Salmon Spinners – How to fish for salmon with zed spinners
By Allan Burgess
Though most South Island salmon anglers fish with zed spinners these are not the only spinner used. In general, the longer spoons have a slower action. The shorter spoons have faster action and vibrate more when pulled through the water. All the lures pictured here have an optimal speed at which they work best when retrieved. If you wind too slowly they have almost no action and flash at all. On the other hand, if you wind your reel handle too fast they have a strong tendency to plane up to the surface where the salmon won’t see them.
When casting for salmon it is important to get your spinner down near the bottom. Cast upstream towards the opposite bank and allow the lure to sink as it drifts along with the current. How long you wait before you start winding depends on the speed of the current and the depth of the river. At McIntoshes Rocks on the Waimakariri River near Christchurch, for example, the wide river is moving quite slowly. It is also as much as 8 metres deep. So you would wait at least ten seconds before placing your baitcaster reel into gear and begin winding the handle. In shallower water upriver you might have to wait for only a second or two before winding.
Again the speed at which to retrieve your salmon spinners or spoons is determined by its shape, water depth and speed of the current. Watch your spinner as it comes to your rod to get a good idea of how fast to wind. You will notice that if you wind too slowly the zed spinner will appear lifeless. Most new salmon anglers wind far too fast which causes the spinner to rise towards the surface away from the salmon which tend to “hug” the bottom.
As a rough guide to cranking speed using the above example of McIntoshes Rocks, you should be turning the handle of your Abu Ambassadeur 6500C at the rate of around 40 revolutions per minute. That works out at ten revolutions of the handle every 15 seconds! You could even go a bit slower. Don’t forget that the river’s flow is also exerting force on your spinner. If it were a still lake you would need to wind a little faster!
At the same fishing spot mentioned above, you often see new guys start winding flat-out the moment their spinner splashes on the surface of the water. The more frustrated they become at not catching a salmon the faster they wind the reel handle. With this method, their zed spinner is racing just under the surface. Their chances of catching a fish are slim indeed.
There will be some anglers who catch most of the salmon. Watch what they are doing and try to copy their winding speed. Try to observe how long they wait before they start to wind the handle after their lure hits the water. The speed at which you retrieve your lure is one of the key factors for success as an angler. This applies not just when salmon fishing but to all fish species both fresh and saltwater.
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