Kokanee Fishing 101: The Ultimate Guide To Kokanee Gear

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I’ve been fishing for kokanee for a long time, and even though you can use pretty much whatever to catch them, having the right kokanee gear will make your life a little easier.

My family has a lakeside cabin and the main type of fish in there is kokanee. It’s probably the fish I’ve spent the most time targeting and I’ve tried pretty much every type of lure, tackle, and type of rod/reel.

I know all lakes are slightly different, but I’m going to be talking about what gear I’ve had the best results with. We’ll be talking about rods & reels, line, tackle, and bait.

The stuff I’m going to recommend might not be the most expensive, or the most high-quality option. That being said, it’s everything I use myself and it’s all worked really well for me. Let’s jump into it.

Best Fishing Reels For Kokanee

As I said before, having a specific rod and reel won’t catch you a bunch more fish, but it can make things a little easier or offer more versatility.

The absolute best type of reel for kokanee fishing is a line counter reel. It’ll show how much fishing line you have out and is very smooth to reel in. The most versatile reel for kokanee fishing is a spinning reel because you can use it in more situations.

Here are my favorite kokanee reels:

  1. Abu Garcia Max DLC (line counter reel)
  2. Okuma Ceymar (spinning reel)

Line counter reels are the ultimate option if you’re just going to be trolling. If you’ve ever used a baitcasting reel, they’re pretty similar in that they reel line straight onto the spool.

The main difference is that a line counter will tell you how many feet of line you have out (hence the name). Why would you want that?

Imagine you had two lines out at the same depth. They both get hit at the same time, you reel them in, and you have dinner. What happens if you didn’t count how many pulls you had out?

You’ll have to start over and figure out depths again.

It’s so much easier to improve consistency when you know the exact depth, and that’s why the best choice is a line counter reel.

Why wouldn’t you want a line counter? They can only be used for trolling and jigging. If you’re fishing from shore or casting from the boat, a line counter won’t cast very far.

A spinning reel is the next best option for kokanee and is the most versatile. If you only want to have one rod and reel for all types of fishing, this will probably be the choice for you.

I’m a big fan of having one or two setups that can fish for pretty much everything. That’s why I use a spinning reel most of the time. Not having the line counter does kind of suck though.

So, let’s jump into the two reels.

Abu Garcia Max DLC Reel

The Abu Garcia DLC (on Amazon) is my favorite line counter reel. It’s pretty affordable and will do everything you’d need it to do.

What I like most about this reel is that the handle has a good grip and is easy to hold. Most of the smaller spinning reels have a thinner handle and it’s definitely not as smooth to reel in.

It’s also lighter and more compact than a lot of the other models on the market. Plus, it comes with a digital line counter reel, which most don’t have.

It’ll hold 135 yards of 10 lb monofilament line (or more if you’re using braid). This is more than enough for kokanee fishing.

What’s also nice is that this reel is actually a bit cheaper than some of the most popular line counter reels. I’m all about saving money, so this pushed things over the top.

It also has a bunch of small but really useful features that most don’t have. It has light if you’re fishing in low light and it’ll beep when your hook is close to the boat.

Okuma Ceymar Spinning Reel

The Okuma Ceymar (on Amazon) is my favorite spinning reel under $50. It’s not quite as good for trolling because you don’t have the line counter, but it’s a really solid spinning reel.

There are a bunch of different sizes to pick from but I went with the C-30. It’s small enough to not be overkill for smaller panfish, but it’s still big enough to bring in bigger bass.

I’ve had it for a couple of years now and it’s still holding up great. It’s not the best option on the market, but it’s better than the rest at this price point.

Best Fishing Rods For Kokanee

The reel you use for kokanee isn’t all that important, but it’s going to be a good idea to pair it with a solid rod that’s built for kokanee fishing.

Here are my favorite kokanee rods:

  1. Lamiglas Kokanee & Trout Glass Rod
  2. Okuma SST Graphite Rod

These are the specifications you should look for in a kokanee rod:

Rod LengthRod PowerRod ActionWhen To Use
7-8 FeetLightSlow To ModerateDownrigger
7-8 FeetLightSlow To ModerateTrolling With No Weight
7 FeetLightFastJigging
7-8 FeetMedium-LightSlow To ModerateTrolling With Weight

What Size Rod For Kokanee?

The best rod length for kokanee is between 7 and 8 feet long. A rod this length can be used for all types of fishing, including trolling with and without downriggers, jigging, and casting from shore.

I use a 7 or 7.5-foot rod myself because it’s a lot more versatile than something longer. I use the rod for shore fishing, trolling, and kayak fishing. A slightly smaller rod is much easier to work with.

Longer rods normally give you a bit more forgiveness when fighting the fish. The choice is really up to you though.

What Rod Power For Kokanee?

The most popular power for kokanee is light to medium-light. Lighter power rods are good for jigging, downriggers, or trolling with little weight. Medium-light rods are good for trolling heavier weight.

Rod power is pretty much how much bend your rod has. Heavy action rods won’t bend at all from a little kokanee. Ultralight rods could bend in half when fighting kokanee.

Kokanee has softer mouths and that’s why you need shock absorption. More bend in your rod will give you that.

