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Le Mooch

September 19th, 2012 · No Comments


This weekend is the first ever Salmon SlayRide Derby up in Washington. Appropriately enough the event is being held on National Hunting and Fishing Day–Sept 22nd. A couple dozen kayak fishermen are hitting Grays Harbor hoping to find the biggest fall King Salmon in the water.

All the stuff we’ll be using

In the spirit of the event, I’m going to share with you how to rig up for trolling for salmon, or as we call it up here, Mooching. Now, there are various ways to setup a mooching rig, but this is how I go about it.

To start off, I love my Okuma Celilo rod. Paired with an Abu Garcia Ambassador line counter reel, this rod/reel setup is great for mooching and back bouncing plugs when on the hook. This is my go-to salmon rod and I’ve even used it successfully for sturgeon and saltwater jigging. The reel is spooled with 65# Tuf Line. Truth be told, the 65# braid is a bit excessive. If I were to do it all over again, I’d run 40 or 50 pound braid instead.

For mooching, I slide on a snap swivel and a bead onto the line before securing a high quality swivel with a Palomar knot. The snap swivel will connect to a dropper weight and the bead will serve to protect the knot. More on that later. A high quality swivel is essential whenever you are salmon fishing. Mooching involves one or more rotating objects and a high quality swivel serves to protect your main line from twisting with the bait/lure.

High quality swivel for the main line and cheap snap swivel for the dropper.

I tie about 12″ of high quality leader material to the swivel. I traditionally use 40# Berkley Big Game for this. Attached to that short bit of mono leader I tie on a flasher. This year I have come quite impressed with FlashMaster Flashers. They are a bit different because they are made from opaque black plastic instead of the traditional translucent clear and green plastics. That gives the FlashMaster a different look than the other flashers, and when you’re fighting to find the big one in a sea of others running the same flasher, the FlashMaster will attract fish with a slightly different look. So far as colors are concerned, I only care about two: Chartreuse and Green or Red and Chartreuse. The other cool thing about FlashMaster Flashers is the optional adhesive strip intended for bait scents. The first thing I do when I open a package with a new FlashMaster flash is install that strip.

FlashMaster flashers already have high quality swivels and this cool bait scent strip

Another cool thing about the FlashMasters is that they already use a high quality ball bearing swivel on either end of the flasher. This just isn’t the case with other flashers, so if you are using something else, be sure to replace the factory swivels with something of a much better quality.

Attached to the flasher is the main leader and bait–AKA the Mooching Rig. Up until this point, the flasher is optional, but from flasher on, it is necessary. The Mooching Rig is a leader with a pair of hooks. Now, the upper hook might be tied solidly to the leader, or it might be a sliding rig. That all depends on the user and how it’s tied up. I prefer to use Vision leaders that are tied specifically for the size of bait being used (more on that in a bit, too). Because I like to use a flasher, I cut the 6′ long pre-tied leaders down to about 4′ in length (PS: you should use this extra bit you just cut off to attach your mainline swivel to your flasher. If you’re not using a flasher, than you should use the full length of the leader.

The Vision herring hooks and our fake bait for demonstration.

Baiting the hooks is the fun part about Mooching. This really is what Mooching is all about. The bait, herring, is cut with a leading offset beveled edge. Let that sink in a bit–Offset Beveled Edge. Use a Cut-Plug rig to help learn the correct cuts there. The cut-plug box is basically a plastic, pre-formed miter box. Lay your bait in the correct position, cut off the head, and, bam!, you have a herring ready to start mooching. The cut-plug jigs, of which there are MANY on the market (i use the cheapest I can find because I know I’ll just lose it anyways), have two different cuts. One for Kings/Chinook, the other for Silvers/Coho (I don’t know anyone that specifically targets Coho with a mooching rig, but I know Coho’s will hit bait spinning for Kings). For this, of course, we’ll be using the King side of the box.

Getting the bait ready to cut.

Lay the bait in the box and slide your bait knife between the cutouts. Hold the belly of the bait against the lower part of the box and line it up so the knife is cutting behind the gills of the herring. This will create the ideal offset beveled edge we’re looking for. Why is this so important? Well, if hooked right, this will cause the bait to spin in the water while trolling. Yes, the bait will act as a flasher as well. And, since it’s smaller, and looks like food, and smells like food, and it annoys the passing Kings, they’ll hit it.

Running the hooks through the bait is an exercise also. The mooching rig has two hooks, if you tie your own then maybe 3 hooks, and they need to be ran in the bait in a very specific way. Start with the trailer hook and run it through, from the inside out, along the lateral line on the long side of the bait, and pull through towards the tail. Some folks, at this point, call the trailer hook done. I, however, like to secure this hook to the bait so it’s not flopping around all willie-nillie as the bait spins in the water. I run the hook through the bait, again along the lateral line, near the tail. The trailing hook(s) don’t matter as much as the leading hook. The lead hook is what really pulls the bait through the water. You need to run this hook through the bait correctly so that is spins. If you don’t do that right, then the bait isn’t spinning and you’re not fishing. Run the leading hook through the long side of the bait, right along its spine so that the hook point comes out at the top of the bait, inline with the dorsal fin. Pulling the bait along near the center-line of the bait will help ensure it gets the slow-roll the bait needs to attract fish.

This is how I bait my herring. The trailing hook can be install any number of places because the lead hook is what controls the bait.

Practice and experience makes perfect. To test your bait, just lower it into the water as you’re trolling along to make sure it spins. If not, adjust and try again. If it still doesn’t spin, start over with a new bait.

Now, going back to the dropper. The weight of the dropper depends on how deep you’re fishing, as well as the current. Ideally you want your bait spinning along just off the bottom. I like to run my droppers about 3′ long. Use a light weight monofilament so that if things get tangled in the net, it’ll break free easily. I use 8# BioLine from Eagle Claw. This is heavy enough to help me get through potential snags, but not cause problems when netting. In Portland, expect to use upwards of 8 to 10oz lead to get you down. Buoy 10 requires almost double that, so many choose to use divers. Next weekend at Grays Harbor I’ll be running about 3-5 ounces since the current isn’t significant and I’ll be trolling waters 20′ deep or less.

Vision helps take out some of the guess work by tying up leaders that are sized correctly for the various bait sizes.

Size your bait accordingly. Generally, the closer to saltwater, the bigger the bait. Next weekend in Grays Harbor, I’ll be trolling giant “purple label” herring. These guys are about 8″ long prior to cutting. Herring is packaged in trays with colored labels to give you an idea of the size. The range includes Red (5-6″), Green (6-7″), Blue (7-8″), Purple (8-9″) and Black (9+”). A lot of my fishing in Portland is done with Red and Green labeled herring, while Grays Harbor calls for the giant Purples and Blacks. It won’t take much research to find out what size is best for your location.

Of course, there is plenty of variation on the above. No flashers. Two flashers. Fixed banana weight instead of a sliding dropper. The list goes on.

Hopefully, though, this will help make your next salmon trip successful. Until then, wish me luck in the Salmon SlayRide Derby. I’m going to need it.

Tags: Gear

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