Casting hardware for king salmon is a popular pastime on freshwater streams from California to Alaska to the Great Lakes tributaries. This time around, we’re going to take a quick look at s of the basics of tossing lures like No. 3-5 Mepps and Blue Fox Super Vibrax spinners as well as spoons like Little Cleos, Cohos, Pixees and BC Steels.
Since kings hold tight to the bottom, the trick is getting your lure down to them. You need to position yourself far enough upstream of the fish to allow the lure to sink before it gets to the strike zone. Cast straight off the bank or slightly downstream and wait for your offering to hit the bottom. As soon as it does, engage the reel and retrieve your lure at a very slow speed. Ideally, you want the spinner within a foot of the riverbed and its blade rotating at as low an rpm as possible. When using a spoon, keep it close to the bottom as well and go slow enough to keep it wobbling, rather than spinning.
As your lure sweeps in a downstream arc along the bottom, follow your line with your rod tip. When the lure swings to a position directly below you, let it hang there momentarily and then reel in and cast again. Most strikes will occur in the lower third of the swing, but be prepared for anything. When a big king decides to grab your lure, the hit can be explosive and if you’re not prepared, you may lose your rod. On the other hand, some of the largest kings have been known to simply stop the lure’s downstream movement. Either way, set the hook hard – salmon have extremely bony jaws that are difficult to penetrate with even the sharpest of hooks.
Speaking of hooks, be sure to check the fishing regulations before you fish – some waters are governed by very specific hook restrictions.
When chucking hardware off the bank, go with a medium-heavy spinning or baitcasting rod in the 8 ½- to 9 ½-foot range. A good rod for this technique will have a moderately soft tip section to allow your lure to work properly and help you cast better, but it must also have plenty of backbone in the lower two-thirds of its length. Reels should have large-capacity spools and quality drag systems. Depending on the spot you’re fishing, you should spool up with 15- to 20-pound mono or, better yet, use 30 to 50 pound braided line and a heavy fluorocarbon leader.