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Dodgers & Flashers

You've probably been pulling these shiny pieces behind your boat for years, but are you using them to their full effectiveness? Check out these proven techniques to add more catch to your day! (February 2006)

Chris Crawley used a Swing Blade dodger to attract this rainbow trout.
Photo by Chris Shaffer

Flashers and dodgers have been a standard item on pegs in tackle shops for decades. In fact, they're some of the most common tools used to catch trout throughout the United States.

However, even hardcore anglers commonly misuse flashers and dodgers. In fact, most anglers who employ these tools aren't aware of their purpose. They just know that everybody else uses them. Knowing the ins and outs of how to fish flashers and dodgers and what they were designed for is a sure way to boost your success.

Enter Buzz Ramsey, formerly a lure designer for Luhr-Jensen. Ramsey compares flashers and dodgers to birds preying on bait.

Consider this: A seagull flying across a lake sees a school of shad or minnows near the surface and dives down to ambush the bait. Other gulls see the bird's activity and move in closer to investigate. Soon, a feeding frenzy begins.

This is similar to what occurs with flashers and dodgers, although these metals draw in trout and kokanee, rather than birds.

"When trout feed, their silver bodies tend to send out a different flash, and flashers are designed to mimic that," Ramsey said. "Trout feeding attract other trout. The flash makes trout want to come investigate, because it means an easy meal."


While flashers and dodgers are both attractors, they do differ. A flasher is simply an attractor, while a dodger attracts fish and also imparts action to your lure. Each is effective in several ways.

But many anglers ask a fair question, "Do I really need a flasher or dodger, or can I just fish with a bare lure?"

"You cannot use a flasher or a dodger just anytime," Ramsey said. "Normally it's a good idea to use one, because fish are attracted to that flash in the water. I suppose people hesitate to use one only because by doing so, they're adding weight to line between them and the fish. Some anglers don't like that because it takes a little bit of the fight out of the fish."

This is the downside. Many anglers aren't fond of the added tension on the line. The use of flashers and dodgers take away from the fight, although there are alternatives. Micro mini and ultra-light flashers have become standard products for many tackle manufacturers.

"It's true: They take away from the fight. Many anglers like to use small dodgers and flashers," Ramsey added. "Small ones work fine on small lakes. But on bigger lakes, where you may have to draw in fish from farther away, you might do much better with a large flasher."

There's no wrong time to fish with a dodger or flasher. However, you'll need to experiment to find out which is the most effective on that particular day.

"The reason people use them is because they are so effective," Ramsey said. "Although one trick I use is, I'll use two attracters to draw fish into my gear, and then have other setups that don't have them. Then I'll hook fish on the lines without the flashers and I can get the sportier catch."

There are dozens of sizes of dodgers in the market, but for trout, you'll want to stick to a 4/0 or 5/0 for most waters. These are standard trout sizes. "A dodger not only attracts, but it has the added advantage of lending a pulsating action to the lure," Ramsey said.

Try fishing with a flasher on one line and dodger on the other, and when you get a bite, you'll know which the fish prefer -- at least on that particular day. Dodgers and flashers come in dozens of sizes and colors. Deciding which to use can make the difference between a successful day and a sour one.

A flasher is a pure attractor and has the ability to draw trout in from a large area. Virtually a string of blades on a wire, flashers spin in the water and emit a flash that trout are drawn to. When fish are scattered and not confined to a small area of the lake, flashers can increase your catch rates. The thumping sound of the blades churning in the water also brings trout near.

"It's sending out a flash and vibration to draw fish in to investigate," added Ramsey. "On small lakes, you get can by with small flashers, but it depends. It's a trial and error thing."

Today's technology has begun a new wave of ultra-light flashers that don't cause as much pull on your line. However, many anglers shy away from them simply because they've been employing Ford Fenders and Cow Bells -- standard flashers that have been on the market for decades.

"Some flashers create more vibration," says Ramsey. "The fish are drawn to the flash and the vibration."

It's important to consider the speed, size and finish of whatever flasher you're using. For the most part, the slower you go, the better. It's standard to run flashers from 0.5 to 1.2 mph. Some anglers fish them faster and still catch fish, but flashers' design makes them perform best at slower speeds.

"Generally speaking, trout are a 1- to 2-mph fish; I lean more toward 1 mph," Ramsey added. "But it's always good to experiment and try it out. A lot of anglers go slow, maybe as slow as a half mph, because that's where the blades get that thumpy action trout seem to like."

On the other hand, the size of the flash can play an important role. When you're dealing with murky or off-colored water, it can be effective to employ up to a 1/0 dodger or larger flasher to draw trout. Under these adverse conditions, the vibration and flash can be more potent and draw fish in more effectively.

Keep in mind that different finishes emit varying flashes into the water. For example, a hammered flasher kicks off a different ray of light than a standard flasher. There's no wrong or right method to decide which to employ under certain conditions. Again, it's trial and error. Follow these simple guidelines: Nickel blades produce best in bright weather, while copper is ideal on overcast days.

"Sometimes they'll surprise you," Ramsey said. "Sometimes color will affect them more. (The fishing industry) is offering more colors than we ever have. When it's overcast, I like a 50/50 nickel brass, but some would disagree."

On the other hand, there are times when flash

ers and dodgers can actually decrease catch rates In some clear-water lakes, the attractor does its job by drawing trout in, yet when they get close and see the flasher or dodger, they're often spooked by it. When this occurs, it may be time to lengthen your leader. Often that will do the trick.

At other times, though, a shorter leader is necessary. When fishing a dodger, short leaders impart more action to a lure than longer ones do. Anglers mostly use a six- to 22-inch leader. This can be the difference between catching a limit of fish and seeing maybe only a few strikes When you have a short leader and your lure is dancing, the trout will strike the lure at times out of aggression or curiosity, rather than hunger.

"Sometimes in clear water, they'll be attracted to your troll, but they just won't bite," Ramsey said. "They just don't want to get too close to it, because they aren't quite sure what it is, so they stay back. A lot of times they'll follow it for a long while. Lengthen your leader and sometimes you'll get them to bite. I've gone with a leader as long as six feet."

Many anglers believe that with a flasher or dodger, you can use only night crawlers as your bait, but that's not the case. There's no wrong lure to use in conjunction with either one. With these setups, anglers can fish with stickbaits, night crawlers, spoons and spinners. Fortunately, they're effective on every trout species in small and large lakes.

From a boat, flashers and dodgers can be used in just about any application. Whether you are slow-drifting, fast-trolling or slow-trolling, each can be used. You can fish them on the surface, with lead core or on downriggers. When using a downrigger, the only consideration is that the deeper you fish, the less visible it may be because less light penetrates. When fishing at these greater depths, you'll want to use a glow-in-the-dark pattern or a color that reflects well in low-light conditions.

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