How To Save Time and Get More Strikes

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Pre-rigged baits in a plastic container

Salmon bites last from minutes to hours and depend on a number of factors that have led to generalizations about salmon bite patterns. Some of the most common assumptions include the following:

  • Feeding Chinook and coho bite around the current changes.
  • Adult Chinook bite in the morning and again before dark.
  • Adult Coho bite hard in the morning followed by a gradual decrease in activity through the day.
  • Pinks bite all the time.

However, it’s hard to predict accurately if the bite will be hard and short or less intense and more drawn out, but there are a few typical scenarios. Aggressive bites don’t last long and are linked to short slack water periods and strong current flows. Less intense bites last longer and occur on longer slack periods and weaker current flows. While this information is relevant, it won’t change your hookup rate while the bite is on.

By following two simple pieces of advice, though, you can improve your chances:

  • Keep lures in the water as long as possible.
  • Reduce the time it takes to re-rig.

Pre-Tune Your Bait

This tip is really helpful for bait trolling enthusiasts. Pre-tie and pre-tune four to six baits in your favorite teaser heads the night before fishing. Find a shallow plastic container or foam tray that fits inside your bait box, then place your pre-rigs neatly in the container and put it in your freezer.

Pre-rigged bait

When you start fishing, follow your normal lure setup routine, then tune all the remaining pre-rigs so they are ready when needed. To tune a bait, snap your baited teaser to a swivel on the end of a short test rod and check the roll alongside the boat until you get it exactly right.

Test rod with bait ready for tuning

Each time you have a strike or bring in a fish, switch out that rig with a pre-tuned replacement. When you have a moment, you can reload that lure with a fresh bait and put it with the other pre-rigs.

After Landing a Fish, Get Another Lure in the Water

Leave your catch in the net, unclip the lure from your rod, and get the pre-rig replacement in the water right away. Few anglers do it, wasting time untangling hooks, re-rigging the same setup, or taking pictures before getting back to your fishing business.

Change One Lure at a Time

If you are changing or checking gear, do one rod at a time. The goal is to keep the maximum number of lures fishing for as long as possible.

Keep the Line Connected to the Downrigger During Gear Checks

Tripping your line from the rigger wire is a huge time waster. Some anglers claim that releasing the lure from the rigger entices salmon to strike as the gear floats to the surface. If this tactic is a consistent salmon producer, I’m the unluckiest angler on the water. In more than 40 years of downrigger fishing I can’t remember it ever working. However, I’ve had plenty of hookups right after hitting the rigger’s up button.

The fastest way to check your lure’s action is to bring up the rigger with the lure still attached, while simultaneously reeling in slack line. When your gear hits the surface, carefully hand-reel the line the last 20′ to 30′ into the back of the boat. Check the action, then either bring it in for tuning, or just throw everything back over the stern. It never tangles unless it’s released too close to the stern’s backwash.

The takeaway from these tips is simple. If you make your fishing time as efficient as possible, you’ll hook up with more salmon when the bite’s on.

This article appeared in Island Fisherman Magazine. Never miss another issue—subscribe today!

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