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Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 13, 2012
Well, actually you can catch quite a few trout on soft plastics, but a large percentage of trout anglers have yet to embrace them. That’s a mistake, since soft plastics are one of the most effective, versatile and inexpensive offerings available to today’s trout troller.
Now lest you get the wrong idea, I’m not talking about trolling with a 6-inch Mann’s Jelly Worm in the Electric Grape color. Heck I don’t even think black bass guys still use those…
I’m talking about small soft plastics that are geared toward trout size gamefish. There are a lot of small hand poured or commercially manufactured soft plastics on the market these days that will draw strikes from trout when trolled, but for our purposes, we’ll be discussing how rig and fish three different baits, Matrix Paddle Tails, Sep’s and Berkley Grubs and hoochies.
As most avid trollers know, rolling shad is one of the best ways to catch big trout and landlocked kings, yet shad can be tough to obtain, store and rig and they are not legal to use at many of our lakes.
The Matrix Paddletail is the Shasta Tackle Company’s answer to rolled shad. Paddletails are about 3 inches long, exceptionally soft and closely resemble a shad minnow. They come in a variety of baitfish imitating colors and every color features a piece of holographic tape imbedded in the body that gives of a realistic minnow like flash.
Paddletails can be rigged in many different ways, in fact at this point I don’t think all the possible rigging methods have been explored. My preferred method is to snell two No. 8 octopus hooks on a section 8-pound test fluorocarbon leader material. The top hook is inserted through the Paddletail’s nose from bottom to top. The second hook is allowed to swing free.
When trolled, the water pressure keeps the hook near the tail of the bait. I like to snell my hooks so that the rear hook actually rides from a quarter to a half inch behind the bait. I find that a lot of trout and kings will come in and gently nip at the bait’s tail. When they try that with the hook riding behind the bait’s tail, the hook ends up imbedded in the cartilage in the top of the fish’s mouth.
For the other rigging method I use, you’ll need a bait needle with a closed eye. To start, attach a No. 10 treble hook to the end of a piece of 8-pound fluorocarbon using a Palomar knot. Insert the bait needle where the tail of the bait joins the body. Push the needle through the bait and pop the tip out just below the bait’s eye. Put the leader through the needle and pull it through the body. What you end up with is a bait sporting a treble hook in its tail that moves through the water with a very tight spin.
This year Gary Miralles came up with yet another way to make a Paddletial spin. Gary takes a fine piece of copper tubing that is the same length as a Paddletail and shoves it through the bait from head to tail. He then inserts a hook tipped leader through the tube. The soft copper tube bends easily, allowing you to make the bait roll slowly for salmon or spin quickly for trout.
No matter how you rig your Paddletails, for the best results you’ll want to team them with a dodger.
I like to use Paddletails in lakes that feature a strong threadfin shad population. In lakes where the trout make their living by feeding on a mixture of bugs and chubs I spend a lot of time trolling grubs from Sep’s and Berkley. I favor grubs that are 1 to 3 inches long. I carry grubs in both natural and bright colors.
Rigging grubs is super simple. Take a piece of 8 pound test fluorocarbon leader material and tip it with a No. 6 or 8 bait holder or mosquito hook. Insert the tip of the hook into the tip of the grub and then slide the grub over the bend of the hook and pop the hook point out near where the grub’s tail attaches to the body. When you are finished the grub should be straight on the hook shank.
I prefer to fish my grubs without dodgers or flashers for a super natural presentation. No matter how straight you get the grub on the hook it’s going to spin as you troll it. For this reason you’ll want to link the leader to your main line via a bead chain trolling swivel to prevent line twist.
When trolling grubs, you’ll get the most action when trolling from 1 to 1.5 miles per hour.
In lakes such as Folsom where the trout and salmon feed heavily on slim profile baitfish such as Japanese pond smelt, I rely heavily on hoochies in a variety of baitfish imitating colors.
For the uninitiated, hoochies are nothing more than soft plastic imitation squid that first burst onto the fishing scene as a go to bait used by commercial ocean salmon anglers. These days scaled down trout size hoochies have taken the freshwater trout and salmon trolling scene by storm.
It seems that everyone has there own method of rigging hoochies, here’s mine….Snell a pair of No. 8 octopus hooks about a 1/2 inch apart on a section of 8 or 10 pound fluorocarbon leader. Next slide a pair of 1/8 inch glow in the dark beads onto the leader. Finally, thread the leader through the tip of the hooch and slide the bait down the leader. Work the beads into the hoochie to fill out the body and you are left with a minnow shaped bait trailing a pair of hooks that puts off a subtle glow in deepwater.
Hoochies don’t have any action, so it is essential to fish them in combination with a dodger.
If you’ve never tried them, pick up some soft Paddletails, grubs and hoochies the next time you visit the tackle shop. These baits are highly effective, simple to rig and easy on the wallet. What more could an angler want?
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