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The Worst Kept "Secret" Salmon Rig by JD Richey

Originally featured in Tips of the Trade Aug/Sept. 2017

Salmon Trout Steelheader

THE WORST KEPT “SECRET” SALMON RIG

Unless you have been cryogenically frozen for the past several years, you have heard…no doubt…about the worst kept salmon fishing rig on the planet: The flasher and Brad’s Super/Cut Bait setup.

salmon fishing super bait flasher brads 360 chinook spinner

Once a very hush-hush type of deal, the rig is now about as secret as the fact that steelhead like pink worms or that wrapping a sardine fillet on a Flatfish will help you catch more kings.

Some techniques are flashes in the pan—they get hot for awhile and then they are quickly forgotten.

I don’t think that’s the case with this one, however. The flasher/Brad’s technique is not a one hit wonder…it’s still gaining momentum—and legions of new fans—every season.

As I understand it, some enterprising trollers working the Columbia over on the East side—in the Tri-Cities and Hanford Reach areas got the ball rolling and quickly found that this combo is deadly effective on kings.

There’s nothing really new here—anglers have been trolling flashers and Super Cut Plugs since 2009. The bulk of that style of fishing took place in the salt, not 100 miles inland, however.

When word began leaking out that the upriver guys were hammering the fish on “ocean rigs,” the lower Columbia/Buoy 10 crowd started messing around with the same tackle and the technique spread quickly.

Now days, you will find anglers fishing this way from as far south as the Sacramento River to points north in Alaska and everywhere in between.

Let’s take a quick look at the rig.

The most popular flasher for this technique is the silver Pro Troll 11-inch Pro Chip model. This flasher features a small diagonal fin on its bottom end that helps “kick it over” at slow speeds.

In other words, the unit will rotate a full 360 degrees when dragged at minimal trolling speeds. Most flashers that are not equipped with that little plastic fin need to be towed more quickly to work properly. There are other brands that make similar models, but Pro Troll seems to have a very definitive corner on the market.

Trailing along behind the Pro Chip flasher is usually either a Brad’s Super Bait or Super Cut Plug. The Super Bait looks like a long skinny banana and has a tight spin when pulled through the water.

super cut plug brads rig trolling salmon

As the name would imply, the Super Cut Plug looks very much like a plastic version of a plug-cut herring, with the classic double 45-degree cut on the leading edge.

This lure also spins but it has a slower, wider and slightly more erratic action to it.

Both lures are perforated and hollow and feature a hinged body cavity. By removing the rubber band that holds the body together, you can open up the bait and fill it with scent. They come factory-rigged with insert sponges that can be soaked in your favorite bait oil—flavors like sardine, shrimp, crawdad and herring are popular.

Many anglers opt to remove the sponge and instead load the cavity with oil-packed tuna, sardine chunks, egg skeins or combinations thereof. Of course, the sky’s the limit here—add whatever you think will attract the fish. In many cases, trollers are combining scents with real bait to make even more potent potions.

Just be sure to slightly under-fill the body of the lure. Over-stuffing it and smashing it shut can cause the lure’s hinge to fail.

The Brad’s lures come in all sorts of fishy colors. Down in the lower sections of rivers, salmon anglers tend to go with the more “bait fishy” metallic patterns. In the upper reaches where the fish are holding, bright red, pink and chartreuse are all good colors. Every river system is different, however, so don't take that as the gospel—just simply a place to begin.

What’s really interesting about this whole setup is the fact that there are a bunch of different ways to rig it. From the leader and dropper lengths to the hook rigging, there are many ways to skin this cat and it seems that everyone has a slightly different take on it.

Just the lures themselves can be rigged up in a dizzying array of ways using combinations of swivels, plastic tubing and beads and either single or treble hooks (or combinations thereof).

I think I’d just confuse the heck out of you if I tried to explain these rigs so instead I suggest you log onto www.bsfishtales.com and click on the Tech Sheets tab at the top. That will get you to all sorts of good rigging info with diagrams.

I run the rig very much like the Brad’s folks suggest.

I start with 65-pound test main line and slide a sinker slider with a snap over the end. Next up the line goes a plastic bead and then I tie a duo-loc snap with a bead chain attached to it on the end. If you need to fish close to the bottom, you can run a 12- to 18-inch dropper off the snap on the slider and attach a cannon ball sinker to the other end of it. In most cases, however, the whole setup seems to work better when you forgo the dropper and simply attach the sinker directly to the slider snap. Sinker weights are determined by the speed and depth of the water but 6 to 16 ounces is the general rage.

Now, the flasher won’t have a lot of action when it’s got a sinker directly ahead of it, so you need to have a bumper leader between it and the weight to separate them a bit.

The most common bumper leader lengths range between 18 inches to 30 inches (use 50-pound test). You’ll have to experiment a bit to figure out what works best—just make sure that the bumper is longer than your dropper if you have one.

Finally, you have the leader that runs from the flasher to the lure.

Since everything spins with this rig, add another bead chain swivel to the snap on the bottom of the flasher. To the other end of that is where the 40-pound leader from the lure attaches.

Again, you can poll 100 anglers and get 102 different opinions on the best leader length. Keep in mind that one of the real keys to this whole program is that the flasher imparts extra action to the lure when you run it close enough behind.

 superbait cut plugs brads trolling salmon chinook coho

Troll these lures on their own and they look good in the water—but all they do is spin.

Add the flasher just ahead and then every time that big 11-inch slab of plastic twirls and flops, the bait speeds up and slows down and jerks and changes direction. I think that’s the real foundation to the effectiveness of this system. You have a good looking bait that smells good and then you add the thump and flash of the Pro Chip and you end up with a deadly combination. 

So, as far as leader length goes, two to three feet seems to be most common.

Some folks I know go a bit longer and I have also heard of people going even shorter than 24 inches. As a basic guideline, go longer if you feel like the fish are being a little shy and finicky and shorter when they are aggressive.

One of the chief complaints coming from anglers who use this rig is that there’s a lot of drag on the line caused by the big license plate-like flasher.

Well, companies are now selling break-away release devices that disengage the flasher when a fish is hooked. You don’t lose the flasher—these things just make it so that you don't have to fight the flasher and the fish at the same time. 

A quick note on trolling speed: I like to go just fast enough that the flasher rotates about every 1-2 seconds, which you can keep track of by watching the pulses of the rod rip. Generally, I try to go as slow as I can and still have the flasher rotating.

Good luck this summer and fall with this not-so-secret “secret” rig!

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  - Written by Outdoor Writer & Professional Fishing Guide JD Richey


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