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By Gary Miralles
Night temperatures will begin to fall at the end of August and that’s a sure sign that fall is just around the corner. It also means that fishing for kokanee and landlocked chinook is coming to an end — in some parts of the country. On a brighter note, however, late August and early September are times when you can catch some of the biggest fish of the year. Catching these big fish, however, can be a challenge.
Like all salmon, these fish are reaching the end of their life cycle. They are no longer feeding, and they are only concerned with one thing, which is spawning. This, of course, presents us with the greater challenge of triggering them to bite. There are a few simple technique changes that will help you convince a pre-spawn kokanee or landlocked chinook to bite.
Before I get ahead of myself, let’s talk about locating these big fish. Electronics are crucial to locating fish this time of year. Look for paired fish hanging close to the bottom or in areas of structure. Working the bottom is important for catching pre-spawn fish. However, dragging the bottom creates some serious concerns.
You will need to pay attention to your electronics while also watching your downriggers closely. Unless you have a real consistent bottom, or the benefit of having digital downriggers that are programmed to track the bottom, you may need to stand over your downriggers to raise or lower them as you troll. A good 10-pound bar weight is a real benefit with this technique as they tend to snag less often.
Now, let’s talk about changing our technique a bit. Remember, these pre-spawn fish are no longer feeding, so we need to use a more reaction-type presentation. A tactic that often works well for me is to double up Sling Blade dodgers. Actually, connect one Sling Blade to the other. Seriously. This will create a much more aggressive action. The front blade will wobble, which will occasionally cause the back blade to throw harder and even spin at times.
This more aggressive action will create more vibration and will incorporate a more erratic action to your lure. Behind this double Sling Blade setup, I like to run lures with greater action.
For spoons, I like the Hum Dinger and Cripplure. The rolling, lateral action of the Cripplure is hard to resist in this presentation. If your preference is to use squids or hoochie-type baits, go with the spinner type hoochie, such as the Pee Wee Spinner Hoochie or the Pee Wee Wiggle Hoochie, which will provide even more action, trolled behind multiple Sling Blade 6” dodgers.
As for colors, go bright. All of your glow patterns, as well as chartreuse, oranges, and hot pinks are going to work well. Try to mix in some of the Mack’s Lure Glo Hooks, which when charged, will illuminate a long-lasting glow in this deeper water.
There is one important suggestion while using this technique, however, and that’s speed. We’re not talking a trolling speed of 1.2 mph with the setup — we’re looking to get a reactionary bite and that slow speed will not create this. Instead, bump your speed up to 1.8 mph. By trolling faster, you’re able to get that back Sling Blade dodger to roll like a 360-flasher occasionally, which is the type of random erratic action we need to trigger a bite. Don’t be afraid to jump from slower speeds to faster speeds mid-troll, as well.
Changing up your technique to create more action and trigger these lethargic pre-spawn fish is the name of the game here. While the techniques listed above have worked well for me over the years, don’t be afraid to create your own bizarre presentation to get those reactionary bites. Good luck fishing!