Tricked Out Trolling Flies (Tips for Trophy Trout & Salmon) by Tom Schultz

Tricked Out Trolling Flies (Tips for Trophy Trout & Salmon) by Tom Schultz

Note this is a follow-up article from GLA June/July 2019, “Tricked Out Salmon Spoons.” Thank you for the feedback! Some of your shared setup tips, strategies and pics have made it to this article too! We’ve found sharing tips and info very rewarding, helping the Great Lakes Fishery a bit and for sure helping our fellow sportsmen, trout and salmon anglers in putting a few more trophies in the box!

steelhead fishing flies fly trolling trout great lakes

Nice Steelhead on a “Tricked Out” trolling fly. Have you ever noticed a steelhead with blue eyes?

Tip #1: Stinger Hooks—From YouTube underwater trolling video footage, we notice more often than not trout and salmon following, curious about the baits, sometimes slashing at the bait very close to getting hooked but swing and a miss, gone! To help with this situation, consider using a two-hook herring rig for your trolling flies, with the trailing hook setback as a stinger. It has been very effective for us, lot’s of good feedback from our customers and guaranteed to increase your hookup rates!

We like the 4/0 Eagle Claw L2BU LazerSharp Octopus hooks with 50# Trilene BigGame leaders. Checkout on YouTube, “How to Tie a Two Hook Herring Rig” from Go Fish Guide Service. Set the hook spacing for a 4” Trolling Fly, with trailing stinger and include space for beads either between the hooks, in front of or both!

Fly Recipe #1: “Yah-Der-Hey,” Forward tied on a Green Glow Bullet Head, 3/16” UV Stick-On Eyes, 4” CI Cracked Ice Bandaboo - Aqua, Teal, Clear Crinkled, UV Pearl Krystal Flash, forest green thread, (3) 8mm UV chartreuse beads, Two hook herring rig with business end stinger! 

Where to Get the Stuff! So you’ve been Warned, this can get addictive! (“Trolling Fly-Tying”)

Tricked Out Trolling Fly Materials—Shout out and Big Thank You! to the following suppliers:,,,,, Seattle Marine & Fishing Supply Co.,,

If you are interested in tying your own flies, consider buying a fly-tying vice and thread bobbin. To get started, checkout, search for the Super AA Fly Tying Vice. Won’t break the bank, we’ve had ours for years, works great. Also, the Fly-Tying Bobbin with Collar, ($2.95)! For clear coat, have been having good luck with Sally Hansen’s Hard As Nails. If you get funny looks in this aisle at Walmart, hey, it’s for fishing, right? Lol.

If you are interested in Bullet Heads vs. Tube Flies, checkout Besides awesome Flies & Meat-Rigs, they have introduced bullet heads with eyes built in standard! Proudly Made in the USA!

Also, if interested in some “Tricked Out” Trolling Flies right out of the box, no adjustments required, checkout Extensive ProStaff field testing, fine tuning each fly prior to releasing for production, more below in the “Tournament Tactics” section, and proudly made in USA!

trolling fly flies fishing fish great lakes salmon kings chinook

“Gitche Gumee Green” - Tricked Out Trolling Fly - If I could only fish with one bait, Hmm?

Tip #2: Leader Lengths—Standard starting point for flasher to fly leader length is 3X the flasher length. Example—for running an 8” flasher, start with a 24” leader (this includes the length of the 4” fly). You can set the hook on the end of the flasher, wrap the leader 3 flasher lengths to mark the end, then tie off with a double loop knot. Most charter captains stick to this rule of thumb, puts numbers in the box, happy customers, can’t go wrong here. Also, there is something about running a whole bunch of lines with flasher flies—sets up vibrations in the water column predator fish can’t resist, maybe other fish getting in on a feeding frenzy, I better get up there and check it out? We run 40-50# leaders due to the relative stiffness of the heavy line. This effectively transfers the action from the rotating flasher to the fly. Also, how you attach the loop to the flasher’s swivel is important. Feed the loop through the swivel, the fly through the loop, lubricate and cinch tight.

To increase the fly action, you can shorten the leader length. For less action increase the leader length. But, why would you want less action? 

Okay, here’s the tip—sometimes “big kings” prefer a slower presentation. Meat Rigs are deadly effective partly due to the (3) teaser flies adding overall length to the leader. Yes, the bait head holder adds some action, but not so much that the salmon miss the bait. And, we tend to run these on our deepest set downriggers, way back with 11” paddles? Overall, seems to catch the biggest kings of the trip? Okay, this works for flasher fly combos as well—try running 42-60” leaders with you favorite 11” paddle and favorite fly. See if you don’t come in with a personal best monster king!

