Why You Missed  Hooking That Salmon  




How Many Times Have You Had a DRIVE BY? ;  A "Drive By" in fishing terms is when a fish that may have struck at your lure, steal some of the bait or leave teeth marks on it 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 even though their eyes may see a wider arc than ours.  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 made a pass and was close, but missed the lure and got snagged on or around the head in their attempt to take your lure, or turn to go away for a second pass. 


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 by some, 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 ones.  This rather makes sense to me.   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 Coho buck


How many of you have experimented by changing hook styles or 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 has now 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, which 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 "Hang Back" nothing more than sophisticated snagging, and is illegal.


However in many Department of Fish & Wildlife fishing rules, there can be 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 normally trolling WITH the current and the fish is swimming INTO the current, where the fish only sees your lure for mere seconds and then miscalculates that you are moving toward him, causing this fish to strike behind the lure, with it's mouth now between the 2 hooks, the fish will turn, going back with the current because there is less effort than turning into the current.  When it feels the leader on this turn, it will usually 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.  Even if it was anywhere on the head in front of the gill cover, would be pretty indicative that it was after the lure.


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 that 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's rotation down a slight bit, but look at the teeth marks on the lure in the RH photo.  The placement of these hooks may alter the action of the lure slightly, but why question the possible change in action if it works?   I have ran this lure side by side test with cut-plug herring and this lure, and with herring or anchovy scent on/in the lure, and it came out ahead at the end of the day as far as bringing fish to the boat.


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 inside 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.


But, I have to emphasize here that a SHARP hook may also be a VERY IMPORTANT part of converting a "Drive By" into a "Fish On" situation.




Copyright © 2013  -  2018 LeeRoy Wisner  All Rights Reserved

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Originated 12-20-2013, Last updated 03-03-2018
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