Rudy's Tackle Recommendation

Well its about that time of year that the snow is fading away and the salmon and trout season in south central Alaska is almost underway. Many of the e-mail I receive deals with the different tackle I use here in south central Alaska. So here is my humble attempt to list the basic gear I use here in Alaska. Keep in mind that the gear I list is what I use, I have friends who are really good fishermen that disagree with me completely. If any of you know of a better way or suggestions, please e-mail them to me. I am always looking for a better way to enjoy fishing!

King Salmon Gear

Tackle for king salmon gear that I use can be broken down into two different groups. The first is the gear I use on the Kenai River for trophy Kings in the 50 pounds and up range (the current world record is over 97 pounds from the Kenai River!). The second is the gear I use for all the other rivers with fish averaging more in the 20 to 40 pound range. The major difference between the two gear is that on the Kenai I mainly fish from a boat and the rest I fish from the bank.

Kenai River gear

Rod & Reel:

Although many people fish successfully with spinning gear, I feel that the better drag on the baitcasters is a major advantage when fishing for Kenai Kings. You just don't want to take any chances with the potential 100 pounder! I have still not decided on a single reel, but the smallest reel I use is an ambassador 500, and the largest I use is a Penn320 gti. I mainly fish with an ambassador 6000 or 7000 size reel. You really don't need too much line for fishing the Kenai since you will be chasing the fish around in a boat. If you have more than 75 yards of line out in the water, its almost guaranteed that you will lose the fish with all of the boat traffic. I am comfortable with a reel that can hold 150 yards or 20 pound mono. I prefer the larger reels mainly because of the large disc drag and not because of the line capacity.
I prefer an 8'6" medium heavy action rod. After trying all different types of rods over the years, cheap and expensive, I have settled on the Ugly stick brand rods as my mainstay. Lamiglass rods are also very popular on the river. The really expensive rods like Loomis don't have too much advantage because you are not really casting. Although plenty strong, the thinner walls of the more expensive rods are more prone to breakage from stupid things like stepping on them. Since I am often running the boat, I have my rod in a rod holder more often than not so the extra weight of the rod is not a detriment.


Although my biggest fish out of the Kenai came on Cabela's's 65 pound test ripcord line ( similar to spiderwire) I would recommend the use of monofilament line. As I mentioned before, you don't have too much line out when fighting the fish and stretch qualities of mono I believe help to absorb some of the shock of a big fish. When I hooked my 70 pounder on the no stretch spectra line, every time the fish turned toward me, I had slack line. You just can't reel fast enough. Not a good feeling with a fish of a lifetime. If I am drift fishing I use 30 pound Hi-vis yellow or green mono. The Kenai river is very silty due to its glacial origins and the line diameter does not spook the fish as readily. I have yet to see a difference in catch rate when drift fishing with heavier lines. I feel that 30 pound mono is bit of an overkill, but I am trying to land the first sport caught King over 100 pounds so better safe than sorry. The hi-vis mono helps to track where the lines are in the water when fishing with multiple people from the same boat. If I am back trolling or pulling plugs, I like to use thinner line in the 20 pound test range so the plugs I am using can dive deeper.
Although I use hi-vis line, I still like to use low-vis line for the leader which is usually anywhere from 2 to 4 feet long. I prefer the Maxima ultragreen leaders in the same pound test as the rest of the line.

Terminal Tackle:

for Kenai Kings I go out of my way to use only premium tackle. That means sampo or similar quality swivels and the best hooks you can buy. Although I use Gamakatsu hooks exclusively, I have been impressed with the "Owner" and "VMC" hooks. I use 4/0, 5/0, and 6/0 gamakatus red Octopus hooks. I also try to replace the hooks on all of my plugs with the Gamakatsu trebles but the largest I can usually find are size 2 which are a bit small. Make sure if you use hooks from store bought plugs to bring along a file to sharpen the hooks.
When I am drift fishing, I use a combination of large and small spin-n-glos and lil corkies, oakie drifters and some yarn. The lures we use look more like Christmas ornaments, but often times a large gaudy lure is just what is required in the murky waters. The size of the lure depends mainly on water clarity. The spin-n-glos and lil corkies are basically stacked on top of two snelled single hooks. Click here for a picture of the different spin-n-glo combinations we use.
When we are back trolling we will often use the same rigs as drift fishing but run them behind a diving planer. If the water is shallow enough (under 15 feet or so) I often use a large plug with no diving planer. I like to attach my planer so it slides on my leader instead of being fixed because I think it helps it dive better and less leverage for the fish when it is hooked. My favorite plugs are magnum wiggle warts, magnum hot shots, larger flatfish and Kwikfishes. Fluorescent colors in red and chartreuse work well as do the metallic finishes. Click here for a few of the plugs I use.

general comments

Fishing the Kenai effectively requires a lot of experience. If it is your first time, I would highly recommend a guide. The guides generally outfish non-guided boats by at least a two to one margin. Also when bait is legal, the use of Salmon roe increase your chances by at least a factor of two according to Fish & Game sources. Other effective baits include the use of a sardine or herring fillet on your plugs, especially in the lower river and when the fish are still bright and fresh from the ocean. Make sure you check the regulation, they usually ban bait (inlcuding all scents) until they are sure the escapement is high enough. The Kenai River can be overly crowded and I have seen some pretty good fights (between fishermen) occur. Remember to be a bit more careful and courteous on the Kenai and you shouldn't have any problems. Stay away from boats that have a landing net held up high as that is the signal that a fish is on! Conversely, if you hook a king, even though it is nowhere ready to net, make sure you hold your net up high so other boats know to avoid you!

