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Hot Shots In Rivers

By Luhr Jensen, 🕔Mon, Mar 21st, 2011


The deadliest boating technique ever developed for catching game fish in rivers is "Hot Shotting" . . . one that derived its name from the Hot Shot ® diving plug. For years, Hot Shots ® and "Hot Shotting" were closely-guarded secrets of professional river guides.

They had to have successful customers in order to stay in business. In many areas, guides attribute 70 percent or more of their catch to this technique and lure.

This Luhr Jensen Tech Report will provide you with many of those closely-guarded secrets and, we hope, help you enjoy the same success as the pros.

The Hot Shot ® is a self-planing, diving lure. Its design incorporates a built-in planing bill which makes it dive when pulled through the water . . . the faster it's pulled, the deeper it dives. Because of this built-in, natural swimming action, Hot Shots ® are often used with no additional weight attached to the line. You simply use the existing river current or reel in line to make the plug dive.

The big advantage of using a non-weighted plug is that the lure will naturally follow the river currents, guiding it around snags and rocks, while still maintaining a position near the bottom, home of most game fish.

When rigging to use Hot Shots ®, most any rod and reel combination is acceptable. The choice will depend on your personal preference as these plugs can be successfully fished with just about any outfit. However, the "Hot Shotting" technique has resulted in some very specialized rods being manufactured for salmon and steelhead. The Berkley Series One or Fenwick Magnum-Taper "Hot Shotting" rods, have been produced especially for pulling plugs. These rods feature a heavy butt, with a light, sensitive tip that allows maximum visual contact to determine a lure's action. As you become more familiar with the technique, you may wish to purchase one of these specialized rods.

Line weight is important in relation to how deep you wish the plug to dive. Light line will create less water friction and allow the Hot Shot ® to dive deeper and closer to the bottom, while heavier-test will increase friction and thus shorten the dive.

Note that in order to maintain proper lure action, your line should be tied directly to the round eye snap. Tying a line to the lure eyelet, or using any other type of snap or snap swivel may adversely affect a Hot Shot's ® built-in action.

The Luxon ® Duo-Lock snaps provided with each plug are especially manufactured to ensure that only a perfectly-rounded, lightweight wire touches the screw eye on the lure. This creates optimum swimming action and maximum fish appeal.

Another of the easiest, yet most important, 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 it parallel to the hook point and with gentle, one-way strokes, remove a small amount of metal on at least two sides of the point to obtain a sticky-sharp point with a knife-like cutting edge. Keep the file clean and dry and occasionally spray it with a non-corrosive lubricant such as WD-40. Files are available in 5 1/2" x 3/4" or 4 1/4" x 5/8" sizes.

Hot Shot ® hooks are high quality, 2X strong trebles which will yield maximum hooking power. A large or particularly active fish may possibly render a hook unusable so, after landing it, check the hook carefully. If it is bent or twisted, replace it. We recommend using a straight point, 2X strong hook, such as a W & M Eagle Claw 934. A plastic 35mm film container is a handy place to carry a few replacement hooks.

The final critical step in rigging the plug is to "tune" it so that it will dive straight and true. It is often said that some Hot Shots ® fish better than others. The factory and designers believe that ALL Hot Shots ® can be hand-tuned by the angler to achieve proper fish-enticing action. With proper rigging and tuning, each lure will have optimum action and will dive to its maximum depth.

Here is the secret to tuning a Hot Shot ®: Pull the plug through the water, observing its diving action. If it dives straight and true, it requires no additional tuning and will produce the correct fish-catching action and vibrations. If it runs off to one side, it needs to be hand-tuned to assure the ideal action and greatest diving capability. If the lure runs to the left, then, with the bill facing you, turn the screw eye slightly clockwise. If the lure digs to the right, turn the screw eye slightly counter-clockwise. Adjust until the Hot Shot ® dives absolutely straight down. Feedback from Luhr Jensen fishing teams indicates that with proper field-tuning, a Hot Shot ® will outfish any other lure of its type.

With the plug rigged and properly tuned, you're now ready to fish. Head your boat upstream and above the area you wish to fish. Row or run your motor just fast enough to hold even with the current. Strip out or free -spool line until the plug is 50 feet downstream of your boat. (NOTE: if you wish to run more than one plug, they all should be at the 50-foot distance). When you stop paying out line, the current will make the Hot Shot ® dive. The stronger the current, the deeper the lure will dive so be sure to maintain constant pressure against it.

As you backtroll through an area, allow your boat to drop slowly downstream, keeping the lure actively working at all times by maintaining steady pressure against the current. To keep the plug constantly wiggling and diving, always run your boat downstream slower than the river's natural speed.

Working a Hot Shot ® downstream into fish-holding water (such as that just below a riffle, along a deep side channel or at the head or tail end of a deep hole) provides the optimum results as fish can see the lure coming and anticipate its arrival.

Most anglers agree that by watching their rod tip, they can tell just how fast to run their boat. Some even paint their rod tips orange for easy visibility. A constantly pulsating rod tip indicates the plug is working properly. The faster your rod tip pulses, the deeper the plug is diving. Hold your boat back against the current enough to force the Hot Shot ® to dive and then thoroughly work through each stretch of fishy water before moving on downstream.

A special round Luxon ® Duo-Lock snap (no swivel) comes with each Hot Shot ® lure to ensure maximum fish-catching action.

