Coho Salmon

Freshwater Coho Fishing – Pulling Plugs

Sometimes when fishing for coho I like to sit back and relax – that is when I pull plugs.

Plugs drive and wiggle – getting in the fish’s face and invoking a strike.  They come in a variety of sizes, styles and colors.  Some even have rattles, glo paint or even lights for extra fish attraction.

Rod and Reel

Rod makers have created special rods for pulling plugs.  These rods, often called Hot Shot Rods – after the original Hot Shot plugs – have 2 characteristics which make them ideal for this type of fishing.  First they have a sensitive tip which shows the wiggle of the plug – letting you know if it is working or not.  The second is they have a really stiff butt section – to get a good hookset when the fish grabs the plug.

Most of these rods are casting rods, and should be matched with a bait casting reel.  The reel should be big enough to hold about 150 yards of line.

If using mono then 15 pound Maxima Ultragreen works well.  If using braid then 20-30 pound line is a good choice.  The smaller diameter of braided line will help the plug get a little deeper, which is usually a good thing.

Terminal Tackle

It is easy to get overwhelmed with the selection of colors, styles and sizes.  Each has its own place for the various water conditions.  If you plug fish a lot then eventually you’ll wind up with more plugs than you have room to store them.  One expert plug fisherman I’ve fished with has at least 30 plano boxes filled with plugs.

But to keep it simple I recommend starting with 4 colors:

  • Red
  • Firetiger
  • Silver
  • Purple

Here is a selection of my favorite coho plugs (sorry this shot didn’t include a firetiger)

Favorite Coho Maglips

For size and style, I recommend starting with the MagLip 3.5 plugs.  It is a good all round plug.

Personally I like pulling the banana style plugs, like MagLips, Flatfish and Kwikfish.  But the fish style, like FatFish, Wigglers, Hot Shots and Wiggle Warts also work great.

How To Fish It

To pull plugs, first position the boat in the area you want to fish.  Then let out your lure until about 40 to 50 feet of line is out.

The water should have enough current for the plug to work – meaning wiggle and dive.

Put the rod in a rod holder and wait.

Generally speaking you want the rod to at a 45 degree angle to the water.  This can mean pointing straight back, and then up 45 degrees, or parallel with the water and 45 degrees back.  Having that angle allows the rod to do its thing setting the hook, while allowing the plug to dive.

The tip of the rod should have a “beat” as the plug wiggles.  If this stops then a leaf or something might have gotten caught on the line or plug, and it should be reeled in and checked.

When a fish hits it is usually quite obvious.  Sometimes a fish will play with the plug a little.  When this happens wait to grab the rod until the fish fully commits and that rod bends over.

While pulling plugs you can maintain a position in the current, or slowly go downstream (back trolling) or upstream (forward trolling).


Don’t forget to check out the coho fishing page and the gear page.

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