TRICKING WINTER STEELHEAD FROM THE BOTTOM
By Scott Haugen
Fishing legend Buzz Ramsey knows I’ve been a steelhead jig fishing fanatic for many years, and when he told me of a spinoff to this approach, he caught my attention. The following setup can be applied to any jig fishing setup, be it on a sliding or fixed float; everything stays the same – the only difference is the addition of a second hook with a bare Lil’ Cork:
TYPICALLY, A JIG is fished 1 or 2 feet off the bottom. Surprisingly, when marabou jigs drift downstream beneath a float, they are very streamlined. The action of the float on the surface will cause the jig to move around a bit, but usually there’s little undulation. Enter the Corky on a dropper. The setup is simple and consists of tying an 18- to 24-inch leader directly to the jig. For steelhead fishing in heavy, turbid water, I pretie my leader to a size 1/0 hook and peg a size 10 Corky an inch or two above the hook. In clear, gentler water, I’ll downsize to a size 1 hook, topped with a size 12 Corky. It’s
important to keep the Corky pegged in place with a round toothpick so it doesn’t float up and down the leader. Some anglers who’ve used this setup with success prefer a red colored hook, but I’ve also caught fish on dark colored hooks as well as silver. Since Corkies float, it’s important to compensate for their buoyancy by using a hook that’s large enough to drift below the jig, one that will keep the Corky close to or even occasionally ticking the bottom. When tying the other end of the leader to the jig, tie it to the bend in the hook. From there, snug the knot and slide it up the shank of the hook toward the jig head. This allows the jig to run in a position horizontal to the bottom. As the Corky trails below, it will
be tossed around in currents and periodically bounce off of the bottom. By pegging the Corky a couple inches above the hook, it keeps the point of the hook from coming in contact with the bottom and hanging up. The buoyancy of the floating Corky is wherein the value of this presentation lies, as other, nonbuoyant presentations like beads and egg imitations can sink and cause hangups. In bedrock-strewn rivers and where excess debris may be collected on the bottom, I’ve had good results in preventing hangups by slipping a foam ball onto the hook. Slip the foam ball just beyond the barb so it keeps the point of the hook facing upwards as it drifts downstream. From there, fish the setup as you would a regular jig. What makes this approach so effective is the added coloration and movement. When Ramsey first told me about it, he shared how many anglers were reportedly doubling their normal catches. Many fish were being hooked on the Corky, fish that may not have otherwise responded to the jig.
THE FIRST TIME I fished the Corky dropper beneath a jig, I was surprised and impressed. A buddy and I side-drifted yarn balls through a steelhead hole – multiple times – without a strike. Then we broke out the jig rods. We made three passes through the same 100 yards of water without a takedown. The river was low and clear and we felt confident fish were holding there; we just couldn’t get them to bite. On the next pass, we added the Corky dropper to our jig setups. Halfway through the same section of water we’d been fishing, my buddy’s jig got hammered. The next pass, I landed a nice fish. The pass after that, we landed our third fish. Remember, all three of these steelhead came from water we’d just fished with two other approaches. What surprised me was that each fish we caught was hooked on the jig, not the Corky. No doubt, the addition of the Corky resulted in increased jig movement, something the steelhead couldn’t resist. Later, we did end up catching a couple fish on the trailing Corky.The addition of a Corky to a jig is a testimony to how changing one component to an already proven technique can boost catch rates, and any time that happens, anglers are happy. CS
Editor’s note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s popular book, Bank Fishing For Steelhead & Salmon, send a check for $17 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489, or order online at scotthaugen.com.