Without a doubt, downriggers are the best way to present a lure or bait in deep water. Most anglers associate downriggers with suspended fish, and target fish holding at specific depths and preferred temperatures, but don‘t neglect the fish holding structure at the bottom. While it is true that fishing close to the snag infested bottom can pose many threats to a passing cannonball or lure, these areas often hold loads of undisturbed lunkers. Salmon, Trout, Walleye, Muskies or whatever deep-water species you target, there is always a time to fish close to the structure on the bottom, and trolling with a downrigger is the best way to cover the water and find your active fish.
If you are lucky enough to be fishing an area with only limited snags and obstructions, one of the best ways to attract attention and also turn on inactive fish, is to drag your downrigger weight across the bottom. With a mostly sand or muddy bottom, anytime the bottom is disturbed, this kicks up a trail of debris, just like feeding fish would, or escaping prey and turns on the fish and into an aggressive feeding pattern. Even totally inactive fish can be persuaded to take a whack at the lure. Walleye, Smallmouth Bass, Lake Trout and Salmon all fall victim with this very effective technique. It helps greatly to add a downrigger trolling snubber, this 12-inch-long piece of shock absorbing material is clipped on between the downrigger weight and the end of the downrigger cable. It is a small addition, but helps incredibly to keep your weights from snagging as this helps to flex and bounce you across the bottom. It is also essential to use the standard round cannonball shaped weights for this technique, save the unique fish shaped and other weights for suspended fish.
A crawling worm harness 50 feet behind the dragging weight, just as the clouds of silt from bottom contact start to thin out is deadly for Walleye. Smallmouth Bass are much more aggressive and will dive straight into the debris line, often looking for tidbits even 5 feet behind the cannonball looking for a confused Crayfish. An assortment of floating crank baits and minnow imitations all work, as do plastic tubes simply dragged behind as close as 5 feet to up to 25 feet. With the slower boat speeds used for worm harness and tubes, as well as using these techniques in shallower waters, downrigger weights can be decreased. As long as bottom contact is still made, and lures are working correctly, all systems are a go!!
For Salmon and Lake Trout, dragging the bottom is more of an inactive approach to get these monsters up and feeding. The bottom dragging still gets them moving, but it is a much more subtle hit and lure presentation. Boat speeds are usually kept to between 1.5 and 1.7 mph, and a close eye to any changes in the bottom tapping rhythm can indicate a hit. Lake Trout are eager takers to the presentation directly in the debris line and close to the bottom with gang trolls and a small spoons or offerings only 24 inches behind the last spinning blade. Salmon are attracted to the debris, but prefer a presentation above and back from the disturbance.
For the Salmon, buoyant lures with great action at a slower speed are best for this. It allows the baits to hover up and away from the bottom and up into the oncoming curious Salmon. Lures are usually run back 20 to 50 feet depending on the activity level of the Salmon. Precision line counter reels like the Daiwa Saltist and Sealine make it very easy and accurate to repeat the successful amount of line out each time. Avoid trolling at speeds that will make the lures dive, you want to keep it wobbling enticingly and still floating up from the bottom. Find the magic speed and hold on!!
As always, play with lure colours, depending on light penetration and thickness of the clouds of debris kicked up, it can be very important. Remember, hits will not usually be the slam from a Salmon that you maybe use to. At these slower speeds and with the fish generally inactive, hits usually start as only a light bump and slight pull. Do not wait for the release to pop, you will miss many fish. As soon as a hit is noticed, (and it might only be a slight “tick”) it might be necessary to reel down, release and set the hook yourself. It is very common for these Salmon to only mouth the baits, for this reason, keep hooks as sharp as possible to help hook sets and extend your precious few seconds to detect a hit. I change all my hooks to the sticky sharp Mustad Ultra Points for this reason.