Fly Recipe #2: “Gitche Gumee Green,” Reverse Tied, UV Green Bullet Head, UV Stick On Eyes WTP #3.5EY-37, 4” CI Bandaboo – (3) layers starting with top 1” Blue Mirage, 4” Green Pearl, 2” Transparent UV Extreme, Superior Threads Color #750 Chartreuse, (3) 8mm UV Chartreuse Beads, 1/8” Latex Flo Green Hook Tubing, 5mm Glass Rattle, Oversized 1/0 Owner ST-36 Treble Hook, 50# Trilene Big Game Leader. Paired with 11” Super-Series Shortbus Flasher, Double Serrated Rotator Fins, Double #6 Ball Bearing Swivels, custom BeaverTail™ UV Green Std Scale WTP tape & ladderback pattern, proudly made in the USA!

 trolling fly flies fishing fish great lakes salmon kings chinook hooks hook rigs

Tip #3: Tricked Out Hook-Rigs

Top – Standard Treble, tricked out with oversized, sticky sharp 1/0 Owner ST-36 Treble, ¼” Hot-Pink Latex Hook Tubing, (5-6) 8mm UV Chartreuse beads, Berkley Trilene 50# Big Game Leaders, Optional 5mm Rattle.

Center – Tournament Rig, #1 Owner ST-36 Treble, 4/0 Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp L2B, Hook Tubing, (2) 8mm Beads, Optional 5mm Rattle.

Bottom – Two Hook Herring Rig, Trailing Hook setback for Stinger, Hook Tubing w/ Rattle inserted, (2-3) 8mm Beads.

Lots of options and preferences here. Hooks, use the highest quality, sharpest hooks you can find, for sure this detail puts more fish in the box! Latex Hook tubing, comes in various colors, we like the Fluorescent Red, Green and Hot Pink. This has field tested well—we’re thinking the color attraction gives the charging king salmon something to focus on in just the right spot on the hook! Beads, attention to detail—Bead Color Matters! We like 8mm in UV Chartreuse, Red and Glow beads. Of course there are hundreds of choices out there, all different colors, smooth, faceted, glass beads, hard and soft plastic beads, mottled (to look like a true trout or salmon egg), UV reactive colors and even scented (checkout Their soft “Blood Mottled Atomic Yellow” beads look interesting, maybe string these on to create a little scent trail behind your fly? Rattles, are available at Size 1 is 5mm and will slip into the hook tubing. Use soapy water or WD-40 to lubricate tubing, then slide rattle in place. If you would like to buy your Flies and Tournament Rigs direct, checkout, these come standard with the rattle! Also, cannot argue with A-TOM-MIK’s tournament success on Lady-O Lake Ontario!

 trolling fly flies fishing fish great lakes salmon kings chinook

For your mid-summer deep program, glow and UV Reactive baits have proven deadly effective!

Tip #4: Glow and UV Reactive Materials—Here’s one to try, if you don’t have one already get yourself a UV Blacklight Flashlight. At night and/or in darkness, shine this on all of your trout and salmon trolling baits. Literally, light bulb moment! You will immediately notice a pattern. All of your favorite, top producing baits are lit up—they have some glow or UV materials built in! They fluoresce or light up when exposed to this UV light. We also know that this UV light penetrates deep into the water column. When other colors fade in the depths, these “Glow and UV materials” light up! You might try trolling these baits side-by-side with non-UV baits, keeping track of number of fish caught with and without? We already know the answer, but it will be fun to prove it to yourself! And, this will give you some ideas for tricking out your trolling flies. I could lead to some new trolling fly recipes, choice of materials—bullet heads, beads, stick-on eyes, mylar, hook tubing, flasher tape… 

Fly Recipe #4: “Da Tirdy Pounder”, pictured above top-right, Reverse Tied , Chartreuse Glow Bullet Head, UV Stick On Eyes, 4” CI Bandaboo – (3) layers starting w/ top 1” Blue Mirage, 4” Baby Blue, 2” Transparent UV Extreme, Superior Threads Color #750 Chartreuse, (3) 8mm UV Chartreuse Beads, Two-Hook Herring Rig w/ Stinger, 50# Trilene Big Game Leader.  Shown w/ 11” Super-Series Shortbus Flasher, Custom BeaverTail™ UV tape pattern. Bonus: Also shown top-left, “Yah-Der-Hey” Reverse Tied, Glow Bullet Head, White Thread, Teal, Lt. Blue, Clear Bandaboo, Glow Beads, 2-Hook Herring Rig w/ Stinger.  Bottom – Chartreuse Spatter Back Double Glow Octopus Bait #OG140R, Double Glow Twinkle Skirt, Egg-Sucking Glow Bead, 2-Hook Herring Rig w/ Stinger.


