As we quickly approach the lowland lake opener here in Washington I’m reminded of how much fun I’ve had over the years trolling for rainbows with small plugs. In case you’re not sure when the opener is…it’s this Saturday.
The second I lift the lid on my old trout box every year a lifetime of trout fishing memories flashes across the ol’ mental movie player. There’s stuff in this box that dates clear back to the mid-70’s when I was just a pup.
In one small compartment is a pile of small spoons, another contains a bunch of Mepp’s spinners, there’s a box of trout flies I tied in the 4th grade, some old red and white bobbers, and in yet another compartment is a little pile of Hot Shot plugs. Some are new and some are old.
The memories of hooking opening day trout on these small plugs are some of my most vivid because the strikes were vicious and the trout would jump for the sky the second they were hooked.
Dad would run the 15 horsepower Evinrude that vomited noxious exhaust fumes and my brother and I would sit at attention in our huge orange life jackets waiting for a strike. We had a twelve foot Smokercraft, which seemed plenty big at the time. Mom would be there too, stuffing food in our faces and keeping us warm.
I didn’t talk much. I would stare at my rod intently as dad meandered around the lake looking for a concentration of trout. When a trout would pound one of the plugs I still remember that moment of pandemonium when the rod would slam down and a chunky rainbow would launch itself into the sky trying to shake the hook.
It worked out best when they did spit the hook so we could fish a little longer. Regardless, I would get a big charge out of how hard a trout would slam these little plugs.
When I think back to the trout openers of my youth those are the first memories that come to the forefront, of trout smashing small plugs.
Trout-sized Hot Shots come in size 50, 60, and 70. If you choose just one size, however, I’d go with a size 60. They’ll dive a few feet down and if you need to go deeper simply add some split shot up the line three or four feet.
All of the colors above work great, but it seems like I always drift towards the froggy pattern and the flame orange Hot Shot. That’s what we used when we were kids and they still spank the trout to this day.
If you’re running an electric trolling motor you can let the plugs out around 30 feet and still get strikes. When using a gas-powered engine I recommend letting them out at least 50 feet or more. Be sure to troll slowly and when you get a few strikes in a certain area of the lake be sure to whip back around and make a few laps thru that area. Chances are there are more willing biters in the area.
A friend down near Portland, Oregon suggested running these small Hot Shot’s behind a Ford Fender. He catches some huge trout on some of the larger lakes in Oregon on this rig and says they absolutely paste the plugs when they hit them. That’s something I’ve got to try!
My wife and I will be taking our one year old daughter out on the boat this Sunday for her first trout fishing experience and I plan on trolling plugs. I’m pretty sure she won’t remember it when she’s older. We’ll remember it though and that’s what counts!
The Outdoor Line
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