Three summers ago the Chinook salmon fishing was exceptional in the Skidegate Channel, dividing the north and south islands of Haida Gwaii, or, the Queen Charlotte Islands. In my first of four days spent there, I had retained two 25–pound Chinook and two oversized Coho salmon, all caught using anchovies behind flashers. On my second day, after releasing two more 25–pound salmon, my guide Shea Roth suggested we try using large Tomic plugs in hopes of hitting even larger salmon. We were soon catching and releasing numerous 30–pound Tyees, and before my trip was finished the big Tomic Tubby plugs put two more Tyees in my box with each weighing just under 40–pounds. The following year it was nothing but six-inch Gibbs Gator spoons in Mudpie colour that would put salmon in the box while fishing in Whale Harbour, just south of Kitimat. When a four–inch green and glow Lyman plug helped me win a big trout derby in southern BC, I knew that I was the one who was hooked: totally hooked on plugs and spoons made right here in British Columbia. Since that time there have been even more incidences where locally produced, artificial lures out-produced bait. I’ve caught winter springs (Blackmouth salmon to our American cousins) on green and glow Gibbs Gypsy spoons and my most recent example in August 2009 was catching two nice 15-pound Coho salmon at Hakai Passage using an O’ki Titan spoon in Nickel Blue Moon finish.
There is no doubt that plugs and spoons catch fish. However, there are hundreds of brands of plugs and spoons on the shelves that are designed to catch fishermen and not fish. This is where logic enters into the equation: if a local lure manufacturer creates lures that don’t catch fish, the company will soon go out of business. And a little more logic: if commercial salmon trollers make their living using certain spoons and plugs sport fishermen should try them as well. The local anglers must have success with a lure before its popularity can spread to other parts of the world. I’m going to explore the products and histories of four BC lure makers that have survived the influx of offshore manufacturers for one reason only; their plugs and spoons really do catch fish.
Lyman plugs are made in Kelowna, British Columbia and even the plug bodies are local being made from west coast yellow cedar that is milled right at the Kelowna location. Lyman Dooley started the company in 1947 and when the lures gained popularity with local anglers trolling for giant rainbow trout and char he sold the company. It sold several times before the Neufeld family purchased it and really stepped up the sales and production. Glen Neufeld and his sister Laura listened to the needs of anglers and soon were producing the hand sanded and custom painted plugs in six sizes, all offered in 170 colour combinations. The erratic action wood plugs can be found in all the tackle boxes of serious lake anglers and I’ve been to several salmon lodges where the six-inch model in white with a red head was the only recommended lure. Great Lakes anglers liked the actions and after convincing the Neufelds to produce them in several combinations of “glow” they couldn’t produce enough for the rapidly expanding market and had to hire more help. We all know that on all of the great lakes the rule for lure colours seems to be that if it don’t glow – it don’t go. The nine-inch Lyman plug was specifically designed for bull trout anglers in the Columbia River valley and Revelstoke and Nakusp British Columbia anglers will likely be angry that I’m giving away their secret weapon. My own tackle box is filled with Lyman plugs largely because they still work very well with single barbless hooks as required by law on Okanagan Lake. Poor health caused Glen Neufeld to sell the company once again and Colin Redisky has recently purchased it. His intentions are to continue the high standard of production and to experiment with some new models such as a floating bass plug. Check out the Lyman plugs size and colour combinations at www.lymanlures.com.