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  • Mark Romanack

Targeting Great Lakes Salmon on SpinFish

by Mark Romanack

The SpinFish is deadly effective on adult Great Lakes chinook salmon

Rotating plugs have become a salmon fishing staple in the Pacific Northwest for many years. It took some time, but this unique trolling presentation is gaining a foothold in the Great Lakes.

Rotating plugs such as the Yakima Bait SpinFish are designed to replicate the action of a cut herring spinning in the water. The SpinFish is unique in that the two-piece design allows the hollow center of the bait to be stuffed with cut bait, canned tuna or scent products such as Pro Cure Super Gel.

The combination of the spinning plug and fish attracting scent stream in the water becomes a one - two punch for chinook and coho salmon who simply can’t resist this knock out presentation.


Anglers in the Great Lakes are rigging SpinFish primarily in two different ways. The first rigging method that consistently catches fish is using the SpinFish in combination with a spinning flasher known as the Big Al Fish Flash. This triangle shaped flasher rotates on it’s own axis creating pulsations of fish attracting flash that draw in fish from great distances.

Fish Flash comes in various sizes, but the smaller four and six inch models are ideal for the gin clear waters of the Great Lakes. The SpinFish comes factory rigged with a fluorocarbon leader that is tied directly to the back of the Fish Flash. Simply attach the main line from the rod/reel to the nose of the Fish Flash, let the rig back behind the boat 20 to 50 feet and use a downrigger to present the Fish Flash and SpinFish combination to depth.

Because the Fish Flash has near zero drag in the water, this rigging can also be used in combination with diving planers or sinking lines such as lead core, copper line and weighted stainless wire.


The SpinFish rotating plug is often fished in combination with a rotating paddle style flasher. The scent chamber in the SpinFish readily accepts cut bait or paste fish scents such as Pro Cure Super Gel.

The SpinFish also works great when fished in combination with paddle style rotating flashers. Rotating flashers spin in water creating flash. The further behind the boat these flashers are fished, the wider the rotation they generate.

The factory supplied leader on the SpinFish is attached directly to the back of the flasher. By shortening the leader between the flasher and the SpinFish, anglers can make subtle changes to the action of the SpinFish. A shorter leader creates a more snappy action while a longer leader generates a slower and more subdued action.

This rig can be presented a number of different ways including using downriggers, diving planers and sinking lines.


The SpinFish comes with a factory rigged 30 pound test leader for convenience. Custom tying leaders on lighter and heavier fluorocarbon line is an easy way to liven up the action or dull the action down as conditions dictate. Using a lighter 20 pound test leader will increase the action. Going with a heavier 40 pound test leader will create a more subdued action that often works well on lethargic fish.


The SpinFish comes in four different sizes including a 2.0, 2.5, 3.0 and 4.0 version. For chinook and coho salmon in the Great Lakes the 3.0 and 4.0 sizes are the most popular. One of the best ways to store SpinFish is to wrap the leader around foam boards that fit perfectly into deep utility style tackle boxes. A dozen or more rigs can be stored on one board and two boards fit nicely into a deep utility box.


SpinFish can be trolled at a host of speeds making this presentation ideal for mixing with other popular trolling gear such as wobbling plugs, spoons and meat rigs. Some of the best success with SpinFish comes at speeds ranging from 2.0 to 2.5 MPH.


SpinFish comes in dozens of fish catching colors designed especially to trigger strikes from salmon, trout and steelhead. Some of the top chinook colors include Double Trouble, Silver Feeder and Silver Firetiger. Coho salmon tend to favor the more gaudy colors including Silver Clown Shoes, Silver Egg Fluorescent and Chartreuse Monkey Pickles.


Because the scent chamber in the SpinFish is large, these rotating plugs generate a long lasting scent stream in the water. It’s best to replace the cut bait, canned tuna or paste scent about every 30 to 40 minutes. A small bottle brush and a little soapy water does a good job of cleaning out the SpinFish after using them and before they are stored.

Editor’s Note: Mark Romanack is a Michigan based outdoor writer and host of the popular Fishing 411 TV series broadcast on Sportsman Channel, World Fishing Network and also Sportsman Canada.


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