Diver Trolling for Salmon

Safety on the Water ; For any type of fishing, water safety is the prime concern. Trolling speed for many fish needs to be within certain parameters. If you have a inboard or large outboard motor that is incapable of slowing down to a “fishable” speed, there alternatives that can be utilized IF you do not use a smaller trolling motor. There are a couple of brands of spring loaded trolling plates that attach to the cavitation plate of larger motors what place a large restriction right behind the prop. These can be lifted when underway with no restriction at that time.

It is recommended to NOT use a 5 gallon bucket on a line as “slow us down trolling bucket”. If the skipper is not attentive, the weather gets bad or things just happen, the line can get wrapped around the prop & the boat be in DEEP DO DO. This is not good if the boat happens to be in a situation where things get hairy in a hurry. Its amazing how fast things can go real bad real fast, and especially when there are a few mistakes being made along the way.

If you get the line around the prop you will have to pull the engine up and unwrap it, This is bad in that someone is hanging way out back with another person holding onto his feet, trying to do an untangle job and with the boat dead in the water. Been there, done that on having downrigger wire in the main motor’s prop. A calm day may not be bad, but these things always happen at the wrong time, tide running, wind blowing and drifting into a problem area. It has the makings of the transom becoming swamped by waves and the pucker factor for those aboard is magnified many times.

It is really recommended that if your main motor does not slow down enough for safety sake attach a trolling plate or to purchase a smaller trolling motor.

Divers ; These have been around in the same basic form as we have today since the mid to late 1960s. There are many different makes and styles, but the principle is to attach it to your mainline which then acts as a shovel, diving to what depth of line you let out being partly controlled by the speed you are traveling, taking into account for any current movement also. These use no additional sinker to achieve this depth, just the angle of the diver’s front edge. Your lure is attached to the rear so when a fish hits, that extra weight of the fish is supposed to trip the tail of the diver down allowing you to pull the fish in with no resistance from the diver.

The first one I can remember came out in the mid 1960s and was made by Tommie Collins in his garage as a part time business. The name Collins & Collins on the unit probably derived from him and his wife Vera who lived in Anacortes WA. at the time. It was listed as patent pending, and they called it The Pink Lady. It was made of sheet orange plastic like the 1960s illuminated edge drafting squares that showed a bright edge. The 3/16″ brazing rod was threaded which then had nuts on each side holding the rods to the plastic. It had an external lead weight bolted onto the single brass arm underneath.

Luhr Jenson bought them out around 1970ish and changed the design slightly by making it injection molded and put lead shot in a hollow cavity underneath. A somewhat improved? copy of the original is back on the market under a different name now of E-Z Diver now that the patents have expired. Colors today can be about anything you want, with chartreuse, but red still being the most popular, with green, blue or just the plain silver coming in also. A change in color sometimes makes a difference to the fish, but with the need for many colors also flattens the fisherpersons wallet somewhat.

They usually come in different sizes and may have different weights also to achieve deeper depths.

 Pros & Cons for different types ; These all appear to be a knock-off of the original Pink Lady diver. I am not trying to condemn any here, just give what I see as good and even some negative points of each as I see it from my type of fishing perspective. Each make/model has some reasons for being in existence, or at least we hope so.

Some are looked at as improvements, while others appear to simply being designed to get around any possible patent rights. One was designed by a charter boat operator specifically for use on a boat where up to 20 persons who usually are not that knowledgeable are trying to fish in close proximity of each other. For them to use a diver in this situation, it has to be pretty foolproof for their situation if they all are fishing about the same depth. Another is designed basically for river back-troll fishing. Another has a rotating ring, which the fisherperson can adjust to make the diver track away from the boat if need be.

For me where I fish estuaries in the fall, a diver that can not be tripped from the rod end by the fisherperson is a hindrance when your diver has accumulated a gob of weeds and you have to pull the diver’s resistance plus the weeds in order to remove these weeds or check or change baits. Anther situation can be if you are fishing more than person one on a small boat and your partner hooks into a nice fish, whereby you need to reel in your line rapidly so you can net it for him. If you can not trip the diver, this takes a lot of effort to reel in a untripped diver in any speedy situation. Or just to reel it in to check for a stolen bait is a pain.

