Skip to content


River Fishing the Sonic BaitFish with a "Rifle"

River Fishing the Sonic BaitFish with a "Rifle"

By Pete Rosko

Several years ago, I met up with Jerry Wright, owner of Jerry’s Bait & Tackle in Port Angeles, Wash. One of Jerry’s favorite lures for fishing the Sol Duc River, a 78-mile-long river that flows through the northwest part of the Olympic Peninsula through the Sol Duc Valley. Jerry guides this river, as well as several others on the Northwest peninsula.

Jerry’s favorite time to fish the Sol Duc River is during the fall when the rains begin. Jerry stressed that many anglers may be familiar with the Sonic BaitFish but, when fishing it in the Sol Duc River, they do not fish it properly.

Techniques for fishing the Sonic BaitFish in a river

Jerry fishes the SBF as a finesses lure — only using his wrist to work the lure without any arm or shoulder movements. Lure color, however, is secondary and more of a personal choice, though he prefers blue and green this time of year.

Boat position

Boat position on the river is very important to complement Jerry’s technique. In many of my previous articles, I focused on line control. Without knowing what your lure is doing, you are hoping and not doing. Doing is feeling what your lure is doing as it is worked along bottom structure. If the current in the river is flowing due west, that’s where the tip of your rod should be aimed — like a sporting rifle.

Keeping a direct line to your lure

You cannot excel at line (and lure) control if your presentation is not in sync with the directional flow of water. The more you point your rod tip away from its proper target, the more you lose the feel of your lure.

A prime example of this is when you work your rod sideways to the wind and/or water current. A bow results in a loose (relaxed) line that causes reduced sensitivity and missed strikes. Basically, random casting has worked for me in only two situations — no water movement and fish working on the surface. A direct line to your target keeps tension on your braided line with better line sensitivity for detecting structure and light bites.

Why you should finesse jig the SBF in rivers

Anyone familiar with jigging leadheads should feel at home with the SBF. The disadvantage with leadheads, however, is that there’s no built-in action. The action, then, is mostly through arm and shoulder movement, opposite of Jerry’s finesse technique.

The advantage of the Sonic BaitFish is in its natural appearance, flash and vibration. Moving the rod tip one inch can cause the SBF to flutter 3- to 4-inches or more in faster current.

Many years ago, I learned a valuable lesson on Lake Erie while drift-fishing with four other boat captains. Since then, I always rely on this technique whether fishing on rivers or open fresh and saltwater.

That lesson was on a day with moderate wind drift with everyone randomly casting a variety of lures for walleye over rock piles and reefs in about 15 feet of water. A bright overhead sun forced the walleyes to the bottom, which was loaded with snag-filled rubble. To avoid losing lures to the snags, I began casting in the direction the boat was headed. My reasoning was that if I snagged up, I could safely unsnag the lure as the boat passed over it. That worked, but here is what worked even better.

Over 90 percent of my casts resulted in a strike. Not all were walleyes, but that presentation was very effective for any fish that saw that Sonic BaitFish, including yellow perch and smallmouth bass. The trick is to cast the smallest SBF to easily reach your target. Larger lures will get there faster, but they will also snag faster on rough bottom.

Matching the size of your SBF to conditions

Just the right small lure will do two especially important things for you. Firstly, it will trigger neutral, or negative, fish to strike the SBF quicker than a larger lure. Secondly, it will swim and flutter through the structure, whereas a larger lure would dive into it, resulting in a snag.

With the twitching wrist action that Jerry Wright preaches, he makes the SBF look like an injured, struggling baitfish, which is the main trigger for a predator strike. This technique resembles jigging through the ice — no exaggerated jerking actions. For steak lovers, it’s like a prime bull falling out of the sky and saying, “here I am … eat me!”

It is important to match the size of your Sonic BaitFish to the conditions of your day on the water. I want you to be able to feel your lure ticking against bottom structure. If that is a problem, I suggest changing to lighter weight braided (never monofilament) main line to improve your feel of the bottom before going to a heavier lure.

Casting in the direction where your boat is headed will cause your lure to reach bottom faster than any other directional cast. When the wind comes up, or when the current runs stronger, this technique will save the day. As Jerry said to me, “once you start fishing like this, the results will blow your mind!”

Thank you for subscribing to the monthly issue of the Mack Attack. In some small way, I hope it will add to your success and enjoyment on the water in a big way!

Previous article Coyne: Locating Yellow Perch Through the Ice