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Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 13, 2012
It’s that time of the year…Well to be truthful I’m a few weeks late, but who’s counting. I’m here at my kitchen table with my big canvas trout and landlocked salmon tackle box setting beside me. It’s the tackle I reach for when trolling foothill and mountain lakes from my Willie Predator is on the menu. I’m about to kick off my spring and summer trolling season and it’s time for some spring cleaning….
Just as I got started, a thought hit me…this might make for an interesting article. After all anglers love talking tackle and we are always curious about what other guys are carrying. Now before we even get started some of the folks out there are going to think that I pack a bunch of stuff with me, but that’s not really the case, or at least it’s relative.
In my view, my trolling tackle collection is moderately-sized. In fact, over the past few years I’ve really made an effort to cut down the amount of gear I carry. My goal, a goal that I’ll never fully achieve, is only to carry with me the tackle that WORKS and that I USE. At this point, there are a lot of good lures that I don’t use and there is some stuff in my box that I’ve never caught a fish with!
The pockets that line the outside of my tackle box are filled with miscellaneous tools that I can’t fish without. This is where I store items such as downrigger releases, pliers, sunscreen, worm threaders and leader material. This is all essential stuff, but not very exciting to talk about. Inside the big internal compartment is where we’ll find the good stuff…the red meat!
In that big compartment there are six plastic compartment boxes. Two of them are large and they reside in the bottom, the next box is medium sized and the final three are fairly small measuring about 4 x 8 inches.
The first two boxes from the top contain soft plastic baits. 15 years ago you wouldn’t have found any of these baits in any anglers tackle box, but they’ve really come on strong recently. The top box is half filled with hoochies in a myriad of colors. The other half of the box is occupied by Shasta Tackle Matrix Paddletails. I carry Paddletails in three minnow imitating colors, blue over clear, black over clear and pearl.
The next box is stuffed full of plastic 1.5 to 3 inch plastic grubs. I carry both Sep’s Scented Grubs and Berkley Power Grubs. In Sep’s Grubs I carry watermelon (most effective grub I’ve ever used) pearl and orange colored baits. My Power Grub collection consists of smoke, olive, motor oil root beer and orange/brown colored baits.
The third box from the top is where I keep all my terminal gear. In it you’ll find bait holder hooks in sizes 6 through 10, octopus hooks in size 8 through 12, and a few dozen small bronze treble hooks that I use when rolling shad or anchovies. In addition to hooks the box also holds swivels, bead chain trolling swivels, snaps, split shot, bullet weights, beads and slip bobber stops.
This brings us to the medium size box and this is where the fun really begins and for me the memories start to flow. The medium size box is where I keep my spoons and standard spinners…hundreds of them.
I’ve got the dividers arranged so that the box has a dozen different compartments. The two compartments on the upper right side are where I keep my Cripplures. The first compartment is reserved for metallic finish Cripplures in combinations like chrome/blue, green and silver and brass/red and orange. The other group of Cripplures are painted baits in shad, glow shad, rainbow trout, frog and orange head glow. Cripplures are my go-to trout spoon when the presentation has to be slow. I run these spoons from 1 to 2 miles per hour. Sometimes I team them with a dodger, but much of the time I run them alone.
Below the Cripplures there are two compartments filled with a variety of spinners from Blue Fox Luhr Jensen, Mepps and Panther Martin. These spinners don’t get as much use as my spoons do, yet there have been plenty of times when the only thing I could get the trout to bite was a Panther Martin or a Roostertail.
One of my favorite tricks with spoons is to seek out areas of inflowing water during the spring and then position the boat so that I can thoroughly work the current while casting and retrieving a spinner. There is typically an abrupt color change near the inflowing water and I find that the vibrations put off by a spinner really excites the trout and helps them zero in on the bait.
The middle four compartments of the box are where you’ll find the meat and potatoes of my trout and kokanee lures. The top compartment is full of Hum Dingers in a myriad of different color combinations. The Hum Dinger is a lure that you can troll between 2 and 3 miles per hour and they do a great job of imitation a fleeing baitfish. I almost always rig my Hum Dingers 20 to 40 inches behind a dodger to give the impression of a trout chasing a baitfish.
Directly below the Hum Dingers there are three compartments that hold dozens of Excel Spoons. The upper compartment is full of large Excels while the lower two compartments are stuffed with small Excels.
