Rigging Flashers

Many humans are attracted to flashy, glittering, glimmering bling. So too are many fish. No doubt for most gamefish species, a streak of silver seen in the distance through the water reminds them of the baitfish they love to eat.

It is no different with one of our top gamefish, the salmon. Flashers catch more salmon each year than any other device ever invented.

At its most basic, a fishing flasher is simply a thin, shiny piece of metal or plastic you troll through the water ahead of your lure or bait to attract the attention of the fish you're after. The salmon flasher is a variation on this theme of trolling flashers.

Cashing in on Flashers

But there is more to the fine art of flashing than just tying them on in front of your favorite salmon lures and baits and dumping them overboard. Read on for some free tips from FISH307 on how to create the perfect salmon trolling set-up with flashers. This blog will help you have more success and fun on the water.

Rig it right and you will catch more salmon than with any other system. Rig it wrong and you will catch a few salmon, but most will not hit. The difference between right and wrong involves a few basics along with some special tricks.

Pro-Troll flashers are normally tied to your fishing line. You will then rig a bait, hoochie fly or lure two to five feet behind the flasher. With your boat in motion, let the flasher out up to 30 feet back. Then you clip your fishing line to a downrigger release and are ready to take the set-up to the fishing depth you want. Diagrams on the following pages show different set-ups.

Rule #1 Rig it Frontwards

It's a fact that many first-time flasher users approach the subject bass-ackward. One of the most common mistakes with flashers is trolling them backward. The narrow, tapered end is the front.

The taper makes the flasher spin as it is trolled. This is the part you want to tie first to the front part of your leader, which is attached to your main fishing line. The wide rear section of the flasher kicks back and forth to attract the salmon with strong vibrations. You will attach your tail leader to it and then your lure or hook to the end of the tail leader.

This flasher-rigging section is divided into six sections. Each section discusses a different aspect of flashers that can help you catch more salmon.

Rigging Conventional 8" and 11" Flashers

Conventional 8" and 11" flashers have been used by sport and commercial fishermen for decades. Rigged right, they are the top salmon-catching devices in the world. These flashers are normally made of brightly colored plastic and have colored tape on both sides. Embossed silver tape is very popular, as is glow-in-the-dark tape and various colors. Try a variety of colors to see what works best under various conditions.

Typical Flasher Rigging

Front Leader Lengths

The distance between your downrigger release and the front of the flasher can range between 15 and 30 feet. The long leader here gives the flasher plenty of room to spin, which is an important part of its action. In restricted conditions, some anglers will set the front leader length as short as six feet. Lengths more than 30 feet are rare and generally serve no purpose.

Tail Leader Lengths

The tail leader length is the most critical part of correctly rigging a flasher. This length is defined as the distance between the back of the flasher and the bait or lure. Tail leaders that are too long or too short will perform poorly in triggering strikes. Commercial fishermen who make their living with flashers will often repeatedly adjust their tail leader lengths if they are not catching fish. Sometimes a few inches will make a huge difference in the catch. Recommended tail leader lengths vary by the type of lure or bait behind the flasher and also by the species of salmon you are after. Following many years of research, here are our recommended tail leaders.


Hoochies or Flies

Bait or Lures

Chinook Salmon


11" flasher

36 to 50"

42 to 60"

8" flasher

20 to 27"

26 to 48"

Coho Salmon


11" flasher

26 to 40"

24 to 42"

8" flasher

20 to 27"

22 to 48"


(1) The Chinook (king) salmon distances also apply to Mackinaw (lake trout) and halibut.

The diagram shown above assumes you are fishing with a downrigger. The downrigger allows a fisherman to extend his front leader up to 30 feet back from the downrigger wire and still be able to reel the flasher up to the tip of his fishing rod when netting a salmon. When drop sinkers, dipsey divers or other planers are used, the front leader length is restricted to five or six feet. This will still work, but the flasher is somewhat restricted in its arc of rotation and amount of tail kick. The research at Pro-Troll indicates that anglers not using downriggers will have better success with flashers like the Pro-Troll ProChip, which has a built-in agitator fin for more action with a shorter front leader.

Many anglers prefer not to tie the flasher onto their fishing line. When a fish is hooked, the flasher adds some extra drag to the retrieve. That can make fighting the fish more awkward as well as less fun. These anglers will often tie the flasher directly to the downrigger weight on an extra cord and then hook a downrigger release and their fishing line up the cable four or five feet. The flasher then acts as an attractor and does not interfere with landing a salmon.

Typical Flasher Rigging

Front Leader Lengths

Pro-Troll makes eight-inch and 11-inch conventional flashers with EChips. Both of them work well. If you are fishing bait or a spoon behind the flasher, the 11-inch model usually works better. The tail kick and vibrations from the flasher are what attract salmon. You need to be careful you do not fish a lure that is too heavy or you will reduce the tail kick to a small wiggle and the flasher will not attract salmon.

The 11" model is better able to handle the heavier bait set-ups and spoons. The 8" model works very well with small, light hoochies or flies. These are both very light and will allow a good tail kick on the 8" model.