King Salmon Gear - Bank fishing

The gear we use for fishing Kings from the bank differs from the Kenai River gear mainly because the fish tend to be smaller and you are casting or flipping your gear all day long instead of merely holding the rod as in a boat. The gear needs to be lighter so that you don't get too tired to fish all day. The salmon in streams such as the Kasilof River, Ninilchik River and the streams north of Anchorage tend to run from 20 to 50 pounds. Heavy gear is often unnecessary to land these fish and you'll enjoy your day a lot more if you use lighter gear.

Rod & Reel.

: I use at least three distinctly different combinations when fishing from the shore. My mainstay for stream fishing may be a bit lighter than most. I use a 10'6" fenwick legacy ultralight action rod (rated for 2-10 pound test) matched by a small spinning reel I got in japan. The reel would be considered light even for the smaller species of salmon, but I have not had any problems using it for Kings. The reel is loaded with only about 100 to 125 yards of 17 to 20 pound test mono line. I have only been "spooled" on one occasion and that King was almost surely snagged in the back or tail. I rarely cast when shore fishing. I prefer to "flip" line out as we fish within 15 to 20 feet of the shore line in about 90% of the time. The longer rod allows me to flip out that amount of line effortlessly all day long. The longer lighter rod also allows me to use the new spectra line with much more confidence since the rod acts as a shock absorber.
My other rod that I use on many occasions is a 10 feet 8 weight flyrod. Fly fishing purist may hate me but often I use only mono with no fly line on this outfit. The thicker fly line has too much water resistance to fish the fast flowing Alaska streams. I also tend to use splitshots or lead and surgical tubing for weight on the fly rod. I have yet to find a suitable fly line that can sink fast enough to fish the Alaska streams effectively. So why do I use a flyrod? It easily is the best balanced and lightest outfit that I can find. I can easily fish with a flyrod all day long. I have been experimenting with attaching an ultralight reel to my fly rod and it has worked amazingly well. With the reel seated farther back, the line has less of a tendency to wrap around the handle or reel as you flip thousands of times per day. Yet the spinning reel allows me to pick up line much faster than a single action fly reel. If you keep the reel small enough, the balance of the rod remains good.
My final rig that I use on occasion is a 8'6" baitcasting rod with an Ambassador 500 reel. I use this rig mainly for streams in which I expect to have a chance at a 50 pounder or in a slightly larger stream with heavier current.


For shore fishing I use much lighter line than on the Kenai. The fish are smaller but much more numerous than on the Kenai River. If I break one off, no big deal. Yet, I rarely have broken line on a King even when I use line as light as 14 pound test. In fact, when I am fishing for pure fun, I have often landed kings over 30 pounds on line as light as 8 pound test. Another possibility is the new spectra lines. The sensitivity of the line helps me to feel every pebble that the weight bounces over. With the new lines you can feel the "life" of the fish when they hit lightly instead of just wondering if it is another snag. The major drawback of spectra line is the unnerving tendency for the line to get wrapped around your rod tip as soon as any slack line occurs. Over the past 2 years I have broken 3 different rods due to this tendency. Twice it was mainly due to the fact that I was fishing in low light conditions and didn't see the tip get tangled when the fish did an 180 turn and came back directly toward me.
My mainstay for shore fishing is 17 or 20 pound extra limp mono. I like trilene xl but any of the good lines seem to work just as well. Do not buy the super cheap stuff. The only thing between you and the fish is the line. Why spend hundreds of dollars on your gear and trip and have a great trip ruined because you thought you'd save a few pennies by buying cheap mono. I've used them on rare occasions when I have no choice and they just aren't any good.

terminal gear:

The terminal gear for shore fishing for kings varies widely and is mainly a preference amongst the fisherman. I have used and caught Kings on everything from a size 8 royal coachmen to a 2 ounce spoon. Since I often retie leaders and hooks as they get nicked and dull as they bounce along the bottom, I really didn't have time for complex flies. Also when fishing near the bottom, if you don't snag the bottom a few times, you aren't fishing deep enough so you don't want to lose too many expensive spoons and spinners. In a single day of fishing, I retie a fresh hook maybe 6 to 10 times a day. I have settled on a few rigs that take minimal space in my vest that seem to work anywhere I have fished so far.
My "tackle box" consists of the following gear plus or minus a few oddities. Assorted colors and varieties of lil-corkie drift bobbers, a few spin-n-glos, split shots and a few larger weights, and flo. Red and chartreuse yarn, plastic and glass beads, snap swivels, and size 2 through 3/0 gamakatsu octopus hooks, and 10 to 30 pound leader material. It all fits into a single pocket. More often then not, my lure is a simple yarn fly. A single hook with a piece of yarn tied above it. This simple rig often out fishes anything else I have tried.Click here fora picture of my favorite bank fishing rigs

other comments

I hate to say this about my favorite state, but fishing in Alaska has gotten so crowded that it is almost out of control. There are plenty of fish to go around, my opinion is that although not perfect, the state fish & game department here in Alaska does a good job in maintaining healthy fish stocks. The problem is that road access to many of the streams here in Alaska are severely restricted. Wherever there are roads to fishing holes, there are hundreds if not thousands of people fishing a single stretch, especially on the weekends. If you are fishing from the bank try fishing very early or very late. I fish from midnight to about 8:00am almost exclusively.