The Lake Trout are a different story, and will stick their noses directly in the debris line. The flash of a gang or lake troll (3 or 4 large spinner blades) with a small wobbling lure or bait following does an incredible job. Baits rigged only 2 feet behind the last spinning blade, are just the kicked up little snacks the Lakers are looking for. Small crankbaits and small spoons are idea, but everyday is different. Some days only 10 feet behind the dragging downrigger weight is the magic ticket, other days, up to 30 feet. When two rods are used, I like to stagger the distances, with one close to the ball the other back at least 20 feet and let the fish tell you what they want. Many days, the first acts like an attractor with the second getting regularly slammed!! Pay attention to the successful distance of lead so you can repeat again with your line counter reel. Being dragged in the debris line does cause some abuse to the tackle, so using the highly abrasion resistant Seaguar Fluorocarbon not only gives a nearly invisible presentation, but the Fluorocarbon leader material is extremely tough. Seaguar is not only very abrasion resistant, but almost invisible to the fish, so a much stealthier approach. While Seaguar Fluorocarbon and Mono look very much alike out of the water, in the water it is 2 different views. Seaguar Fluorocarbon almost has the same refraction level as water itself, so in the water it is next to invisible.
When I talk about dragging the bottom, I do mean dragging. It is not uncommon to be fishing in 80 feet of water with 100 feet on the downrigger counter, just make sure your downrigger tension knob is set properly to slip if a snag occurs, its not a good situation to see what breaks first with 250 lb wire cable. Have cutters handy just in case of a mishap.
The Luhr-Jensen Dipsy Diver has long been used as a diver and attractor in front of lures. What the Dipsy Diver is, is a diving side tracking devise, designed to take baits down, and away from the boat Targeting those fish spooked by the boat. The Dipsy can be adjusted to run either Port or Starboard sides, and at various degrees of side tracking away from the boat.
Once a fish has hit the lure, an adjustable trip mechanism is released, allowing the angler to fight the fish without the added resistance of the diving Dipsy. Your lure is attached behind, by way of either a 5 to 8-foot length of monofilament. I would highly recommend a leader of Seaguar Fluorocarbon, as this is tough and totally invisible in the water and can not be seen by the fish. Without modifications, longer leader lengths are difficult, as you can only reel as far as the Dipsy.
With our waters becoming clearer by the year, and boat traffic making these fish more shy, a trick that has worked great for me, has been to modify the Dipsy Diver so it can be used at any distance in front of the lure. Some days the Dipsy is a great attractor, other days, it is too much in front of the lure and can spook the fish. On these days, the modified is the way to go.
To modify, I replace the back barrel swivel, with a snap swivel. MUSTAD makes extremely strong, small swivels that are perfect for this. This allows me to snap on or off the line at any time, and with the adjustable trip mechanism on the front, I tighten the screw so it will not release, cut off the barrel swivel at the front, and replace with a small planner release clip.
Now, I can give the lure any length of lead I want, and hits will either pop the Dipsy from the line, allowing it to slide down the line to the lure, or you will have to reel the Dipsy up to the rod tip, and manually release the Dipsy allowing it to slide down the line before you can continue to reel.
To avoid having the Dipsy slide all the way to the lure and run the risk of knocking off your fish, I always run a 5- or 6-foot lead of Seaguar Fluorocarbon from a small Mustad swivel, and with the small snap swivel attached to the back end of the Dipsy, this stops at the inline swivel, keeping it at least 5 or 6 feet away from your hooked fish.
As our water continue to be clearer and clearer, I also hate the use of brightly coloured snubbers. A snubber of some kind is needed to avoid the shock, but I much rather use 15 to 20 feet of 30 lb test Seaguar Fluorocarbon leader material, tied with a Uni-Knot to my main line, then connected to the diver. Seaguar is not only very abrasion resistant, but almost invisible to the fish, so a much stealthier approach. While Seaguar Fluorocarbon and Mono look very much alike out of the water, in the water it is 2 different views. Seaguar Fluorocarbon almost has the same refraction level as water itself, so in the water it is next to invisible.
Without a doubt, choosing the proper hook for the right application catches you more fish. Premium hooks only help that even more! Let’s face it, once you have hooks into a fish, short of snapping the line, or tangling in debris, you can’t lose. We have all caught fish each season with hook placements so well, that the fish would never have come unhooked, despite slack line, or novice anglers on the other end. Wouldn’t it be nice to have better hook up/ landing percentage in your favor? Most lures come equipped with substandard hooks. It is simply too expensive on the manufacturing end to always include premium hooks, but once you have a favorite or productive lure, now is the time to add that quality hook.
