Basically, trolling speed is a matter of few things:
- Species you're targeting
- Sea conditions
- The type of bait your trolling; live or artificial
Whether you're trolling for kingfish, billfish, or other pelagic fish, the sea conditions control your trolling speed to some extent. Rough water, calm water, the direction and strength the tide is moving, etc. With live bait, you want to bump troll, which is shifting the boat in and out of gear, basically just steering the bait in the direction that you want to head. You are barely moving. Bump trolling is usually at 1.5 knots or less. If you troll any faster you will kill your live bait by drowning it. If you're trolling plugs, like a Mann's Stretch. You can troll 5 to 9 knots.
This image shows the Troll-Master Downrigger - one of our absolute favorite accessories for trolling. It lets you drop live or or artifical baits to an exact depth while moving at the correct (for species and conditions) speeds. You can find them at Troll-Master on the Web.
Start trolling around 5 knots and if you're not getting any strikes, start moving up in speed until you get a strike. I have caught kingfish up to 9 knots. So, vary your speed until you get a strike. You should also have different lures out at varied distances: Put a gold Mann's Stretch out 70 feet, a silver and chartreuse spoon at 150 feet and a red and white shallow running bomber in the prop wash. If you start catching fish on one of the baits, switch all the other baits over to that one.
The one species that strays from this general statement is when trolling for wahoo. For these tasty critters you could start at the low end 12 knot and go up to 20 knots. The average speed of 15 knots is a great place to start for wahoo.
Here is a quick tip for kingfish: Troll for them as the sun just starts to come up.
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