by Carmen Macdonald
It's pretty certain that last year you probably heard the term "hover fishing" or "boat bobbering." It's not a new technique, but one that went through a mini-explosion on the Columbia River last year. And one year later, technique-specific rods have hit the market.
If the concept of hover fishing is completely foreign, here's the quick outline. Off the mouths of rivers like the White Salmon, Klickitat and Deschutes, kings will stack up and hold briefly on their journey upriver. Fishing from a boat, schools of fish are located on the graph. The boat is positioned up-current of the fish and gear is deployed. The boat operator backs every so slightly into the current. as necessary (the rigged out guys use electric motors) to maintain the lines exactly vertical beneath the boat as the boat drifts downriver. A pass is made and the boat returns to the top end to do it all over. Okuma continues to demonstrate their commitment to Northwest fisheries with all-new technique-specific Hover Rod
Sounds simple right? Well, it can be simple, but it can also be extremely difficult.
The gear in this fishery (that I've used, yours may be different) is shorter light-tipped rods, 50-pound TUF-Line, 2-ounce weight at your swivel, 3-foot leader and a #2 hook loaded with a small bait of eggs. You drop the weight to the bottom then come up 2 to 4 cranks or so, depending on where the fish are holding. That puts your bait a foot or two or three off the bottom.
As the boat drifts, my first expectation was that I would feel a bite, or at least see some good indication on the rod tip. A good solid bite is the exception rather than the rule. More often-much more often-fish will simply mouth the bait. It's not much of a bite, rather a hard look or maybe a slight lean (seriously!). If you do nothing, the bait is rejected in an instant and the fish is gone.
Hence the new technique-specific rods. Cruising through Fisherman's Marine & Outdoor, I caught sight of new Okuma SST Hover Rods I'd never seen before.
The rods are built with purpose. The quick specs are 7'10" in length, magnum action for 10- to 25-pound line. It's not a muscle rod, it's a feel rod. A super light tip gives way quickly to a powerful butt section. For the purposes of Hover Fishing, it's all about the length and the tip.
The shorter length allows you to get a downward angle on the rod as you fish it and sets you up for the hookset. When fishing, the tip is literally inches above the water, held very still. The key to the fishing is recognizing the bite- and that's where the tip comes in. Don't look for a sharp grab. Instead look for that tip to lean, ever so slightly towards the water. When it happens, set the hook.
Couple thoughts about hooksets. The first time I fished this technique, the frustration level was high as I was absolutely schooled by people far more dialed-in on the technique. When I did get one, it was only by virtue of clean-livin' that I didn't break the rod...I was, let's say, overzealous. With TUF-Line and a 2/0 hook, fishing a completely straight line to the fish, you do not need to "cross their eyes". A sharp, short snap will do the job quite nicely and you'll save yourself the broken rod. Without care, you will high-stick and break your rod when there's no need to.
The season for hover fishing is now, today, this weekend. And with liberal limits above Bonneville Dam, it's a great time to get involved. The model number on the Okuma SST Hover Rod is the SST-C-7101. Talk to the guys at Fisherman's, they'll get you dialed in.