The best way to catch fish that exhibit predator behavior (attacking frantic bait), is with a flasher and hoochie. It’s effective for salmon for sport and commercial, and for many other species, including various trout, and bottom fish. There’s a variety of flashers on the market, and they all work with the same principle—attract fish and provide action to your hoochie. In this article I’ll cover the setup in detail, explain how to tune it, and offer some tips to help get more fish to the boat.
The flasher’s main job is to provide action to the hoochie. The flasher rotates when trolling, but how can you effectively transfer that action to the hoochie for a perfect presentation that fish can’t resist?
Adjusting Your Setup
There are two ways to adjust your setup—leader length and gauge.
Leader Length – Think Skipping Rope
There is no exact leader length for the best action on the hoochie, because it also depends on the leader line stiffness. I typically have 36-in leader with 50-lb mono or fluorocarbon tied to 11 in rectangle flashers setup for lingcod, rockfish, and salmon. The longer the leader length, the less action to the hoochie.
Hoochies have very little action on a 72-in long leader; it’s like rotating skipping rope. A 36-in long leader is half of the skipping rope, which provides the largest diameter rotation the hoochie will receive. A tighter rotation diameter and faster whipping action happens when the leader is shorter, just like a skipping rope closer to the handle.
To transfer a whipping rotation action to the hoochie requires stiffness, just like a skipping rope. If you use 25-lb fishing line for a leader, it’s like trying to swing a piece of yarn. Typically, commercial trollers use 80-lb fishing line and crimp their gear setup with average leader lengths of 42 in.
In my experience, 40-lb fishing line is the absolute minimum test line to rig a hoochie setup. Anything less than 40-lb test line does not have the stiffness to transfer the whipping action to the hoochie effectively (see the skipping rope image). You will have to adjust the length of your leader to get the action you want on the hoochie.
Ultimately, there is no exact leader length for the best action. It’s more of a personal preference.
Whipping A Hoochie
Think of the hoochie like the tail of Indiana Jones’s whip: the tail is usually a light leather strip, heavier than the short rope section leading to the tail. There is also a little bit of weight at the tail. Since the flasher is rotating and trying to whip the hoochie around, you can get a little more erratic action by adding a little bit of weight. Additional weight might mean adding beads, a gummy, a small spin-n-glo, a swivel crimped on single barbless hook, or tandem single barbless hooks. All these methods will provide erratic action on the hoochie.
Hoochie Hooks & Hardware
Commercial trollers just crimp their hoochies with a swivel and 6/0 hook. I typically run tandem single barbless 5/0 hooks with a bead, gummy, or mylar insert. I also run a swivel with 6/0 hook hoochie setup sometimes. If you add too much weight to the hoochie, it will become sluggish on the whipping action from the flasher. You can correct the action by shortening the leader length or remove some weight from the hoochie.
Trolling Speed For Hoochies
Trolling speed matters. A typical trolling speed for a flasher is 2 to 3 knots or 30 to 45 degrees on the downrigger boom arm to the cable. At this trolling speed, you’ll achieve the best flasher rotation speed (60 rpm) to whip the hoochie around and provide the action you want. Trolling faster just makes the hoochie rotation diameter smaller, but the whipping action is the same and so it seems faster. You can achieve that by shortening the leader length and trolling at the same speed as before.
Coho like a faster troll, and faster hoochie action. If you like to troll slower than 2 knots or less than 30 degrees on the downrigger cable, your hoochie will not get that same whipping action with the current leader length. It will become sluggish, which the lingcod and rockfish like. You can correct the action by shortening the leader length.
For example, chum is typically a slow troll. We use the same hoochie and leader test, but we shorten the leader length to 16 in to 24 in to achieve the action. For kokanee fishing with dodgers, try a slow troll with a 12- to 24-in leader to a flash fly or small hoochie.
A flasher provides drag and tension on the fish when in the water. The flasher helps keep that pressure on the fish and tires the fish out from fighting that flasher drag. Many people lose their fish when the flasher pops out of the water, due to the sudden loss of tension and pressure on the fish. Here is a quick tip to help keep those fish hooked up tight before and just after the flasher pops out of the water. When you see the flasher about to break the surface of the water, reel hard to control that flasher break out of the water, then reel fast to remove any slack line. Now loosen the drag on the reel a little bit so the fish can run when it decides to. If you do not loosen the drag, you might lose your fish. The flasher is helping you, but it’s also not making it easy for you to land that fish.
Another trick is the quick-release flasher. The beginner and advanced fishermen on my boat enjoyed fighting the fish without the flasher drag in the water, and avoided that slack tension when the flasher breaks the surface. There are quick-release flashers on the market, like the Gibbs Farr Better Flasher, or you can modify your favorite flasher to pop off. There are many pop-off flasher attachments in the market, or you can make your own fairly easily with your regular rectangle flasher. To make your own, you will need 80-lb fishing line, crimps, a big clear bead, a peg (wood or plastic), and a snap hook. Find a peg that will fit into the welded ring hole snuggly. Then drill a small hole in the peg, three quarters of the way up from the bottom, to fit the fishing line through. Cut the welded ring holding the snap swivel on the fat side of the flasher. Now try fitting that peg into the flasher hole where that welded ring used to be. It should fit snug and can pop off when the fish sets the hook. Crimp one end of the fishing line with a swivel, then thread a bead to the crimp. Thread the peg through the line, then crimp a snap hook. You just have created your own quick release flasher.