G. Loomis Rods

Steelhead Side Drifting Rigs

 

Done properly, side-drifting provides the most natural presentation of baits to steelhead.  A combination of light, sensitive rods, spinning reels and high-visibility line work together with light weights, leaders and baits for an effortless drift.  There a distinct regional differences in preferred rigging of baits.  What each shares in common is that there is a bit of buoyancy added to the rig to counter balance the natural weight of baits and offer almost neutral buoyancy, and a beautiful drift.

Fish in Washington and you’ll most certainly encounter double hook rigs, with a Beau Mac Cheater tied between the hooks.  Depending on river size and conditions, hooks will be #4 for small water/clear conditions or #2 for big water/high water conditions.  Cheater sizes are #10 or #12 for the #4 hooks and #10 or #8 for the #2 hooks.  It is important not to outsize the hooks with the Cheater or you’ll inhibit the hook point from finding pay dirt.  

 

To tie the rig, begin with an egg loop at the leader’s end.  (Photo 1)

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Then simply slide the Cheater down to the top of the hook and follow with another egg loop. (Photo 2 & 3)

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For maximum hooking efficiency, affix the top hook so the point faces opposite the point on the lower hook. 

A dab of bait in the egg loop of the top hook finishes the rig. (Photo 4)

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To adapt to a wide range of conditions, there are Cheaters available in virtually any color combination. (Photo 5)

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In Northern Oregon, you may see double-hook Cheater rigs, but as you move south, you enter puff ball country.  In my opinion, puff balls are faster, easier, and less costly to work with.

 

Most anglers use a single #2 or in some cases #1 hook, tied with an egg loop (as in Photo 1 above).  Always be aware of regulations governing minimum hook size.  Oregon has many. 

Puff balls are applied directly over the hook point and placed in the bend of the hook.  When driving the hook point through them, do not go straight through the center, instead offsetting the hook to one side or the other.  In this manner, the puff ball is weaker and more apt to break off on the strike, allowing fast, complete penetration of the hook without resistance.  (Photo 1 & 2)

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Cured roe is the dominant bait in side-drifting, but be assured, sometimes you’ll need shrimp.  On a recent trip we knew we were covering fish but had only managed a single hook-up on eggs.  My shuttle driver had given me a single dozen sand shrimp.  Finally, one of the anglers up front in my drift boat made the switch.  Those twelve shrimp accounted for six more fish, in pretty short order, before they were gone. 

To rig a shrimp for side-drifting, remove the head and thread a #2 hook through the tail, coming out with the point just under the fanned tail. (Photos 1 & 2)

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Add a puff ball as described above or try a single Jensen Egg for a bit of added anise scent.  When using a Jensen Egg, you can slide the shrimp tail completely onto the leader.  Bring the Jensen Egg all the way over the hook eye, so that the completed bait has a completely exposed hook. (Photos 3 & 4)

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Always remember, side-drifting works because of the quality of the presentation which in its core element is light and natural.  Keep baits small.  Big baits can hinder the presentation with too much weight and poor drift.  Small baits can be really uncomfortable, coming from “big bait, big fish” thinking, but with success comes confidence, and in the end small baits will produce the bites.

 



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