Wobbler what? Fall chinook time.

Posted: August 6, 2013 by Hellcat in Fish Reports, Gear Fishing, Salmon, Trout & Steelhead, Tips & Advice
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Anyone who studied journalism or communications…or anyone who has had some form of professional sales during their career is well aware of “The Five W’s”. For those of you unaware….they are the Who-What-When-Where-Why. A person can cover their bases fairly well when reporting or discovering information in the employ of such a designation. I also thought it would be a cool way to tackle ALL THAT WOBBLES.

Let’s get into it.

The WHO:

Although also referred to when naming famous rock and roll bands of the 70’s…this does not apply to this particular ‘WHO’. But rather; who can find success wobbler fishing this time of year? Well, if you have access to or have your own boat with a motor…this means you. Boats suitable for fishing in the Big River must meet certain legal requirments…hardly any of which pertain to the size of the boat. While most of the vessels you will see while out fall chinook fishing on anchor will be aluminum sled-type boats you will still see many a converted pleasure boat into a fishing rig this time of year. I think I counted at least half a dozen such Blue Waters and Bayliners struggling out there just yesterday along with the rest of us. On the insane end of the spectrum I have even seen a kayak angler anchor up in the Columbia and catch a fish on wobble before my very eyes. Although this is certainly not a recommend to do such a thing. In all practicality, your vessel must meet the basic navigation laws of the water which include proper ppr work NOW INCLUDING a boater card for motors over 10HP. My little driftboat falls into such a category simply because of the 15HP motor. Otherwise, I would only need good stickers and the proper on boat requirements. I have seen John Boats with kitchen chairs in them get fish on the wobble. However only in the middle river (Sauvie Island Area) as upriver currents prove even too strong and dangerous for small boats well equipped with a buoy anchor system. Throw in a little wind and maybe an anchor job by yourself and it could be the last anchor you throw. The aforementioned middle river provides easy-to-predict tide tables that will allow even the smallest vessels to successfully anchor and wobble with very little risk involved. The trick is always the depth, but we’ll get into that with the “WHERE”. End result and most important thing here is you have the proper anchoring system and the knowledge to deploy it. Please see my Anchoring Tutorial from this website posted on July 24th, 2011 for a complete look at proper and safe anchoring procedure.


New to the game? Not sure what Wobbler Fishing even means? Maybe you’re a spring chinook fisherman exclusively in the Columbia and are only used to trolling bait or spinners? Let me give you a little history of the ‘Wobble that gets the Gobble’: It doesn’t seem like very long ago when all the anglers in the know I knew used ‘plugs’ for anchor fishing fall chinook. I should give proper credit to Clancy Holt and his family’s 5 generations of CR fishing who is said to have perfected if not created the ‘bait-wrapped plug’ (Kwikfish/Flatfish, etc) and who, to this day, produces perhaps the deadliest wobbler in the nation. But I digress. It also doesn’t seem that long ago that I was learning to salmon fish as a teenager. Such date references are one in the same and certainly date me to an age of maturity would this be the Old West. Alas it is not, which makes me still young. Still digressing. What anglers begin to realize…perhaps in the mid-nineties to my recollection, is that during the part of the year the Columbia warms considerably, so do the salmon traveling up it’s mighty waters retreat to deeper waters for energy, preservation, comfort and easier travels. These same anglers also realized that plugs, when fished at the necessary depths this time of year (35-55 feet) do not work as well as they do in shallower applications…such as are fished in our spring and early summer chinook target months. What is a wobbler? Orginally made and distributed in the areas of the Great Lakes with Luhr Jensen’s Manitee and the like….wobblers resemble a flattened soda can that’s been trimmed and prettied up…with various color patterns and shape variations. Wobblers of certain sizes and weights will fish better at different current flows, or times of the tide, as others…prompting many people to employ a mulitple wobbler tactic throughout their day of angling. The main three wobblers we use locally are Alvin brand, Clancy brand, (sorry no Theodore for your Chipmunks lovers) and finally the Simon brand. We’ll talk about the methods of fishing with the WHERE in a bit.


