No one likes an internet troll, but anyone with a boat should learn how to troll for fish.
For years, the techniques of trolling confused me; there was an overload of information and much of it seemed contradictory. Fast or slow? Lures or bait?
Well, after much research on the water, I’ve learned while there is a time and place for every style, and like all things fishing, a lot of it comes down to personal preference. After all, if something works for me, why should I mess with success?
So here’s a look at some different approaches.
The old-school approach
Ever seen the old guys slumped over in an old, beat-up aluminum boat powered with an old, smoky, six-horsepower Evenrude two-stroke going about 1 mph?
Chances are these guys were pulling some kind of dodger, such as a 6-inch sling blade and trailing a night crawler that’s threaded onto a small No. 10-size hook. If they are not using downriggers then they have probably added some kind of weight like a sliding sinker or attached a weight to a three-way swivel to get down to where the fish are.
The dodger creates a side-to-side motion that sets up a vibration that will attract fish and, once they are close enough, the scent and action of the worm does the rest (most trollers will add some type of scent to their offerings). The dodgers are designed for slow trolling; anything over about 2 mph will make them roll in the water, which is a no-no.
Fishing stores are loaded with dodgers of all sizes and colors. The best luck I’ve ever had with this setup was at Lake Englebright using a small Sepps mini-dodger in a watermelon pattern and dragging the worm about 18-inches behind the dodger.
Drifting is another popular style with this setup; just let out the line about 60 feet behind the boat and let the wind blow you around the lake. Some folks will use a glob of power bait on a treble hook for this.
Fast trolling with lures
The approach to fast trolling is pretty much the opposite of the slow troll. Speeds are up around 3-4 mph, making dodgers unusable. The weapons of choice are lures or plugs that can be used for casting (rapalas, cultivas, etc.) or spoons (Speedy Shiners, Optimizers, etc.).
Rapalas can be tied directly to the line, but spoons require either a snap swivel or a leader/swivel combo to avoid line twist. Again, add some scent to the offering. The idea here is that by whizzing past a fish, they will attack the lure without getting a good look at it.
Both lures and spoons have their own wiggle patterns that set up a vibration. One advantage to the speedy approach is to cover a lot more ground than the slow trolling style.
Again, when it comes to picking out sizes and colors, there seems to be no limit on the shelves. My general rule is dark colors early or on an overcast day, and brighter colors later in the day.