Excel Lures are terrific baitfish imitations that are equally as deadly for targeting trout, kokanee or land locked kings. If I could only carry two Excels I would go with a shad pattern and the rainbow trout pattern for trout and kings. If the target was ‘kokes models in orange and pink would be the ones I’d reach for.
The remaining four compartments are where I keep my old school favorites. Lures that I have been using to tempt trout for at least two decades. The top spot is filled with Triple Teazers and small Kastmasters is both chrome and gold finishes.
The next compartment holds three dozen Sep’s Pro Secrets in all the colors Sep’s offers. Pink is my favorite when I go after kokanee, but rainbow trout or watermelon are my top choices for trout and kings.
Generally the speed and depth I’m fishing determines when I tie on a Pro Secret. I like them best when trolling from 1 to 1.5 miles per hour in water that is 25 feet deep or less. Over the years I’ve literally caught hundreds of rainbows while shallow trolling watermelon Pro Secrets on sunny spring or fall days.
The final two compartments are full of large and small Needlefish. They’ve been the standard trout and salmon spoon for decades, so it should be no surprise that I’ve got a bunch of them in a vast array of colors. There isn’t much that I can say about Needlefish that hasn’t already been said. Shallow or deep all season long, Needlefish consistently produce trout, ‘kokes and kings.
While my spoon and spinner box produces the lion’s share of the trout and salmon that I catch throughout the season, it isn’t my favorite box of lures. My favorite lures, plugs and crankbaits, are housed in the next box we’ll sort through.
My plug box is large. It contains many Rapala floating minnows in rainbow trout, silver/black, gold/black and fire tiger. My floaters range from 1.5 to 6 inches in size, with the 2 and 3-inch models being my favorites for most occasions.
In addition to the famous Rapala floaters, I’ve also got several Husky Jerks ranging from 3 to 5.5 inches. These suspending baits have the same great action as the floaters, but they work deeper and incorporate internal rattles.
While I have a lot of Rapalas, they are actually outnumbered by my Yo-Zuri minnow plugs. I carry Pin’s Minnows and a variety of 2 to 4 inch rip baits in an array of minnow imitating colors.
An assortment of Kazi Minnows and Flee Bitty Crankbaits from Shasta Tackle round out my plug box.
In general, plugs won’t produce as many trout and kings over the course of the season that spoons will, but the fish you hook on plugs are typically larger. One of the keys to effectively fishing plugs is to run them quickly from 2.5 to 5 miles per hour, depending on the situation and depth.
This brings us to the final and likely the most expensive to replace box. This is the box where I store all my dodgers, leader rigged spinners and Koke-A-Nuts.
I only carry dodgers from two manufacturers, Shasta Tackle and Sep’s. I prefer to troll fairly quickly, only slowing down if I have to. Sling Blades are the only dodgers I’ve found that don’t spin when trolled at 2 or 3 miles per hour. My Sling Blade collection boasts dodgers in every size available in a broad range of metallic, glow and U.V. finishes.
When I don’t have a Sling Blade on my line, you’ll usually find either a Sep’s 4/0 dodger or a Sep’s Side Kick in its place. Sep’s 4/0’s are the dodgers I use a great deal when trolling for kokanee, while I employ the Side Kicks mainly when trolling for trout. A sidekick trailing a threaded worm, trolling fly or grub produces a lot of rainbows for me over the course of the season.
In terms of leader rigged spinners I carry spinners from Uncle Larry’s, Mack’s Lures Wedding Rings and Shasta Tackle Scorpions. Tipped with corm or a piece of worm, such spinners can be devastatingly effective on both trout and kokanee.
Now we come to the Koke-A-Nuts. Look at a Koke-A-Nut in the package with it’s plastic corn kernel and crazy looking flashabou body and you’ll swear that any fish that would grab such a lure must be nuts. Yet when teamed with a Sling Blade and trolled at 2 to 3.5 miles per hour the Koke-A-Nut transforms into one of the most effective minnow imitations you can use.
Well there you have it, that’s my trolling tackle in a nutshell. Throw in some small shad for rolling and box of night crawlers and I’ve got the tools I need to successfully troll any lake in the state, for trout, kokanee or landlocked kings.
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