It’s A Matter Of Balance
Written By: Steve ‘Hippo’ Lau, August 29, 2013 Species: Saltwater Salmon,
No doubt this has been a very good year for salmon fishermen. After the last few dismal years (including two years where no salmon fishing has been allowed), this has got to be put into history as one of the better salmon years. For a while, salmon limits were a foregone conclusion, and the fish were big and chunky.
While trolling really took off this year, mooching (controlled drifting) finally got its licks in for a good number of fish. Mooching gained popularity a few decades ago when word came from the Monterey area that salmon could be caught by some technique other than trolling.
Trolling around these here parts cannot be confused with any finesse type of techniques. Dragging around a 2.5 pound lead ball and using tackle capable of handling that heavy weight can be productive, but come on ... using tackle that could substitute for striped marlin tackle while fishing in Baja to catch eight to 25 pound fishing is not exactly sporting. I have long held the opinion that if salmon weren't so good eating, few people would want to pursue these critters with such equipment.
Mooching, however, changed all that. Instead of a heavy boat rod, the ideal salmon rod was more likened to a river salmon or heavy steelhead rod. Instead of a medium sized ocean reel capable of handling 250 - 350 yards of 25 pound line, smaller reels with a capacity for 150 - 200 yards of 15 pound line came into play. Instead of massive cannonball sinkers, weights that average four to eight ounces are more commonly used.
It is easy to see that much light tackle can be employed to catch salmon once the switch was made from trolling to drifting. The classic equation of "lighter tackle = more fun" is truly demonstrated in this case.
This is not to say that party boat skippers don't enjoy the difference as well. When for most of the day you are drifting instead of running the big engines, you save a lot on fuel, and at the present prices, this bodes well for the bottom line.
Traditionally, the bait is "laced" onto the leader. A typical leader is a strand of 15 – 20 pound test nylon mono or fluorocarbon, six or seven feet long, with a loop on one end and a hook on the other. To bait up, the loop is attached to the bait needle, a long, thin metal needle seven to nine inches in length. The needle is inserted into a bait's eye socket, run down the backbone, and emerges about 3/4" from the tail.
The leader is then pulled through the bait until the hook butts up against the eye socket. Typically, a small 3/8" dental rubber band is used to hold the hook against the head and also keeps the mouth of the bait shut. A couple of half hitches secures the bait to the leader. The leader is connected to the main line via a snap swivel, the snap swivel also serving the purpose of holding back a sinker slyder with the weight attached.
This has been the leader set up of choice for decades now and has been very, very effective in catching tons of salmon. The hook used has changed a lot over the years, and has been a result of Fish & Game messing with us fishermen (my opinion, and please don't email me about this). This has been a very contentious point (no pun intended) with tackle shops and hook and leader manufacturers because with no idea where and when the Fish & Game will change the definition of a legal hook, shops are reluctant to stock up on any particular hook or rig for fear of being stuck with merchandise that won't sell and can't be used for other purposes.
Originally, any single point hook was legal, but most of the time the octopus style hook was utilized. Next, it had to be a barbless hook, Then it had to be a 5/0 or larger barbless hook.
Then, when it was pointed out to Fish & Game that there is no industry standard as to what a 5/0 size was, 5/0 hook was changed to one having a 3/4" gap. Then it was changed to a barbless circle hook. Finally, it was changed again to a barbless circle hook that does not have a kirbed o reversed bend to it (meaning it has to lay flat). That is, let's see, three .. four ... five ... SIX changes to the hook regulations over the years. No wonder it is so confusion.
Anyway, as to a matter of balance. Many years ago, the good folks over at Daiwa Corporation wanted to build a rod that was suited for salmon mooching and so couple of the fellas boarded a local party boat for some on the water research. Instead of lacing the hook through the bait like everyone else, they did a curious thing.
They took an anchovy, balanced it on a finger, then proceeded to hook the bait on that balance point (kind of like the "wacky style" of hooking up a rubber Senko worm for freshwater bass). A small rubber band over the head helped to keep the mouth shut. They then proceeded to whack the snot out of those salmon.
I can't remember if I ever wrote about this unusual method of baiting up for mooching salmon, but I think that it would be worth a try the next time you go out drifting the briny deep.