Why You Missed Hooking That Salmon

How Many Times Have You Had a DRIVE BY?  A “Drive By” in fishing terms is a fish that may have struck at your lure, but did not become hooked. How many times have you had a bump, but that was just it? Maybe it was the fish and not totally your fault as a fisherperson. By this, I mean, take a look at the location of a salmon’s eyes, they are not really conducive to looking straight forward at any close range. Look at the photo on the right below, that fish’s nose pretty well obscures something right in front and upward of him. How many fish have you not hooked in the mouth, but on the outside of the mouth, top of the head, or in the pectoral fin? This tells me the fish was close, missed the lure and got snagged on or around the head in their attempt to take your lure.

If you take the time to watch some of the underwater videos of fish coming in on trolled gear, many times they will miss the lure repeatedly the 1st, 2nd and even 3rd time. And most will come up behind, veer off to the side, and then turn, swinging into the lure. The physical makeup of a salmon’s head places the eyes looking more to the sides than straight ahead.

It has been said that salmon will attach a bait ball, hitting the bait with their head and tail, trying to simply stun them, they turn around and pick up the injured. Makes sense. They usually locate the bait from a distance with vibrations and smell, but use sight at closer ranges. And if the bait is stunned/injured, they can then try a 2nd or 3rd pass to pick it up.


Here a side view of a Chinook’s head  Here a head on photo shot of a large mature buck Coho



How many of you have experimented running the rear hook farther to the rear or tying a third hook on a salmon herring rig to help with hooking the “short biters”? If there is a lot of fish in the area you are targeting, if one misses, you may not know or don’t even care, when a second fish gets it right. But, on the other hand, if there are minimal fish around and one of those few misses your lure, you may go home empty handed.

How do you increase your odds? A few years ago, I started tying my rear hook longer so the rear hook hung with the eye at the end of the tail of my herring when trolling to try and outwit these “short biters”. We did this even in the late 1960s using 3 hooks on a mooching rig. In my revisited search, I showed this setup to another experienced fisherman who was also doing some experimenting. He took my idea to another dimension, by lengthening my rear hook farther yet. For want of any other name, this system became known as the “hang-back” setup.

Some purists will say it is “Flossing”. Flossing is normally encountered in river fishing where the fisher uses a long leader, casts out and on the retrieve through a known area where fish may congregate, allows the long leader to be drawn into the fish’s open mouth as the line/hook drifts with the current. At the end of the drift, the fisher jerks the line, potentially impaling the hook into the opposite outside of the fish’s jaw. Again some purists insist that this is nothing more than sophisticated snagging, and illegal.

However in some rules, there is the wording of a fish needing to be willfully biting a lure. In my book, if the fish is hooked by “any hook” anywhere in front of the gill cover, it was a willing biter, or at least attaching your bait. What realistically happens during a trolling situation where you are trolling WITH the current and the fish is swimming INTO the current, the fish miscalculates that you are moving toward him, causing this fish to strike behind the lure, with it’s mouth between the 2 hooks, it will turn going back, with the current because there is less effort than turning into the current. When it feels the leader on the turn, it will become hooked INSIDE the far jaw. I have seen this many times and you would be hard pressed to argue that this fish was not a willing biter with the hook imbedded in the fish’s jaw from the inside.

Now for those using any bait, roe/eggs, worms etc. this picture changes a bit as fish have a very developed smell and seem to be able to use this to find food better at close ranges.

In the photos below, the Brads Super Cut Plug as been altered by tying 4 1/2′ of 40# mono leader and the 5/0 red octopus hooks 4″ apart. The beads above the front hook are only there to position the eye of the hook just behind the tail of the lure. The bright red hooks and beads may simulate blood of a wounded herring. This arrangement does slow the lure down a tad bit, but look at the teeth marks on the RH photo, why question the possible change in action if it works? I have ran this lure side by side with cut-plug herring and this lure with herring scent came out ahead.


Brad’s Super Cut Plug shown with the hinged section open with modified trailing hooks

It seems that many times color may mean very little as evidenced by this well worn, tooth marked lure that is still catching fish.  Kind of hate to use this old warrior, in case of loosing it, but as long as it catches fish why not?






Here a hang-back hook was utilized on a spoon  with the Coho hooked in the jaw



So, if at times the Fish Gods are not smiling on you, stop and rethink your attach plan, dig into your tackle box and really think out what may be happening, or come up with some out of the box tricks.



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