Flashers, Color And Sound For Salmon

For many years commercial salmon trollers used nickel-plated, oblong-shaped flashers (commonly called dodgers) to attract salmon, and recreational anglers soon followed.

Salmon fishing legend Buzz Ramsey once said, “You can’t put too much flash in front of a chinook salmon.”

The quest to improve that flash has continued over the years.

Major Change

Some 15- to 20 years ago, Big Al’s, now of Yakima Bait, revolutionized the flasher industry introducing Big Al’s Fish Flash, a triangle shaped, spinning flasher that produces minimal drag.

An assortment of Good Day Fishing flashers.
An assortment of Good Day Fishing flashers.

The then new, lightweight flasher, which is made of acrylic-type material, has led to a revolution in the flasher industry. Of the thousand or more anglers trolling for salmon in the fabled Buoy 10 fishery on the Columbia River, 75 percent to 80 percent will be using some style of pyramid flasher. Walk into any tackle shop today and one becomes mesmerized by all the flash and brilliant colors!

First, you have to catch the fisherman,” Wayne Parker, owner of Good Day Fishing (GDF), explains with a chuckle. “Then you better have a product that catches fish.”

What Color Works Best?

Bring together a group of salmon anglers and the discussion will soon turn to color: Which color works best under what conditions?

Researchers jumped into the fray years ago. Money follows research. A medium-sized forest has been sacrificed publishing studies on what fish see under different conditions.

Most anglers are interested in, “What do I need to know, to put fish in the box.”

The University of Wisconsin, Sea Grant Institute has an excellent piece on Selecting Lure Colors for Successful Fishing.

Bud Cole and author (right) with a brace of coho salmon caught trolling Sling Blade flashers.
Bud Cole and author (right) with a brace of coho salmon caught trolling Sling Blade flashers.

For a quick read:

  1. To improve angling success,consider how fish see and eat.
  2. Lure colors that are visible to fish change with increasing water depths.
  3. Bright colors look drab to a fish if presented in deep water.
  4. In clear water, longer color wavelengths (like red) are visible in the shallows and shorter wavelengths (like blue) are visible in the depths.
  5. On clear days, light penetrates deeper into the water than on cloudy days or at twilight.
  6. Cloudy or turbid water will reduce the depth that light can reach.

At times, Pacific Northwest salmon will be in the depths of the ocean, or the turbid water estuaries of rivers such as Oregon and Washington’s Columbia River.

GDF, of Salem, Ore., has taken on the challenge of attracting salmon under dark water conditions. GDF has been on the cutting edge of color contrasts in spinner and flasher development for years.

Research has proven that light attracts fish. Why not combine the success of a triangle shaped flasher with a LED light?

Birth of The Blinkee

GDF took some of their popular triangle shaped flashers and added a tiny blinking light into the center. Tiny batteries provide hours of blinking and can be turned off when not in use.

“We were fishing Buoy 10 out of Astoria, Ore.,” Noah Wright, of Dallas, Ore., explains. “It was legal fishing hours, but the clouds were low and heavy. One guy was using the new Blinkee. He hooked four salmon and landed one. It was so dark I could barely see the water splash. Pretty impressive.”

The Blinkee has become a staple in tackle boxes of local guides such as Trevor Smith. Smith, of North West Trails Adventures, was one of the first guides to try the Blinkee. “I became a believer right away. It does help get the attention of salmon in low light and dark water conditions.”

The Blinkee blinking.
The Blinkee blinking.

Long-time salmon angler Bruce Polley, of Sherwood, Ore., adds, “I have been out springer fishing four times this spring. I always have one rod rigged with the Blinkee. It has caught three of the four fish landed.”

Sound is The X Factor

Take the same group of guys talking salmon fishing. Rarely will the importance of sound be mentioned. Turns out, after all the focus on flash, myriad of colors, UV paints, and mylar tapes, attractors send out sound and vibrations that are more important in attracting salmon.

Flash and color continue to be the selling points for flashers. Yet, research has proven sound vibration to be the dominant attractor.

Folks in white smocks have determined what, and how, salmon hear. Who would expect the average angler to know that sound zips through the water at 3,315 MPH. It travels 4.3 times faster in water than in air. Research has determined salmon not only hear – feel — sound through the middle ear, but along their lateral lines.

Terry W. Sheely, in his Diamonds, Dancers ‘n Dashers boat, said, “Today’s flashers incorporate the three F’s: flash, flutter and flavors (when scent is added).”

Competition for more color and flash in attractors has led to gear in the water that clangs, rattles, vibrates, and darts, sending out sound and vibrations that gets the attention of salmon long before flash can be seen.

Flashers continue to evolve. They provide: sound, a myriad of color combinations and flashes to attract salmon. Flapping wings and E. Chips have been added. A flasher incorporating LED light is catching fish and growing in popularity.

As Ramsey said, “Can’t get too much flash in front of them.”

More Info

For more information on using flashers, contact:
Wayne Parker
Good Day Fishing

Or check out:
Yakima Bait

Shop Sportsman’s Guide now for a great selection of Fishing Gear!


Top Photo: Devon Pearsall with a hefty Chinook caught trolling.


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3 Responses to “Flashers, Color And Sound For Salmon”

  1. Bob thompson

    How can I purchase 1 or more of your blinking flashers???

  2. sveinn eyfjord

    how and wher can i buy FLASHERS

  3. gerald a fessenden

    what is the best color on a flasher, for salmon fishing