Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ultimate Spring Chinook Bait

Last year I posted my "secret" brine recipe for preparing anchovies for catching Umpqua River Spring Chinook.  Without a doubt, that post is the most visited post I've ever had.  Week after week, month after month that post is the post that the vast majority of viewers want to read.  So much for being known as a "fly fishing guide".  

So I've decided to expand a bit on that post with this latest installment..."The Ultimate Umpqua Spring Chinook Bait".

My good friend Rob Brown of www.randblures.com makes the very best custom spinners and custom painted spinner blades in the world.  Anything related to spinners and spinner fishing is available at Rob's shop and you won't meet a nicer man...EVER!  He'll bend over backward to get you what you need and he's ALWAYS been that way! 

A few of Rob's products that I use to successfully entice Spring Chinook.

Rob can custom paint blades with an air-brush like no one I know.  For the past several years I've asked Rob to find a source for plastic clevis's that I can use to make my "Ultimate Spring Chinook Bait".  Rob works hard keeping me in awesome spinner blades for my clients and the current plastic clevis has the annoying trait of loosing the blade every time a springer slams our gear.  While the "open" design is convenient for quickly switching blades (small red plastic clevis on the left in above photo)   its annoying as hell loosing a favorite blade...even though its a coveted springer that's knocked the blade loose!

So Rob recently located a new source for these little beauties!  They come in two colors, a dark green and white color.  The newly designed plastic clevis's will allow the blades to spin without damaging my mono leaders, yet the "closed" design will keep the salmon from knocking off my valuable, favorite hand-painted blades from Rob!  PERFECT!!!! 

This is the "Ultimate Spring Chinook Bait" rig waiting to be assembled on the river.
Start off with a properly prepared anchovie cured in my "secret brine" (see previous post for details).  I use a "pro-cure" brand threader that I customized by cutting a small opening in the end opposite the sharp point.  I used a file to cut my "slot" which allows me to slip a loop tied in the end of my leader in.  I place the sharp point of the threader in the mouth of my bait and thread it all the way through the body of the anchovie until the point comes out near the bait's vent. 

Once the threader is ran through the bait, I attach my loop to the opened end of the threader. 

Pull the threader with the attached loop in the end of your leader all the way through the bait. This places the loop through the bait toward the tail, allowing you to attach a size 1 Honer treble hook into the loop.  The top hook is a size 2 Honer "octopus" style hook that I attach to the leader via an "egg-loop" knot tied with a small section of 20 lb. dacron.  This knot allows the top hook to slide up and down the leader under tension so that each bait can be custom "tuned" to give the bait a perfect spin when placed in the water under the tension of current.  If you don't use dacron, the motion of adjusting the top hook by sliding it up and down the leader will cause the 30lb. Maxima leader to become chaffed, potentially weakening the leader and making it fail.  Some folks use dental floss to create the knot that places tension along the hook and leader, but I've found it hard to create enough tension in the knot when using dental floss to keep the top hook from sliding down the leader when under tension.  
The top hook is then run from under the lower jaw of the bait fish, through the skull and out through the top of the bait.  Take care to make sure you properly place this hook.  An improperly placed top hook will prevent the bait from spinning properly and lasting more than a short time while in the water.   
This is how the top and bottom hooks should look when properly seated in the bait.  Once the top hook is set through the skull, the leader is pulled up enough to just snug the bottom treble hook.  This is what takes the most practice.  If you pull to hard, the bottom hook will put a huge bend in the back of the bait and it won't spin properly.  Not enough tension between the top and bottom hook and the bait won't spin at all.  You want to place enough tension between the two hook to make the bait spin in a tight, fast little rotation.
(Note:  I always leave tag ends about an inch long with my dacron when creating the egg-loop knot on the upper hook.  This allows me to cinch the knot down a little tighter if needed to create enough tension to prevent the hook from not being tight enough to apply proper tension.)  
The "Ultimate Spring Chinook Bait" ready to go to work.  This particular rig sports the new clevis from Rb Brown as well as one of Rob's custom painted spinner blades.  

I run my leaders approximately 5-6 feet long.  They end at a swivel where my mainline is attached.  My lead line is tied to a slider.  This is helpful when trying to get a hot springer into the net.  If I miss and the lead tangles in the net, the slider allows the fish to make another run without the mainline or leader breaking off.  My "lead-lines" are 18" long and usually are made from 15lb. maxima with a snap swivel attached to the end that allows me to quickly change my lead for the depth and current speed.  Most days I fish a 4-6 ounce lead. 

Anchor the boat in the area you want to fish,  back-bounce this rigging behind the boat until the lead allows it to stay on the bottom.  Place the rod in a rod-holder.  Sit back with your favorite snack food and adult beverage and wait for your rod to double over and line to start peeling off your reel!  I LOVE springer fishing on the Umpqua! 

Tim Walters and his mom, Bobbi with her first salmon taken on the lower Umpqua earlier today with me while using the "Ultimate Spring Chinook Bait".  We ended the day with two on and one landed.  We saw approximately 10 fish landed by other boats around us.