By Cal Kellogg
I was going through my tackle assortment the other day, getting everything dialed in for fall trout fishing. That’s when a thought struck me, some of my favorite trout and landlocked salmon offerings are made of plastic. So, I figured why not devote this week’s how to column to a discussion of some of my favorite hard and soft plastic trout and salmon offerings!
Apex Lures are manufactured by the HotShot Company. HotShot is a top manufacturer of ocean salmon fishing gear and the original generation of Apex Lures were designed for ocean kings. These large Apex Lures ranging up to 6 ¼ inches remain a favorite of ocean salmon trollers from California to Alaska and throughout the Great Lakes.
With large Apex Lures slaying ocean salmon, it’s not surprising that a member of the HotShot brain trust came up with the idea of offering smaller Apex Lures designed for trout and landlocked salmon. The end result of this thinking is the Apex Trout Killer Series and the Apex Kokanee Special Series.
Truth be told, I’ve caught trout on Kokanee Specials and I’ve caught kokanee and kings on Trout Specials. Over time I’ve concluded that the hooking arrangement on the Kokanee Special is better overall then the set up on the Trout Killer, so in the end all of my trout and kokanee Apex Lures end up rigged the same way with a one basic difference.
When kokanee are the target I go with a pair of either Gamakatsu or Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp No. 8 octopus hooks. I use red hooks if I have them, but black nickel works just as well for me.
When I’m looking for trout or kings I employ a No. 6 octopus nearest the lure and put a No. 8 hook behind it. When I’m trolling Apex Lures for trout and kings I’m really targeting fish in the 3-pound class or larger. When I’m successful in drawing strikes from these larger fish, knowing that a No. 6 hook is embedded in the jaw of the battler gives me confidence!
Leader size and tipping are a couple issues we should focus on for a moment. Some guys get a new Apex and run in right out of the package and don’t re-rig until the leader gets frayed. Other guys re-rig right away. I’m in the re-rig right away club. For kokanee, I like a 10-pound test fluorocarbon leader. When I’m aiming for trout and kings I go with 12-pound fluorocarbon. Again, when I’m pulling Apex Lures, I’m thinking big fish and I want a leader that is up to the challenge.
When I refer to tipping, I’m referring to tipping the lures hooks with strike triggering bait. For kokanee shoe peg corn or Pautzke Fire Corn is the way to go. All you want is a single kernel on the rear hook.
For trout, I rarely tip at all, but if I do, I’ll use a tiny bit of worm. For kings, you’ll benefit by tipping the rear hook of your Apex with a tiny sliver of anchovy fillet that has been cured in Pautzke Fire Brine.
And what about lure color? For most light conditions or depths Kokanee Specials in Hot Pink, Flame Orange or Kokanee Red produce well. These finishes have high fluorescence on their backs for bright light conditions, while the bellies are glow in the dark for low light conditions or deep water fishing.
For bright days when the fish are in the top 15 feet of the water column the Flame Sparkle finish is good since it has high fluorescence on both sides with added sparkle.
When the day is overcast and the fish are holding in water that is 60 feet deep or less Chartreuse or Chrome FishScale are proven producers.
For trout and kings, I like to stick with standard baitfish colors to start with and then I’ll go brighter if the fish don’t respond. If I had to run only one color Apex I’m tempted to say it would be watermelon, because that finish is so deadly on trout, kings and ‘kokes, but a few years ago I stumbled on a pattern that is even more effective…It’s the clear/UV finish from the Kokanee Special lineup. It’s a clear piece of plastic! I have no idea why the fish respond to it so well, but they do. Trout, kings, coho, kokanee, spotted bass…everything loves my clear Apex!
Curly Tail Grubs
There are few if any species of gamefish that you can’t catch curly tail plastic grubs. Trout love them and landlocked kings will grab them with zeal.
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 terms of color I run the entire array from earth tones, to baitfish colors and at times bright pinks and oranges. The tried and true orange tail, brown body Berkley Power grubs have become a standby for me and it seems like I catch trout on them just about everywhere my travels take me.
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 their 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.
At times, I’ll ditch the double octopus hooks in favor of a treble. Honestly, I have not noticed a real difference in the lures ability to hook and hold trout and salmon.
Hoochies don’t have any action, so it is essential to fish them in combination with a dodger.
There are guys that swear by bright colored hoochies and they do work well, however for me hoochies are a baitfish imitation when I’m hunting for rainbows and kings. Therefore, I like to run with white, UV clear and dark over light color patterns. If it looks like a baitfish and moves like a baitfish, it’s going to get smacked by any trout or salmon lurking near shad or pond smelt!