G. Loomis Rods

Choosing the Right Diver


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.  

Jet Divers

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 of choice.

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. 

As 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.




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