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Shasta Tackle: It’s Not Just Gear, It’s A System Of Fishing
By Cal Kellogg
Several years ago I met Gary Miralles of the Shasta Tackle Company and a great friendship quickly developed. Gary’s name is a prominent one among West Coast trout fishing aficionados. Gary is a life long trout angler that began designing lures during his teenage years. In 1988 Gary’s hobby became his vocation. That year he founded the Shasta Tackle Company and started manufacturing trout tackle on a full time basis. These day’s Gary’s innovative gear holds a number of patents and he has risen through the ranks to become one of the west’s most respected trout and land locked salmon guides.
My interactions with Gary have had a profound impact on the way I approach trolling. I now view trolling as a systematic strategy that allows me to quickly gage the temperament and activity level of the trout. When Gary heads out for a day on the water the first thing he does is access what type of forage is available to the trout. At most foothill reservoirs the primary forage is open water baitfish in the form of threadfin shad or Japanese pond smelt. At higher elevation lakes chubs and aquatic insects are often the primary foods of the trout. At certain times when the conditions are right trout will feed heavily on small freshwater shrimp, while ignoring both baitfish and insects.
Once you’ve got an idea of what the trout at a given lake are feeding on this information should dictate the size and color of the lures you employ. Obviously, when the trout are feeding on baitfish it is important to match the size and shape of the lure to the available bait, but what about color? Color selection is one of the areas where Gary and I disagree to some extent. When it comes to imitating baitfish, Gary is of the opinion that you should vary the color of your baitfish imitating lures based on depth and the color spectrum. “When choosing lure colors consider the rainbow. Red is the top color followed by orange, yellow, green, blue and finally purple. Near the top of the water column reds and oranges are highly visible. As you descend in depth yellows and greens stand out well. In deep water, blue and purple patterns are the most vivid colors,” Gary asserts.
I advocate a match the hatch philosophy in terms of imitating baitfish regardless of the depth. While matching the silvers, greens and blues that baitfish exhibit is important, imitating the dark and light contrasts they exhibit is equally important. Baitfish are dark above and light below this is a color scheme that trout are accustomed to seeing and I believe lures that match this contrast trigger more strikes. Since trout feed on baitfish and baitfish don’t change colors as they move into deeper water I don’t vary lure color much as I drop down in the water column. Chrome/blue, blue/white, black/white and purple/chrome are among my favorite lure color combinations for imitating shad and pond smelt.
In situations where the trout are feeding on shrimp, plankton, aquatic insects or chubs, you’re not in a position to match the hatch with trolled lures. In these instances, you’ve got to change your focus from matching the forage of the trout, to presenting them with an offering that will trigger a reaction strike, either out of curiosity or aggression. Gary and I agree that this is best accomplished by using brightly colored highly visible lures. Red, orange, chartreuse, hot pink and firetiger are colors that really shine for triggering reaction bites. These same colors are good when dealing with stained murky water or when fishing during periods of low light.
One of the things that distinguishes Gary from a lot of other trollers is that he prefers to troll quickly, only slowing down when he has to. This philosophy is reflected in two of Gary’s marquee lures, the Hum Dinger and the Cripplure and his signature Sling Blade Dodgers that can be trolled at much higher speeds then traditional herring style dodgers.
Gary’s thought is that when you head out onto the lake you are going to either be confronted with active or inactive trout. Active trout are typically feeding fish that are willing to chase a lure. Inactive trout are not in a feeding mode and in order to draw strikes from them you’ve got to present them with a lure that moves erratically and stays in the strike zone as long as possible.
The Hum Dinger is a slim profile spoon that are best trolled at a brisk pace from 2 to 2.5 miles per hour or even faster. Cripplures are bulkier lures that provide a lot of action and create a great deal of vibration when trolled slowly, say from .75 to 2.0 miles per hour.
When the going gets tough and it is time to slow down, the Cripplure is my all time favorite lure. It has a one of a kind erratic rolling action that milks strikes out of the most inactive trout. Gary has not been skunked for a long time, years in fact, and he attributes this amazing accomplishment largely to the effectiveness of the Cripplure.
A sound basic strategy when going out for a day on the water is to assume that the trout are actively feeding and begin covering various levels of the water column quickly with lures that work well at relatively high speeds. This is when Gary puts out a spread of Hum Dingers. Some of them are fished naked while others are teamed with Sling Blades.
If the fish are in an active state they will let you know it in short order. If you don’t get hit while moving quickly don’t get discouraged. The trout are simply telling you that they aren’t feeling too energetic. Start slowing down gradually, until you begin getting some action.
When it’s time to slow down, Gary puts out a spread of Cripplures. Generally you don’t need to run Cripplures with dodgers to get hits, but if you want to pair them with a Sling Blade go for it. If you find that you aren’t getting much action out of the blade a lower speeds, take the blade and bend a slight curve in it by apply pressure up and down the back of the blade with your thumbs. The more curve you put in the blade the more movement you’ll get at low speeds. When it’s time to troll fast again, simply straighten the blade out and go to work!
Shasta Tackle offers an extensive line of lures, blades and accessories for landlocked salmon, trout, ocean salmon, halibut and more. To check out Gary Miralles’s full line of innovative tackle visit the Shasta Tackle website at http://www.shastatackle.com. If you would like to speak to someone, you can call Shasta Tackle headquarters at (530) 275-2278.
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