As said, they all have pluses and minuses, but all do the job of getting your lure deeper in a short distance, which can help prevent tangles with your partners.

 (Original Pink Lady) You will not see many of these being used anymore, as they may well be in the antique category now days (I know I would not use the one I have left). Only a few Moldy Old Fogies will even remember them. As I remember, they only came in one size and color. They were the forerunner of all of the divers that followed Tommie Collins’ idea and who pioneered in the diver sport fishing industry. A problem was that the bolted together weight would corrode, loosen, therefore the diver would not track straight all the time.

I would like to know how many different prototype designs he went thru before he settled on this one.


The original Collins & Collins Pink Lady


(E-Z Diver) As mentioned before, this diver appears to be a modification to the original Pink Lady, but improved with the addition of an adjustable depth diving washer. This being a white nylon washer affixed to the main upper wire. By moving this washer up the shaft, will place a stop point of the line attachment that will change the depth of the diver’s dive. There is no mention on the packaging as to how deep each different size will dive. They have no mention in the instructions of being able to be tripped by the angler either.

These divers are made in 4 sizes. The 00 size is the smallest with a width of the plastic at 1.800″. The 0 size is 2.250″ wide & comes with 2 different weights of either a 2 or 4 oz. The largest is 2.625″ wide. They are made in many different colors of which some can be had with prism tape of different colors installed on the top side.

They are made by E-Z Tackle Co. Suite 165 9205 SE Clackamas Rd. Clackamas, OR. 97015


E-Z Diver


(Pink Lady, current model) Just because it has the name PINK in it’s name does not mean that is the only color available. Here, as most all of the others, the swivel that is attached to the front bow is where the mainline is attached. The lead weights are simply lead bird shot inserted in to integral a hollow plastic tube. When entering the water you need to be sure that the swivel will ride UP and into the slight bend at the upper part of the center rod. Here it will act as a pivot point to allow the shovel front to engage the water, pulling it deeper. The farther out you let your mainline, the farther it dives, to a point where the drag negates it going deeper. That is why they are made in different sizes. The principle is that with the leader to the bait being attached so that when a fish hits the bait, the diver trips the swivel out of the shallow notch &which lets the swivel go down to a more central location in line with the body, creating minimal drag, allowing you to fight the fish with no resistance from the diver.

This works good unless you get a smaller fish that has not got enough weight to trip the diver. Also IF you need to pull the diver in to check the bait or remove weeds, it is about impossible to trip it off the front or rod end. So you are pulling the diver in with all it’s diving effort functioning plus any weeds that may have accumulated on it. The advertisement states “resets instantly when line is allowed to go slack”. In essence this would mean to pull the diver in by raising the rod tip, them suddenly drop the rod tip so the diver will trip. Don’t count on it to happen all the time however.

This Les Davis model comes in 3 sizes. The (#0), (#2) & (#3)


 Luhr Jenson’s Pink Lady


(Delta Diver) This diver is again a modification of the old Collins Pink Lady. It was modified by Chris Schenk, a charter boat skipper from Illwaco WA. The shape however was inspired by the shape and name of the F-102 Delta fighter planes. The design has the wider shape blade to the rear as compared to opposite of most of the others brands. Many days of actual on the water testing along with modifications went into it’s design which was to have many rods in the water in close proximity of each other.

According to the designer’s son; “It’s original design was for charter fishing where you have just a few feet between your gear and the guy beside you. A falsely tripped diver would result in line tangles, so the delta diver was designed to auto-reset if the fish came off or if it was put in the water in a tripped position.” The lead weight is cast integral to the stainless steel bridle.

The one thing is that since the attaching cord comes off the tail of the blade higher up than the other divers, if you are attaching a Fish Flash or another type of attractor behind it, you may have to attach the attractor a bit farther rearward to avoid turbulence which will disrupt the attractor.

