There’s no debating that wrapping the belly of a banana-shaped salmon plug (MagLips, FlatFish, KillerFish, Kwikfish, etc) with a fresh sardine fillet will get your more bites than an unwrapped lure. That much we know.
But what if you don’t have any ‘dines handy…are you out of luck?
Not at all! Try these three plug wrap alternatives — you just may find that they even out-fish the old tried and true sardine!
I stared messing with different plug wraps for kings when sardines got scarce in California. One fall, the only baits we could get in the shops were old, yellow and completely freezer burned.
Rather than use garbage sardines, I looked to other “meats” to add to my plugs. Another season, I was in the Alaskan bush and sardines just weren’t easy to come by so I turned to experimenting with other baits. Through these tests, I have found that all is not lost of you can’t find sardines!
Salmon love tuna — in fact, lots of guides add tuna oil to their eggs so why not wrap a plug with the stuff?
Well, the bottom line is tuna works at least as well as sardines — and sometimes better. If you can get some fresh tuna bellies from your buddies who chase albacore, you’re golden. The real stuff works great — it’s oily and durable and the fish really chomp it.
In the absence of fresh tuna, simply head to the grocery store and buy oil-packed tuna (not water packed!). Canned tuna has some obvious upsides: it is readily available and easily portable. It works well, too!
At first, you’d think that there’s no way tuna from a can will hold onto the underside of the plug, but it actually wraps pretty well.
I’ll start with several wraps of Miracle Thread around the plug to give the tuna a little something to cling to and then will add a bunch of meat and then wrap it tight. Start with a lot more fish than you think you’ll need as at least a third will crumble off in the wrapping process — then you’ll lose some more when the lure hits the water.
Wrap it tight enough, however, and the tuna will stick nicely to the plug — and it gives off oily scent longer than a sardine fillet would.
“Coonies” have become quite popular in many Northwest fisheries in recent years and I have found that they also make excellent plug wraps.
Put a small one on a 3.5 size MagLip and you have a steelhead slayer — go with a large one on a salmon sized plug and you have a very good sardine replacement. In fact, in some waters shrimp works better because it is something the fish haven’t experienced before.
Coon (coon-stripe) shrimp have a natural “U” shape to them, which makes them perfect for wrapping.
Simply snug the bend where the tail and body meet against the forward side of the plug’s belly hook attachment point and wrap him on there tight. Coon shrimp give off a scent the fish really seem to like and they stay in place.
We know that kings are sulfite junkies, they love eggs and are attracted to bright red and pink colors — so why not add eggs to a plug and make the perfect combo meal?
Well, I’m here to tell you the “steak and egg” program works really well. Plus, it’s just too cool to watch the plug wiggle while trailing a white egg “smoke” trail!
Wrapping eggs is similar to tuna in that there is some waste. Be sure you have a good piece of skein attached when you cut a chunk for wrapping. I like rectangular pieces that stretch from the belly hook to about an inch or two from the tail of the lure (depending on plug size).
Again, I like to make some wraps on the plug itself first to give the eggs something to stick to before I get started. Then I’ll vigorously wrap the eggs on tight and then will wrap thread right under the leading and back edges of the cluster as well before finishing off with a few half hitches.
After you get a grab, most of the eggs will likely be gone, but a good base of skein and thread will remain. Use this foundation to wrap your next bait on — it will hold much better than the first one.
It takes a little more time, but you can greatly extend the life of your eggs (and tuna) by making some “bait pouches” out of spawn sack mesh. Simply cut some rectangle shaped sections of mesh, fill them with eggs, tuna or a combination of both and then fold the backside closed (like wrapping a present). Then, apply the pouch to the lure and then wrap it in place just as you would a sardine fillet.
You’ll be surprised how well these sardine alternatives work when you are plug fishing — give them a try this fall and let me know how you do!
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