Mustad Ultra Point hooks feature a unique opti-angle needle point that is chemically sharpened and resists the rolling of the point when under pressure. The Ultra Point is unbelievably sharp straight out of the package and keeps this needle point when other hooks would be ground into a useless blunt tip from contact with rocks and abrasive debris. Either the Ultra Point or Classic, Mustad has the hook for every situation imaginable. If you fish for a wide variety of species, the following is a few that is sure to become your favorites.
One of the most popular species, as well as a multiple range of rigs and techniques. Tubes have long been a favorite for Bass, and Mustad tackled this head on with an Ultra Point jig hook. For molding your own lead heads, #32746 is available in Black Nickel, Bronzed or Red and in sizes from the small 10 to 6/0. This thin wire hook makes tubes look more natural, and penetrates quickly with a chemically sharpened Opti-Angle Needle Point. For pitching, Carolina rigs, etc, the Big Mouth tube hook #38104BLN is not only extra strong and features an extra wide bend, but perfect for rigging plastics exposed or weedless. This hook is no wimp, you won’t be afraid to pitch a bait in the jungle with this one! Available in sizes 2/0 to 8/0. This hook is perfect for the Freedom Hydra and Stealth heads matched up with an X-Zone Swammer Shad.
With finesse fishing gaining popularity, Drop Shoting is hot. The Mustad Ultra Point #10546 is not only available in Black Nickel or Red, but the light weight wire allows baits to dance, and the ultra sharp hooks penetrates easily. Drop Shot rigs require a special hook, and this is it! A turned-up eye allows this hook to sit naturally on the line, and hook fish the way drop shoting was meant to be. For those who what even less hassle tying on the drop shot hook with a Palomar knot, Mustad even now has the Mustad Ultra Point No-Twist shot rig with mini swivel. This takes all the twisting out of your lines and all you now have to do is tie your line to the swivels it comes with. It simply doesn’t get easier than this. Matched up with an X-Zone Slammer, you have one of the best drop shot set ups available.
Mustad has long been a leader in Bass plastics hooks, designed strong enough to horse that lunker Largemouth from thick cover, yet perfect for the many rigs and techniques. The Ultra Lock Light Wire #38106BLN and Ultra Lock #38105BLN in sizes 1/0 -5/0 feature an innovative Z-shaped bend, ideal for keeping your presentation in place, even in heavy cover. The Power Lock Plus #91768UB is another amazing hook, now available in 1/0 – 11/0 sizes and in 1/16, 1/8,1/4, 3/8oz weights. This hook features a moveable weight for balancing your plastic presentation perfectly, or creating unique actions with weight forward, centered, or weight back. Rigging does not get any easier with a push in gripper design. This hook is a must for every Bass angler, novice or pro. You will continue to find more and better ways to fish your plastics with this one, and actions that will drive the Bass crazy! This hook is also perfect for the swim baits, excellent hook ups and balances them perfectly. Matched up with your favorite swim bait, this weed less design allows you to fish your plastics, and catch fish where you use to be afraid to fish.