They are made in 1, 2, & 4oz sizes being 3″, 3 1/2″ & 4″ blade length. http://www.deltadiver.com/


Delta Divers


(Deep Six) This diver is my favorite as it can be tripped at about any time by the fisherperson, and can be adjusted for the amount required to trip it. Here the attachment point of the diver is the barrel swivel attached to the front wire. Also attached at the same ring as the swivel is another swivel with the rear eye removed. This part swivel’s body snaps into a stainless upright that has a round receptacle notch matching the swivel body. Below this is a stainless steel screw that runs crossways in the clip that can be tightened or loosened creating the desired tension.

They come in 3 different sizes, the (#0) dives to 40′, the (#1) dives to 60′ & the (#2) dives to 90′. Then there is the Double Deep Six, which has more lead weights and it’s supposed to dive 50% deeper than the standard version, (#0) dives to 60′, the (#1) dives to 90′ & the (#2) dives to 135′ according to the advertisement by Luhr Jensen.

In use, you rig it the same as all the others, but you have the ability to adjust it to trip at your setting. I have never had a problem tripping it off if I wanted to bring it in for inspection, OR MORE IMPORTANT, to get it out of the way quickly if a fish is on another rod.


Luhr Jenson’s Deep Six


(Dipsy Diver) Here is a diver that is adjustable similar to the Deep Six but the attachment bar snaps into the plastic body of the diver. There is an adjustment screw also. Around the outer edge is a plastic ring. With this in place it dives 20% deeper than without. Underneath is a weight system that can be rotated either right or left, which allows the diver to track off in that direction. This can at times be beneficial if there are numerous divers being used off the same boat.

This one also comes in 3 different sizes. The (#030) dives to 20′ without the ring. The (#000) dives to 35′ with the o-ring, & the (#001) dives to 100′ with the o-ring.


Luhr Jenson’s Dipsy Diver


(Jet Diver) This diver is not used that much in saltwater but was designed primarily for back-trolling for salmon in rivers. It works on the same basic principle as the Pink Lady, but is hollow which allows it to float when no current or movement is applied. The design has changed slightly over the years. The early versions had different pivot point holes on the front and or rear that allow deeper dives, where these extra holes seem to have been eliminated on later production when different sizes were introduced.

This one comes in 5 different sizes and for once, someone thought ahead in the size designations. The (#10) dives to 10′, the (#20) dives to 20′, the (#30) dives to 30′, the (#40) dives to 40′ & of course the (#50) dives to 50′.


Luhr Jenson’s Jet Diver


 OK, I know this is a diver article but here is another option, Luhr Jensen builds (discontinued, 2012) this sinker release. It is just a brass tube with swivels on each end, on one end is a spring loaded cotter pin that is exposed by a cutout in the body. These were made in 3 sizes. In use you use any weight (including old spark plugs or railroad spikes) Attach a wire loop the these and pull the spring end cotter pin out then insert a weight, let the loop go back trapping the weight. When a large fish strikes the lure, the spring moves the cotter pin, dropping the weight.

Luhr Jensen sinker release


In Use : The length of line from the rod to the diver is what usually controls the depth for the average fisherperson. You may hear 12 pulls or something along that line used by fishermen when using a diver. What they are referring to is that how far out did they let the diver go. In doing this, let the diver out into the water, when it starts to go down, strip out a “PULL”, which is from your reel to as far as you can pull, (usually just beyond the first rod guide eye), this is usually 2′. So if he said go 15 pulls, he was actually out about 30′ after the diver is in the water. Now you take into account that the line is probably at about a 40 to 45 degree angle while in the water dragging this diver. So you will actually be down to a depth of about 22′. This depth will also vary depending on how fast you are trolling, or whether into or against the current. However this is a method that can readily be identified with, so you can adjust your depth to a known level. You don’t really need to know how deep you are, but just a reference to how far out you are to a depth where the fish are being caught.

