When it comes to rigging fishing tackle, the devil is in the details. This is especially true when tying leaders for salmon hoochies — the plastic skirtsused with a flasher to catch salmon on the troll.
Paying attention to the details can increase your hookup ratio and put fish in the box, making your day a memorable one. On the other hand, a few mistakes could lead to lost fish and plenty of frustration.
Making a good hoochie rig for salmon fishing starts with choosing the right leader material. A hoochie by itself has no action whatsoever. If you tow it behind the boat it will swim in a straight line. While this is ideal for tuna fishing, it won’t work when chasing salmon.
You want your salmon lures to give off the look of a wounded bait, so you’ll need a leader that will make the hoochie rig roll when towed behind a flasher. To accomplish this, I use 40- or 50-pound leader, my favorite being Maxima Ultragreen or Seaguar fluorocarbon.
Before rigging your leader, make sure your hooks are razor-sharp and if you’re fishing in Washington waters, don’t forget to pinch the barbs down per state regulations. Check your local state requirements when it comes to hooks.
If you sharpen the hooks after the leader is rigged, it could potentially lead to a chaffed leader if you are not very careful with the file, so it’s best to sharpen the hooks before you attach them to the leader.
I rig my hooks so they face in different directions — NOT the same direction. This provides a better hook distribution so the approaching salmon is sure to get stuck on the first attack. I use an Egg Loop Knot to tie on the hooks. (Click HERE for complete instructions on how to tie an Egg Loop Knot.) Make sure that the forward end of the trailing hook lines up with the rear end of the lead hook.
Next you’ll want to add some beads as spacers between the lead hook and the hoochie. Depending on the size of the beads and the length of the hoochie, you may add between three and seven beads. I like to use glow, pearl or chartreuse beads but you can change the colors based on your preference. The beads need to space the hoochie so the trailing hook is completely exposed from the bait. I do this so we don’t miss any short-striking fish.
After you add the spacing beads, you will want to add a twinkle skirt. The skirts come in many different shapes, colors and styles but I like the silver twinkle skirts for summer kings and the glow skirts for blackmouth salmon or any deep-fishing application.
Once you add the skirt, it’s time to select your hoochie.
No salmon tackle box is complete without three main hoochie colors — Dark Spatter Back, Chartreuse Spatter Back and Green Glow. I prefer the Goldstar Hoochies and the respective color codes are OG142R, OG140R and OG78R. These are my go-to hoochies and account for many of the fish that hit the deck on my boat.
Finish off your leader with a barrel swivel. Several variables come into play when choosing the perfect leader length — including the type of lure or bait, leader strength, speed of the boat and the type of salmon you’re targeting. For summer-run kings I like to run 40- to 48-inch leaders for hoochies.
I tend to go shorter for the ocean kings, with most of my leaders running between 40 and 42 inches, measured from the forward end of the swivel to the aft end of the trailing hook.
For blackmouth, I shorten the leaders shorter to the 30- to 36-inch range because I troll slower for these fish.
When you make your leader, start with an additional 15 inches (depending on how you tie the knots) so that you end up with the right leader length. You can always trim off any excess, but if it’s too short, you will have to save that one for Coho fishing or start over.
I also add an extra attractor to my salmon hoochies. I like to use a Spin-N-Glo in front of the hoochie to create a little extra flash. I place a small bead between the hoochie and the Spin-N-Glo so it can spin more freely.
Once you have tied all of your hoochie leaders, you need a place to store them where you can quickly access them when the bite is going off. Round foam works great. You can use thick pipe insulation or go to the Dollar Store and buy a bunch of the kiddy pool noodles. The noodles range from five to six feet in length and you can cut them down to 1-foot sections. I slit the roll lengthwise so I can insert the barrel swivel into the roll to start wrapping the leader. This holds the leader a lot better than simply rolling the line over itself.
Once you’re armed with a bunch of hoochies, you’re ready to head out and target some salmon.