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Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 13, 2012
Have you ever noticed that the simplest lures and presentations are often the best? Lures that are painstakingly created to exactly match the forage gamefish feed on are often, indeed almost always upstaged by simple impressionistic offerings.
In terms of simplistic lures there are few that are simpler than the hoochie. For folks that aren’t familiar with them, hoochie are nothing more than hollow plastic “squid”, basically a plastic skirt that can be slipped on a leader, rear hook of a lure or even on a jig head.
Hoochies in the 4 to 6 inch range first stormed onto the West Coast fishing scene as lures used for ocean salmon trolling. Commercial salmon anglers in particular embraced hoochies because they found them nearly as effective as anchovies and herring, but much simpler and faster to rig than baitfish.
These days hoochies remain an important tool for ocean salmon anglers, but relatively recently anglers that target trout, kings, kokanee and coho salmon residing in lakes, discovered how deadly small hoochies in the 1.5 to 2 inch size range can be.
If you are a trout or landlocked salmon angler that has yet to try trolling with hoochies, it’s time for you to get started. Not only will hoochies help you catch more fish, but they also help you save money since they are significantly cheaper than a lot of other offerings.
I would say that one of the things that really appeals to me about hoochies beyond the fact that they catch fish and don’t cost an arm and a leg is the versatility they offer. There are a bunch of different ways to rig them depending on whether you are fishing them alone or teaming them with another lure or natural bait. Fished alone they closely match the shape and action of a small baitfish.
Teamed with baits and lures they add a dimension that few fish have seen and when you show fish something they haven’t seen your chances of getting hit rise dramatically. Let’s take a look at some of these rigging options and how you can use hoochies to the best advantage.
For starters there are three kinds of hoochies you’ll find on the market. These include loose unrigged hoochies, rigged hoochies and wiggle hoochies.
Wiggle hoochies come pre-rigged with a long leader and a pair of hooks and are fitted with a special clear plastic lip that make them wiggle pretty much the way a crankbait does.
Rigged hoochies come out of the package rigged with a fairly long leader and a pair of hooks. Some companies offer plain pre-rigged hoochies, while other companies offer hoochies that are downright fancy with added tinsel and flashabou.
As you probably are guessing I use all three types, but most often develop my own rigs using loose unrigged hoochies. For basic trout, king or kokanee fishing I rig a hoochie like this. I take a piece of 12 pound fluorocarbon leader material that is about 20 inches long and snell a pair of No. 6 or 8 octopus hooks on the end of it, such that they are from 1 to 1.25 inches apart and facing in different directions. Next I slide on a pair of 1/8 inch glow in the dark beads. With the beads in place I slide a hoochie on the leader with the skirted end facing toward the hooks. I slide the hoochie down to the beads and hooks and work the beads inside the hoochie’s body.
Hoochies, with the exception of wiggle hoochie, have no built in action. So whether you are using a hoochie you’ve rigged yourself or one that came out of a packager pre-rigged, you’ll have to use a dodger to give the lures some action.
As a general rule you’ll want the hoochie to be 2.5 to 3 dodger lengths behind the rear of the blade. If you are using a 4 inch dodger that means you’ll want your hoochie from 10 to 12 inches back. Rigged this way the dodger will give the hoochie a very seductive pulsing speed up and slow down motion.
When I’m rigging hoochies for targeting king salmon and kokanee sometimes I want a little extra attraction such as when the fish are holding in deep water so I’ll team my hoochies with E-Chips. I accomplish this by sliding an E-Chip on my leader instead of the beads. I smear a little BioEdge fish scent on the E-Chip to act as lubricant and then push it into the body of the hoochie. As the hoochie dips and darts behind the dodger the E-Chip puts out a steady stream of fish attracting electric pulses.
When I’m fishing for kokanee I naturally tip my hooks with corn. When coho or kings are on the menu I like to tip my hooks with little pieces of anchovy, herring or shad. I think the taste of real meat really encourages the salmon to get the lure well back into their mouths, resulting in better hookups and more fish landed.
I spend a lot of time rolling baitfish and pulling threaded worms when I’m trolling and I regularly use hoochies to enhance both of these presentations. The next time you rig a shad or anchovy for rolling or thread a worm slide a hoochie down the leader after the bait is rigged. You want the hoochie draped over the end of the bait. Teaming hoochies with natural baits is a real winner, but few freshwater anglers are doing it. Saltwater anglers have long known how effective this tactic is for species as diverse as salmon, halibut and even marlin.
Hoochies are a natural choice for spicing up spoons and crankbaits. With spoons simply slip a hoochie over the back hook. You’ll need to use a fairly large spoon so that the hoochie doesn’t ruin the action, but when you get the right combination the look is very seductive.
To apply a hoochie to the rear of a crankbait you’ll need to work a little harder. Using a slit ring pliers remove the rear treble from the bait, slip a hoochie over the hook and then put the hook back on the bait. If you do this I guarantee that your Rapalas will stand apart from the Rapalas being pulled by everyone else you know.
I’ve got a lot more to say and little space, so let’s move on to the wiggle hoochie. The wiggle hoochie looks goofy and honestly I avoided using them for a long time, but I’ve got to admit that they are a deadly trout lure. I’ve caught dozens of hefty rainbows on them and I’ve watched Fish Sniffer Publisher Paul Kneeland catch dozens more.
We run our wiggle hoochies without the addition of dodgers and they work great. At time I’ll put wiggle hoochies on a 36 inch leader and slide them down a deep downrigger line as a dropper. While fishing for kokanee at Don Pedro, I had to stop using my wiggle hoochie dropper because I was catching so many rainbows that I wasn’t able to keep my kokanee lure in the strike zone for any length of time.
What about hoochie color? For trout and kokanee I usually go with bright pink or orange hoochies. For kings and coho I start out with baitfish colors. Hoochies are so economical and come in such a diverse range of colors, it doesn’t make sense not to have a wide range of colors represented in you tackle collection. Sometimes the fish want natural colors and at other times those crazy bright combination colors are deadly. Don’t forget a selection of UV and glow models too…
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