To the uninitiated, mooching looks like a no brainer. All you do is hook a plug-cut herring to a set of tandem hooks on a 7 or 8 foot leader. Tie the leader to a mooching sinker of four to eight ounces; drop it all in the water and fish it until a salmon rings your bell.
This no brainer illusion quickly evaporates when you fish next to a master of the art. I’ve fished everywhere from San Francisco to Alaska. On many a day I’ve watched an elite four or five anglers catch fish while the rest of the fleet goes home with the skunk. The gear may be simple; the technique is pure finesse.
We’ve been mooching a long time. The magic begins with cutting and rigging the bait so it spins tight and fast – just what feeding salmon like. Add to the mix the finest mooching rods made from G.Loomis and the best small levelwind reels we’ve seen yet – the Shimano Tekota 500LC. This reel has a fast rate of retrieve, a silky smooth drag, and a line counter so you know where you’re fishing at all times. When the captain loudly proclaims “fish at 120 feet”, you can be there right away. The reels are spooled with 20-pound line and the leaders are rigged with super sharp Gamagatsu hooks. Our boats are equipped with top-of-the-line depth sounders and GPS to help the skipper find the fish. AU’s skippers know what we’re doing and work hard at it.
The magic begins with a light pecking at your bait. If you’re new to mooching, you’ll be convinced that it must be something small. You may have the impulse to either do nothing in hopes that
something bigger comes along. You might want to jerk to set the hooks. Your skipper will tell you pause, confirm that you’re getting a bite, then reel fast to get the hooks in. The impulse to set the hooks will not serve you well and mooching takes a little time for you to develop the feel. But, soon you’ll be detecting those light bites, waiting a second or two to be sure the fish has the bait, then reeling like mad to catch up to a rising salmon. When you get tight you’ll find that light pecking feeling on your bait was caused by a fish that can burn line of your reel at an alarming rate. At that moment you’ll know exactly why we mooch.