.
Spin ‘n’ Glows are one of the most popular choices that are used as a plunking lure and on the trailing hooks you can use a variety of salmon baits such as shrimp or herring strips.
Just make sure they are secured well as the current can have a habit of loosening them really easily.
Most salmon plunking rigs will use a three way swivel with you lure on one side and a weight on the other.
However, there are actually a few ways to setup a plunking rig but the three way swivel is easily the most popular when using a Spin ‘n’ Glow but when using a diving lure like a Mag Lip or a Flatfish lure then the sliding rig is better.
Using 50lbs braid as your main line tie into the three way swivel.
Then tie on a dropper line of roughly 15 to 20 inches of 12 to 15 lbs mono and tie a snap link to the end of it.
Your weight can now be connected to the snap link. A snap link allows you to change out the weights for different sizes without having to re-tie every time.
The reason we use lighter line as the dropper line is that if your weight gets stuck on the bottom then the first thing to snap should be the dropper line and you will not end up loosing your lure or a fish.
The leader from the three way swivel to your lure or bait will then be 20 to 25 pound mono at roughly 30 inches in length.
When choosing a plunking weight always try to use a pyramid style weight rather than a round or canon ball shaped weight as the rounder weights have a habit of moving downstream in a strong current.
Weight wise this will depend on the river and how far you are looking to cast and also how strong the current is.
Anywhere from 2 ounce weights all the way up to 10 ounce weights for really strong and deep running rivers.
When fishing some thing like a Mag Lip or a Flatfish lure then rigging them on a three way swivel can result in a lot of tangles during casting.
The answer to this is to cast your weight out into the river and then using a leader that has a snap link on it to slide the snap down your main line.
The exact setup is as follows:
Using either 50 lb braid or 25 lbs mono as your main line run a couple of plastic beads up onto your main line that will be big enough to stop the snap you will be using from moving over them.
With the beads on the end of the line tie on a high quality two way swivel.
To the swivel attach your drop leader of roughly 12 lb mono and the to that another snap link that you can attach to your weight to.
Take a length of roughly 36 inches of 20 lbs mono and tie a snap link on either end.
Your lure is then attached to one of the snap links.
Once all this is ready cast your weight out into the river aiming a few feet beyond where you think the fish might be swimming through.
Once the weight has settled, attach you leader to the main line with the snap so that it can run down your main line towards the swivel.
Hold your rod up high and try to get the leader to slide as far as possible out towards the weight.
Once the lure starts to dive you can walk slightly upstream to make your line tight.
A tighter line will help the lure run as deep as possible. Once you are happy put your rod into a solid rod holder at roughly a 45 degree angle.
At it’s core a plunking setup is very simple, a long durable rod than can cast a heavy weight and take a bit of abuse.
In terms of reels just about any salmon reel that you already have will work for plunking whether that’s a spinning reel or a baitcaster.
Line choices will be in the 50 lbs range for braid or 25 for mono/fluorocarbon as a main line.
The best line for plunking is probably braid as it is low stretch and is thinner so cuts through the current easier which creates less drag on you setup.
If running braid as your main line when plunking then you will need 20 to 20 lbs mono as your leader from the swivel to your hook or lure.
Super expensive, light graphite rods are not that suitable and this is one instance in the world of salmon fishing that cheaper tackle is actually a better choice.
You’ll want a medium/heavy rated rod that is suitable for line in the 15 to 25 lbs mono range.
A plunking rig needs the rod tip up high so a longer rod in the 10 to 12 foot range works best or possibly shorter on smaller rivers.
Drift fishing is a great way to cover a lot of water along a particular stretch of river and it can give you a very natural presentation to your bait especially when drifting beads or eggs down river.
Some anglers do will use this technique to work an entire stretch of river seeking out various different seams, pockets, pools, tailouts, channels and any other structure that salmon are most likely to be found.
Drift fishing is a technique whereby you cast up stream of a pool or other holding area and allow your lure/bait to drift along with the current towards the spot that you are targeting.
You may also drift fish from an anchored boat which is a popular technique on large rivers.
The real trick to drift fishing is to use just enough weight on your rig so that the weight bounces about a foot or so every time it bounces down stream with the current.
