Flashback: Spring trout flashers still hot

Trolling flashers can produce some happy days of troutin'. Just ask Christopher Crawley. 

Anglers have been trolling flashers for as long as the two old fellows have chased Catfish Hunter in "Grumpy Old Men."

Nevertheless, in the last decade or so, the fishing industry has witnessed dramatic enhancements in the hardware used to attract trout.

These advancements have generated new interest in fishing with flashers.

While flashers used to be as big as a beer can in some instances, many anglers are now switching to ultralight gear.

In these new lines, manufacturers have attempted to minimize the amount of pull flashers create when trolled, yet increase the play anglers get from the fish.

"Times have changed," said Sep Hendrickson of Sep's Pro Fishing.

"Anglers like fighting the fish instead of fighting the hardware. The more compact flashers do the same job as the traditional larger ones, but allow you to feel the fish instead of fighting the flashers."

"The old flashers were so big and caused so much pull on your rod, they nearly pulled your rod into the water. That doesn't happen with ultralight flashers. You can actually feel the fish."

Feeling the fish. What a concept.

Don't get the wrong idea, though. Old school flashers still work wonders. In reality, the innovation has benefited the entire industry.

Ultralight gear has in no way replaced bulky flashers such as Cow Bells and Ford Fenders as a staple for trout trollers; they've simply given another application to help anglers catch more trout.

The larger flashers may cause more drag, but they also draw trout in from a larger area.

Smaller ultralight flashers are designed for smaller waters where trout are less concentrated.

"The reason large flashers are popular is that they attract from a further distance," said Buzz Ramsey, regional sales manager for Luhr Jensen.

"In a small lake in clear water, a small set of flashers will do the job for you, but the bigger the lake, the bigger the flashers you can troll."

"The smaller ultralight flashers pull easier and are terrific for small lakes, but they don't attract fish from as far as a distance. When fish are scattered, bigger flashers will attract more fish."

Improved and advanced tackle, on the other hand, can make for an enjoyable fishing experience.

For first-timers, keep in mind that flashers aren't baits. T

hey're attracters used to draw trout, kokanee and other coldwater species in towards your bait or lure.

Flashers aren't what the trout want to eat they're a tool used to get fish interested in your bait.

"Flashers or dodgers are to be used as an attractor or to enhance the action of the bait," said Gary Mirales, head of Shasta Tackle Company and maker of the Sling Blade, a dodger that can be trolled at high speeds.

"There are different sizes of flashers and dodgers you can use. The different ones on the market have a different speed where they work the best."

"Your trolling speed is determined by the products you're trolling. Each product has its limitations."

Then what speed is ideal when trolling with a flasher for trout? "When trolling flashers you just want them to spin," Hendrickson said.

"It's hard to give an exact speed because that can depend on current and wind, but usually 0.8 to 1.3mph is best."

The difference

Then what's the difference between a flasher and dodger? How do you determine when to use one or the other?

Keep in mind that a flasher is an attractor and doesn't add additional action to your lure.

"A dodger is different than a flasher," Hendrickson said.

"With a dodger, it all depends on the amount of action you want to impart to your lure. You go out and try a lot of variety and decide what works best."

"Whether I fish with a flasher or dodger, what I like to do is fish four rods with four different setups. When I find one that is working well, I'll switch everything to it."

"My preference is to use a dodger because it creates vibration, attraction and it creates an action, where as a flasher doesn't create much action," said Mirales, who said he doesn't employ a flasher or dodger when fishing shallower than 15 feet.

"You get more out of a dodger than you do a flasher setup. But a flasher can be very effective. Years ago I used to use the big Cow Bells. They're very effective."


Flashers and dodgers may be similar but they offer slightly different results.

"Flashers will attract fish to your gear, but it doesn't impart any additional action into your lure," said Ramsey.

"In order to understand how a flasher works you need to know what it's meant to do. When trout or a predator fish is in a feeding mode and he's chasing baitfish or whatever he's after, that action is visible to other fish and it attracts other fish."

"I guess you could compare it to seagulls. When one seagull comes in, the rest will come to investigate. The flashers are meant to attract fish."

"The blades are really designed to spin, vibrate and mimic that flash you'd see on a fish that is swimming or surveying bait to eat. The flashers are made to get trout to come investigate."

The great thing about flashers is that there isn't a wrong place to use them when fishing lakes, reservoirs or ponds for trout species.

"I use flashers when trolling the surface all the time," Hendrickson said.

"You have to do whatever it takes to incite the fish to strike, if it can be done by adding vibrations of flashers, then do it."

"A bare lure won't always work. You need the extra attraction there to bring that fish in. Sometimes fishing dictates not to use them at all, but you have to have the flexibility."

One simple rule to follow, though, is to increase the size of the attractor as you drop it into deeper water.

"If I'm going really deep, I like to run the larger ones because it will create more vibrations and more flash," said Mirales, who typically uses two dodgers fished together or a 1/0 dodger when fishing deeper than 100 feet.

At times, the length of your leader can make a difference in your success. Under normal conditions a 1 to 2-foot leader is optimal.

On the other hand, in really clear water it may be necessary to run a 4 to 6-foot leader, each water you fish, leader lengths may vary.

Trial and error is best. Use four rods, vary your leader length and stick with what's producing best.

"A lot of times trout are attracted to a big flash or blades, but then they get close to it and they don't want to get too close," Ramsey said.

"But a long leader will allow them to come in close and not be spooked in clear-water conditions."

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