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  • Andy Martin

Flatfish® For Fall Salmon

By: Andy Martin

Tyler Curry of Reno, Nev., holds one of the king salmon he caught Nov. 2 while fishing the Chetco River with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. The king smacked a T50 FlatFish with the Fickle Pickle finish.

Nothing compares to the yank-the-rod-from-your-hand strike of a big fall king salmon smashing a Flatfish® plug. The ferocious take downs, and downright extreme effectiveness of plugs, make them a go-to lure for river salmon fishing.

The original Flatfish, with sizes from M2 to T60, are perfect for most river conditions in the fall. They are top producers in my drift boat during the busy fall river salmon season.

There are plenty of different plugs to choose from for river salmon fishing. The origins of plugging for salmon, however, can be traced back to the original Flatfish. Decades ago, back-trolling plugs for salmon become the most effective technique for tricking big kings on the Sacramento River in Northern California. It was there that guides discovered adding a sardine fillet to the plug made it even more effective. Guides kept the technique a secret for years, but then brought it north to the Kenai River in Alaska. There, other guides learned about bait-wrapped Flatfish, and brought the method back to their home rivers in Oregon, Washington and California.

In low water, the 4 1/2-inch M-2 Flatfish provokes strikes from wary salmon holding in clearer water. The key is fishing the head of pools, where riffles flow in, or the tailouts during early morning low-light conditions. A 3/4-ounce egg sinker can be added to the mainline, 4 feet above the plug, to get it deeper.

The T50 and T55 are the most popular Flatfish sizes. During typical good flows after a fall rain, the T50 really shines. It can be flatlined, fished in 4 to 8 feet of water, or combined with a dropper rig to fish deeper holes. If fresh salmon are moving through, and an angler can get a rapidly wiggling Flatfish in front of them, chance are the fish will strike.

In big rivers, with deeper water but slow flows, the T55 and T60 plugs shine. These lures have a larger surface area, and have a wiggling action other plugs can't seem to replicate.

Chrome with a chartreuse bill is the most popular fall salmon plug color throughout the Northwest. Other popular Flatfish colors includes Mad Clown, Double Trouble, Metallic Silver Red Wing and Feeder, which is a combination of chartreuse, silver and blue.

The key to working plugs is a slow, methodical presentation. Start high in the hole or run, and slowly work the Flatfish through the deeper part of the hole. Using rod holders will increase the hook-to-net ratio, as an early hookset usually leads to a missed hookup. Let the salmon take the plug, and turn, which will bury the rod over and set the hook.

Bait wraps don't need to be huge. Simply cover a third to half of the bottom surface area of the plug. Be careful to trim the wrap so it balances evenly, preventing the plug from rolling to one side.


Guide Andy Martin is a longtime Yakima Bait pro staffer, and operates Wild Rivers Fishing in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Capt. Andy Martin Brookings Fishing Charters LLC Wild Rivers Fishing (541) 813-1082 or (206) 388-8988 cell/text Check us out on Facebook


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