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The Return of the Ring...How to turn the Kokanee bite on with custom wedding ring spinners

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Kokanee Limite Lake Merwin

Kokanee time is here…Gentlemen; it’s time to de-winterize your boats!While a lot of the conventional wisdom points to May as the time to start thinking about Kokanee, I’m here to tell you that March and April can be very productive too!  If the Springers are still running thin and all of your favorite Steelhead water is blown out, why not chase some Kokanee?The big Trout opener is just around the corner too, and these tips work equally well for them.

While the Kokanee tackle section at my favorite local shop seems to be bigger every time I go in, there is no denying that dodgers and hoochies have stolen all of the thunder in the last few years.I use them too and I think that they are great.However, they are just part of a well-rounded tackle box for these fish.

The trap…If it ain’t broke…

Have you ever wondered what the heck happened when the bite you were on goes completely dead?Then you turn around and see another boat with a double or triple on cruising right through your last pass! I see guys using the same setup all day long because they caught a couple of fish on it earlier in the day.It seems logical until you know better.You think-this setup works…I’ve got 3 fish in the boat to prove it…and on you go dragging it around the lake. The most knowledgeable anglers within the sport of Kokanee fishing will almost all agree that constantly changing your approach throughout the day can play a major role in order to consistently catch these oftentimes finicky little salmon. Simply put…be aggressive, don’t be afraid to make a change.

The fix…abc…always be changing

Kokanee are notorious for coming on and off of the bite.Throughout the course of the day they can vary widely in what they like…depth, color preference, lure preference, bait & scent etc.It’s all in motion.If you are truly dialed in and the bite is hot, you won’t have much time to make alterations to your setup. You will be full time busy netting fish and getting your rigs back in the water.Even in this situation, I like to play with things a bit.If what you are doing is working…make small changes.Leaders get messed up just in the process of catching a bunch of fish, so on a reset try changing it up.Go with a slightly smaller or larger presentation on one of your rods…change the depth a few feet up or down…swap out a color etc.What you will find might surprise you.Maybe the bigger fish were just below where you had been fishing.As the bite starts to shift, you’ll have a better chance of staying in it.

My secret weapon - Custom Wedding Ring Spinners

Pink Bead Kokanee Wedding Ring Spinner

As it turns out, my secret weapon isn’t a secret at all.The wedding ring spinner has been around forever.A great many of us use “wedding rings” tipped with white corn and hey it works!I don’t care if you are straight line trolling with flashers, on downriggers or running a dodger.These simple little lures can consistently put fish in the boat.While I previously mentioned the explosion in the hoochie market, commercial offerings for wedding rings have grown far beyond the traditional orange and chartreuse that I started out with.They now come in a variety of colors and include things like smile blades (Mack’s had 16 varieties available at my last count!), but let’s take it to the next level.

Here is something I tried years ago that has consistently produced fish for me even on the days when no one on the lake is using their net. Rather than using store bought wedding rings, I like to roll my own. I like to use larger beads which I feel presents a bigger presence to the fish as well as giving them a different look. Virtually all the local fishing shops or online tackle suppliers carry the components to make your own wedding rings. When I can’t find what I need locally I buy my components online from companies such as Hagen’s or Jann’s Netcraft.

Kokanee Lure Building Box

Here’s another advantage…Now you will have the ability to use fluorocarbon leaders (Has anybody besides me noticed the pound test/rope they put on store bought), choose your own bead colors/sizes, and use much better quality hooks.Even more importantly, use different blade types, colors and sizes. Believe me when I say, this is a killer concept for both Rainbow and Brown Trout as well.

Now your color combinations can become endless… (Welcome to my wallet) I have a friend who thinks I am over the top with this…ok several, but I can’t begin to count the number of times the bite has shut off, we change colors, sizes and blades and Boom we are on again. Now to sit here and try to say which is the best out of the 50 or so combinations I take to the lake would be foolish on my part and yours if you paid attention to the above. However, you have to have a place to start and these three old favorites are usually the ones I almost always begin the morning with:

1-Pink Beads w/tiny hot pink bead teaser - Silver Diamond Blade…Colorado or Indiana

2-Blood Red Beads - Silver Diamond Blade…Colorado or Indiana

3-Chartreuse Beads w/small yellow teaser bead – Gold or Cooper Blade…Colorado or Indiana

Say what you will about how I prepare these custom wedding ring set ups, but I have witnessed many times were the rod with the teaser bead is the only rod on the boat blowing up…it can be a game changer. (I know Huh)

General Kokanee Tips & Tricks

“Bait Tipping”

There is a large assortment of baits that are very effective when utilized at the end of a “Wedding Ring” here are just a few favorites:

1-Green Giant White Shoe Peg Corn…no not yellow!

