This last weekend, I was sitting by the stern of Eclipse Sportfishing on the trolling rotation(cedar plug trolling speed). We had stopped on a couple kelp paddies early in the day that yielded one yellowtail each. I signed in #15 on the manifest. By the time it was my turn in the rotation we were into the slowest part of the day, leaving my mind to wander…
“I wonder where the cedar plug came from” I asked angler #14.
“No idea” he replied. At which point his buddy walked up and said, “I swear by cedar plugs! Only lure I pull. I have a whole roll of them in different sizes.” I have to see this, I thought to myself. “Can you show me?” And so he did (see above).
The cedar plug didn’t end up working on this trip, but I’ve seen it and been amazed by it myself on numerous occasions. I did some poking around the internet and found several articles about the cedar plug…none with a definitive answer on its origin.
From what I can tell, it seems like the concept of the cedar plug was one of those things that was independently discovered by multiple fish minded peoples. From the pa kawahai trolling lure developed by the aboriginal Maori peoples of New Zealand, to carved walrus tusk trolling lures made by the native Inuit people of Alaska, to the walrus or whale bone carvings of early Japanese fishermen, it seems like a fishing lure that has been around for hundreds of years.
It’s thought that Western fishermen picked up the idea as whaling ships came into contact with these peoples. Cedar was a common building material on these old boats due to it’s lightweight resilience. Can’t you picture some old sailors carving out a cedar plug in their off hours on the boat? As new materials came out, cedar endured. It was favored because it could hold scent vs. metals. It was also cheap and easy to find as whale bone or walrus tusk became scarce.
Despite a myriad of choices in colors, materials and other adornments, the original natural wood cedar plug is still a lure favored by captains today. They count on it to stop the boat for their offshore fishing. Capt. Dustin Tench of the Ranger 85 told me, “I prefer natural and usually keep one in the spread all season! Doesn’t matter where either, short, long, they just get bit!” Said Capt. Mark Gillette of the Eclipse, “Love them. I like natural too. Center, furthest out. Great when the fish are on small bait like anchovies or saury.” (Like now)
Good enough for me. Used alone or in a daisy chain, the bottomline is the reason the cedar plug is still around is it just works…and on a wide variety of pelagic species from tuna to wahoo. Now that we’re full on into our offshore season, you better make sure you have one in your arsenal.
Good luck if you get out there.