I don’t fish with downriggers but I will add weight to my line. Ultralight rods are normally too flimsy with the added weight but I don’t need the stiffness of a medium rod.

That’s why I like light or medium-light rods myself. They can be used on a downrigger and you can still add some weight if you’re not using one.

An ultralight could work for you if you’re using a downrigger or flat line trolling, but I prefer the versatility of a light power rod. If you’re trolling with a bit more weight, a mediumlight should do the trick.

What Rod Action For Kokanee?

The best action for kokanee trolling is slow to moderate. A slower bending rod will have more absorption and prevent fish from throwing the hook. The best action for kokanee jigging is fast. This will help feel the bite right away.

If you don’t know, your rod action is how fast your rod bends. Fast action rods bend closer to the tip while slow action rods bend in the middle.

You can still land kokanee trolling with a fast action rod and you can jig for them with slower action. You’ll probably lose a bunch along the way though.

Graphite vs Glass Rods

What you also have the choice between are graphite and glass rods. It’s not as important as the other factors, but it is still something to consider.

Glass rods are the more popular option and are what I’d recommend for downriggers or trolling with lighter weight. These rods are built to stay under tension for long periods of time (why they’re good for downriggers).

Graphite rods won’t last as long as glass rods if you’re using them on a downrigger. If you’re trolling with more than 3 oz of weight on your line, these might be a better choice because they normally have a bit more backbone.

Let’s jump into some of my favorite kokanee rods.

Lamiglas Kokanee & Trout Glass Rod

The Lamiglas Kokanee rod (on Amazon) is my favorite rod to pair with a line counter reel. It’s not a spinning rod so don’t make the same mistake as some people (I’ve seen this in some reviews online).

It comes in a few different sizes but the one I prefer is the 7’6″ version. It’s a light power rod with moderate action. Lamiglas is one of the more popular glass rod brands.

You’ll be able to use this rod with a downrigger, flat line trolling, or with an oz or two of weight. Sure, you can get fancier rods out there, but this one is really tough to beat for the price.

Okuma SST Graphite Rod

The Okuma SST (on Amazon) is a great choice if you’re looking for a graphite rod or you want to use a spinning reel. You can pick from a couple of different sizes and also spinning or casting.

It’s a light power rod with moderate action and can work for all types of fishing. It doesn’t feel as nice as the Lamiglas but it does have a bit more backbone if you’re trolling with heavier lead.

The price is pretty reasonable and it’s just as good as some of the more expensive rods I’ve tried. Not only that, but you’ll be able to use it for pretty much all smaller fish.

The SST-C version is the casting rod and can be paired with the Abu Garcia line counter reel. The SST-S is the spinning rod and can be paired with the Okuma Ceymar reel. 702L is 7 feet and 762L is 7 feet 6 inches.

Best Fishing Line For Kokanee

When Should You Use Braided Fishing Line

There are a number of different options to pick from when it comes to line, but I don’t think it’s a huge deal. As long as you have the right rod, you should be able to land kokanee with no problems.

Here is my favorite line to use for kokanee:

  • Sufix 832 Braid (main fishing line)
  • Maxima Ultragreen Monofilament (leader line)

For my main fishing line, I like to use 10 lb braid. I normally go with Sufix 832 (on Amazon) but there are other good options out there.

This is why I use braid as my main fishing line:

  1. It lasts longer.
  2. It’s more sensitive.
  3. It’s thinner.

Compared to fluoro or mono, braid will last somewhere around 2-3x longer. All this means is that I don’t have to re-spool so often. Less time messing around, more time fishing.

One of the biggest advantages is that braid is more sensitive than mono. It has no stretch to it so you’ll be able to feel the bite right away.

When you have a line that stretches and a soft rod, it can sometimes be tough to feel what’s going on.

The final reason is that it’s thinner than mono. 10 lb braid is similar in size to 4 lb mono. If my line is thinner, that means I’ll need less weight to get down to depth.

One thing to be aware of is that you won’t want to tie braid directly to your lure. It’s not as invisible as mono and fluoro and can be seen by fish.

What you’ll want to do is attach a monofilament leader. I normally use 10 lb Maxima Ultragreen (on Amazon) and it’s always done the job.

The reason you don’t want to use fluorocarbon is that it doesn’t stretch (like braid). Mono does stretch and that’ll help absorb some of the shocks and will help you land more fish (just like how we want a soft rod).

Best Kokanee Dodgers & Attractors

Once you have the main gear sorted out, the next thing you’ll have to do is attach the right dodger, flasher, or attractor to your line. This is what’ll bring fish in from a distance.

Here are the two types of kokanee attractors:

  1. Dodger
  2. Ford Fender

Both of these work for catching kokanee, but each of them has its pros and cons. They also come in different sizes and colors, and the one you go with will depend on the conditions you’re in. Check out the best flasher color for each type of water.

Kokanee Dodger

A dodger is a spoon-shaped attractor that moves side to side in the water. This is super useful when you’re fishing with a lure/bait that doesn’t have its own action.

