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By Britton Ransford
By the time you're reading this, it'll be open season for sockeye and summer run chinook salmon on the upper Columbia River. With numbers looking great for both sockeye and chinook, let's break down some summer hacks to target these fish.
It always seems that a different color, rigging, bait, speed or location is something we have to take into consideration this time of year. Combine all of that with high water and unpredictable temperatures and there's no saying how exactly these fish will react.
So, what can we do to catch them?
The best answer is to spend time on the water and not be afraid to try different things. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Mack's Lure is the end-all, be-all solution to salmon fishing and products, in general, but especially during challenging years, there's a number of effective combinations in our arsenal that can really make the difference between an empty cooler and a sunburn versus loading up the boat with a heavy kill bag before the burn.
Normally, when fishing for sockeye, specifically, less is more. A simple dodger with a leader tied to two 2/0 hooks with a couple beads and a Smile Blade will do the trick. In the heat, and especially after the long trek these fish have already endured, you can expect a more subtle bite, so ditching the downriggers and swapping them for lead can make a big difference.
Use a Smile Blade UV Glo Burst 1.1 or 1.5 with a 4mm glow bead just under the blade. Then, attached 3- to 4-oz. of lead (depending on the depth you're fishing) to the line. Then, attach a bead chain swivel and attach a Mack's Lure Hot Wings attached directly to a Double D Dodger 5.8 or 7.6. The Hot Wings is an ultralight attractor and does not affect the action of the dodger at all. It does, however, provide an incredible amount of attraction in the water, which is exactly what you need when the fish are hesitant to bite.
Obviously, you need to be using scent when salmon fishing. And there's no better product in your arsenal than the patented ScentFlash UV Paddle Flasher. C'mon, you knew it was coming. But really, this thing is incredible.
Simply unsnap the lid, exposing the scent cavity. Pack it full of your favorite scent — we like to mix our tuna with ScentFlash Herring Oil, which is infused with UV Chartreuse Dye — and snap back into place. The ScentFlash will rotate at 360-degrees, dispersing a massive cloud of scent trail back to your lure for up to 20 minutes.
Now, what do you throw behind your 360 flasher? Dare I suggest something a tad different, again? We're going to be running the Wedding Ring Salmon Tech 3.5 Spinner on a 38-inch leader. Don't tip it with anything either — just fish it as-is. The profile, flash and movement imparted on our version of the 3.5 spinner has worked up-and-down the Columbia River for the last three seasons and many anglers are starting to move to this type of setup because of it. Try it.
That's a couple examples of doing things just a little bit different when the fishing is challenging. And the bottom line is to not be afraid to think outside the box, as it's likely to help you catch more fish. Don't be scared to set that traditional dodger aside and try out the Double D or switching from a plug to a spinner behind your paddle flasher.
Moral of the story is that we're for what may be another unpredictable salmon season and thinking outside the box could mean all the difference on a summer day chasing salmon.