There’s no questioning the
effectiveness of diver and bait presentations for both steelhead
and salmon. Divers allow a slow, thorough presentation of baits
to fish with ample opportunity for even lethargic steelhead and
salmon to develop and appetite. Successful diver fishing throughout
the year means understanding the useful range of available products
and the basics of rigging.
For the most part there are two
general choices in divers. First is the crankbait type, most
commonly including the old style Storm Hot n’ Tot (no longer
available) and recently the Brad’s Diver (a copy of the original
Hot n’ Tot). The Mud Bug would also be included as a
crankbait style, but poor distribution and only sporadic availability
make them a tough find. The second choice is the Luhr Jensen Jet
Diver family, including models that achieve a maximum depth of 10,
20, 30, and 40 feet.
The right diver choice does a few
things. First it gets your bait or lure to the bottom. Second
it handles the size bait or lure, as is often the case with Kwikfish,
which you are fishing. And last, the right diver offers a
smooth presentation from top to bottom of the run without constantly
digging bottom. A diver that ploughs the bottom will put a
move-stop, move-stop motion on the bait that’s undesirable.
Please note that all the rigging
shots shown below are out of proportion simply to allow the completed
rigs to be photographed.
Crankbait Style Divers
The crankbait style divers excel
in shallower, faster water applications. Their strong point
is their ability to resist snagging, even in the lower water of
a summer steelhead riffle. Their effective depth range is
from the thinnest water you’d care to fish, up to about 12
feet. The weakness of these lures as divers is that they can
be overpowered by a large chinook bait, causing the plug to become
very unstable and in instances, ineffective at staying down.
Again, under low water conditions they’re excellent.
To convert a deep-diving crankbait
to a diver, first strip the lure of its hooks. To the belly
split ring, add a four-bead chain swivel. (Photo 1)
These divers work well with a four-
to five-foot leader. Attach two feet of leader material to
the four-bead chain, break the leader up a barrel swivel to further
reduce tangles and finish with a two- to three-foot leader and hook
(tied with an egg loop). (Photo 2)
Always tune the plug prior to fishing
for maximum diving effectiveness.
Luhr Jensen’s Jet Divers come
in four sizes, but for all intensive purposes, you need only the
#20 and #40 models to cover virtually all river conditions.
The #20 is the standard for all small to medium rivers. With
an effective diving range to 15 or 16 feet, it is a special circumstance
that requires more from a diver. The strength of the #20 Jet
Diver is of course its versatility, along with the stability of
its dive and ability to handle even the largest baits. Its
weakness is in very shallow water, say four feet and under, when
it tends to over-dive and hang up. For fall chinook, most
winter steelhead conditions, and spring chinook; this is the diver
The diver can be rigged in two fashions.
First is tying the leader directly to the ring on the bottom of
the diver. (Photo 3)
The #20 can fish up to a seven-foot
leader without causing excessive hang-ups. As with the crankbait
divers, and all divers for that matter, place a swivel in the middle
of the leader to help with line twist. The second rigging
is the same as the #40 diver in which the diver is run off of a
sliding dropper line. (Photo 4)
This provides for a direct connection
between rod tip and bait, without connecting through the diver.
I use this rigging when I want to allow the bait to be up off the
bottom a touch and also when running Kwikfish behind the diver to
add extra depth to the plug.
The #40 Jet Diver is at home on
waters like the Columbia River, Willamette River and Clearwater
River where really heavy flows demand awesome stability and common
fishing depths reach and exceed twenty feet. They are packed
with the dropper line and swivel attached for slider rigging.
Slide you mainline through the swivel add a few beads to buffer
knots and tie off to another swivel. Attach your leader from
there. Leader lengths with the magnum divers are commonly
six- to eight-feet to gain some separation from the diver.
Although built for the big water, these divers are very effective
in waters as shallow as ten feet and can be employed with great
success in small spots where there is need to get deep fast, without
excessive line out.
a group, these are the three divers you should be comfortable using.
Think crankbait styles for shallow, the #20 Jet Diver for all-around
use, and the magnum #40 for the big water. As a side note,
pay attention to run timing for diver fishing. Along the Oregon
Coast, this extremely effective method of fishing is frowned upon
in late winter when wild steelhead dominate the available fish in
the rivers. The reason is that given the opportunity, a winter
steelhead will swallow a backtrolled bait. This is great when
the hatchery fish are in as you rarely lose one, but it’s
very hard on wild steelhead that are to be released. In December
and January, fish divers and bait as you like, but as February wears
on, it’s time to make a switch to backtrolling plugs.