Test of Time: Reliable Lures & Tackle

Mepps Aglia
This lure has helped us land a wide variety of fish in the Great Land. From 25-pound kings on the Nushagak, to 15-pound Tsiu River coho, 5-pound Arolik rainbows to 2-pound Dolly Varden char on Kodiak, this venerable lure has a permanent home in our tackle boxes. There are several interesting variations to the Aglia, like the Aglia BRITE which we used successfully in 2020 on Situk pinks and silvers, and the Aglia-e, which combines a bead on the hook shank as an added attractor which draws trout, char and grayling. We vividly recall landing several large buck steelhead on the Karluk River using the Aglia Streamer. Choose the size, color and style which best matches your situation.


Eppinger Dardevle
The iconic Dardevle has helped anglers catch many different types of gamefish for a long, long time. Salmon in Alaska respond favorably to the wobbling action of these spoons and they are a reliable option in freshwaters across the state. The lure has brought us much success, especially when targeting coho. We haven’t vertically jigged it but have supreme confidence that it would entice strikes from lake trout, char, burbot and northern pike. There are tons of sizes and color options, so anglers have a wealth of models to choose from to acquire the size and color of the lure that’s best suited to their waters.


Kodiak Custom Bottom Fish Jig / Flashing Light Jig
Halibut can’t resist these jigs, and it’s proven to help us put many 30- to 100-pound halibut in the box. We like both variations and think that the flashing light helps draw in more fish. To Publisher Marcus Weiner, there’s no better way to catch a halibut than on a jig, and he’s hooked at least 20 halibut from 50- to 100 pounds all around the state on the 10- and 14-ounce versions of these jigs, earning it a permanent spot in the bottomfish-jig box that travels with him. Add some Pro-Cure Butt Juice Super Gel for scent, as well as an Appanage Fishing Scent Striker also lathered up in Butt Juice, and start pounding the bottom to call in the ‘buts. We are fans of Kodiak Custom and can attest that their spinners, spoons, sockeye fly rigs and jigs are all effective.


Eagle Claw Trokar TK11 Pro-V Extreme Octopus Hook
Trokar hooks are razor sharp. The TK11 is one of our favorites. We replace stock jig hooks with this hook. The offset point, wide gap, octopus shape and stout gauge, make it a tremendous hook for targeting rockfish, lingcod, and halibut in Alaska. It’s available in size 2/0 through 7/0. We’ve also used the bigger sizes as replacement hooks on Luhr Jensen Kwikfish. Size 6/0 and 7/0 are good options for 8- to 12-ounce jigs and K16 Kwikfish, while size 3/0 is a good choice for 2- to 4-ounce jigs. We have a long history of fishing Eagle Claw gear that dates back to childhood, and in addition to testing and fishing their adult rods and reels, we get the kid’s options into our young tester’s hands.


Blue Fox Vibrax
The Vibrax is one of those spinners that is identified with Alaska and for good reason. We’ve landed many, many pink, chum, silver and king salmon on this lure. The trademark bell emits sound that brings in fish and the flash and range of colors closes the deal. Like many great fish-producing lures, this one has spawned several variations that have worked well for us. The Vibrax Glow has been especially potent for coho. Last year we tested the Vibrax Chaser with good results on a range of species including pink and silver salmon, as well as dollies and rainbows. The next time we throw hardware to pike, we’ll try the Chaser. Vibrax also comes in Bullet and Shallow models.


Silver Horde Coho Killer
From the waters around Sitka, to lower Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay, the northwestern salt of Kodiak Island, Yakutat Bay or numerous destinations within Prince William Sound, we’ve caught king salmon, coho salmon, chum salmon, pink salmon, rockfish, lingcod and halibut on the Coho Killer. Shades of green, purple, black and blue, Ultraviolet, Double Glow, Herring Aide and Spatter Back variations all have their place. Choose your favorite flasher, attach the lure on a 2- to 3-foot leader, and troll the rig off a downrigger. Once you find the depth where the salmon are located, they’ll rarely refuse to eat a Coho Killer.


Luhr Jensen Kwikfish
We assert that this is the most-popular plug of all time for targeting salmon in Alaska. We have used the K-15 and K-16 models to great success when angling for Chinook in rivers like the Togiak, Nushagak and Kenai. The erratic, side-to-side action instigates salmon to attack, and a backtrolled plug that is slowly worked through a run with king salmon will often get mauled. We prefer to swap out the stock, double-trebles with a single Siwash off the back of the plug, and certainly recommend a bait-wrap on the belly of the plug when bait is legal. There is a wide array of patterns; one of our favorites is the Double Trouble. We appreciate the wide range of sizes, variants like the rattle and Xtreme, and the many fish-enticing patterns.


Ahi USA Live Deception Jig
Vertical jigging is one of our favorite ways to target salmon and bottomfish. At this point we can attest to having caught kings, silvers, pinks, lingcod, halibut, greenling and a wide range of rockfish on these jigs. We typically bring a box with us on all saltwater assignments, and in it you’ll see a mix of 2-, 4-, and 8-ounce sizes in all four colors. We typically replace the stock hook with an appropriately sized Eagle Claw Trokar TK11 hook. Two other variants of this jig are the Live Deception Assist and the Live Deception Flash.


