Big Plugs are the Secret for Slow Water - by J.D. Richey

Big Plugs are the Secret for Slow Water - by J.D. Richey

We all know the spot—that big, deep slow pool that holds tons of kings but is hard to fish. The current is too lethargic to back-bounce and way too deep for flat-lining; Bobber fishing with eggs is okay, but it takes forever to get your gear through the run—and the slow water gives the smolt and trout too much time to find your bait. 


Kings don’t have to be huge to eat a jumbo plug. This 14-pound Chinook had no trouble attacking this T60 FlatFish!


You try casting spinners, plugs, spoons and jigs but you just can get down to the fish and you are at wit’s end…but those fish keep rolling and showing themselves. What to do?

Bust out the heavy artillery, that’s what!

Water like this is the perfect spot to bring out the big heavies—jumbo plugs like K16 Kwifish, Brad’s KF16’s, T-55 FlatFish…and my all-time favorite, the T-60 Flatfish.

I know…it seems a little weird at first to put massive lures down in such calm water. It’s almost like driving a Nitro-burning, double blown 18-wheeler through a hospital zone, but it works!



In super-slow spots, you need a lure with lots of surface area to catch enough current to work back—and wobble. That’s exactly where the big boys mentioned above shine. They buoyancy of these lures is also a bonus because you’ll sometimes need an ounce or more to get them down to where they need to be. Attach an ounce of lead to a smaller plug in a pondwater hole and it will go straight to the bottom and sit there without getting back out away from the boat.

And therein lies the secret to this method. You have to be able to match the plug and weight to the depth of the hole and the speed of the current. Get it right and the plug will work down and away from you. Too much sinker will cause the lure to simply go straight down. Too little and the plug won’t get down at all. Over time, you’ll be able to pretty accurately eyeball a spot and know exactly which sinker to run. Initially, however, it’s a trial and error game.

Once you find the right plug/sinker combination, set up at the top end of the hole. In super slow water, oars or an electric motor will give you a stealthy approach and also enable you to make very slight speed adjustments. I’ll have clients let out their gear very slowly—and this is where the process can be a bit tedious. But it’s the only way to make the whole thing work. I’ll have them let out about 10 feet of line at a time and then put their thumb down on the spool. This allows the current to sweep the plug downstream. When they feel the thump of the plug, I’ll have them let out another 10 feet and do the same.



As the lures approach the depth at which I think the salmon may be holding, I’ll have the clients lock their reels into gear and hold steady at that depth for a while. Remember, kings holding in deep, slow pools are often suspended, so you don’t want to rush straight down to the bottom without fishing the whole water column first.

If we don’t get bit, I’ll instruct them to drop down a little more and hold—until we find where the fish are hanging.


K14 vs. T60: The massive T60 dwarfs a K14 here, which shows you how much more surface area you get when using a big plug in slow water. 


Don’t worry if your rod tip is barley thumping—the faintest of wobble in these spots will get the job done. And that’s where FlatFish like the T-55 and T-60 really shine. They are lighter than other brands and have a different shaped bill, which allows them to have more action in the slowest of water. K16’s and KF 16’s work great when there’s a touch more current, but FlatFish are the kings of the slow stuff.

And the salmon don’t have to be huge to eat these massive lures. I routinely fish them on streams where the kings average 10 to 15 pounds. I think that when those big plugs get down in the fish’s kitchen and start that slow, seductive thump, it’s hard for kings not to try to pulverize ‘em.



That may be the coolest aspect of this whole technique: When a king decides to smash a jumbo plug in slow water, it can be an amazingly violent attack. You may get a quick “warning shot” when a king comes up and nudges the lure with his nose or tail and then the rod usually slams down as if it were attached to a 500-pound anchor. The slow water bite is epic!

Obviously, your best bet is to have the rod in the holder, but I usually go against tradition with this method and have my guys hold the rods because I want them to be able to let line out from time to time. That does create a problem, however, as aggressive bites are hard to refrain from jerking back on prematurely. But with some teaching, patience and repetition, I can usually get them on board with the program.

When holding the rod, one thing I always prep guys on is to be careful that the fish doesn’t slam the rod onto the gunwale. The strikes are so crazy that sometimes rods get broken…you have been warned!



So, next time you come across that big, deep frog water hole that’s full of fish you’ve got a way to catch them. Give the big plugs a try this season.

To learn more, check out my eBook: Plug Fishing for River Salmon, available at Amazon, iTunes, Nook or in PDF format at my website:





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Muy interesante, pesco salmón Chinook en el Río Santa Cruz, Patagonia Argentina

Felipe Santiago De La Cruz

Interesting and well written article. Flatfish/Kwikfish are fun to fish and the strike is awesome.

Bob Hawks

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