Fundamentals: Trolling

Fundamentals: Trolling

When casting or vertical jigging from a boat, although your boat may be moved slowly by the wind, current, or your trolling motor, the boat essentially becomes your fishing platform, much like a dock. When you use your boat for trolling, it becomes part of your presentation, allowing you to cover a substantial amount of water in a short time. Trolling is an effective method for contacting fish when they are scattered on structure and for locating fish in open water and on expansive flats.


In its most basic form, trolling is simply pulling a lure through the water using the power of the motor on your boat. You start the boat in motion, release line from the reel until enough line has been let out for your bait to be at the proper depth, and then pull it along until a fish strikes your offering. Sounds easy.



But trolling, even if you have the right bait for the fish you're after, isn't going to do you much good unless you're in an area where fish should be, and your lure is at the right depth and has the right action to attract and trigger fish. Remember: Fish + Location + Presentation = Success. Let's say it's a late fall evening in Minnesota and you'd like to do some walleye fishing. You know that walleyes move shallow in the evenings this time of year as they chase minnows, and that trolling with a shallow-running minnowbait is an effective presentation. Just one problem — you know the likely location of the fish, but how do you make sure you're trolling through those locations and moving at the proper speed?

Time to turn on your depthfinder. Now, as your boat moves through the water, you watch your depthfinder (and look ahead to be sure you're not going to run into anything), so you troll through the depth of water likely to hold fish, such as along a breakline or over a flat. If you have a more advanced unit with GPS, you can watch your speed on the screen, adjusting speed of your bait if necessary. If you have a mapping feature, you can vary your depth and plan your turns so that your lure covers more water in search of fish. Your boat is now an integral part of your presentation.


If you don't have a depthfinder, use your maps to best determine what areas to fish. Landmarks can be a great help. Watch the shoreline area for clues as to what might be below the surface nearby. If the shoreline is steep, the water likely drops off more quickly than near a bank that is flat. Points usually extend out into the water. You can often see the tops of humps in clear water, offering clues to structure. You get the idea.


We've identified lures that work well when trolled, like spoons, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits. Most often these lures are tied directly to the line or connected to a snap on the end of the line or end of a leader if you're after toothy fish. Depending upon the size of the lure, you'll likely need a 61⁄2- to 8-foot medium-power, moderately slow action casting rod, and a reel spooled with 10- to 20-pound superline. Superlines, like braids and fused lines, to let you feel the vibrations of the bait that can also be detected by watching your rod tip. If the vibration stops and you know you don't have a fish, you've likely picked up a weed or leaf.

Trolling Rigs

Slipsinker and three-way rigs are effective livebait trolling presentations for walleyes, bass, trout, salmon, and panfish. With both rigs, you can drop the rod tip back when you feel a fish bite, allowing the fish to get the bait in its mouth, before you reel down and set the hook.

A variation of this involves the use of a "bottom-bouncer" for the weight. This upside-down L-shaped wire with a cylindrical weight in the middle of the bottom arm, ticks along uneven bottoms, rarely snagging. The mainline is attached to an eye at the top of the weighted arm, while a leader with hook (often with beads and a spinner) attaches to a swivel and snap on the shorter arm. The unique makeup of this rig allows you to move at higher speeds and over rougher terrain than with a slipsinker. This higher speed means that you can also use some lures, like minnowbaits, with this rig.

Recommended for You

This recipe for Steelhead Trout Niçoise Salad is heart healthy, paleo- and gluten-free diet friendly. Fish Recipes

Steelhead Trout Niçoise Salad Recipe

This recipe for Steelhead Trout Niçoise Salad is heart healthy, paleo- and gluten-free...

Made from 100% recycled fishing nets, the Costa Baffin's are a must-have for any serious angler. Accessories

Costa Baffin Sunglasses Review

Chris Schneider - April 26, 2019

Made from 100% recycled fishing nets, the Costa Baffin's are a must-have for any serious...

Here's some important crankbait lessons from the big leagues. Bass

Deep Cranking Confessions from the Pro's

John Neporadny Jr - December 18, 2017

Here's some important crankbait lessons from the big leagues.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Berkley

Berkley's Frittside Crankbaits

World Fishing Network show host Chad LaChance had a chance to visit with legendary crankbait master David Fritts about his new Frittside crankbaits from Berkley. LaChance, host of the Fishful Thinker on WFN, also got a few cranking tips from Fritts, the former Classic and Forrest Wood Cup champion.

Awesome Spoon Bluegill System

Awesome Spoon Bluegill System

Check out this deadly spoon system for big bluegills introduced by one of In-Fisherman's readers.

13 Fishing Pathfinder Weedless Walking Bait

13 Fishing Pathfinder Weedless Walking Bait

Fresh off catching the biggest bass in ICAST Cup history, 13 Fishing pro Jessie Mizell shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the new Big Squirm soft plastic worm and the company's unique Pathfinder topwater walking bait that is totally weedless in design.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is simply a matter of putting a good bait in the right in front of them. Catfish

The Best Catfish Rigs

In-Fisherman - January 11, 2018

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is...

Catfish are among the most popular groups of fish with over 7 million catfish anglers nationwide. Catfish

All About Catfish

Rob Neumann

Catfish are among the most popular groups of fish with over 7 million catfish anglers...

'Walleyes spawn in spring and understanding spring walleye migrations, whether you live north or south, will help you pinpoint their predictable locations year after year. 

Walleyes spawn in spring, but spring may arrive in February in Mississippi, March in Walleye

Understanding Spring Walleye Migrations

Gord Pyzer - June 02, 2018

'Walleyes spawn in spring and understanding spring walleye migrations, whether you live north...

See More Stories

More How-To

When it comes custom rod building and fishing in general, cork will always be a popular grip How-To

Use U-40 Cork Seal to Protect Cork Fishing Grips

In-Fisherman - January 08, 2017

When it comes custom rod building and fishing in general, cork will always be a popular grip



Muskie fishing could be described as dull routine, interrupted by chaos, as a thousand things can How-To

Reels for Muskies And Pike

Jim Edlund - August 31, 2017

Muskie fishing could be described as dull routine, interrupted by chaos, as a thousand...

In all cases, caring for your on-water transportation assures your mind remains focused on catching fish, as opposed to fixating on some weird sound emanating from your lower unit. How-To

Boat Engine Maintenance and Tips

Cory Schmidt - April 16, 2018

In all cases, caring for your on-water transportation assures your mind remains focused on...

See More How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×