By: Chris Shaffer
Driving along the Richardson Highway on our way to salmon fish in Valdez Pautzke pro staffer Mike Wickkiser and I noticed a small waterfall on the left side of the road roughly 200 yards down an embankment. It was classic Alaska scenery upstream of a high mountain lake, looked trouty and we both thought it would be a great place to try our new Fire Balls, which had never been seen or used in Alaska.
We’d tested the Fire Balls in a dozen states this spring and summer and always had success. Meanwhile, we wanted to try them on stocked and wild trout in Alaska prior to our product launch up here. This spot looked perfect. We pulled off the highway, rock hopped down the mountain and made our way to the waterfall. Wickkiser pierced a Red Fire Ball on his hook, flipped it toward the base of the waterfall and within seconds caught a 15-inch rainbow.
This water was crystal clear. We choose this spot first because the trout had time to see the bait coming and would be inspecting it. If they ate it here our tests would be complete. You guys have always used our Pautzke Balls O Fire salmon eggs, but no one had seen these Fire Balls prior. They aren’t real salmon eggs, but made with Pautzke Nectar, which many Alaskans have used for a half-century. Alaskans know Nectar is pure salmon egg juice. This what we use to make Fire Balls. They aren’t plastic beads or soft plastics. They look, taste, feel and fish like real eggs because they are made with salmon egg juice. These trout and dozens of others didn’t seem to know the difference as we filmed Pautzke Outdoors while testing.
We caught a bunch of trout on the Pink Shrimp (Fire Balls) and Red Fire Balls in this spot before they got lockjaw. And, to be honest, then we used a few Pink Shrimp, Yellow Jacket and Gold Label and caught a few more. The trout grabbed the real eggs and new Fire Balls with hesitation. A few minutes later we walked several hundred yards downstream and filmed us drifting Chartreuse and Red with Glitter Fire Balls underwater so we could see how the trout reacted to them, which you can see is this episode of Pautzke Outdoors: https://youtu.be/0zR_dJZpmTg.
Having only spent a few hours in this area and never making a cast anywhere around here before it was the perfect spot to try Fire Balls and put them up against real eggs. We caught and released several dozen trout between two anglers, but didn’t catch any monsters. Keep in mind this is a small system that doesn’t grow enormous fish. On the other hand these wild trout showed off vivid colors and made for a blast with two-pound leaders. The Red, Chartreuse Garlic and Pink Shrimp Fire Balls all caught trout (as did the real Pautzke eggs) while we fished them under a small float.
With silvers everywhere now is a great time to cast Fire Balls below spawning salmon (where legal) for trout and dolly varden. They look like real eggs, but stay on the hook better and are more durable. Try them on trout late this summer, like we did, and you may end up with a new favorite bait.
Editor’s Note: So far, Pautzke’s new Fire Balls are only available at Bass Pro Shops in Anchorage.