This is the place where the newer line-counter reels really shine as you can see in the chart below. If you let out about 44′ of line after the diver is just in the water, you will be fishing a depth of about 28′. This may vary somewhat depending on the current and or the trolling speed, however the 40 degree line angle chart will give you some close approximation of your depth. As mentioned earlier, the “pull method” will also give you these same results.


This chart gives some computer driven numbers using the known angle


Rigging : These usually are rigged with a 4′ – 6′ mooching leader attached to the rear with the mainline attached to the front swivel. Here you can bait up a herring, either whole or cut-plugged. But about any lure can be run behind them, like a Coyote spoon or Apex plug, even a bare Spi-N-Glo will catch fish. The larger divers can even be used to pull a flasher or dodger (which has more drag) ahead of the lure.

Shown in the photos below is a herring that was in a bonnet that the salmon hit. I was watching the rod and there was the first dip, then a lighter second dip, but no hooked fish. These photos are of the stripped herring, with the fish having to hit it sideways and it’s mouth exactly between the front and rear hook.


Fish are sometimes magicians


 The amount of leader used can also depend on the lure, as some require a specific minimum length for the lure to become active to it’s best potential. Trial and error is the only true method. One thing to consider is that you should take into account of how long your rod is, then how tall the fisherperson is, when tying on a leader. You need less distance for a short rod, or even a shorter person, like a 10 year old child, as it will be about impossible for the person to get the fish close enough to the boat to net if the total leader, diver set up length (especially if a large fish is arcing the rod) which will not be able to get the fish close enough to the boat to net it.

 Set up your best shot then put it in the water at the speed you want to travel and watch to see if it does as intended. If not, make changes until something happens.


Coyote Spoon Apex / Sting King plugs


One set-up I have used that is VERY EFFECTIVE on Coho, is a Deep Six or Pink Lady about 14″ in front of a medium red Fish Flash with 36″ of mooching leader with a #0 orange Spi-N-Glo in front of bare mooching hooks, (Smelly Jelly won’t hurt either). Different colors are also effective, like the lime green/red dots “clown” or or a light green/red head.

If you are tying your own leader, tie the hooks farther apart than if they were being used for herring. Mostly I tie the rear hook back about 5 or 6″. What I have found is that when trolling the fish will make a pass at the lure & usually miss it as they seem to not come up from straight behind to take it, but from the side & make a pass at the lure. Many will miss it the first time. With this trailer hook, if they miss, they will have ahold of the line between the hooks, (flossing to some of you), but when they turn away, this trailing hook will imbed in the inside of the opposite jaw. With this system I have NEVER yet had a fish take this lure head on with the hooks buried in it’s gullet.

You need to place a plastic bead on the leader above the hook and before the Spi-N-Glo to act as a bearing against the knot at the front hook. Here I have found that you do need about 12 to 14″ between the diver and the Fish Flash in order to allow the Fish Flash to achieve it’s potential in rotation. If closer, there seems to be enough disturbance from the diver that the flasher will not rotate properly.

I usually run this set-up set at about 18-20 pulls out off the middle of the stern close to the prop-wash while fishing downriggers on each side. Many times when fishing for Coho, this one diver will pull as many fish as BOTH downriggers will.

The #2 size diver is not for depth, but to get it down closer to the boat faster and facilitate pulling a possible fish on one of the downriggers while still maintaining a slower trolling speed. When we get a fish on a downrigger, we of course pull that wire, and if things look OK, we leave the other downrigger where it was, but then can then move the diver rod more to the same side as the then functioning downrigger, just to give us more room to fight and handle the hooked fish.

It not only catches Coho, as I have also pulled Chinook and Steelhead with it. This is a great set-up for the Buoy 10 estuary fishery. It is also a great set-up to have as a spare in case your other line/lure gets tangled and you want something back in the water immediately as to not miss a possible bite.

I have had MANY funny looks from other fishermen, but when the fish hit it repeatedly and the others on the same boat using a method of their choice go without, after a couple of days, even the most devout finally out of desperation, have became a convert to my method.

This will work also without the flasher, but I’ve had so much success on it as pictured, so why change.