Mustad make the Ultra Point Spinnerbait hooks #91706NP and large ring #91707NPWS Pro – Stinger Spinnerbait Trailer hook. No more short hits with this premium add on, this trailer hook has an extra-large eye for easy rigging and includes hook stoppers for proper rigging. If you like spinner baits, don’t leave the dock without them. Available in sizes 2/0 and 3/0
Bass love to throw those lures, and bulky crankbaits make it even easier. Losing that monster on the last jump at boat side is a heart breaker, but changing the standard hooks will make a huge difference. When your hook setting power is divided between many points making contact and all trying to make it in past the barb, the sharper the better! Mustad has the Ultra Point Treble and Ultra Point Triple Grip trebles in various sizes and styles. From thin wire and stronger, different shaft lengths to makes up perfectly with different sized lures, and a huge range of sizes, even sizes and strengths for Muskie lures. No excuses for not having quality hooks on any of your lures. The Triple Grip configuration also allows more of your hook setting power to be directed towards hook penetration, and with this configuration, it locks in making it harder for the fish to throw the hook. What to dress up that favorite popper or upgrade the hooks and feathers. Both the Ultra Point NP Treble and Triple Grip are available in a beautifully tied, feather version that will dress up any surface bait and drive the Bass crazy. The Ultra Point dressed feather is available in Red, with Red Feathers #102RR, #102RWCH with white and chartreuse feathers or White feathers #102RW in sizes 2, 4, 6, and the Ultra Point Feather Triple Grip is available with a Black Nickel hook, with either Red feathers #233BLNR, White feathers #233BLNWand Chartreuse #233BLNWCH and in sizes 2, 4, 6,
Walleye and live bait rigs go hand in hand. When you are dealing with light hits, sharp, light wire hooks are the ticket. The Mustad Double Wide Fine Wire Live Bait #10548NP is available in sizes 2/0, 1/0, 1, 2, 4, 6 , 8. All Walleye anglers know how colour combos can make or break a day. It is amazing how the slight addition of colour can mean so very much! Mustad knows how important this is, and has a selection of Neon bait hooks #92553NP available in sizes 8, 6, 4, 2 in Chartreuse #92553NP-CH, Flame/Chartreuse #92553NP-FC, and Red #92553NP-RB. Amazing anglers everywhere, the incredible Slow Death hooks #33862NP and #33863NP Super Death 1X strong is now available in more sizes, so you now can choose between 4 all the way up to 2/0. When rigged with a worm or plastic, this hook gives a corkscrew action to your bait that the fish simply cannot refuse. Make sure you us a good ball bearing swivel to avoid twisting with this set up.
For replacement trebles on your favorite lures, the same Ultra NP Treble and Ultra NP Triple Grip hooks that are so popular for Bass, are every bit as effective and popular for Walleye as well. Nothing is more disappointing than watching your lure fall out of a monster eye at the edge of the net. Thick hooks not only are hard to set, but rip large holes. Thin cheap hooks bend easily. The Mustad Ultra Point NP Treble and Ultra NP Triple Grip trebles are not only strong but thin wire and unbelievably sharp. You will catch more fish, it is that simple!!
What is a Walleye angler without a few pounds of jigheads? O.K. a few pounds in each colour! Imagine a quality Mustad Ultra Point hook in a quality painted jig. The Mustad Walleye Jigheads with meet your every expectation #WL746 in sizes from 1/16 oz to 1/2 oz.
SALMON – TROUT
Flimsy hooks do not hold up with these fish, period! Powerful runs, crushing hits, and the extra pressure from wrapping in the line or a jump will show a weak spot fast, all resulting in a lost fish and a disappointed angler. Mustad’s new Ultra Point Big Gun 2X open eye Siwash hook #11048NP-BN not only penetrates with little pressure, but this thin Siwash is extremely strong. Being lighter in weight also gives your lures the maximum action they were designed for. Looking for a powerful treble, look no further than the #3599C Kingfish Treble. This is actually a saltwater style King Mackerel hook, but it is absolutely perfect for any heavy-duty freshwater application where a smaller sized hook needs to be strong and in sizes 1, 2, 4, 6. Try this on your Herring rigs! This is ideal for spoons, smaller plugs and bait rigs. At many times of the year, smaller lures are more attractive to these powerful fish, but are never rigged to hold them. This Kingfish treble is ideal to turn those smaller Salmon attracting lures, into a lure that now will hold up to the pulling power. With a lighter diameter hook, but still 3 times strong, the Elite Series Treble #36329BLN has become a favorite. This Ultra Point hook has proven itself on a number of Salmon and heavy-duty Trout rigs, and is another option for your lures and rigs when a lighter in weight hook is needed, so the balance is not thrown off.
For lighter action flutter spoons, do not ignore the Ultra Point KVD Triple Grip hooks that Bass and Walleye anglers have trusted. At first glance, it may appear to be light duty, but this hook is surprisingly strong and has landed a number of lunker Salmon and Trout. The lock in, hard to dislodge features that make this ideal for jumping Bass, also make it great for Salmon. Once it is locked in, it is hard to get out, in fact, the only damage I have had with this hook while Salmon fishing has been while prying it out with pliers, or from the net. If you need this great Triple Grip feature on a heavier duty hook, the Saltwater models are available in larger sizes and in Duratin. For Hoochie or bait rigs with single hooks, the Mustad Beak and Octopus hooks are tops. Available in barbless and barbed. The Ultra Point Beak hooks #92553NP, 1 extra strong, and are available in Red and Black Nickel in sizes from 4 to 8/0.
