Trolling can be one of the most productive ways to scour a lake for fish. However, for those that believe it’s simply a matter of tossing out a lure and cranking up the motor, it can also be one of the worst.
Like everything in fishing, the art of trolling takes specific knowledge and techniques in order to catch our aquatic friends on a consistent basis. Adhere to the following fundamentals, and watch your trolling prowess grow in leaps and bounds.
Structure Is The Key
Although it is possible to catch fish by “blindly” trolling a lake, paying attention to certain structure areas is fundamental in finding real success. No matter what the specie of fish you are chasing, they all relate to change. Change can mean anything from open water turning into a weedline, humps and underwater saddles, points and islands, and certainly breaklines. Finding these fish magnets on your home lake, and fishing each one differently is the name of the game.
Experimenting when out trolling is the key to success. Zigzag patterns and S-turns vary the movement to your bait, while also attracting added attention from the fish below.
Weedlines are just as the name suggests — a distinct edge or line of vegetation that meets open water. Always troll parallel to the green stuff, following the distinct changes you’ll come across, and try to keep your lure within 10 feet of the edge at all times.
“Underwater islands,” or humps as they are commonly referred to, are great for attracting and holding a variety of game fish. Make trolling passes across and around the actual hump, starting with your first pass in deep water and progressively working shallower, until the final pass is directly over top of the hump itself.
Both of these areas are dynamite trolling spots, but definitely come into their own during rough or windy conditions. Approach points by making a trolling pass directly in front of the tip itself, and also along both edges as it relates to the land structure. If the island you come across has a point, pay all of your attention to that structure area. Islands without points can be simply circled, starting in shallow water and working deeper, depending on the overall size of the island itself.
Breaklines are one of the most prolific structure areas that cough up fish trolling on a consistent basis. What these areas represent are sudden depth changes such as 10 feet to 14 feet, or 18 feet to 24 feet. The key is to present your bait right on the breakline, always trolling parallel to the break and not across it.
Using Your Underwater Eyes
On-board electronics are a must for trolling, allowing an angler to see precisely what is below the boat at all times. Finding those subtle depth changes, locating schools of baitfish and their prey and staying right on the edge of a weedline is impossible without these digital dynamos.
Keep a close eye on your electronics for visible signs of baitfish or structure areas. Electronics are your underwater eyes for what lies beneath the surface.
Although fishfinders run the gamut in terms of price, even the most basic of units will greatly improve your trolling success.
Spend a day zipping up and down the lake while watching your screen, making a mental or physical note (preferably on a topographical map) of all the breaklines, points and humps you come across. Having this information at your disposal will make it as simple to come back later and fish these hotspots.
Another important tool for trolling is a GPS unit. Punching in the coordinates of things such as schools of baitfish, the precise spot an underwater hump is located and where the weedline starts and stops, allows you to come back time and time again to fish that exact same waypoint.
Here are 10 trolling tips to increase your chances when out on the water.
Ten Tips For Trolling Success
1. Experiment with lures. Try everything from shallow to deep divers until you connect with a fish. Carry a large assortment of diving crankbaits. Different colors and lip lengths will add variety and different qualities to your arsenal.
2. Vary your speed. Constant speed can trigger fish, but changing your speed from faster to slower can result in a fishing frenzy.
3. Never troll in a straight line. Zigzag patterns, circles and L-patterns cause your lures to run at different speeds and in different directions — both excellent triggering factors for following fish.
4. Apply a scent product. Coating your bait with a commercial scent will leave a scent trail in the water, enabling fish to find your bait and strike it.
5. Run your lure at different lengths. The more calm the water, the longer your leader to your lure should be. This wisdom should also be applied when fishing shallow water.
6. Bump the bottom. Making contact with the bottom occasionally will stir up fish and entice them to strike. This is especially productive when targeting pike and walleye.
…….Use A Marker Buoy
7. Use a marker buoy. Tossing out a marker when you connect with a fish, or when you find a productive hump, will allow you fish the area more thoroughly and will usually mean some extra fish.
8. Use an electric trolling motor. If the fish are extremely spooky, or the water is crystal clear, switch over to an electric trolling motor for a quiet and unobtrusive approach.
9. Use downriggers. For fishing deep water, or for fish that suspend deep, a downrigger can be the key to catching fish. Look for a small hand model that is easy to use and inexpensive.
10. Never give up. Although trolling can be boring and uneventful at times, for those anglers that adhere to these principles and put in the time, the rewards will outweigh the wait.
As you can see, trolling is a specialized and productive technique for connecting with fish. Follow these do’s and don’ts, and be content in knowing that the mighty “trolling gods” will always shine down on you!
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