There are many ways to fish for coho. Be open to alternative techniques if your go-to method fails! I’ve only listed a few that have been successful to me. You may have better options. The idea is to use the technique the fish want.
There is something about the flash of a spoon that fish can’t resist. Actually, the flash, wobble and movement of the spoon will look like small bait fish.
In the last column we talked about twitchin’ for coho, which is my absolute favorite method to use for several reasons. But just because it’s my favorite does not mean it’s going to be the most effective when I hit the water. There can be several factors which tells me not to twitch, such as the speed of the current, depth of the hole, bottom structure, or those damn fish just won’t bite my jig! In these circumstances I need to expand my arsenal and figure out the best method and lure for that particular day. If not a jig, that means most likely a spinner or spoon, but there are many different types to choose from so we’ll go through those in this month’s column.
Throwing spinners is a great way to fish for coho, in my mind only second to twitching for effectiveness. Find the wood and chuck the metal. You’ll want to be right in with the branches, root wads and trees and a slow blade rotating around the spinner can be irresistible. Bright fluorescent colors in all water conditions are best for coho, especially pinks, oranges and chartreuse. Attaching a small hootchie skirt to a spinner can turn a bite on during a lock jaw period. Pink is always a great choice but black or purple would be my favorites.
Spinners for years have put countless coho in the box. Even when not on the bite a well-presented spinner cannot be resisted by a territorial coho. Just because you’re casting and retrieving a spinner does not make it deadly… it’s how you present it.
First, you’ll have to look for the correct type of coho holding water. Slow to non-moving deep holes, or sloughs tend to be the most productive. Also, look for wood! Any type of downed tree, log jam or even stumps provide cover for coho looking to rest before venturing up river. This is where you want to target them.
Spinner fishing of the more exciting coho techniques… it’s important to have a very sensitive rod so you’re able to feel every turn of the blade.
I like spinners that make noise. The noise is one more irritation that just might be the key to an attack to a coho that might otherwise just watch it spin by. Vibrax (Blue Fox) in a number 5 have been the spinner of choice for many years although the Flash Glo Casting (Wordens) and custom spinners such as R&B Lures have closed the gap and can be just as deadly. With either Vibrax or Flash Glo I replace the stock hook with a high quality siwash or sickle hook. R&B Lures seems to have already figured this out. Pink or chartreuse spinner bodies with nickel blades work fantastic under most water conditions. Purple or black are a better choice under clearer conditions.
The above mentioned spinners can also have a hootchie body added for extra appeal, or use a “Wicked” spinner which have already done this for you, and by the way has those purple and black colors that are, well, wicked! More on those below.
To achieve the most success, 1) the spinner must be presented in a manner at which the blade is rotating at its slowest possible speed while continuing to spin, and 2), the spinner must be close to the bottom without dragging. Now will you catch fish if the blade is spinning faster than what is considered optimal? Yes. Will you catch fish even if the spinner is up off the bottom, even near the surface? Yes. But, you WILL catch more fish following the two rules above, remember we’re looking for epic success.
One of the more exciting techniques… it’s important to have a very sensitive rod so you’re able to feel every turn of the blade. I like to use a fast action 8’ 6” to 9’ 6” spinning rod rated 8 – 17lbs, a 2500 or 3000 series spinning reel, and 30-pound Power Pro tied directly to the spinner.
Keeping the angle of the rod low while retrieving ultra-slow will increase your chances. The more sensitive the rod the better you’ll be able to feel the rotation of the blades. There will be no doubt when a fish hits.
Blade speed is crucial along with being in the strike zone. When casting a spinner often we need to hit the far end of a hole, or the bank, so we can cover lots of holding water. When the spinner first hits the water let it sink. Once it’s at, or near the bottom, give it a quick twitch to set the blade in motion. You’ll want to retrieve via your spinning reel as slow as possible while still maintaining the blade spinning. If the blade is not rotating, it’s not fishing. If the blade is rotating to fast, you’re not fishing effectively. Again, the slowest possible rota-tion of the blade is best.
It’s also important to stay within the strike zone near the bottom of the hole. Too fast of a retrieve will cause the spinner to rise. Current along with the retrieve may also bring the spinner up. An effective way to keep the spinner down even against the current is simply to lower you rod to the water. The less line angle the lower in the water column the spinner will remain. You don’t want a slack line as it will cause the blade to stop rotating. To start the rotation, a simple twitch will to the trick. If the blade will rotate on its own in the current, then don’t reel in until the lure has finished the drift. Once the drift has finished retrieve your spinner slowly to the boat or bank, often fish will follow your presentation right up to the fisherman and then strike. The spinner doesn’t stop fishing until the blade stops moving.