In the photo below, the size of the diver is a #1 and the Flash Flash is a small (6″), to facilitate crowding it all into a usable photo. You may note the large plastic straw from Burger King that is cut into about an inch long that acts as a sleeve to hold my leader, works great and the price is right.

I initially set this up for the grandson years ago when he was about 8 years old, (he is 21 now) so he would be busy catching Coho. It has proved so effective that many times I now use it.



Diver / Flasher / Spi-N-Glo set-up


Shown in the photo below are other terminal gear that can be effective when diver trolling. On top is a Brad’s mini (3″) Super Cut Plug with a 2″ Smile spinner blade tied inline with 4 mm beads to space it ahead of the plug so as to not effect the plug’s action. On the leader behind the plug are colored 6mm beads to space the front hook at the tail of the plug. The trailing hook is there to catch short biters. The front hook is tied solid in this instance.

On the bottom in the photo is again a 2″ Smile spinner blade tied inline with colored beads to space it ahead of the slider tied front hook. The slider can be used on different size bait for adjustment to get the proper bait spin. This can be used with whole or cut-plug herring or whole anchovy, even a herring strip. Note the lime-green wrapping on the front hook. This different color mono is used to tie and to be able to quickly identify the slider style hook from a solid tie. In case you wondered, the green leader encasement is again simply a large soda straw cut in sections and slid over the looped excess leader.


Smile Blade & beads tied inline on rigged lure/bait rigs 


If you have 3 persons aboard a small boat and are using 2 downriggers, the 3rd person many times is not really handicapped by running a diver off the stern. In a 2009 mid July Westport trip when my boat was in for repairs, I was invited out on a friends 18′ boat, where I was the 3rd person aboard. I declined the use of a downrigger letting the boat owner use it.

Number one since I was the guest, the boat owner should not give up usage of his gear for me. And as the brand of downrigger the boat was equipped with, I was not that really familiar with on how the brake functioned. Plus I knew I could catch as many or more Coho off the diver and lures as them off the downriggers with bait. This proved true, however the other 2 fishermen each pulled a nice Chinook at a deeper depth that I could achieve off the standard Pink Lady diver I had with me that day. The reason I chose it was that with me being a guest, I did not want to drag my BIG tackle box on someone else’s boat, so I picked a smaller diver that fit in my mini tackle bag.

This particular day I chose to use a 5″ chrome Sting King plug/wobbler 5′ behind a diver with the reel’s line counter set at depth of 43′. Initially, I had problems of keeping them on the hook, loosing 2 that came off. So I retied with a 2nd hook like I mention above when using the Spi-N-Glo drop back set up. This proved VERY effective. In this Washington State Marine Area 2, that year we could only retain hatchery clipped adipose finned Coho salmon. This day I lost 2, released 7 non clipped (so called wild fish) to retain my limit of 2 hatchery clipped fish. And we limited the boat out then, were headed back to the dock by 2 PM.


Here a 15# Chinook was not being co-operative as it was hooked on top of the head.     Note the diver, bungee & PFDs.


Cleanliness : Many times in things pertaining to fishing, cleanliness is next to godliness. Therefore think of anything that you touch, or comes in contact with anything that may impart a offensive odor. Do you clean your sardine wrapped KwikFish after using them and putting them away? How about cleaning your spinners that are attached to a lure that you have used salmon roe, tuna oil, shrimp, prawn, or even herring or anchovy? Then there is your attractant dodgers or flashers.

One very easy method is to purchase a painters 5 quart plastic bucket with a snap on lid. Fill it with clean water then squirt a small amount of Lemon Joy soap into the water. Use this to soak your lures and flashers in.

Any of these little things that many fishermen overlook, my be a contributing factor that is why your neighboring boat is catching fish and you are not. Years ago in my commercial salmon trolling years, we used a gallon jug of herring oil, that after we were done pulling gear, all of the spoons, rigged hoochies and flashers were either soaked in or at least dipped in until the next trip. This did two things, it protected the metal parts from corroding/rusting AND removed any bad smells.




Some of the pictures taken from Luhr Jenson’s advertisement.
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