River fish treat Hot Shots ® as invaders to their territories and react to them with savage strikes. A plug fished too rapidly through a drift seems to be treated as a passing invader and often is ignored. A slowly-fished plug, on the other hand, is an "invader to be dealt with" and will produce far more strikes as the fish will become irritated beyond control.

Many fish species also will view a slow-moving plug as an easy meal, whereas a fast-moving one may require too much effort to catch and thus, is left alone. Because of the nature of Hot Shots ®, and the extreme irritation they can cause a fish, strikes are often vicious. Whenever you get a strike set the hook HARD!


70 1 1/2" 1/10-oz. 3' - 5' trout

60 1 7/8" 1/8-oz. 4' - 6' trout / bass

502 1/4" 1/8-oz. 5' - 8' trout / bass

402 9/16" 1/5-oz. 10 feet lg trout /stlhd

302 5/8" 1/4-oz. 10 feet lg trout /stlhd /slmn

352 11/16" 5/16-oz. 12 feet " " "

253 1/4" 2/3-oz. 18 feet " " "

Smaller models usually are selected when rivers are low and clear with the larger sizes used for off-color or high water. The No. 25 and No. 35 models are extra-deep-diving, high-action plugs especially suited for big water or deep runs.

The No. 25 Hot Shot ® has become a favorite for big water or where a deep-diving plug is needed. This extra-deep diving, high-action plug will dive to 18 feet. Does it work? Ask fishing pro Buzz Ramsey who caught a 30-lb. 5-oz. using one!

The No. 30 Hot Shot ® is the all-around river angling favorite. It dives to 10 feet and is effective in most water conditions. It comes with a special oval split ring to nab short strikers, is 2 5/8" long and weighs 1/4-oz.

The No. 35 Hot Shot ® is an angler's dream. This extra-deep-diving, high-action version of the popular No. 30 is deadly for all game fish. It's available with a rattle.

The No. 40 is a high-action Hot Shot ®. This small, but deadly plug dives up to 10 feet and is particularly effective for steelhead and large trout. The No. 40 is 2 9/16" long and weights 1/5-oz. It's a top low-water producer.

Of the many dozens of color finishes available for river fishing and backtrolling, the following are the most popular ones that we regularly recommend. As with all lure colors, individual anglers seem to discover which ones produce best for them. We encourage you to try different colors and sizes in your local waters to find your own favorites.

In our plated/metallic finish series try the #935 Metallic Dark Green, #923 Silver/Blue Pirate ®, #922 Gold/Green Pirate ®, #949 Silver Plate/Blue Top or #943 Metallic Red. Of the painted series, the #907 White/Black Head, #969 Crawfish, #970 Fire/Black Dot and #998 Shrimp are excellent choices. The #969 works extremely well in clear water.

"Hot Tail" finishes are particularly effective because they focus strikes on the lure's tail end where exposed hooks ensure more and better hookups. These are: #747 "Hot Tail" Silver/Green Chartreuse, #850 "Hot Tail" Silver/Chartreuse, #851 "Hot Tail" Silver/Fire and #856 "Hot Tail" Gold/Fire.

From the Prism-Lite ® reflector series, select the #944 Gold Reflector/Black Scale, #945 Nickel Reflector/Black Scale, and #961 Silver Prism-Lite/Black Scale . . . all of which are especially effective late in the season or in clear or emerald-colored water.

The "Hot Shotting" technique works equally well for trout in rivers. The most effective trout finishes are #806 Rainbow Trout, #903 Frog, #908 Perch, #912 Black Scale, #913 Fluorescent Red "Fire", #920 Silver and #921 Gold.

In extremely low light conditions, a #988 Glo/Fluorescent Green Top would be recommended and for those fishing rivers where predatory species reside, an #806 Rainbow Trout, #807 Grasshopper, #808 Brown Trout or #903 Frog finish would be good bets.

Another way to fish Hot Shots ® effectively from shore is to wade out or positioning yourself above fish-holding water and then work slowly down through it by stripping out a few feet of line, stopping for a few seconds, stripping out, stopping and so on.

A Hot Shot ® can also be worked from the bank with extreme effectiveness by using the Luhr Jensen Hot Shot ® Side Planer, a compact device which attaches to the line ahead of the plug and which literally lets you navigate the lure from bank to bank.

Yet another effective technique from the bank is the cast, swing and retrieve method. The Hot Shot ® S.E. was designed with casting in mind for both the bank and boat angler. The 1/4-oz. model is ideal for trout and steelhead with light line and a spinning rod. The 1/2-oz is perfect for steelhead while the 3/4-oz. size is the choice when it comes to Chinook salmon. Position yourself upstream of the water you wish to cover (such as a tailout) and then cast across and slightly downstream. When the plug hits the water, take several turns on the reel handle to start it diving. Then simply allow the force of the current to maintain the dive as the plug swings back across the river toward you. When the Hot Shot ® reaches a position close to the bank directly downstream of you, reel in slowly and make another cast.

Luhr Jensen's revolutionary Hot Shot ® Side Planer allows any shore-bound angler the ability to reach the same productive water as the boater. After attaching the Side Planer to your line, it is placed in the current where it will skate off across the surface and out into the river carrying with it a trailing Hot Shot  ® plug. By maneuvering the Side Planer into position, either by letting out line or by changing place on the bank, the angler can fish a Hot Shot  ® down through productive water as far as 100 feet away. Once the Side Planer and lure are in a fishy drift, the bank angler can, by slowly walking downriver, go "Hot Shotting" just like a boater. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for our free "How to Fish a Hot Shot ® Side Planer in Rivers" Tech Report for detailed rigging and technique information.

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