Too much weight and it will stay in place and not travel very far from where you cast it.
Too little weight and your lure or bait will run too shallow in the water and they may pass right over the top of a waiting salmon who will most likely just ignore it.
There are many salmon fishing river techniques that use weight to target salmon such as drift fishing, plunking, bottom bouncing and they are all good options depending on the situation.
Just like plunking for salmon drift fishing is all about getting your lure down to the right depth and right in front of a salmon, they do it in different ways but the end goal is always the same; put your lure right in front of a salmons mouth.
The real point to concentrate on with drift fishing is that you get your weight right relative to the current in the particular stretch of water that you are fishing.
Even on the same river I will switch out the weights depending on the current and one of the biggest mistakes I see is when an angler uses the exact same weight all day every day.
This is why using a slinky weight that has a snap link on it is important as you can change them out as quickly as you need to with no retying.
Cast you rig upstream and slight beyond the particular stretch you are looking to drift over.
Allow the weight to sink and then try to get a bit of feel back down through the rod as to whether or not it feels like it is bouncing correctly along the bottom of the river.
You may not always feel a bite as you will have some slack line in your system.
Other strikes however can be extremely violent and you will definitely now them when you feel them.
The best bait for salmon is good old fashioned eggs or skein after that I would look at things beads or yarn that will force a predatory strike.
The drift fishing setup is fairly basic and once you have it configured it is very easy to adjust it for varying different currents depending on the river.
You’ll need a rod that is rated for at 20 to 25 lbs for larger Chinooks or 10 to 15 lbs for smaller species.
If using braid as your main line then you can double those numbers so 20 lbs mono main line is roughly the equivalent of 40 to 50 lbs braid.
Both a spinning or a casting rod drift setup will work just fine, however for larger salmon I always prefer a casting rod and reel as it handles bigger weights and fish better.
The best salmon fishing rod for drift fishing would be roughly 9’6″ with a medium of a medium/heavy power rating and a fast action.
A fast action will give you the necessary feedback through the rod tip.
Pair this with a high quality salmon fishing reel in either a size 4000 for a spinning reel or a 30 to 40 when sizing a baitcaster.
Tie a snap swivel to the end of your main line. From this attach a slinky style weight.
Slinky weights are better as their thin profile lessens the chances of them snagging on small rocks of submerged branches when compared to round or pyramid style weights.
Then tie a leader of roughly 36 inches in length of 15 to 20 lbs mono to the other eye of the swivel.
The snap link should be free to hang naturally off of the swivel.
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.
With modern salmon fishing there are a lot of different techniques available to you. Fishing a salmon lure on a river or stream will obviously be very different from trolling in deeper waters and the tackle that you use will need to reflect that.
The best salmon fishing rods are usually techniques specific rods from brands such as Lamiglas and G. Loomis.
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 for salmon usually involves floating downstream on a drift boat and bouncing or drifting you bait along the bottom.
Salmon eggs are probably the best salmon bait with sand shrimp and cut herring also being very effective.
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 for salmon 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.
The best type of salmon fishing reel for trolling will not be a spinning reel or a baitcaster but a dedicated trolling reel.
Rod wise a if you are trolling then you need a salmon trolling rod that has a heavy power rating and is rated for line in the 20 to 40 lbs range.
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 good salmon fishing rod will for this type of setup will need to be a trolling rod with a line rating of between 20 ad 40 lbs with a heavy power rating and a moderate/fast action.
Trolling like this needs a dedicated reel, a good salmon reel for trolling is something like a Shimano Tekota.
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, salmon baits 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 for salmon 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.
A good salmon spinning rod will have a medium power rating with a fast action and a line rating of between 8 and 15 lbs particularly if you are using lighter types of techniques.
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.
Dodgers however do not spin instead they ‘dodge’ or dart from side to side.
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 salmon 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.
And they almost always will be used with the aid of a down-rigger to fine tune the exact depth that they will run at.
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 fluorocarbon 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.
You’ll need a salmon trolling reel that is up to the job of being hooked up to a downrigger so a high quality reel with a really good drag system is a must.
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 dummy 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.