Brad’s Super Bait – Original
We remember when these goofy, banana-shaped lures first hit the market. They weren’t really an overnight success. However, someone in the Lower 48 figured out that these slim, relatively low-drag lures worked surprisingly well for Chinook in the Columbia River when trolled behind a Pro-Troll ProChip 11 flasher, and from there Super Bait use migrated down the Columbia, out into the ocean, and north as well as south. Original Super Baits come with a scent pad that can be saturated with scents, but we usually throw the pad away and scent the lure instead with ordinary chunk-light tuna (packed in oil, not water), sometimes mixed with other scent products. Made in a wide range of colors, the original Super Bait is an effective lure from the high seas to the estuaries, and in some cases, further upstream. It can be purchased rigged, or unrigged, and there are many effective ways to rig the Original Super Bait.


Pro-Troll ProChip 11 Flasher
Traditional flashers have been around for decades. Since the advent of newer, triangle flashers which spin on their axes, traditional flashers have sometimes been called Skateboards or 360s. Both of these are common nicknames for the Pro-Troll ProChip 11 Flasher. Pro-trollin’ is a specific technique that is employed in virtually all big-water Chinook fisheries from Alaska to California, even in the Great Lakes. This revolutionary technique is a direct result of the ProChip 11 flasher. The ProChip 11 is the original flasher used for Pro-trollin’. The technique involves a small spinner (size 3.5 is most popular) a Super Bait or bait fished behind the ProChip 11 Flasher. What makes this flasher so unique is the EChip which is designed to emit fish-attracting voltage, and the Agitator Fin near the aft end of the flasher which gives the flasher more traction in the water. The increased traction allows the flasher to achieve its 360 degrees of rotation and impart lure action at slower speeds than flashers without the Agitator Fin. It also results in more aggressive action imparted to the lure trailing the flasher compared to flashers without the Agitator Fin. We’ve had tremendous success for both Chinook and coho using Pro-Troll ProChip 11 Flashers, in saltwater, estuaries and even some freshwater environments.


Berkley PowerBait 8-inch Grub
Berkley PowerBait 8-inch Grubs look much like any other white or glow grub for bottomfish, but they are generally more effective. The built-in smell and flavor gets fish to bite them more than normal rubber grubs, and fish you miss will often come back and hit again. Since they taste good to fish, they tend to hold onto them much longer than other grubs, resulting in more solid hookups. Fished on 6- to 16-ounce lead heads, these produce exceptionally well for big rockfish, lings and halibut. They are pretty tough, usually lasting for several fish, but fish will sometimes bite the tails off, so bring lots, and consider using a stinger hook of some kind to minimize bite-offs.


Panther Martin WillowStrike
We’ve caught a lot of fish over the years on Panther Martin tackle. They make several spinners that are very effective at luring salmon to strike and include the Hammered, Holographic Spinner, and everything in the Salmon Steelhead line. Over the last several years, we have been whaling on coho using the WillowStrike Regular Spinner. We’ve been fishing the 3/8- and 1/2-ounce models in both the gold and silver variations. The lure is compact, but dense, so it quickly sinks into the strike zone. From there, it doesn’t take much tension to spin the blade, which allows us to fish it slowly, which we’ve found gets us more strikes. We’ve nailed coho on the drift, swing and retrieve using the WillowStrike.


Shortbus Flashers Sweet Abby
Triangle flashers have been around 25 years or more, and Shortbus Flashers has been around since 2010. Shortbus Flashers brought new, eye-popping colors to the game along with easy-to-remember names for their color patterns. The Sweet Abby color pattern came out in 2012, but we didn’t use it until 2014. Since then, it has become a staple in our stable of go-to inline flashers. Sweet Abbey has proven attractive to both kings and silvers everywhere we’ve tried her.


Gamakatsu Octopus Hook
Gamakatsu Octopus hooks have been around for decades and are many people’s favorite hook for salmon, steelhead and trout. They are the long-established gold standard—the standard by which all others are measured—of octopus hooks. They are available in sizes 10 to 10/0 in a variety of finishes. They are reliably sharp. Prior to their release we commonly had to go through a new box of hooks and toss out or sharpen dull hooks. When these hooks came out, we found they are all reliably sharp and strong—every hook in the box.


BnR Tackle Soft Beads
BnR Soft Beads are neutrally-buoyant beads that come in a rainbow of colors and sizes from 8 mm all the way up to 32 mm. Since they’re soft, fish tend to hold onto them longer than they do hard beads. In the Lower 48, they rule the roost for bobber-dogging winter steelhead, and they have been proven effective in Alaska streams for trout, Dolly Varden, and steelhead. In the larger sizes, they are becoming popular for some river salmon fisheries in Alaska, too, such as the Togiak king and silver fisheries. Drift fished, bobber dogged, or free drifted under a float, these are extremely effective.