Kokanee Tackle and Gear

kokanee tackle

​The Kokanee tackle setups of days past were once big heavy gang trolls on beefy trolling rods.

Things have changed and these days modern kokanee anglers are switching out the heavier gear for much lighter trolling gear.

​Kokanee Tackle and Gear

​Although at first you may think that your regular salmon fishing gear may be just fine for as kokanee tackle the problem is that their mouths are just too soft.

Those softer mouths mean you need a much lighter trolling setup for kokanee. The big heavier rods and line weights have been replaced with near ultralight versions that have a fast action.

​Kokanee Rods

​As we mentioned above the preferred options these days are light powered kokanee fishing rods that can stand up to the extra strain that trolling with a downrigger can place on the rod blanks.

A faster action rod will start to bend much higher up towards the top, this gives you better sensitivity and will allow for a big bend right when the kokanne strike.

With a medium/slow action rod the bend will start much lower down in the rod blank towards the reel seat.

​The faster action on these trolling rod will also help to act as an extra level of shock absorption for the soft mouths of the kokanee salmon.

You have the choice of spinning rods or casting/tolling rods for kokanee but personally I will always choose a tolling/casting setup over spinning gear.

​Kokanee ​rod specifications:

  • ​Length - 7 to 8 feet in length
  • ​Power - Light to ultra light
  • Action - Fast

​Kokanee Reels

​Undoubtedly if you are running a trolling setup then you'll want either a traditional level wind reel or you can use a baitcaster.

Personally I've always run level-wind reels when trolling and nearly always ones with a built in line counter.

​The best kokanee reels will need to have a lighter drag setting than most traditional trolling reels.

​Generally when trolling for you'll need a trolling/baitcasting reel as discussed above spinning gear is rarely used.

During early season kokanee fishing I like to run the lures way back so as not to scatter the fish as the boat moves over them.

A longer line like this really does require the use of a line counter.

My two all time favorite trolling reels for kokanee are the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 5500 LC and the Okuma Magda Pro line counter.

Both reels have drags that are light enough for kokanee.

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 5500 LC

  • ​T​wo stainlees steel bearings and one roller bearing
  • Super smooth carbon matrix drag
  • 15 lbs max drag
  • Built in line counter and line out alarm

​When it comes to smaller capacity level wind reels Abu Garcia are the reels to get. For larger capacity trolling reels with much higher drag settings brands like Penn and Shimano have a host of offerings.

But this kokanee fishing and we needs much lighter smoother drags. These reels are very compact and will not feel like they are affecting the balance of your lighter kokanee style rod.

​Okuma Magda Pro

  • ​2 stainless steal ball bearings
  • Line counter
  • Stainless steel level wind guide

​If you are on a budget then the Okuma Magda Pro is a great little reel at a very affordable price.

It can hold 290 yards of 12 lb monofilament so perfect for kokanee long lining.

You'll often see an entire boat full of these reels on the great lakes and a lot of guides I know swear by them.

​Kokanee Fishing Line

Given the nature of their softer mouths monofilament is the best fishing line for kokanee.

​Monofilament has a natural inbuilt elasticity to it, which means it will stretch a little when put under load.

That extra little stretch is another layer of shock absorption for their soft mouths.

Braided fishing line on the other hand has very little if any stretch and that is why it should not be used for kokanee.

​Don't get me wrong braid has lots of applications where it is superior to mono just not in the case of kokanee.

The only time you should use braid is when you are jigging for kokanee. When jigging you are looking for a lot more feedback through the line and the stretch in mono will ted to dull how it feels.

​Fish Finders

​Fish finders are almost a necessity these days.

Given that they are a schooling fish having the ability to locate a large group of them on your lake is clearly a massive advantage.

​You can mark and record where you find them when using a sonar with gps. This allows you to build a history of where and when they school in a lake.

Over several years if you log this information correctly you can build up a pattern of their behavior and may be able to predict where they are for certain times of the year and weather situations.


​There are not that many kokanee boats that don't run a downrigger. It is an almost essential piece of kokanee tackle.

What does a downrigger give you that a lead weight or lead core line does not?


When used in conjunction with a fish finder a down rigger gives you the ability to target the precise depth that the fish are currently holding at.

It also allows you to get down really deep. Trolling with lead core lines has a limit as to how deep you can actually go.

There are no such restrictions when using a downrigger.

​Dodgers and Flashers

​Dodgers and flashers have two purposes one to attract via a flash hand the second to add some extra life or action into your lures.

Hoochies for example have very little if any real natural action to then. Stick a dodger in front of them and now they have a more life like sideways action.


Kokanee lures haven't really changed much in the past few years.

The old reliables like:

  • ​Pro-Troll Kokanee Killer
  • Mack's Double Whammy
  • Hoochies
  • Cha Cha

​All run behind a dodger or flasher will work reliably well.

​Other Tips

Kokanee have a great sense of smell so always try not to handle anything of a strong chemical nature.

This includes your gas tank on the boat so try to fill up the day before if possible. Petrol has a very strong smell and can ruin a lure for kokanee if you handle the lure and line after touching gas.

Insect repellent is another one which is incredibly strong so really try to go easy on it. I rarely if ever use any on a boat. If you do need it try to use a spray on only and then make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after.

Just be aware that touching your face and neck after you have applied the bug spray is also to be avoided as much as possible.

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