If you’re fishing with weight (I like a sliding weight and then a bead chain), the dodger should be 18-24 inches from your weight. This just makes sure the weight doesn’t mess with the action of the dodger.

The best time to use dodgers is when you already know where fish are. Maybe you’ve seen them on the fish finder or you’ve gotten a bite already.

The best size for kokanee is between 3 and 6 inches. The best color for me has been silver, gold, or copper (silver/green or silver/red works).

An example of a dodger is Mack’s Double D (on Amazon) or the Shasta Tackle Sling Blade (on Amazon). Both of these work well.

The best size for the Double D is 4.4 inches. The best size for the Sling Blade is 4.5-5.5 inches.

If you’re fishing these, you’ll want to have a leader that’s 6-8 inches long between the dodger and the lure.

Ford Fender

A Ford Fender has a number of blades that spin around in the water. This is useful when you’re fishing with a lure that already creates its own action.

If you’re fishing with weight, you can add the weight directly above the Ford Fender or attach it to the front of the Ford Fender directly.

The best time to use a Ford Fender is when you don’t know where the fish are. The spinning blades make a lot of noise in the water and are a good way to bring the fish to you.

Again, they normally come in different sizes and colors, but I’ve had the best results with silver, gold, or copper. 1 foot Fenders are good for shallow water while 2 foot Fenders are for deeper water.

One thing to note is that Ford Fenders drag in the water a lot more than dodgers. If you’re using one of these with weight, you’ll probably need a medium-light rod.

An example of a Ford Fender is Al’s Goldfish Lure Trolling Rig (on Amazon). There are others out there but I have caught fish on this one.

If you’re fishing these, you’ll want to have a leader that’s around 28 inches long between the Ford Fender and the lure.

Best Fishing Lures For Kokanee

There are a number of different lures you can use for kokanee, but the one you use will depend on the attractor you’re using, what the current conditions are, and how deep you’re fishing.

Here are my favorite lures for kokanee:

  • Micro hoochie
  • Wedding ring
  • Brad’s Kokanee Cut Plug
  • Hot Spot Apex

If you can get each of these in a few different colors, you should have no problem catching kokanee in any lake at any time.

Best Lure Color For Kokanee

Picking the right lure for kokanee is only half the battle. What’s also super important is that you pick the right color based on the current conditions and where you’re fishing.

Here are a few of my favorite colors and when they work the best:

When To UseColor
Sunny Or Shallow (0-26 Feet)Bright Or Natural Lures
Gold
Silver
Pink
Red
Orange
Cloudy Or Deep (26+ Feet)Darker Lures
Green
Blue
Purple

If you’re curious more about why these colors work well, read our full article on the best lure and flasher color for each type of water.

Micro Hoochie

This is one of the most popular lures for kokanee and is a great option to use behind a dodger. Hoochie’s don’t have their own action, so that’s why you pair it with a dodger.

An example of this is the Runs True Fishing Hoochie (on Amazon). There are a bunch of different colors to pick from and I’d recommend you have a few different ones.

Wedding Ring

This is another popular kokanee lure and is something you’ll want to use behind a dodger. Again, because it has no action by itself.

An example of this is Mack’s Lure Wedding Ring (on Amazon). This is normally the brand I use but there are others out there too.

Brad’s Kokanee Cut Plug

This is a lure that does have its own action and that’s why it’s best paired with a Ford Fender. If you put this with a dodger it might have too much movement.

Brad’s Kokanee Plug (on Amazon) is my favorite one to use. They’re a little bit expensive but they do a really good job.

Hot Spot Apex

The Hot Spot Apex (on Amazon) is the lure I use the most and is something you’ll want to pair with a Ford Fender. It already has a side-to-side motion so you don’t need to use it with a dodger.

I like using the 1.5-inch option but you’ll still land fish with the 3-inch. Get a few different colors and you’ll be golden.

Best Bait For Kokanee Fishing

If you want to catch the most fish possible, you’ll want to add bait to whatever lure you use. It’s going to add a bunch of scent and will increase the bite big time.

These are the only 3 baits I use for kokanee fishing:

  1. Worms
  2. Maggots
  3. Corn

All you have to do is tip your hook with 1 piece of corn or 1 maggot/worm. You can make your own or buy imitation bait.

What I’ve noticed is that all lakes are slightly different. Sometimes worms will be the go-to, but corn works a lot better at others. Again, have each in your tackle box and you’ll be good to go.

At the lake I normally fish at, worms seem to be the best option. Real worms work the best but you can also get fake worms that are scented. Berkley soft plastics (on Amazon) are an example.

The second most consistent bait for me is maggots. I don’t know about you but I’m not going to make my own. Pick up a pack of Berkley Gulp Maggots (on Amazon) and be on your way. I like the pink ones.

The last choice is corn. I haven’t caught as many fish with it but I know people who only use it at different lakes. You can buy Fire Corn (on Amazon) or you can make your own.

To make your own, all you have to do is get some Shoepeg corn, dry it out with some canning salt, and soak it in some Pro-Cure Scent (on Amazon).

Jon Webber

I'm by no means an outdoors or fishing expert, but it's something I've been interested in for over 20 years. I created this site to test out different gear and techniques to see what actually works.

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