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Tying a Mooching Rig for Salmon: Time-Tested Technique

While most anglers are busing trolling for salmon, on days when the bite is slow we like to take a more active approach and mooch. What’s mooching? It’s basically jigging for salmon using a plug cut herring (preferably a brined herring). But do you know how to tie a mooching rig for salmon?

You will soon! In this article, we will show you exactly how to tie a mooching rig for salmon. We’ve used this rig since we were kids fishing with our fathers, and it’s a great way to change up your salmon fishing tactics when trolling isn’t working.

It is also a great way to pass the time and actively fish as opposed to sitting bored when trolling isn’t working. 

Let’s get to it!

How to Tie a Mooching Rig for Salmon

Here’s what you’ll need to make the rig.


  • 20 to 30 lb test braided fishing line for your main line.
  • 6 feet of 20 lb test monofilament leader
  • Two circle hooks (you can also just buy a herring rig if you are lazy like us)
  • 5 oz banana weight


  1. Once your reel is full of braided line, it’s time to make the mooching rig. Start by using a 6 foot long piece of monofilament fishing line. Tie the first hook onto the line with roughly 7 inches left after it. This will give you enough line to tie the second hook on to the end. We like using either double hitch knots or the ‘noose knot’. If you don’t know how to tie those knots, we recommend watching the above video.
  2. Once you tie the hooks on, tie the other end of the monofilament leader onto the bead chain swivel. The bead chain swivel will make sure your line doesn’t get tangled or too twisted when you jig the bait. Adding the chain swivel is crucial! If you don’t add it you will end up with a mess.
  3. Next you’ll want to add your 5 oz banana weight to the other end of the chain swivel. Some of our friends like to use little two-inch pieces of monofilament with alert beads at this connection, but we’ve found it doesn’t make a difference. In theory, the bright-colored alert beads will draw more attention to your bait, but we haven’t noticed a difference. You’ll have much more success if you focus on using freshly brined herring and the proper technique.
  4. After adding the banana weight, you’re ready to tie the other end of the weight to your main line. Now all you need is bait, and you are ready to go!

A Quick Note on Using Braided Fishing Line

Before making the rig, load your reel up with braided fishing line. Start by adding 20 to 30 lb test braided line to your salmon fishing reel. We like using braided line for mooching because braided fishing line has much less stretch than monofilament. 

This makes it easier to feel when a salmon bites your bait. One note on using braided line: be careful when you feel a bite not to pull the bait out of the salmon’s mouth! 

Author Note: One of the easiest mistakes to make is to jerk your rod back when you get a bite. Let the fish eat the bait and just start reeling. No need to “set the hook” like with other species of fish.

How to Mooch for Salmon

Besides just explaining how to tie a mooching rig for salmon, we’ll also explain how to properly mooch for salmon! The technique is very similar to jigging for salmon, but with a few minor (but important) changes. 

Start by letting your line out into the water and letting the banana weight drag your mooching rig down the bottom. We try to mooch in water that is around 40 to 60 feet deep, and near a ledge or area where the bottom changes depths rapidly.

You can also use a fish finder to determine where herring bait balls are and where the salmon are hanging out.

Once you have found the right spot to start mooching and your bait hits the bottom, set the drag on your reel and reel the line in 12 cranks. Some of our friend reel in 15, while others only reel in 10, but we’ve found that 12 is the best amount. This translates to the bait hanging roughly 10 feet off of the bottom.

The Proper Mooching Technique

Baiting the Hook

Begin your mooching technique by pull your rod upward to about a 70 degree angle. Don’t jerk your rod too fast as this will give the herring unnatural action. Do a smooth 2 second pull upward, then quickly lower your rod back down to 90 degrees. 

This will give your bait a fluttering action as it falls back down to your resting position (about 10 feet off the bottom). This is often when a nearby salmon will strike, so pay attention! 

Repeat the motion over and over again. Congratulations, you now know how to mooch for salmon! 

Author Note: Another very common time for salmon to strike is when you first start pulling upward. Ifyou feel any sort of resistance at all, start reeling in quickly. As we mentioned earlier, no need to set the hook aggressively with salmon, they will hook themselves sufficiently just from you reeling in.

If you jerk the rod to set the hook, you will more often than not pull the bait out of their mouth and lose the bite.


What Type of Herring Should I Use for Mooching?

You should use the same type of brined herring your use when trolling for herring for mooching. Brining your herring, however, becomes even more important when mooching. This is because the mooching action puts more pressure onto the plug cut herring opening, which in turn means the herring wears out faster.

When you brine your herring, it becomes much more durable to repetitive action due to the dehydration of the meat of the fish. This means you will get to spend more time mooching and less time replacing bait. You also won’t have to buy and use as many herrings as you would with non-brined fish.

What Do I Do About Dogfish Eating My Bait?

One of the biggest drawbacks about mooching for salmon is you’ll often end up losing your herring to nearby dogfish. Whenever you fish near the bottom you run the risk of catching dogfish instead of salmon. If you keep hooking dogfish while mooching, trying moving to a different area.

You can also try mooching your herring farther away from the bottom to prevent dogfish from eating your rig. Dogfish tend to patrol the water just off the bottom for scraps, so if you keep your rig around 15 feet of the bottom you can avoid most of them. 

You do run the risk of not being close enough to big king salmon who also patrol the lower levels of the water column.

A hot take on catching dogfish while mooching: if you have younger anglers with you, the extra action will provide some fishing entertainment. I remember catching many dogfish with my uncle when we’d mooch for salmon. He probably hated getting them off the line and re-rigging my mooching rig, but as a kid I loved it.

Something to keep in mind if the kids are getting bored of trolling and you are ok dealing with a lot of your herring being eaten/used up.

What Size Hooks for Salmon Mooching?

We like to using size 4/0 hooks for salmon mooching. You can also try using 6/0 if you’re fishing for fish earlier in the season (that are smaller) or if you are in a region that is mostly coho salmon. As the season progresses and the fish get bigger, we recommend going no smaller the 4/0.

Another quick note about hooks – most regions require you to use barbless hooks when fishing for salmon. We recommend buying actual barbless hooks as opposed to simply pressing the barbs down. Pressing the barbs down damages the structure of the hook and can risk your chances of keeping fish hooked. 

You also run the risk of forgetting the press the barb down and getting a nasty fine if the water marshall finds out when you report your catch at the dock.

Hands tying a fishing hook

Wrapping Up

Mooching for salmon can be a ton of fun. It is a much more active style of fishing than trolling. The feeling of a salmon striking your bait when the rod is in your hand is something you won’t soon forget!

We hope you found this guide on how to tie a mooching rig for salmon helpful. If you have additional questions about how to tie a mooching rig for salmon, feel free to drop us a note in the comments below. We’re an open book and happy to share any additional knowledge you want to know!

Happy Mooching!


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