Trolling is the art of drawing a lure or bait through the water column and trying to trigger a fish to strike. There is nothing more exciting and adrenalin pumping than watching a fish come up from the depths and smashing your lure. It is a sport that entails a lot of patience with a lot of teamwork. Without proper planning, there will be mayhem which is a situation you don’t want to be in when trolling. When the unexpected occurs and 3 or 4 multiple hook-ups occur simultaneously, you need the right crew with the know-how on what to do and how and when to do it. This will make for a much more comfortable day out on the water trolling gamefish. There is a host of fish species that will attack a trolled lure and they include wahoo, mackerel, tuna, kingfish, dolphin fish, sailfish, marlin and many more.
When people think of trolling, straight away they think of big shiny golden overhead reels on short stroker rods. Truth is, with advancements in technology, even the most unorthodox methods of trolling have yielded amazing results in the modern era. The days of trolling with the customary overhead reels and mono fishing line is now a thing of the past as more and more anglers turn to braided line and heavy duty spin reels. Trolling tackle is a very subjective topic but no matter what you choose, make sure the gear is in the middle to high end because they can and do cop a battering. Popular overhead reels are the Shimano TLD’s, tyrnos, tiagra and the Daiwa saltist. If you prefer to troll with spin, take a look at the Shimano stella, Saragosa, spheros, Daiwa saltiga, Okuma v system and the Pflueger torsion. Most times, these spin reels can also double as a jigging outfit so you have that versatility over an overhead combo.
When selecting a rod, length is the most critical element. Trolling rods should be between 5-6ft and rated at 10-24kg depending on the targeted species. Line weight should be between 20-80lb mono or braid depending on the reel. Fishing leader should be about 80-200lb once again depending on the situation. Fluorocarbon leader is a popular choice due to its invisibility in water. At times, the use of wire is required when the fish constantly cuts through the mono. But as a general rule, stay away from wire because you will get a lot less bites. You will also need quality snap swivels and tools such as pliers and gloves for rigging and handling fish.
Rigging can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. Start by tying a double of about 30cm using a bimini twist. Join the doubled main line to your leader using an Albright knot. Leader length should be about 4-8m. The rig is finished off by tying a loop knot directly to a snap swivel which is connected to the lure. If you must use wire, simply tie a swivel to the end of the leader. The wire is connected to the other end of the swivel and the lure using a haywire twist. This method of rigging is widely used and very effective on most species that you will encounter.
Effective lures for trolling are many and varied. Make sure you are well stocked with a variety of different types, size and colours to maximise your chances especially on days where the fish are fussy. A combination of surface and diving lures is the norm when trolling. Popular surface lures include saltwater flies, christmas tree style lures and other skirted lures. These lures create bubble trails and vibrations when trolled through the water and predatory fish often find them irresistible. The best colours are usually black/purple, green lumo and pink. Top brands include the Pakula range and Williamson. Most of them come pre-rigged and ready for use. With deep diving lures, you cannot go past the Rapala CD range and Halco laser pros. They also come rigged with hooks and ready for immediate fishing. The important thing to remember with diving lures is that they must run straight. You will need to test this first on the side of the boat. If the lure is not running straight and tracking either left or right, you will need to adjust the bib of the lure by bending it at the direction the lure was tracking using a pair of pliers. Successful colours in this style of lure are white/red, blue/red, green, and orange. The general rule with lure colour is dark colours on overcast days and bright colours on sunny days. Have a mixture of shallow and deep diving and this will cover most fishing situations.
The best time to go trolling is usually early morning from first light till about 8am. You can still catch fish mid-morning and throughout the day but the action would be a lot slower taking into consideration noise and visibility. If possible, try to plan your trip around a change of tide regardless of a high or low tide as this usually brings the fish on the bite. When trolling, the obvious thing to look out for is birds working the surface. This indicates a school of fleeing baitfish that are being rounded up by predators. Be mindful not to spook the fish and keep your distance. Other areas to troll over are rocky headlands, pinnacles, bommies and where other boats are concentrated. Your electronics will come in very handy here. Keep a close eye on the bottom for structure or any signs of baitfish. Summer time is usually the best time to troll for pelagics as the mercury rises and the water temperature starts to climb. Other times of the year, the fish are not so prolific but they are still around. Its been rumoured that these loner fish fall into a different size bracket and normally come close to or exceed the 20kg mark.
There are three critical elements to consider when trolling. It is not a simple matter of dropping a lure in the water and moving off hoping for the best. The correct boat speed, positioning of lures and proper drag settings will ensure you have the best chance of success.
Regardless of what lure your using, start by placing it alongside the boat and watch as you slowly increase speed. Deep diving lures work best at a speed when there is a very strong action but not popping through the surface. Keep a close eye on the rod tip as this will tell you everything you need to know. If the tip is bouncing up and down constantly, then everything is perfect. If its not, the line may have fouled up on itself and you will need to wind up and restart the process. It is also important to check after each fish as the impact and pressure from the strike may alter the swimming action of the lure. Skirted lures are most effective at a speed when they occasionally break the surface before entering the water again leaving a trail of bubbles. Saltwater flies will work at any speed. It’s best to have them below the waters surface and if they pop out, you can either reduce speed or run them further back out the boat.
Positioning the lures is important so that you minimise line tangles while manoeuvring. A full spread of lures usually consists of a short corner, long corner, short rigger, long rigger and a shot gun. The short and long corner refers to lures set on each side of the transom. The short corner being the one closest to the boat. The short and long rigger refers to lures set on the outriggers. The shot gun is the lure run straight through the middle of the spread and can be anywhere between 50-100m. When manoeuvring, always turn to the side with the longest line and the lines will not cross. Try to stagger the lures close to the boat as fish are attracted to the wash created by the motor and will come in very close. A little trick here is to trim your motor out a bit and this helps to create more bubbles in the wake. Lures trolled further back will get hit but nowhere near as much as the ones in close. However, fish can be very finicky and boat shy so it does pay to have a lure further back on the shot gun.
The reels drag pressure should be set so that there is a good bend in the rod without line peeling off unless you get a strike. The proper setting should have enough pressure to set the hook when the fish strikes. When you got the fish on, you can always increase the drag pressure to play the fish in. Always check your hook before placing the lure back in the water making sure the hook point remains super sharp for better penetration.
Once you’ve determined the positioning of the lures, you’re now ready to start trolling and covering some ground. Obviously the more ground you cover, the better your chances are of finding fish. Instead of running straight, move in a forward zigzag motion. Another tip is to occasionally stop the boat before increasing speed again and fish will often strike as the lure picks up momentum. If the action is slow, you can also try changing lures, rigging techniques, slow trolling livies or even re-positioning the lures. Another effective method is to slow troll a ganged pilchard with a small ball sinker and a rubber squid rigged to run right down to the pilchard’s nose. Once again, look out for sea birds, baitfish and good structure on the sounder.
When you get a strike, there are different ways of boating the fish. Everyone has their own opinions and ways that have worked for them. Personally, I like to maintain the same speed for a couple of reasons. The first is the possibility of multiple hook-ups from the same school of fish. Increasing the boats speed or stopping the boat may either spook the fish or turn them off. The other reason is so that the other lines remain straight and more manageable particularly when fighting a fish that has been hooked in close. This is what we do and has worked very well but everyone has their own ideas and what works for them. Use common sense backed by teamwork and trolling can and will be a lot of fun.
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