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Plugging is a term used by fisherman to refer to a style of fishing rivers.  To plug you let out about fifty feet of line and make the plugs dive to the bottom where the fish are holding.  Most guides use plugging to help their clients catch fish. Why is that you may ask? 1.The guide positions the boat so the plug is in the correct holding area. 2. The guide then covers the holding water with the proper boat movement, with the clients holding the pole or in rod  holders. 3. Duplicating the guides ability to present a lure in this fashion is quite difficult to reproduce; Years of expertise needed to row at the correct speed, use of the correct lure type, lure color, run timing and river conditions. 4. The bite is easily detectable when a fish hits. 5. The guide can help set the hook by stroking hard on the oars when the strike occurs. Common plugs used in this manner are the Hot Shot, Tadpolly, Kwik fish, Flatfish and Hot n Tot. A common practice of the guides is to custom paint the plugs to meet the local fishing conditions.

Tuning your plugs

With plugs that are out of tune you will see your plugs on the surface or running sideways. This makes your plug very ineffective at its intended purpose. To tune your plugs cast your plug out and see which way it comes back in. If it comes straight back your ready to fish. If it comes back to the right or left it needs tuning.  Bend eye on plug slightly to the side its favoring. Cast your plug again and check your tuning job.

Hooks on plugs should be replace with a slightly oversized rear hook. Remove the hook on the front of the plug so only the rear hook is left. This will help you lose less plugs on the bottom of the river. It also keeps the fish from using the front hook to pull against the rear hook to dislodge it. On larger treble hooks a drop of glue in the hook base will keep the line from wedging in when a fish roll into the line and cutting it off. 

Divers and bait

Sometimes guides use a diver and bait to catch fish. The plug acts as a kite against the current taking the bait to the bottom. This method has the same benefits as above but, includes the use of bait. This is a very versatile method when both salmon and steelhead are in the stream. Common divers used are the Hot & Tot and the Jet Diver. Sand Shrimp, eggs, herring, anchovies and worms are usually used behind the divers on a 6-8 ft leader. These can also be rigged up on a dropper line so it is easier to detect the strike. Pictured above is a Jet Diver, but Mag hot &Tots and large diving plugs can be used instead depending on the fishing situation. When using this method when native steelhead are present in the river system use a circle hook to help keep the hook ups in the corner of the mouth.

Side Planer

This is the method bank fishermen use to fish plugs from the river bank. Side planing can be very successful on fish if you know where they are holding or moving though. It is not recommended to use side planers around fishermen trying to drift fishing, float fishing or fly fishing. It ties up the fishing hole so  others can't fish, It is considered rude. So please be courteous in your use of this style of fishing.



Lines when plugging are very critical because the diameter of the line increases drag from the river current. To maximize depth use a line no larger than 15# test in monofilament. You can use the new braided lines to counter the drag effect if you want a higher breaking strength and a deeper diving plug. During summer flows you will want a lighter line than you would normally use during the winter flows.



Plug Fishing for Steelhead
by Mike Laverty