Tip #44 Are You A Two Speed Bait Cutter?
There are three schools (no pun) of anglers who troll for king and silver salmon in the saltwaters of Alaska. The first group will focus on using hardware and artificial lures, plugs, plastic baits and spinners to entice the salmon to bite. In the bait fishing camp one group prefers to use manufactured harnesses or nose clips to mount a whole troll herring on their line while the other camp prefers to use the plug cut method of slicing off the head of the herring at a specific angle and rigging the bait to their troll hooks and leader directly. The objective of each group who use troll herring is to get the bait to spin so as to attract the fish and get it to bite, thinking it is attacking a crippled or injured bait fish.
All three methods work well in Alaska's saltwaters and quite often the skipper of the boat will opt for a variety of rigs in the water at the same time to determine what the daily preferences are for the fish that are biting. This tip will focus on the crowd who prefer to troll herring using the plug cut method.
Most salmon tackle sporting goods departments and stores will carry a little unit called a bait cutting guide which consists of an aluminum or plastic 3 sided trough with slots cut in opposite sides of the unit to guide the knife at a very precise angle. This angle is a 3 dimensional cut meaning it actually consists of two angles in the X, Y, Z plane. The head is cut off the herring using this guide and the angled surface of the bait will be what causes it to spin at a specific RPM and radius.
Silver salmon are known to prefer trolled herring that spin at a higher RPM and tighter circle than the trolled herring cut for king salmon. Kings typically prefer a slow spinning bait moving in a wider circle. Perhaps the preferences are due to the size of the salmon. If you have ever watched a school of silvers feeding on a bait fish school their nimbleness and agility in grabbing fast darting needlefish is unmatched by anything short of some tropical tunas. Whereas kings are much larger fish on average and are slower to respond and perhaps this is why they prefer an easier target.
Unfortunately there are some Bait Guides on the market, one made of aluminum with a nylon cutting surface, that only have a single set of guide slots on the unit. In the case of trolling for silvers vs kings, its not often true that "one size fits all" with respect to the rotation speed and radius of the trolled herring. Fortunately while shopping at Sportsman's Warehouse the other day I came across a $1.99 all plastic unit distributed by Danielson which had both SILVER and KING angles on the unit. The other aluminum unit by a well-known manufacturer ran $9.99 and only had a single slot.
Pictured below is the unit that you will want to go with for your saltwater trolling. The Silver slots create an angle on the plug cut bait which spins at a higher speed and a tighter circle. The King "setting" gives a wider radius and slower spin to the herring.
Good Luck, -KK-
P.S. Always use a razor sharp bait cutting knife when cutting your herring to create the cleanest and smoothest cut surface.
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