By Paul LeFebvre | 04/23/2013

I find myself prepping gear and converting the jet boat in a state of frenzy as improving reports of spring salmon echo throughout Oregon. Whether you live in Eugene and fish the Willamette, in Portland and fish the Columbia, or perhaps near the Southern Oregon coastline where the Rogue can be one of your go-to streams – spring salmon fever is in the air!

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Checking gear and laying things out for upcoming trips I’m reminded of our huge success last year, and that over the last few decades “plug cut” fishing has become a popular salmon fishing technique here on the Southern Oregon Coastline and the entire Pacific Northwest. The technique is employed widely trolling in the ocean, estuaries and rivers for kings and silvers. Cut plug fishing is also effective sitting anchor in current having speeds between 1.5 and 3mph.

Plug cutting baits imparts a lifelike “wounded” baitfish characteristic to the bait while simultaneously allowing a heavy stream of scent to permeate through the water column. Fish are both attracted to the action and the scent.

In my opinion, little has been done over the last decade to refine the basic technique.  Article, after article, and video, after video, have been published on the “art” and the “basics” of cut plug fishing. As a reader you may want to search Google or YouTube to learn the general basics as we will not discuss too many of those details here.

On the other hand, we will discuss two things that have happened over the last two years, both have changed my thinking about cut plug fishing and provided us with further options for this technique.

First, color can be added to the bait using Pautzke Fire Brine. Second a new fishing innovation called “Sure Spin” hit the market that greatly improved spin consistency and bait longevity by introducing a helmet that solves many of the observed problems with cut plug fishing. These are the two changes that for me constitute “A Marriage Made in Heaven”. By combining Fire Brine and Sure Spin together I seem to catch more fish. In addition, I am now able to use cut plug fishing on anchor without having the bait degrade in the first 10 minutes.

One partner of the Marriage is Pautzke’ Fire Brine

Typical cut plug rigging, as such, usually employs a double hook rig, sometimes called a mooching rig, where the hooks are either fixed or sliding. (Again I encourage more reading on the subject) The front hook is located through the cut part of the bait at the say 1 o’clock position on the long side. The trailing hook often penetrates the tail. Various options abound on where the top hook should go, but suffice it to say that different locations impart a wider or narrow cone angle to the spin.

While everything appears happy at this juncture the baits do not last well! After trolling the bait for some time the hooks wear and enlarge the holes in the bait. Often the skin and meat at the top of the cut portion of the bait folds backward even though there is a vent cut near the anus for water to go through. Shortly after running the cut plug rig the spin is no longer what we thought it would be and the bait has torn, probably without our knowledge. At least in my mind, this lessens my confidence in the rig and for a long time I would go back to whole herring or anchovies to eliminate the uncertainty.

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Fire Brine is effective at helping the problem of bait degradation by toughening the bait. If we just wish to toughen and not add color we can improve their performance by brining baits in Natural Fire Brine. It has been my observation that Fire Brined cut plug baits hold their spin for far longer time periods than un-brined baits. Additionally, Fire Brine is available in a multitude of colors. I prefer Blue, Chartreuse, Green, and sometimes Red. As we have reported in a previous blog, the use of Fire Brine to add color has been an effective tool for us, particularly in the ocean.

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Sure Spin is a product that came on the fishing scene about a year ago. The product was re-engineered and reintroduced by Steve Lumsden of Angler