Sacramento River Plug Bite Hitting Stride

By Scott Feist | 08/06/2013

The Sacramento River has been open for nearly three weeks and things are coming alive. The salmon fishing isn’t in full swing, but it’s pretty close. Everyday I’m seeing larger and larger pushes of fresh, chrome, bright kings up the Sacramento River.


The roe and lure bite has been exceptional. I’ve been starting the morning off running lures. I’ve been back trolling T-55 Flat Fish, always wrapped with sardines soaked in Pautzke Nectar. Each morning I try to match the color of Nectar I use to the color of the lure. If I’m fishing a lure with red I’m dying the sardine with red Nectar. If I’m fishing a lure with chartreuse I’m dying it yellow Nectar and so forth.


To be completely honest, I’ve experimented with every company’s plugs and found the Yakima lures are the best on the water, as least with the conditions we have here on the Sac. They run straight, they are easy to use and the fish hammer them.

On the other hand, the bite varies daily. There are a lot of variables with it, but a lot of our lure fish have come before the sun hits the water. The first light bite is fairly consistent, but some days it doesn’t start till 10 and other days it’s over by 10.


My best advise when running plugs is to find calm water with no boats around. The quieter, the better. By calm, I don’t mean still water. I mean nobody around you. Typically, when running plugs, I’m looking for seams where fast to medium water meets slower water right above a hole. I’ll back troll the T-55 down through the seam.

Yakima Bait offers a whole line of sizes, but T-55 has a slower wobble than a T-50. It has the right heartbeat for this kind of water right now. Sometimes when the water is a little higher and faster I’ll downsize to T-50 because of its’ ability to dig. It’s a faster action lure. But, for right now and for the foreseeable future, the T-55 is going to be a standard lure for me.


Wrapping your plugs is a must. It’s been standard practice on the Sac for decades, long before I started fishing. However, I’ve found that using Pautzke Nectar, as opposed to other methods we used to use, is far more effective. And, most of the guide community has followed suit since we started doing this last year. Why? Because it works and is simple.

Editor’s Note: Learn How To Infuse Sardine Wraps With Nectar:

Nectar is a scent packed with bite stimulants. I use a sardine wrap because it’s a natural scent that salmon are used to smelling in the ocean. What’s cool about soaking the Nectar into the sardine is you are getting the best of both worlds. The best way to catch salmon in the Sac is either roe or plugs, but using the Nectar is so productive because you are combining the two. The Nectar is pure roe scent. That’s why it’s so effective.


The roe bite is already good right now. Today (yesterday) we hooked two on lures and six on roe. I’m using 100 percent red FireCure roe scented with Fire Power everyday.

Editor’s Note: Learn how Feist cures roe:

Besides the quantity of salmon we are catching we are talking big king salmon. It’s only the first quarter of the season, but I can really say we’ve only had two or three fish less than 20 pounds since the opener. And, I saw a 36 pounder get landed today (yesterday). These fish are bigger than last season and we had no complaints last season. We had a 16-pound average last season, but this year we are at a legitimate 20-pound mark.


I expect the river to get better and better daily. More and more fish are going to be entering the system. When we get into the second half of August we should be expecting nothing but world-class salmon fishing.

I’d love for someone to argue a better salmon fishery than what we are going to have this season. Is there a better king salmon fishery, period? I encourage everyone to get out there and enjoy this salmon season. The more people that use it ensures we won’t lose it.

Editor’s Note: Pautzke pro Scott Feist operates daily salmon fishing trips on the Sacramento River. To learn more about his trips please visit