Single Hooked Trolling Spinners by JD Richey

Single Hooked Trolling Spinners by JD Richey


It’s funny, I frequently use single Siwash hooks on salmon and steelhead plugs, spoons and casting spinners…but for some reason it never dawned on me to give it a try on trolling spinners.

Most factory spinners come armed with big, burly treble hooks so I never really thought about it until this past summer while guiding in Alaska. We had some  spinners in Size No. 7 up there at the lodge that were factory-rigged with singles, so I gave them a shot.

Well, the kings ate those spinners like they were candy and after literally uncountable numbers of “test subjects,” I’m here to tell you that running singles on trolling spinners is absolutely something I will do at home—where each bite counts a heck of a lot more than it does in Alaska.

salmon trout steelhead spinners single siwash hooks alaska chinook king

Out of dozens upon dozens of hookups, I can clearly remember the two fish we lost on the single hooked models. They stand out…because after landing so many I was shocked when the single hook would let us down. Pretty much every king we landed on those No. 7 was pinned deep into the corner of the jaw—perfect placement for keeping fish hooked.

Now, the question that is probably popping into your heads—especially those of you who are single hook skeptics—is how many bites did we miss on the singles vs. trebles, right? After a ton of side-by-side testing (one rod with a treble and one with a Siwash), I can honestly say it was a wash. We converted a high number of bites with both methods. Of course, we also missed some with both as well.

The misses are the interesting part. I did quite a bit of underwater filming with a camera rigged in-line looking backwards towards the spinners. There was a lot of really interesting stuff there to be learned, especially the number of bites that we got that were mistaken for bottom bounces or Dolly Varden nibbles. They weren’t the slack line “push” bites that are often associated with spinner trolling but just a quick, soft tap on the rod like the sinker hit a high spot on the bottom.

The video would reveal, however, that many of those were kings actually gabbing and releasing the spinner in the blink of an eye. Regardless of hook type, we rarely stuck those fish.

So anyway, the bottom line is I was impressed with the way the single-rigged spinners held onto salmon.

Again, most were pinned right in the corner of the jaw—just where you want them if boxing your fish is the goal. Since we were doing quite a bit of catch and release too, that spot in the jaw (combined with the fact we were dealing with one hook instead of three) made for quick and easy releases. You rarely stick anything vital like a gill arch with the single as well.


Since we’re on the subject of salmon trolling here, let’s talk spreaders. There seems to be quite a bit of confusion and debate over whether or not you need one. I’ve trolled literally thousands of miles over the years without a spreader—instead using a barrel swivel, some beads and a sliding swivel that my dropper attaches to. Sure, you get some tangles but it never seemed to be all that big of a deal.

salmon trolling spreader

Well, a couple seasons back, I went to spreaders again for some reason and that lasted about two days. They were big, long armed affairs that would bend easily and then start tangling. I ditched them quickly and went back to my usual setup.

Then I stumbled upon the Half-Fast Free-Slide by Poulsen Cascade Tackle, recently and gave it a try. It’s a unique take on spreaders—your main line slides through a rigid tube (which doubles as the horizontal arm of the spreader) and ties off to a bead chain swivel. The bead chain locks into notches in downstream end of the tube, which keeps the swivel stable and completely, in my experience, takes line twist out of the equation. Attached to the forward end of the tube is a downward facing wire arm to which your dropper line is tied.

On paper, it sounds complicated but it’s really not. The Free-Slide is pretty slick and easy to rig and because the whole spreader slides on the line, you reduce the chances of losing a fish at the net if the sinker gets tangled in the mesh. Pretty cool!

- written by JD Richey

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