You will only hear about anglers using wobblers here in the PacNW during the late summer and fall months. This would include the latter part of August, September & October. In fact, October is perhaps the best time to fish wobblers in the Columbia because so many anglers have retreated to either fish the fabeled mid coast chinook runs or have loaded up their guns to chase four-leggeds. Either way, I’ve had days on the wobble in October with no other boats around and limits a plenty. The river is usually void of summer winds by this time of year as well. All in all, you’ll see most people ‘wet their wobble’ in September.


Where you ‘Get your wobble on’ really depends on what part of the county and to which side of the river you are familiar with. Although anglers who fish the Big River can enter and fish the river from either side of the state divide, legally, you can almost be certain there are clumps or Oregon anglers here and clumps of Washington anglers there. Never the less anywhere from Longview up to Fairview can be accessed and properly targeted with your favorite wobbler. I referred to current and tide types in the WHO as I addressed types of vessels and anchoring safety….so the smaller the boat you have the more likely you are to be downriver and into tidally influenced waters. Anything from the 205 area and up can get a little sketchy for small vesseled boaters, myself included. And remember, where ever you do end up deciding to try your luck make sure you do so with a healthy respect for this big bad girl we call the Columbia. She is not one to be disrespected or underestimated. That current and even the warmer water relatively speaking will kick your ass for sure. It may be your last swim depending on where you dip. Now, regarding where to fish depth-wise…..here is my recommendation: 50′. Sure you can go shallower or maybe a little deeper but do use fifty as your gauge as Ground Zero. Look for the obvious sholes, dips, slopes and troughs as you normally would with your fish finder….but make sure you do so at 50 feet more often than not. You can vary your lead line from 5 to 15 (yes I said 15) feet in order to locate the fluid water column usually going longer as the season progresses. The water will slowly cool and the salmon will rise accordingly. You should be into a 9′ foot lead line by early October on a normal year. Typical leaders will run 5 feet and are harnessed on either a sliding or spreaded rig.

The WHY:

When tuned (bent by hand slightly) and fished properly, wobblers should swing in a pendulum effort back and forth WITHOUT rolling over. The widest swing you can get with your wobbler is the best for success. Lighter wobblers, such as Alvins and Simons or light weight Clancy’s, should be used during low current periods which may mean the beginning or the ends of tides. While larger, heavier wobblers, namely .032 Clancy’s, should be used during the RIP of the tide. You might even try a rainbow spinner (PDXSALMONJUNKIE.COM) or the like during such a rip…but that’s a conversation for an article coming up next week. When fished in deep water and back bounced out properly (walked down river with a lift and drop technique) wobbler fishing can be extremely productive, to say the least. When you find the right line and back your stuff out there just so…you certainly will never think of anchor fishing the same again.

Got some additional questions or comments about this article? Just reply on this post and let’s get a thread going steady. Also, if you’ve already had some wobbler success this season I WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT. That’s it for now. I’ll be on wobble three out of the next five days. Countdown to full time dad: Ten Days.

Chris H3llcat Heller
The Wobble gets the Gobble.

  1. Derek Reed says:

    Great Article as always Chris. Never fished the Big river before but always wanted to. I will keep this article in mind the next time I have a chance at fishing it. Alot of great informative info. Keep it Reel brother

  2. Hellcat says:

    Let me know if you have any questions just lemme know! Thx Derek.

  3. Big Bad Ricky says:

    Great tips, Chris! Since I lost my herring technique in a great river I like to fish, I may just have to grab a smaller wobbler and tweak it a bit. Maybe throw a herring wrap on there for good measure. Makes me think! Awesome tips, Hellcat!

  4. Hellcat says:

    Thx Ricky!!

  5. jake says:

    i read this tutorial 2-3 times a year. the depth component CANNOT be stressed enough. as soon as i locked on the depth- BAM fish on……regularly. GIVE EM’ H3LL….CAT

  6. Hellcat says:

    Huge props thanks brother

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