Flashers & Dodgers – Dan Kaggelis 2016

When it comes to techniques, trolling is regarded by many anglers as a lazy man’s style of fishing. Most view trolling as throwing out a couple of lures behind the boat, sticking the rod in the rod holder and waiting for the fish to hook themselves. However, with a few adjustments and some sneaky additions, trolling like many forms of fishing can be much more technical and most importantly, highly effective when targeting both demersel and pelagic fish.

When it comes to upping your game when trolling, it’s hard to go past a technique which is used by many commercial anglers and overseas anglers but very rarely by recreational fishers in the north. This is the addition of a ‘dodger’ or a ‘flasher’ to your trolled baits, skirts or lure.

Both dodgers and flashers work on the same principal and are designed to add that extra bit of attraction to your troll baits or lures. They most commonly resemble metal plates with reflective tape which capture the sunlight which draw the attention of target fish. They work on the theory that the flasher or dodger will initially capture a fish’s attention or excite them into feeding and when they move in closer to strike they will then see your bait or lure and switch onto this instead. Sometimes however they will strike the flasher or dodger but most of the time they eventually find your troll bait or lure.
Let’s start with discussing the ins and outs of flashers. Flashers most commonly resemble a piece of reflective metal.

Flashers are rigged in line between your troll bait or lure anywhere between a metre and three metres apart. Flashers are designed to have a very aggressive circular action and mostly work at faster troll speeds. The faster speeds make them spin in a 360 degree rotation throwing off reflected sunlight above below and sideways through the water column. They can also create turbulence and sound at the same time which also increases attraction. Integrating a flasher into your trolling set up is a great idea when you want to really excite fish. I prefer to use flashers when the fish are hungry and biting and are in an aggressive frame of mind. This is for two reasons.

First you need to be trolling at a decent speed to get flashers to work correctly so this means moving faster through the strike zone which means less ‘convincing’ time for your target species to strike. The second is that flashers as mentioned earlier can be really aggressive in their action and if the fish are not equally aggressive sometimes it can spook them off the bite due to their action. When opting to use a flasher, hard body style troll lures are the best choice.

This is because they prefer a bit of speed to get them swimming and the rotations of the flasher are less likely to affect the action of the lure. When implementing a flasher to your trolling set up its best to take the time to experiment with different speeds to get the most out of your flasher but at the same time not too quick that it upsets the action of your lure. Speed is not the only way to find this balance and the distance between your lure and flasher can also reduce or increase the effect between flasher and lure. Genuine flashers not homemade jobs are designed to work with lures and often provide a recommended length between lure and flasher and recommended speeds as well. However it is very easy to make your own and the key is to make sure that your barrel swivels allow for plenty of movement for the plate to spin.

I have been making my own flashers for years by roughly shaping aluminium with a couple of barrel swivels connected by heavy duty split rings and they work a treat. You can use less aggressive style flashers such as reflective floats or even metal jigs such as large spoons without the screwed in single hook and these are quite popular amongst commercial fishermen when chasing pelagic such as Spanish mackerel. In fact if you have ever watched commercial mack fishermen trolling up fish after fish whilst you remain strike less it is often the addition of a flasher which is making all the difference.
Next comes dodgers and I have to admit I certainly prefer to use dodgers over flashers as they are less intrusive on troll baits and lures can be worked at slower speeds.

Like flashers they too commonly resemble flat plates of reflective metal however subtle design differences make them respond differently when trolled. Instead of a 360 degree rotation movement, dodgers move from side to side almost like they are dodging and weaving hence the name, dodger. As mentioned before dodgers have a much more subtle less aggressive presence in the water but they can still provide plenty of extra attention and attraction. Whilst flashers are designed to imitate fleeing bait fish, dodgers are more about imitating a dying or wounded fish through its side to side action. Dodgers are more effectively used when fish are being picky or not hard on the bite and are easily spooked. Too much movement will see them fleeing baits not hunting them down. Dodgers are ideal for trolling slow troll baits such as wolf herring as they can still achieve their side to side motion at relatively slow speeds. I prefer to troll my wolf herring as slowly as possible so this behaviour suits them perfectly.

Being able to troll at slow speeds also keeps baits in the strike zone longer which is very helpful when the fish are not cooperating. Like when using a flasher its best to experiment with speed and length between bait and dodger and this can be easily achieved by dropping it boat side and watching how they react with each other. I tend to find if the dodger is messing with swimming action of the bait then moving it further up the main line is a good idea. Dodgers also have the added bonus that when you drop your boat out of gear and let baits sink into schools of fish they tend to flutter longer and better than flashers which require that extra speed. Once again perfect when dropping troll baits into large concentrations of fish.

Dodgers are much more difficult to make yourself and are best bought genuine. In the past Luhr Jensen dodgers have worked well for me but they can be hard to source as they are not commonly used in Queensland. When using a dodger or flasher take heed of the following advice. Whichever attractor you use make sure you use high quality swivels or barrels or else your line will quickly become a twisted mess. Next if you are chasing toothy fish like mackerel then run your braid to your fluorocarbon leader then to a swivel. From the other end of the swivel run a length of wire to your flasher or dodger. Then run wire from the other end to your troll bait or lure. This way if a mackerel does have a crack at your flasher or dodger you won’t lose the lot as the front wire will keep you connected. If you run your fluro leader straight to your attractor it can easily be snipped off.

Don’t just use dodgers and flashers for pelagic. You will be amazed at how effective they can be on demersels such as coral trout and green job over the reef. They can also be super effective in estuaries and impoundments on sight feeders such as barramundi and golden snapper. In fact dodgers are commonly used by southern state fishermen when trolling for trout and salmon in impoundments and this technique can be transferred quite easily to our impoundment barramundi. So next time you are thinking about having a troll, consider adding a dodger or flasher to your rig. It is certainly worth the extra effort and could easily be the difference between yourself and the other guy trolling behind you.