Hot Shots in Rivers

Tech Sheet Hot Shots in Rivers

The Hot Shot is a self-planing, diving lure. Its design incorporates a built-in planing bill which makes it dive when pulled through the water the faster it’s pulled, the deeper it dives.

Because of this built-in, natural swimming action, Hot Shots are often used with no additional weight attached to the line. You simply use the existing river current or reel in line to make the plug dive.

The big advantage of using a non-weighted plug is that the lure will naturally follow the river currents, guiding it around snags and rocks, while still maintaining a position near the bottom, the home of most game fish.

When rigging to use Hot Shots, most any rod and reel combination is acceptable. The choice will depend on your personal preference. However, the Hot Shotting technique has resulted in some very specialized rods being manufactured for salmon and steelhead, and “Hot Shot” actions are commonplace. These rods feature a heavy butt, with a light, sensitive tip that allows maximum visual contact of the lure’s action. As you become more familiar with the technique, you may wish to purchase one of these specialized rods.

Line choices are important in relation to how deep you wish the plug to dive. Light monofilament lines generate less water resistance and allow the Hot Shot to dive deeper, while heavier lines will increase friction and produce a shallower dive. Braided “superlines” offer an outstanding combination of incredible strength and small diameter that provides maximum power, without sacrificing dive depth. Unique in design, Rapala® Titanium® Stretch Braid offers both those advantages along with 7% stretch to cushion hard strikes. Choose 20- to 30-pound braid (8- to 10-pound diameter) for trout and 50- to 65-pound (14- to 20-pound diameter) for steelhead and salmon. When fishing braids, it’s common to add a barrel swivel and three-foot monofilament leader between the mainline and lure.

TIP: In order to maintain proper lure action, your leader should be tied directly to the round Duo-Lock Snap. Tying a line to the lure eyelet, or using any other type of snap or snap swivel may adversely affect a Hot Shot’s built-in action.

The Duo-Lock Snaps provided with each plug are carefully manufactured to ensure that only a perfectlyrounded, lightweight wire touches the screw eye on the lure. This creates optimum swimming action and maximum fish appeal.

The No. 25 Hot Shot has become a favorite for big water or where a deep-diving plug is needed. This extra-deep diving, high-action plug will dive to 18 feet and has a 30-lb. 5-oz steelhead to its credit! An outstanding plug in heavy flows.

Another of the easiest, yet most important, things you can do to improve your fishing success, is to maintain super-sharp hooks at all times. Fine-toothed files such as those offered by Luhr-Jensen are the absolute best hook sharpening tools available. Hold it parallel to the hook point and with gentle, one-way strokes, remove a small amount of metal on at least two sides of the point to obtain a sticky-sharp point with a knife-like cutting edge. Keep the file clean and dry and occasionally spray it with a non-corrosive lubricant such as WD-40™.

Hot Shot are rigged with high quality, X strong trebles which will yield maximum hooking power. A large or particularly active fish may possibly render a hook unusable. After landing fish, check the hook carefully. If it is bent or twisted, replace it. We recommend using a straight point, X strong hook, such as a VMC 9650, or an even better choice are inline treble hooks, like the VMC 5580, that actually improve lure balance and action by distributing the weight of the hook evenly to each side of the lure. Hook changes are most easily executed with a split ring tool like the one found on Rapala Carbide Pro® pliers.

The final critical step in rigging the plug is to “tune” it so that it will dive straight and true while producing optimum action and diving to its maximum depth.

Here is the secret to tuning a Hot Shot: Pull the plug through the water, observing its diving action. If it dives straight and true, it requires no additional tuning and will produce the correct fish-catching action and vibrations. If it runs off to one side, it needs to be hand-tuned to assure the ideal action and greatest diving capability. If the lure runs to the left, then, with the bill facing you, turn the screw eye slightly clockwise. If the lure digs to the right, turn the screw eye slightly counter-clockwise. Make small adjustments until the Hot Shot dives absolutely straight down. Feedback from Luhr-Jensen Pro Staff members indicates that with proper tuning, a Hot Shot will outfish any other lure of its type.

With the plug rigged and properly tuned, you’re now ready to fish. Head your boat upstream and above the area you wish to fish. Row or run your motor just fast enough to hold even with the current. Strip out or freespool line until the plug is 50 feet downstream of your boat. (NOTE: When fishing multiple lines, they should be at an equal distance from the boat). When you stop playing out line, the current will make the Hot Shot dive. The stronger the current, the deeper the lure will dive, so be sure to maintain constant pressure against it.

