Avid anglers are constantly in search of new and better ways to target their favorite species. That goes double for steelhead anglers who are always on the look out for a better “mouse trap”.
Captain Frank Campbell is a legendary guide who targets winter steelhead on the Niagara River. He fishes the 3.0 Mag Lip and removes the belly hook to reduce snags and also to practice catch and release. The Mag Lip is one of the few steelhead plugs that fishes just as good with one tail hook as when rigged with two hooks.
The Mag Lip produced by Yakima Bait is more than the preverbal mouse trap, it’s a highly refined wobbling plug that steelhead simply can’t resist. The pet project of legendary steelhead angler and lure designer Buzz Ramsey, the Mag Lip comes tuned and ready to fish right out of the package.
THE PULL POINT
“The wire pull point or line tie that protrudes from the diving lip of a plug is a critically important part of any crankbait,” says Ramsey. “When designing the Mag Lip special attention was dedicated to insuring that the pull point of each and every lure could be precisely aligned in the diving lip. It’s this kind of attention to detail that makes it possible for every Mag Lip to come out of the package perfectly tuned and ready to fish.”
The pull point is critical to insuring a plug is tuned and dives true into the water, but the location of the pull point impacts on other important features of a crankbait. “The location of the pull point on the diving lip determines a plug’s action and also the range of speeds at which a plug performs best,” explains Ramsey. “We had a goal for the Mag Lip to create a plug that was not only tuned and ready to fish out of the package, we set out to create a bait that featured a wide wobbling action at slow, moderate and fast trolling speeds.”
THE SKIP BEAT ACTION
The Mag Lip is unique in that it features a wide wobble and also a pronounced hunting motion that Ramsey coins as a “skip beat” action. “The Mag Lip features a very rhythmic wide wobble, then suddenly the bait will dart a few inches to the left or right before settling down and returning to the same rhythmic wobble,” explains Ramsey. “The Mag Lip’s skip beat action is unpredictable and becomes personified at higher trolling speeds or when back-trolling in swift moving river current.”
A plug that features a pronounced hunting or skip beat action is exactly what it takes to trigger aggressive strikes. “Anglers who fish the Mag Lip immediately notice that strikes are more savage and that fish also tend to be hooked deeper.” says Ramsey. “I think steelhead hit the Mag Lip more violently because the skip beat action tricks the fish into thinking the bait it escaping.”
Because steelhead hit the Mag Lip so violently, many anglers have gone to removing the belly hook on the lure to make it easier to unhook and release fish unharmed.”
MAG LIP HOOK OPTIONS
Captain Frank Campbell guides on the Niagara River and uses Mag Lip often when targeting winter steelhead. “One of the things I like about the Mag Lip is these baits work great and have excellent action when only the back treble hook is used,” adds Campbell. “I remove the belly hook to reduce snags when fishing plugs tight to bottom. “Removing the belly hook also promotes catch-and-release and fish hooked on plugs that only feature one tail hook rarely tear free.”
Other anglers replace the factory treble hooks with single Siwash hooks that once a fish is hooked are nearly impossible for steelhead to shake. The single Siwash hook snags less than treble hooks and is super easy to remove without harming the fish.
When removing the belly hook on a Mag Lip, leave the split ring in place to help balance the lure. When adding Siwash hooks attach a small barrel swivel to the split ring and then add the Siwash hook to the barrel swivel. To accomplish this use a pair of needle nose pliers to bend open the hook eye, slip the hook eye over the barrel swivel and complete the rig by bending closed the hook eye. For those anglers who prefer the single Siwash hook, the Trokar TK440 in size 2/0 is a popular choice.
MORE HOOK SAVVY
The anglers who go to the trouble of switching out hooks are among the same group of fishing enthusiasts that prefer using super premium after market hooks for their favorite plugs. “Wide bend treble hooks including the Mustad Triple Grip and the Eagle Claw Trokar TD310 are ideal for plug fishing,” says steelhead fishing enthusiast and Yakima Pro Staffer Josh Crabtree. “The wide bend design of these hooks and their exceptional sharpness virtually guarantees that the fish that bite will be hooked and landed.”
Josh Crabtree removes the belly hook on his plugs and recommends replacing the treble hook on the tail with a hook one size larger. “On the 3.0 Mag Lip I use a No. 4 treble hook on the tail and a No. 2 treble on the larger 3.5 Mag Lip,” says Crabtree. “I also use two split rings to give the hook more freedom to rotate. This simple step makes it almost impossible for a hooked fish to gain leverage and tear free.”
Yakima Bait pro staffer Josh Crabtree loves to tweak his Mag Lip plugs by adding a larger tail hook and using premium after market hooks like the Mustad Triple Grip and Trokar TK310 wide bend trebles. This fresh run hen was released to fight another day.
COLOR ME CRAZY
Mag Lip come in dozens of different fish catching colors. Some of the “must have” steelhead colors include Metallic Gold Flame, Grinch, Metallic Gold Green Pirate, Metallic Gold Black Bill and Green Machine. Savvy steelhead fishermen are however constantly experimenting with different color options as water clarity and fishing conditions change.
In cloudy water brighter painted finishes like Bleeding Fire Tiger, Deschutes Dazzler and Mad Clown are great colors to experiment with. For low and clear water conditions, more subtle colors including Goby, Rusty Crawdad and Shrimp are good options.
THE NEW 4.0
Most steelhead fishermen on both the west coast and in the Great Lakes region are using the 3.0 and 3.5 Mag Lip sizes. Clearly these two sizes have proven themselves the most productive option most of the time. The new and larger 4.0 size has merit for steelhead fishing, especially in off color water. The new 4.0 Mag Lip comes in some exceptionally deadly colors including Hammer Time, Payday and Metallic Silver Fluorescent Pink “Princess”.
The 4.0 comes factory rigged with a pair of No. 2 treble hooks. For anglers who prefer fishing with single hooks the No. 1/0 and 2/0 Siwash works great when rigged using double split rings or a split ring and a barrel swivel.
SUMMING IT UP
From the classic steelhead rivers of the west coast, to the Great Lakes and beyond the Mag Lip is the plug of choice among winter steelhead anglers. The wide wobble, skip beat action, huge color selection and ability to fish at a wide variety of speeds, puts these plugs in a category all by themselves.