Catching salmon with sand between your toes has long been about drowning a pilchard, or thumping a metal slice into the suds. Surf fishing it’s fair to say, has been stuck in the dark ages when it comes to embracing a more sportfishing orientated mindset and newer tackle trends. Thankfully it seems more and more people are willing to veer away from the ‘vanilla’ methods and adopt more ‘edgy’ lure types like the Shimano minnow, stickbait and popper range, along with modern Shimano tackle systems to fish them. Those making the leap are reaping the rewards and spicing up their surf salmon experiences at the same time!
With the cooler months here and salmon raiding our surf gutters, now is the time be using some fun lure options and cashing in on these ever-hungry green-back fighting machines of the churning water.
Well weighted and designed minnows like the ColtSniper Rockjerk range cast like a bullet and can be a lethal addition to your surf salmon attack, whether they’re cast at a visible school of fish or used in a searching role as you work over gutters.
One huge benefit of minnows in the surf is they’re always working for you even at slow speeds, which is more than you can say for a metal slice. This means you can fish them right back to your feet and slow or speed up retrieves as necessary, making them fairly versatile. Also the bib means they track well in the surf and can counter waves and rip better than many other lure types well.
The narrow bib and body design of the Rockjerk makes these lure cast amazingly well even in less than ideal conditions, and they can be effortlessly worked through angry surf water while maintaining a bite-triggering action. Ideally however like all weighted minnows they’re a great selection in milder to medium surf, and where you have pockets of deep water fairly close to shore, but in heavy surf a good trick is to try and time your casts between wave sets to get the best presentation – no different to using most lures in this setting really.
If you’re struggling to reach outer hot spots consider dropping down a line class or two, or using a longer rod, but if you’re using a decent casting set-up from the outset you can really thump these minnows over the horizon, even more so with an offshore wind!
The Rockjerk series is easy to fish for salmon, and you can’t go wrong given their inbuilt action. A steady retrieve with the odd rip of the lure and pause will usually see you crunched. Slow things down as you near the shallows to maximise your opportunities. With minnows watch out for the last second sambo strike as well, as they love to race in and nail these lures even right at your feet as they’re wobbling along puffing up sand in the shallows!
For the sheer visual smashes no lure compares to poppers for salmon. Watching dozens of hefty salmon fight over a surface lure, bumping each other out of the way to eat it down the face of wave, before finally engulfing your lure in a spray of water will have you whipped into a casting frenzy and craving more.
The Coltsniper Rockpop 90F and Shimano Ocea Spouter are two prime salmon poppers, that have been claiming fish from the sand and getting fishos hooked on this addictive way to target these sportfish. It’s not every day you can use poppers in the surf, particularly on high energy beaches with weed, excessive wind and breaking waves making them challenging to work and cast effectively on occasions. Compact, well weighted poppers like those from the Shimano Coltsniper line-up mentioned, can be fished in less than ideal conditions and you can still reasonably expect to get belted.
Poppers are perfect when you have a dense mass of salmon and can direct most casts at the fish, but they also draw random hits, and their presence in the water will soon attract the attention from a lurking sambo in a gutter, making them suited to long spells of blind casting also when conditions allow. Concentrate on working your Coltsniper popper with steady swipes of your rod that get the lure blooping in a consistent, controlled manner, and don’t be afraid to throw in pauses as this is often when salmon will pounce and connect with your hooks!
Stickbaits like the Coltsniper Rockslide and Ocea Pencil series for example, are well matched to surf salmon, given they’re able to be cast decent distances with reasonable accuracy. Without a bib you can ping these stickbaits a long way when you’re using say a 9ft rod like the Shimano Revolution Spin 902 matched with a 3000-5000 sized reel like a Stradic FL and 15-20lb Power Pro braid.
Stickbaits are more user-friendly than poppers, mostly as they can be worked in windier and bigger surf conditions compared to poppers for example. They’re generally more aerodynamic to cast, and give you options on the retrieve. They can be cast and retrieved quickly, slowly twitched, or dead drifted through fish. An active retrieve will see your lure get eaten, using the natural shimmy and darting action of the lure and letting it zip around the place will get the salmon snapping recklessly.
For salmon surf casting with the lures mentioned a length of Ocea fluorocarbon will provide great wear for repetitive casts and multiple fish, which is the norm if you hit a school of salmon. 20-50lb is suited for leader depending on how light your mainline is. The heavier the better ideally as these fish usually aren’t fussy in this environment and it’ll save you needing to replace leaders mid-way through a hot bite. Tie your leader to your braid with a slim knot like the FG, which can slide through the guides easily.
When attaching lures you can put a swivel onto a split ring through the front eye and tie a Clinch knot directly to this, but with heavier trace a loop knot is equally as secure. Finally, seriously consider swapping trebles for inline single hooks, which will let you effortlessly release these great fish back into their washing machine like home. You’ll typically land more salmon with singles as they struggle to throw them during their high jumps and relentless headshakes.
Getting sporty with salmon and spicing things up with the spread of lures looked at is one way to inject some fresh fun into what is already action-packed fishing on an average day!