Trophy Lake Trout Rig–Glow Materials—Trigger Strikes Down Deep! trolling fly flies fishing fish great lakes salmon kings chinook lake trout lakers

Tournament Winner, SpinDoctor-spinner combo! 

trolling fly flies fishing fish great lakes salmon kings chinook

Tip #5: Spin Doctor Spinner Combos—Nice king, east side of Green Island, fishing out of our homeport Marinette, WI and Menominee, MI. FYI—if you see us out there, our boat name and radio call sign is “Team Busch!” Old-school networking for hot fishing tips and a little BS. You can hail us on Channel 69! When we caught this one, we were actually wrapping up a two-day local tournament. There had been high NE winds and 4-6’ waves. The only way we could fish was trolling with the waves—one of us at the helm navigating, one working the back-deck setting lines, keeping things straight… Fishing was slow both days—marked some nice hooks, but no takers.  Sometimes when this happens, we tend to start switching out presentations, try to make something happen. Sure enough, my fishing partner Mike Berg had set out this SpinDoctor/spinner combo, after we had reset lines from a tangle in the commercial nets (I cut the corner too tight around the buoy floats).  Maybe with one hour to go before weigh-in the starboard Dipsey popped, and started peeling drag. Okay we’re in business! Got the fish in with a few minor hiccups (story in itself), pulled lines, and raced to the Little River landing. Mike worked the cell phone while our buddies waited for us at the Derby weigh-in. We raced through town and made it with cooler and our catch—maybe, maybe 5-minutes to spare? Heart pounding—yes! Remember I had mentioned it was tough fishing?

We ended up knocking the leader off the board with this 18.12-pound king. Now smiling, sometimes it works out, yeah for Team Busch! (We were kind of due, another story, lol.)

What a roller coaster though from total dejection of trolling two days without a hit to taking 1st place in a tournament last minute! After a few days of reliving the moment, we started thinking why not combine the trolling spinners with our flasher/fly program? Hence the advent of “SpinDoctor-Spinner” Combos!

 trolling fly flies fishing fish great lakes salmon kings chinook

Tricked Out Trolling Fly w/ Spinner & SpinDoctor Flasher—I would Bite that, lol! 

Fly Recipe #5: “SeaFoam Gold,”—We wanted to try out these pre-tied tube flies from From the website there are (15) colors to choose from, we picked #053 Electric Eye Blue, #204 Ice Blue and shown above #583 SeaFoam. Then of course we had to “Trick Out” or finish these off with UV Chartreuse Beads and #3 Gold Hammered Spinner Blades! Use a #4 folded clevis here. Note the back side of the blades are polished smooth, highly reflective, mirrors and broadcast the light from the UV Beads as they spin. Along with the spinner’s tight vibration, we think this broadcasting light flash is what drives the trout and salmon crazy! We paired this one with Michigan’s favorite, Dream Weaver 8” SpinDoctor “NetMinders UV”. Seems like a perfect match! Will go so far as to say these are Guaranteed to Catch! and could be the next big thing on the Great Lakes—SpinDoctor Spinner Combos?

 trolling fly flies fishing fish great lakes salmon kings chinook

Tricked Out Trolling Flies – Crazy Reflective Mylar “Mirage Cracked Ice Bandaboo!”

Tip #6: Mirage Bandaboo—To increase the trolling flies’ flashy attraction for bright sunny days and clear water Great Lakes conditions, tie some of this Mirage Mylar material into your fly recipes—and if I might suggest, tie on the overall top layer. “Blue Mirage Cracked Ice Bandaboo,” can be purchased from Thank you Deb and LeRoy Dowding, great service, great company! Imagine this fly trolled through a huge ball of bait—of the thousands of shiny alewives, which one stands out and gets the hungry kings’ attention? For sure, this one gets bit every time. And we’re not kidding, add some of this crazy reflective Mylar on every fly you tie! Guaranteed to put more fish in the box!

trolling fly flies fishing fish great lakes salmon kings chinook

Note for these forward tied flies, the selection of thread becomes a prominent part of the design—we refer to this as the gill plate area.

You can choose a UV reactive thread to match the beads or a non-UV thread like dark red to add contrast, maybe simulate a bleeding, wounded baitfish? Also, for flies with glow beads, a standard white thread is highly UV reactive, check it out under a black-light flashlight!

- written by Tom Schultz

Read Article: Tricked Out Trolling Spoons

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