2-Maggots – Berkley or Live Maggot

3-Meal Worms

4-Red Salmon Egg

“Ring” Storage…

Kokanee Lure Leader Spool

You will want to store your set ups on a leader spool, this allows you to remove the desired lure tangle free and ready to use. (See pre wrapped rings) These are considered an absolute must have to stay organized. Tying several leader set up’s in advance allows you to make quick changes out on the water with very little loss of fishing time. These leader spools are available from several manufactures and can be purchased virtually everywhere tackle is sold, they range from $3.99-$8.99 depending on size.

Blades, Beads, Rings, Line & Hooks…

General Main Body Bead Size - 6mm…General Blade Size - #3 & #4 General Line Weight – 6-8 lb Leader/ 10 lb main line General Hook Size #4 & #6. Wedding Rings (Jeweled Centerpiece) can be as expensive as a dollar or more each but I finally found a source for .20-.25 cents each with a great color selection…call Bruce at Northwest Nightcrawlers-503-314-0161 he will mail them right to your door. Rewards…if you design a color that works for you and it catches fish, there is a great sense of pride to have outsmarted the little bas*****.

Try tying up several assorted bead colors and use different style/color blades when you fill your leader rolls. I have found that on certain days the importance of changing blade style and color can make a huge difference in that day’s outcome, sometimes more than the color of the “Ring.” A “Quick Change” clevis is very handy for changing blades in a matter of seconds. If you have confidence in an area but the fish don’t seem active, try trolling with a different blade color on different passes through the same area. As I said earlier…Be Aggressive. Don’t troll all day with limited success with just one color or one lure…don’t be that guy.


For serious Kokanee anglers, downriggers are the way to go when the fish go deep.If you don’t have them don’t let that stop you though.You may not experience as much fight out of the fish when you are using the heavier weights, but they will still taste just as good when you get them home!

Generally if I am not using downriggers I will attach to my flashers what many anglers call banana weights. Early in the year when the fish are closer to the surface I will use a 1 ounce weight approximately 70-80 feet behind the boat. A 2 ounce weight 90-125 ft back is also a good all around choice until the warmer summer months when I use heavier (4-5 ounce) weight as far back as 125-135 ft. I am no longer a fan of the old school method of letting out so many pulls to get your set up out.It is this type of fishing where a line counter reel is imperative to stay consistent.With what the gas and time are worth nowadays, don’t go to the lake without one.Okuma has a few great starter reels that go on sale from $25-$60 regularly.Don’t be afraid to change your depth, keep a good eye on the fish finder to see where the fish are and where you need to be. If you’re not catching fish make a change deeper or shallower.

Boat Speed…

If I am trolling slow (1.1-1.5 mph) I will use a Colorado type blade to get more water disturbance from the wider blade. If I am trolling faster, then I want a thin, tighter spin that an Indiana blade produces. Generally when I reach my intended fishing area, I will try trolling fast as my first option looking for the more active fish, then repeat that same troll line at a slower speed. Mixing up your speed is quintessential to consistently catching Kokanee. Caution…don’t let them fool you, if you get several at one speed then the bite dies off change to a different speed…trust me they are still there.

Rods and Reels…

Kokanee gear can be somewhat specialized with many anglers utilizing very limber rods measuring between 7’-7 ½ ft in length. These rods will generally be rated in the 4-8 lb line class and are designed specifically not to load up as Kokanee have a very soft mouth (One reason many anglers use a rubber snubber in line with their flashers and dodgers). Any extra pressure when fighting a Kokanee will most likely end up as a fish story rather than a fish dinner. Both Lamiglas and Okuma offer several specialized rods that work very well on Kokes.

As far as reels, I prefer Line Counter models as they consistently place my lures exactly where I want them to be. Standard level winds get the job done but the line counters eliminate any guess work. Diawa, Okuma, Garcia and several other companies have quality line counter models available.

So hey…stop back soon and we’ll discuss more Kokanee, Salmon, Steelhead, Trout and other fishing possibilities available here in the beautiful Northwest. We will have several well known guides that will also be joining us as guest contributors to our discussions. If you would like to ask a question or have a comment on today’s article feel free to contact us here at Fish Strike Fishing

Get the Net…

Bill Rivas

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