Finesse river fishing is an art by itself. Tackle needs to be small to allow proper drifts, yet offer strength when that silver bullet is headed for a log jam. With roe bags and yarn flies being the most popular choices, Mustad has this covered plus some, with more options than your bag of tricks could supply. The #10548NP Double Wide Fine Wire, available in 2/0. 1/0, 1,2,4, 6, 8, is designed as a live bait hook for Walleye, but is ideal for many trout applications. Not only are the Mustad live bait Viking hooks #9523NP-BR hooks in sizes from 14 – 2 a very sharp choice, but the same Ultra Point NEON Bait hooks #92553 that Walleye anglers love, are very often a fish magnet. These colored hooks dress up any roe bag or offering. Classic Mustad hooks like the #37132 Point bent in, wide gap available in 6,8,10, 12, or the #37160 have long been favorites.
We all love the aggressive bite, and nothing aggravates the Trout like a wobbling plug in their face. Not all hooks stay set when your fish is cart wheeling down the river. The Ultra Point KVD Triple Grip TG76NP and #TG78NP saves the day again! The unique lock in feature of this hook, forces everything back into the elbow making it very tough to throw. Stop worrying about your hook, and focus on where your fish is going. Available in various sizes to upgrade any of your lures.
MUSKIE – PIKE
Lunker Pike and Muskie are legendary with the damage they do to equipment. Tackle needs to be specialized to hold up with the lightening fast bursts of tackle smashing runs towards rock shoals and thick weeds, and quite often, around the motor! The leverage large lures supply to an active gator only increases the need for proper hooks. Quite simply, the # 35929-BR Musky Treble is on a level all by itself. 4 extra strong and available in sizes 2/0 -6/0. This classic hook is made to be abused! Tremendously strong and holds that necessary sharp edge for finding penetrating points in a mouth full of teeth and bone.
This Muskie Treble is actually the big brother of the #3599 Kingfish Treble, this smaller Kingfish hook is only smaller in size, not strength. Available in sizes 6, 4, 2, 1, and Black Nickel, Red or Bronzed. Ideal for smaller Pike and Muskie lures, and perfect on dead or live bait rigs. Don’t knock smaller hooks for big fish either, the smaller sizes have great ability for finding and locking into fleshy areas. This #3599 Kingfish Treble is perfect as a stinger hook on jig and bait presentations.
While the above 4X Muskie hook has been a standard for years, new and gaining quick followings are the #TG100NP-BN Mustad Pete Mania Treble Hook in sizes 2/0 to 8/0. A new Mustad 5X strong Treble hook #9430-DS in sizes from 2 to 8/0, and the large Mustad Triple Grip Treble #TG90-BN in sizes from 1/0 to 7/0. For those of us that have invested hundreds and even thousands of dollars on custom painted Muskie lures, try the Mustad double hooks, you will be amazed at not only the hooking percentage while trolling, but these hooks will not dig in and scratch your expensive lures during high speed trolling runs.
Circle hooks are quickly gaining popularity on fish that commonly take a bait deep. At first look, a circle hook appears to look like a damaged hook with the point bent in. Setting the hook in a normal way does not work either. This hook requires a steady, non-jerking pressure that allows the hook to slide up from deeper areas in the throat, turn, and lock into the corner of the mouth before normal pressure and fish fighting resumes. No more gut hooking Catfish! As odd as this sounds, it is extremely effective for consistent hook up percentages. Quite often the fish will hook itself by leaving the rod in the holder. Not only is this a great hook for novice anglers, but professionals as well. Check out the huge selection of circle hooks Mustad offers. #39951NP and #39938NP-BN are a couple of favorites, light wire as so not to weigh down your presentation, but strong.
These are only a few suggestions from the massive selection of hooks available. There is no doubt you will find the perfect Mustad hook for any lure or presentation you choose, for any species of fish you target. Also from Mustad, checkout the full line up of tools and accessories. Mustad is adding every season to this impressive lineup of equipment. www.mustad-fishing.com