A well-presented spinner cannot be resisted by a territorial coho. Just because you’re casting and retrieving a spinner does not make it deadly… it’s how you present it.
An important factor when spinner fishing is the type of hook. Most come with treble hooks on them, but you’re going to want to replace them with a high quality siwash or sickle hook instead. These hooks will not only hook and hold the fish better, but will not have as much tendency to hook up on the bottom as a treble will. These hooks also enable a much easier release. I personally replace all mine with sickle hooks.
There are many spinners on the mar-ket to choose from. It’s important to make sure along with being balanced correctly that the spinner also produces noise. Noise is a great attractant. The blade rotating creates some noise, but the most effective spinners are created to make additional noise as well. Make sure you have some Vibrax spinners along with you as these have been time tested to produce the noise that coho go bonkers over.
Spinner colors are an important factor. For clear water the use of black can be vital! Coho will hammer a black spinner or one with some black on it. In clear water I like to take some of my metal blades of antique brass or copper and color half of the blade on each side black with a sharpie pen. Think of a 50/50 blade; half copper/antique brass, the other half black. The use of brass or copper alone is also effective in clear water. Nickel can be effective as well, but I almost always add black as to me nickel finishes give off too much reflection. Nickel also appears black to the fish below about 2 feet so in clear water this is fine, but colored up water you won’t want to stick with it.
To properly fish a spoon, it must have a wobble effect without turning over. Daniel Krenz image.
In good colored water, visibility in the 4 – 10 foot range, the use of colors come into play. I like less metal showing and more painted surfaces to attract the fish. Reds, oranges, yellows and fluorescents tend to attract coho in semi-colored water where you don’t necessarily need the flash of metal. The one exception is weathered brass. R&B Lures for instance makes many of their spinners in “tarnished” brass which is super effective in these conditions.
With high colored up water, we go back to metal because we need that flash to attract the fish. Gold, silver and brass all work well. The addition of fluorescent colors will add to the attraction as coho tend to like color more than straight metal.
Spoons are another technique which falls into that chucking metal category. A piece of metal tied directly onto your mainline has accounted for many fish since the inception of sport fishing. There is something about that flash the fish can’t resist. Actually, the flash, wobble and movement of the spoon will look like small bait fish.
Cast out like you would a spinner aiming directly across from you. Let it sink so it’s near bottom before engaging the reel or putting pressure on the reel with your thumb. Once engaged or the line tightens due to pressure the spoon will begin to flow with the current through the hole. The speed at which the spoon sinks is dependent on the width and thickness of the metal itself. Thinner blades sink faster and are more appropriate for deeper faster water. The wider blades will fish slower, shallower water better as more water across the body of the spoon will help keep the spoon suspended instead of rapidly hit-ting the bottom. To properly fish the spoon, it must have a wobble effect without turning over. If the spoon spins or turns over then the retrieve is too fast or the amount of water running across the spoon is too great. This can also happen when holding back the spoon when your line tightens and the spoon begins to swing in. The natural temptation is to reel during the swing, but you’ll actually want to give it some line so it maintains it position just above the bottom while still wobbling and covering water. Nothing wrong with it ticking the bottom a few times, in fact this is a good thing, as long as it’s not dragging.
An important factor when spinner fishing is the type of hook. Most come with treble hooks on them, but you’re going to want to replace them with a high quality siwash or sickle hook instead.
I like to use the same setup as spinners with a fast action 8’ 6” to 9’ 6” spinning rod rated 8 – 17lbs, a 2500 or 3000 series spinning reel, and 30-pound Power Pro tied directly to the spoon. If you like a casting setup better, go for it! It’s all personal preference.
It used to be if I were fishing spoons I’d have to “customize” them by way of a black sharpie. But no longer! R&B Lures realized how deadly the 50/50 spoons were and now offers them for sale. The R&B Hammered Brass & Black 50/50 is an absolute coho destroyer.
Pen-Tac’s BC Spoons are a Northwest favorite along with Rvrfshr products who make some killer spoons that are all sup-plied with a sickle hook which I highly recommend.
I’m not talking about pulling plugs, but casting them! Yes, they can be uber effective casting when other methods just don’t seem to unlock the jaws of the coho on certain days. I personally like Hot Shots if I’m casting plugs. My favorite method of fishing Hot Shots is to toss it as close to the bank, or outside of the hole if possible, then to retrieve the plug through the hole. A steady slow retrieve generally works better than a staggered retrieve or a fast one. I like the rattle plugs for non-feeding coho, just another element to torque them off so they’ll attack your lure. Popular colors are chrome with chartreuse, chrome with pink or chrome with blue. In dirtier water your bright pinks and chartreuse are the go-to colors. Replace the trebles with high quality sickle hook. A slow retrieve will also allow the plug to dive deeper where the majority of the fish will be. If you can cast below over hanging branches this is one of the most effective methods of seeking those coho that haven’t been enticed to come out in the open and play.
