Coupled with the effectiveness of trolling
technique, flashers and dodgers are deadly fish attractors
in both fresh and salt water. They are rigged in the
line between the lure and downrigger release, diver
or lead to provide attraction and impart erratic action
to trailing lures such as plugs, spoons, flies or plastic
Trolling with dodgers or flashers produces excellent
results because you can cover a large amount of water
in a very short time, thereby locating concentrations
of fish with the least amount of time and effort expended.
The flash and sound of these attractors draws fish from considerable
distances, allowing you to cover a wider swath of water effectively
with each pass . . . a big advantage when prospecting unknown
waters or when fish are scattered.
Successful trolling requires a knowledge of fish and their
habits, proper equipment, the ability to troll various depths
and a willingness to experiment with different attractors,
lures and color patterns.
Tackle for trolling dodgers or flashers consists of a stout
7- to 9-ft. trolling rod, free-spool-type star drag reel filled
with 20- to 30-lb. test premium monofilament line and a downrigger,
diver or selection of lead weights to get your offering down
into fish territory.
DODGERS vs. FLASHERS
The big difference between dodgers and flashers is the way
they run through the water when being trolled. A dodger has
a side-to-side swaying action while a flasher develops full
360° rotations. This provides you with two completely different
types of attractors, each giving off specific flash and vibration
Flashers and dodgers impart an erratic, darting action to
trailing lures and produce fish-attracting flash and sound.
Plugs, spoons, flies and squids all can be used with a dodger,
which transfers a crippled baitfish action to these lures.
Flies and squids are best used behind an Abe 'n Al® rotating
flasher because they have no action of their own in the water
and the flasher will give them a lifelike, erratic natural
For dodgers, the correct fish-attracting speed and action
is achieved when the attractor has a side-to-side swaying
motion. With your boat moving "dead slow", place a rigged
dodger-and-lure setup in the water (see illustration) and
slowly increase your speed until the dodger has developed
the proper action. This is your optimum trolling speed.
Optimum rotating flasher speed, on the other hand, is obtained
when the attractor is working in regular full 360° rotations.
With your boat in motion, place a rigged flasher-and-lure
setup in the water (see illustration) and increase your speed
until the flasher develops these regular, full revolutions.
Note: Flashers generally work better at slightly faster speeds
Shown in the following diagrams are various ways to rig a
dodger for trolling.
Note the recommended leader-to-lure lengths
and leader from weight-to-dodger lengths carefully as too
long a leader will negatively affect lure action. Also, too
short a leader from lead, diver or downrigger release to the
dodger will restrict the action of the dodger and inhibit
its fish-attracting capabilities. These leader rules also
apply to flashers.
Dodgers can be used with a keel-type sinker,
behind divers such as the Pink Lady®, Deep Six® or Dipsy Diver®
or behind a downrigger release, all of which are diagrammed
The other illustrations above present two proven
ways to rig a flasher for trolling.
Remember that the correct fish-attracting speed
for a rotating flasher occurs when it is being pulled through
the water just fast enough to make complete 360° regular rotations.
This will result in a steady throb-throb-pause, throb-throb-pause
action at your rod tip.
When using up to six ounces of weight, keel-type
sinkers are adequate, but when more weight is required, it
is suggested that you use an Abe 'n Al® 3-way swivel and round
lead ball as it will maintain maximum flasher-to-lure transferred
action and minimize the possibility of tangles and line twist.
The most popular color finishes for dodgers
and flashers are Chrome, Chrome/Silver Prism-Lite® and Fire.
Hammered Chrome flashers and dodgers, however, are being used
more and more as they disperse light in all directions as
do the Prism-Lite® finishes. In the Great Lakes, Fire, Chartreuse,
Watermelon and Kelly Green models are increasingly popular
and in the Northwest, White and 50/50 Brass/Chrome are very
These are only a few of the colors available
for the Abe 'n Al®, Alaskan Eagle and Jensen Dodger models
from Luhr Jensen. The smaller of the Jensen Dodgers, the #040
(4" x 1 3/8") and #030 (4 5/8" x 1 1/2") are generally used
for trout or kokanee fishing while the larger sizes are preferred
for salmon and other big fish. The size of dodger you select
should be based somewhat on the size of the trailing lure
you wish to use. For instance, a large J-Plug® might overpower
the action of a small #030 dodger so a larger one would be
used such as the #007, #000 or even the large #001. If you're
going to fish deep, larger dodgers will provide more flash
and stronger vibration which can draw fish from farther away.
In clear or shallow water conditions, a smaller dodger might
The Abe 'n Al® flashers are available in five
sizes ranging from the smallest #006 (6" x 1") to the largest
#002 (13 1/2" x 2 5/8") with the #006 best used for trout
on light gear and the larger ones for salmon, other big fish
and deep trolling situations. The largest (#002) should be
used for deep, heavy trolling conditions.
Following are some helpful tips relating to
particular fish species. Although there are no hard and fast
rules when it comes to fishing, there are many regularly observed
fish habits and preferences that will give you a definite
edge if you're familiar with them.
