Salmon anglers on rivers large and small love fishing with plugs! I use the back trolling and anchor fishing plug techniques out of my drift boat all season long. My personal favorites are the Luhr Jensen Kwikfish and Yakima Baits Maglip plugs. Although fishing with plugs can be fairly straightforward, I have a few key rigging tips to share with you to increase your success.
Plug Hook Rigging
Every diehard plug fisher has their favorite way to rig hooks. Most plugs come factory rigged with split rings and treble hooks. However, some rivers have restrictions that require single point hooks. Another caveat is that some anglers like to run their hooks on a swivel, which gives a salmon less leverage to throw the hook as they roll and spin during the battle. The image below shows a few hook rigging options.
- Maglip and Kwikfish Extreme Plugs have anchored eyes. If you want to run a swivel, attach it with a split ring (right image).
- Original Kwikfish Plugs have an eye that can be opened up with heavy pliers to attach a swivel directly (center image).
Sardine Wrapping Kwikfish and Maglips
Wrapping the underside of your plugs with a Sardine fillet will add an enticing natural scent and slow down the action of the plug. Some of the best fishing guides on the West Coast also wrap their plugs with alternative baits, such as Herring, Anchovy or Sand Shrimp.
How to cut sardine fillets
To get your wraps ready, fillet the Sardine. You will find some large Sardines produce ultra thick fillets, and may be too meaty for the smaller Kwikfish K13, K14 and Maglip 3.5. In this case, try and make a thinner fillet.
Use your scissors to cut a rectangle out of the fillet. Length should be about one quarter to one third the length of the plug. Width should be a little narrower than the plug width. Then cut a slit down the middle so you can center the Sardine around the underbelly plug hook. The more symmetrical that you cut your Sardine, the easier it will be to tune your plug so that it dives and swims true.
How to wrap your Kwikfish with Sardine
First, take your stretchy bait wrapping thread and start wrapping it around the plug. Now you can wrap the thread over itself multiple times to anchor it to the plug. As you wrap, keep it as tight as you can without breaking it.
Second, center the Sardine fillet around the belly eye. Then wrap it securely to the plug. The more wraps the better! Remember, the more centered you can get it, the less you will need to tune and adjust the plug to run true and dive correctly.
Third, once the wrap is completely secured, take the bait thread and make multiple overhand knots to finish the tie. Cut the excess and then you should be ready to tune.
Now you have a beautiful and juicy wrap on your favorite plug. Time to tune it and go fishing!
Tuning Kwikfish and Maglips to run true
Tuning plugs is a crucial step, regardless of whether you use a wrap on it or not. What is this and why is it important? When you snap your plug to the end of your line and put it in the water, one of four things is going to happen…
- Good: The plug is going to wiggle and dive straight down in the current. Let’s go fishing.
- Adjustment needed: The plug is going to wiggle and dive to the left in the current. Twist eye slightly to right to correct.
- Adjustment needed: The plug is going to wiggle and dive to the right in the current. Twist eye slightly to left to correct.
- Bad: The plug isn’t going to dive at all. Time to figure out why.
The picture above shows how the eye of most plugs can be twisted to adjust the direction that the plug dives. Far left shows a straight eye, as you would see on plugs new in the package. Center shows an eye twisted to the right. The right image shows an eye twisted to the left. If you plug is diving to one side, you can twist the eye to steer it to the direction you want it to go. Start by making a very small adjustment and retest the plug to see how it reacts. If your plug won’t even dive, then it usually means that your wrap is severely off center and you need to assess that. Sometimes you can push it with your thumb to center it, sometimes you need to rewrap.
Luhr Jensen came out with the Kwikfish Extreme a couple years ago and it does not have an eye that can be twisted for tuning. I fish them fairly regularly and they do reliably run true even when wrapped.
Kwikfish and Maglip Plug Fishing Tips
- Always prepare a few wrapped Kwikfish prior to leaving the launch; wrapping plugs can be a very time consuming task so having a few ready to go will ensure that you will get right to fishing.
- Use any downtime (trolling, waiting on anchor) to wrap a few extra plugs, then you will have a few replacements ready to go.
- Sardines make the perfect plug wrap because they are extremely oily and they slowly leach out scent, but after a while a sardine wrap washes out and will lose its potency. Many seasoned Kwikfish enthusiasts will only fish a wrap for a while before replacing it. I’ve had some very good anglers say that 45 minutes is the maximum that a wrap is effective, some of the most experienced guides I fish with have told me as little as 20 minutes is all you get out of a wrap. Replace wrapped plugs often.
- It doesn’t matter how the underside of a Kwikfish is painted if it is going to be covered with a drab Sardine fillet, but using bait dyes to color up sardine fillets is a great way to add extra color to your Kwikfish.
- Keep all pre-cut Sardine wraps and pre-wrapped Kwikfish in a cooler out of the sun.
- Scrub and wash all plugs at the end of your day. Clean plugs catch more salmon!