There are two lures which work extremely well for coho that are fished slightly differ-ent than your standard spinner or spoon. They are the Dick Nite spoon and the Wick-ed Lures spinner. Both of these have little to no weight so we cannot direct tie these to the main line as you would the spinners and spoons mentioned previous. To fish either of these, you’ll want to tie your main line to the three-way swivel. A small ¼ to ½ oz weight is attached to a 12” dropper line. On the open swivel segment tie a 4 foot monofilament or fluorocarbon leader to either the Dick Nite or the Wicked Lure. Wicked lures come with a leader out of the package, just measure approximately 4 feet and tie.
#1 Dick Nite Spoons in 50/50 or frog pattern works extremely well for coho in very slow water. Drift fishing with light lead and a 4-foot leader, coho have been known to stalk and attack these small spoons when nothing else will work. Consider them a standby lure after twitchin’, casting spinners and casting regular spoons. The important thing to remember when fishing any spoons is to not allow them to turn over.
If the spoon spins or turns over then the retrieve is too fast or the amount of water running across the spoon is too great. This can also happen when holding back the spoon when your line tightens and the spoon begins to swing in. Daniel Krenz image.
Wicked spinners in dark colors are incredibly effective under low, clear conditions, with either a purple or blue blade with a black or purple hootchie skirt. If the water is colored up, go to the chrome blades with pink hootchies.
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Wicked spinners are just like most other spinners, except the body of the spinner has no weight. The weight is tied to a three-way swivel approx. 4 feet from the spinner itself. As with all spinners you want the slowest retrieve while making sure the blade is spinning. The same goes for the Wicked spinners. In faster current you can cast out and just let the Wicked swing through the hole. In slower water cast out, let the weight hit the bottom and then start with a small twitch to get the spinner moving. Retrieve ultra-slow. When they hit you’ll know it. Coho have been known to almost yank the rod from your hands as they annihilate the lure. There are many ways to fish for coho. Be open to alternative techniques if your go-to method fails! I’ve only listed a few that have been successful to me. You may have better options. The idea is to use the technique the fish want. Some methods are more thrilling than others, which is why I like twitchin’, but if the fish won’t hit a twitched jig on a certain day than it’s not fun when you don’t hook fish. The above techniques will catch fish. On any given day however one technique will out-fish another. Adapt and be happy!
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I am a spinner lover and I’ve learned more from this post than from the 40yrs. That I’ve been fishing. Thank you very much for sharing. I hate using live bait, lures make professionals.
Dear Terry…I just finished regarding your article and might suggest trying metal jigs. Please refer to my article in the October issue of the Mack Attack. It’s a free monthly publication by the Mack’s Lure Company in Wenatchee, WA. The title is, “River Fishing the Sonic BaitFish with a Rifle”. I have used this technique since the mid-1980s after I created the Crippled Herring. It has consistently saved the day for me on rivers and on large bodies of fresh and salt water. Several weeks ago, after leaving my second home in Port Angeles Washington for Lake Erie, a bad weather system potentially wrecked my fishing plans to do an article on spinners. It was early October when, for two days, a strong “northeaster” blew large volumes of cold water from its deeper east end into its warmer, and shallower, western basin. Muddy water and a ten degree drop in water temps resulted. The fish went into shock! Two days later, I was on the water hearing complaints over the radio of trolling and drifting anglers going fishless. We were part of that mix, drift casting a variety of spinners and spinner harnesses for walleyes. The morning went without a single strike on our boat and on all the other numerous boats in our area. There was only one possible positive variable despite the muddy water…that was the almost dead calm water. Not good especially for trollers but a great possibility for switching to a metal jig. The negative walleyes were buried deep in the rocky bottom structure in 14 to 20 feet of water. The river technique, mentioned in my October Mack Attack article would prove itself again! I hope you, and your readers, take the opportunity to read the specifics of that technique. We ended up cast-jigging 1/2 oz glow Sonic BaitFish and Crippled Herrings and limited out on walleyes. According to the squawk on the radio, we never heard of a single boat catching more than one walleye.
This is a very informative article. It is well articulated, and full of go information for any level of fisher person. Thanks for going into depth on colors and techniques. Looking forward to using this news on my next trip to coho waters..