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

Bass

Topwater Lure Secrets for Bass

Jim Edlund - April 26, 2018

These secrets will put more and bigger bass in your boat!

Fish Recipes

Blackened Fish Recipe

Tommy Thompson

Blackened fish ready to serve with a side of okra and cucumber-red onion salad. This recipe is...

Panfish

Dock Shooting Crappies

Matt Straw - July 03, 2018

Catch those weary crappie with this technique!

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance's Lucas Steward shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead what all of the fuss is about in the brand new Ghost trolling motor being brought to market by the Tulsa, Okla.-based fishing equipment manufacturer.

Giant Walleyes According To Calendar Periods

The search for big walleyes begins with an understanding of their nature, keying on prime locations during specific times of the year.

Lure Lock Options Includes LED Light Boxes & More

Pro angler Jonathan VanDam showcases new offerings at ICAST 2019, including the ultra-thin, big bait boxes, LED-lighted boxes and backpack-able gear lockers. With Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Pike & Muskie

How To Catch Pike In Spring

Dan Johnson - April 26, 2016

Spring is prime time for pike. The Prespawn and Postspawn periods offer excellent odds at...

Catfish

All About Catfish

Rob Neumann

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

Bass

Largemouth Bass Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 22, 2017

Check out this Largemouth Bass Length To Weight Conversion Chart, a simple and accurate...

See More Stories

More How-To

How-To

Buzzbaits for Muskies

Dan Johnson - October 16, 2015

Timely, Tested Muskie Buzzbait Strategies Talk top tactics with 20 rabid muskie hunters or...

How-To

Long Range Casting Lures

Cory Schmidt - April 21, 2016

Longball hitters in both major league baseball and professional golf might be surprised to...

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

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.

×