When the temperature is right in fresh water and during most
of their life in salt water, coho salmon are surface or shallow
water oriented. They generally can be found at depths less
than 50 feet and are a fast fish when compared with Chinook
or lake trout. They especially like the fast action of a dodger
(#007 or #000 are popular) in combination with flies and squids.
The rule of thumb for a fly or squid lure behind a dodger
is to use a leader of about 1 1/2 times the length of the
dodger. In the Great Lakes, some anglers have been successful
with leaders as short as 6". These impart incredibly fast
action to the trailing lure. The principle here is to use
a longer leader for slower action and a shorter for faster
action. Since it is easier to shorten a leader then change
to a longer one, start with 12 to 18 inches and then shorten
it until you get the desired lure action. A super-fast action
fly used in combination with a dodger is deadly for coho.
Some effective spoons to try are the Kokanee King, Krocodile,
#31 Alpena Diamond and the Coyote.
When compared with coho, Chinook salmon prefer deeper water
and larger, slower-action lures and attractors. They often
shy away from unnatural movements in the water, so longer
leaders are generally used. The Abe 'n Al® flasher is a proven
attractor for deep water Chinook and its lazy, rotating action
is often exactly what turns them on. When used with flies
or squids, leader lengths between the lure and flasher should
be 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 times the flasher length or between 18"
and 30". The longer the leader, the slower and more deliberate
the action imparted to the trailing lure.
Chinook and coho in most of the Great Lakes
grow to trophy size feeding primarily on forage fish. Consequently,
the most productive baits for trolling with flashers there
are whole herring, plug-cut herring, herring strips and plastic
squids baited with a herring strip. Rigged correctly a whole
herring will roll in a slight arc at a rate of 1 to 2 revolutions
per second. The Herring Aid® provides one of the simplest,
most effective ways to rig whole herring to produce an effective
rolling action at slow trolling speeds. The #2 size works
best in the Great Lakes where alewives average 6 to 7 inches.
SALT vs. FRESH WATER
When trolling in salt water, you'll find the
optimum feeding and fish-catching times during low light periods
and from an hour before, during and an hour after a tide change.
Fish areas where birds are working on baitfish schools and
troll the clean sides of rips.
In fresh water, such as in the Great Lakes,
the time of day isn't nearly as critical as locating the depth
of the preferred temperature level for the fish species you're
seeking . . . the thermocline. Lakes stratify into three separate
layers of water in the spring and stay that way until cold
weather. The middle layer, where there is a larger concentration
of dissolved oxygen, baitfish and therefore predator fish,
is called the thermocline and can usually be found from 10
to 80 feet down. This is a temperature layer as well as an
oxygen-saturated layer and fish will relate to it as both
a comfort zone and one where their body metabolism functions
the most efficiently. These fish will be suspended and feeding
on alewives, smelt or other forage fish.
The peak feeding and optimum temperature for
coho and Chinook is 54° with an active range from 44° to 58°.
For lake trout, the peak feeding and optimum temperature is
51° with activity from 43° to 53°. Fish will rarely venture
out of these zones, once stratification has taken place, except
to catch a meal and then will quickly return to it. One thing
to remember when fishing the thermocline is that its depth
can change from day to day because of wind and/or wave action.
It may be several feet deeper or shallower from one day to
the next so you'll have to relocate it each time you go out.
SHARP HOOKS PAY OFF!
One of the easiest things you can do to improve
your fishing success is to maintain super-sharp hooks on your
lures at all times. A fine-toothed file such as Luhr Jensen's
Sharp Hook File is the absolute best hook sharpening tool
available. Hold the file parallel to the hook point and withgentle,
one-way strokes, remove a small amount of metal on at least
two sides to obtain a sticky-sharp point with a knife-like
There probably is no one accessory more important
as a good quality depth sounder such as those made by Bottomline,
for producing optimum trolling results. A flasher unit will
pinpoint the depth at which fish are suspended, thereby allowing
you to get your lure to the right depth with no guesswork.
These units also enable you to spot underwater contour changes
such as ledges, dropoffs, islands and other structure that
fish relate to that otherwise can't be found with any consistency.
A paper chart recording depth sounder will
provide you with the previous advantages plus give you a permanent
record to refer back to. You can chart specific areas, bottom
contours and the like and actually see your lure and fish
that are close by. Schools of baitfish (and sometimes the
thermocline layer) which are only momentary blips on a flasher
unit can be seen and followed with a chart recorder. A depth
sounder will allow you to zero in on the right fish-holding
depth at the right time and over the right structure. It's
an investment that will pay for itself in both fish and fishing
Here are several tips to file away in your memory
• Use a quality, premium monofilament line,
such as Trilene XT which has high knot strength, low visibility
in the water, thin diameter in relation to strength and great
• Know the area you plan to fish BEFORE going
out by talking with local anglers, sporting goods personnel,
studying charts and maps and reading local fishing publications.
• Try to match the size and color of the baitfish
in the water you'll be fishing.
• Save a lot of valuable fishing time by pre-rigging
and pre-tying all of your gear at home. Leaders can be pre-tied
with snaps or snap swivels and all you'll have to do to change
lures, attractors or weights is to undo and refasten a snap
Those are some of the tips, techniques and riggings
which will help you become a more successful troller with
dodgers and/or flashers.
GOOD LUCK FISHING!