Plunking for Salmon
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.
What is Plunking ?
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.
Plunking for Salmon
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.
Salmon Plunking Rig
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.
1. Three Way Swivel Plunking Rig
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.
2. Sliding Plunking Rig
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.