Shake your lure, catch more trout

Mark Fractor trolled a dodger and needlefish for this trout. 

For many anglers, the one fishing activity they could not live without is trolling for trout.

And for those anglers looking to boost catch rates under both ideal and inclement conditions dodgers are a vital tool.

"A dodger was made to create action and vibration in the lure you're fishing," said Sep Hendrickson, author of "Trolling Truths For Trout, Kokanee and Landlocked King Salmon" and owner of Sep's Pro Fishing.

"It will attract more fish by creating more action and vibration. With a dodger, it kicks anything around and creates more action on your lure."

Dodgers, unlike flashers, impact action to the lure you're trolling and in many instances increase your probability of catching trout.

Knowing what size, colors and style of dodger to purchase and how to fish them will help you catch more fish in less time.


When fishing at depths greater than 50 feet, the vibration that the dodger creates is often just as important, perhaps more so, than the actual color.

The vibration frequently draws trout in to take a closer look.

"Different color dodgers have different attraction value," said Buzz Ramsey, a regional sales manager, lure designer and product tester for Luhr Jensen, which manufactures the Jensen dodger.

"Glow-in-the-dark will glow when it's down there, so that has attraction value. A genuine silver plate (or a silver glow) gathers light and puts out a different flash or reflection in the water."

"It's not a mirror reflection, more of an overall reflection. It's a good deeper water attractor."


Dodgers can impart significant action to your lure. As a rule, the shorter the leader, the more action it will add.

But you don't want a leader that's too long, because the opposite is also true: The longer the leader the less action you'll convey to your lure.

"A flasher doesn't impart any action to the lure behind it," said Ramsey.

"A dodger, on the other hand, will impart a lot of action to your lure. How much action it imparts is up to you."

"You can fish a dodger with any lure or bait and the action that it imparts can help you catch more trout."

Leader length

The tough part is determining how much action you want to impart to your lure. For the most part, this will differ in every water.

Your best bet is trial and error. Set up several rigs and switch all over to the setup that is bringing in the most success.

"Six or 8 inches wouldn't be where I'd start with trout. Instead it would be at least twice the length of a dodger and longer.

I'd start with 12 to 30 inches, and if the water is really clear you might want to go longer," Ramsey said.

Only the fish will be able to tell you how long your leader should be. "You do what it takes to get them to grab it," Hendrickson said.

"If you have an 18 to 20-inch leader, you're dancing the lure around back there. Sometimes fish want that. Other times they won't want that much action."


According to Hendrickson, red, orange, yellow and pink are best when fishing near the surface, but as you move shallower, whites, browns and blues are more effective.

Nonetheless, all these guidelines depend on the amount of light penetration in the water you're fishing.

In some lakes the brighter colors will work down 100 feet.

In others, with less visibility, the brighter colors will be most efficient in the top 20 feet of water.

"Colors are the sunrise and sunsets near the surface," Hendrickson said.


Ideally, you'll want to troll 0.5 to 1.5 mph, but weather and water conditions can play a part in the exact speed.

"It's important that the dodger doesn't rotate 360 degrees," Hendrickson said.

"The dodger shouldn't rotate 360 degrees because if it does, it doesn't transmit as much action to your terminal offering. You just want the dodger to create a side-to-side action."

Under normal conditions, a dodger fished 100 feet behind the boat will dive 8 feet on its own, without the use of downriggers.

Keep in mind, though, that this can be adversely affected by the size and composition of the lure you're trolling, wind and current.

On average, you can expect a 10 percent drop with a 4/0 dodger that is run 100 feet behind the boat at 1 mph.


Dodgers come in dozens of colors are several sizes.

Typically smaller dodgers are used for trout species, while larger are reserved for the ocean. However, many anglers employ up to 1/0 dodgers in freshwater.

Some anglers view the size of the dodger they pick in relation to the size of the lake they're fishing. Not everyone agrees with that method though.

"No, it's the amount of action and vibration you want to create," Hendrickson said. "Not the size of the water.

The size of the lake doesn't matter."

Keep in mind, though, that the larger dodger you fish, the more friction you're going to create, thus more pull on your line and less fight from the fish.


Colors and size aren't the only combinations you have to choose from. It's important to some anglers to analyze what style of dodger they employ. Others believe it doesn't muke a huge difference.

"There are different dodgers you can use," said Gary Mirales of Shasta Tackle Company and maker of the Sling Blade.

"With most of the conventional dodgers speed is an issue. You don't troll them faster than 1.5 mph."

"A Sling Blade is designed to be more speed variable. You can run them up to 2.5 mph without them spinning."

According to Mirales, the type of dodger you run is a reflection of the bait you're fishing with. "You want to pattern your dodger to your bait," said Mirales.

"If you're using a dodger with a lure like a bug or a fly that doesn't have any action, using a traditional dodger is fine."

"But if you're going to use a spoon that needs to be trolled at 2 or 2.5 mph to get the proper action, you need to use a dodger that will work with it."

"Some people are struggling with some of these spoons because they aren't getting enough speed to make that lure work."

"The biggest mistake people make when they use dodgers is trolling spoons with the wrong dodger. A lot of people do it."

Mirales said that when using a flat, wobbling-type lure, you should stick to dodgers that are designed to be trolled at slow speeds.

With slim profile type lures he said to troll dodgers that can be run more quickly.

"When you're fishing a dodger, if you're using a lure that has no action, the dodger is crucial in creating the action for that bait," Mirales said.

"So you want to fish them closer to your lure. You may run them as close as 4 inches, but usually not further than 12 inches.

If you're running spoons, most often you're going to run them further back, because you're using them as an attractor in that setup.

You aren't using it as much to enhance the action, just as an attractor. In this case I'll run it back 3 feet."

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