As you backtroll through an area, allow your boat to drop slowly downstream, keeping the lure actively working at all times by maintaining steady pressure against the current. To keep the plug constantly wiggling and diving, always run your boat downstream slower than the river’s natural speed.

Working a Hot Shot downstream into fish-holding water (such as that just below a riffle, along a deep side channel or at the head or tail end of a deep hole) provides the optimum results as fish can see the lure coming and anticipate its arrival.

The faster your rod tip pulses, the deeper the plug is diving. Hold your boat back against the current enough to force the Hot Shot to dive and then thoroughly work through each stretch of fishy water before moving on downstream.

Again, a Duo-Lock snap (no swivel) comes with each Hot Shot lure to ensure maximum fish-catching action. The recommended knot for tying your main line to the snap is shown below.

River fish treat Hot Shots as invaders to their territories and react to them with savage strikes. A plug fished too rapidly through a drift seems to be treated as a passing invader and often is ignored. A slowly-fished plug, on the other hand, is an “invader to be dealt with” and will produce far more strikes as the fish will become irritated beyond control.

Many fish species also will view a slow-moving plug as an easy meal, whereas a fast-moving one may require too much effort to catch and thus, is left alone. Because of the nature of Hot Shots, and the extreme irritation they generate, strikes are often vicious. Whenever you get a strike — set the hook HARD!

There are seven popular Hot Shot sizes for rivers:

Smaller models usually are selected when rivers are low and clear with the larger sizes used for off-color or high water. The No. 25 and No. 35 models are extradeep-diving, high-action plugs especially suited for big water or deep runs.

Of the many dozens of color finishes available for river fishing and backtrolling, the following are the most popular ones that we regularly recommend. As with all lure colors, individual anglers seem to discover which ones produce best for them. We encourage you to try different colors and sizes in your local waters to find your own favorites.


In our plated/metallic finish series try the #0922 Gold/Green Pirate™, #0923 Silver/Blue Pirate, #0935 Metallic Dark Green, #0943 “Red Magic” (Metallic Red) or #0949 Silver/Blue Top. Of the painted series the #0907 “Cop Car” (White/Black Head) is an excellent choice. “Hot Tail™” finishes are particularly effective because they focus strikes on the lure’s tail end where exposed hooks ensure more and better hookups. These are: #0747 “Grinch” (Silver/Green/Chartreuse Hot Tail), #0850 “Slammer” (Silver/Chartreuse Tiger & Tail), #0851″Bubba” (Silver/Fire Red Tiger/Fire Red Tail) and #0856 “Gold Digger” (Gold/Fire Red Tiger & Tail).®


The Hot Shotting technique works equally well for trout in rivers. The most effective trout finishes are #0806 Rainbow Trout, #0903 Frog, #0908 Perch, #0912 Black Scale, #0913 Fluorescent Red, #0920 Silver and #0921 Gold.

Luhr-Jensen’s revolutionary Hot Shot Side Planer allows any shore-bound angler the ability to reach the same productive water as the boater. After attaching the Side Planer to your line, it is placed in the current where it will skate off across the surface and out into the river carrying with it a trailing Hot Shot plug. By maneuvering the Side Planer into position, either by letting out line or by moving down the bank, the angler can fish a Hot Shot down through productive water as far as 100 feet away. Once the Side Planer and lure are in a fishy drift, the bank angler can, by slowly walking downriver, go “Hot Shotting” just like a boater. For complete instruction on the use of the Hot Shot Side Planer, see Tech Report #2, “How To Fish a Hot Shot Side Planer In Rivers” at your local tackle shop or

Another way to fish Hot Shots effectively from shore is to wade out, positioning yourself above fish-holding water and then work slowly down through it by stripping out a few feet of line, stopping for a few seconds, stripping out, stopping and so on. Yet another effective technique from the bank is the cast, swing and retrieve method. The Hot Shot® S.E. (Special Edition) was designed with casting in mind for both the bank and boat angler. The 1/2-oz is perfect for steelhead while the 3/4-oz. size is the choice when it comes to chinook salmon. Position yourself upstream of the water you wish to cover (such as a tailout) and then cast across and slightly downstream. When the plug hits the water, take several turns on the reel handle to start it diving. Then simply allow the force of the current to maintain the dive as the plug swings back across the river toward you. When the Hot Shot S.E. reaches a position close to the bank directly downstream of you, reel in slowly and make another cast.


Hot Shotting techniques are also incredibly productive with Luhr-Jensen Kwikfish. “X-Series” Kwikfish such as the K11X and K13X are designed to dive without additional weight and are ideally suited for river backtrolling. Their pronounced swimming actions cause extremely aggressive responses from fish.

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