If you’re new to trolling for kokanee, the sheer variety of attractors out there can be overwhelming. One walk through a well-stocked sporting goods store can leave the new kokanee angler scratching his or her head in confusion. So many different shapes, colors, and styles can make a head spin. Knowing the difference between the various types of kokanee attractors is vital in using them correctly. The proper application of the attractors you use can make the difference between a productive day or one of frustration.
First, just what is an attractor? Simply put, an attractor is a device that is placed in front of a lure to both give the lure action, and also to attract fish from a distance closer so they can zero in on the bait. Attractors can be both visual and vibrational, activating the lateral lines on fish that alert them of wounded baitfish, and creating flashes of light that fish see as schools of baitfish.
Kokanee attractors - just like their bigger brothers, salmon attractors - are designed to attract fish to the bait that you are dragging behind them. Selecting the right combination of attractor and lure and using them correctly will increase your odds of catching kokanee significantly.
Let’s take a closer look at the different shapes of attractors and how to apply them to your piscatorial pursuits.
When kokanee fishing, the primary challenge is to find what speed the fish are interested in. Some days a dead slow troll is effective, other days, or even times of day, a faster troll will activate a bite. Figuring out what kokanee want is really the number one job of a kokanee troller. Discovering that out can be incredibly satisfying!
Attractors can be broken down into a few major styles. The shapes will dictate how to use them most effectively. For kokanee fishing, we can group attractors into the following categories: dodgers, sling blades, gang trolls, and rotators.
At this point all the salmon anglers are saying “what about flashers?”. Without a doubt, flashers are the number one attractor for saltwater salmon anglers. While kokanee are land-locked sockeye salmon, you will seldom hear of flashers being used in kokanee fishing. The reason for this is that kokanee anglers tend to troll at slower speeds which do not allow a flasher to rotate as they are designed to do. Without that rotation, a flasher is nothing more than a dodger, swaying back and forth. That’s not to say they wouldn’t work, and I have seen smaller flashers made which could work for kokanee, but in general, most anglers will not be trolling at the 2.7mph or so it takes to make a flasher rotate.
The shape of your attractor determines the application, and speed is the key. Let’s take a look at each shape and see how to best use it for kokanee trolling.
Dodgers are designed to do exactly what their name sounds like – dodge back and forth. Tie a fly or lure behind one and the dodger will swing it back and forth. The shorter the leader from the lure to the dodger, the greater will be the snap action as the lure is pulled back and forth. Dodgers work best at slow to medium speeds, say .8 to 1.4 mph. Slower than that and you have a non-activated lure, which at times may actually be effective, faster than that and your dodger will turn into a flasher, rotating in a tight circle, not giving your lure much action, either.
The Sling Blade
Sling blades are ideal for faster trolling, say 1.2 to 1.8 mph. The shape of the blade, narrow in front, wide in back, allow for a faster troll without turning over. As such, if your gear is not getting strikes going slow, using a sling blade and upping the speed a bit can be just the ticket. Sling blades can be long and narrow, short and fat, or anywhere in-between. Sling blades are by far the most popular of kokanee attractors, and for good reason. With a wide range of styles and ability to be used at both slower and faster trolls, they offer a great deal of flexibility. Putting a slight bend in the blade can cause further erratic action which can trigger kokanee to strike.
The Gang Troll
Gang trolls have a long and well-established reputation as an effective attractor. Unlike dodgers and sling blades, gang trolls do not impart any action to your lure. What they will do is create a great amount of flash and vibration in the water, drawing fish in to then see your lure. Gang trolls can be metal blades, plastic, or the more recent mylar blades with reflective tape. No matter which type you use, the first fish you catch you’ll see their major (in my opinion) downfall. Gang trolls kill the fight of a fish. If your goal is to enjoy the fight of your catch, look elsewhere. If your goal is to catch fish, gang trolls can be deadly effective.
Rotators are similar to gang trolls in that they do not add action to your lure. What they do is rotate inline, causing flash and vibration in the water. Small rotators are hard to come by but do offer an effective trolling option and I recommend you have a few in your toolbox.
What lure or bait you put behind your attractor is an article in itself. That said, a few general guidelines are helpful. These are suggestions only. Experimentation is part of the fun of kokanee trolling, so my advice is to try variations and see what works for you. You may discover a whole new set up that works!
Dodgers and sling blades, since they are designed to impart action, work best with a leader length of 6-20 inches to your lure. Closer will cause more erratic action. Lures which have no action of their own are good choices, such as micro hoochies.
Rotators and gang trolls impart no action, so lures like small, thin blade spoons and spinners 2-4 feet behind them are what anglers will often run.
As you gain experience trolling for kokanee, you’ll begin to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to ask fellow anglers for advice. You’ll find the majority of anglers are more than willing to give you tips and advice, which some day you in turn can share with the next generation of anglers!