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More Trolling Tips

Learning anything is a process, not an event. That's true with trolling. This is one of several articles we have about it.

Talk to any seasoned professional or serious amateur who spends (or has spent) a good amount of time hunting, scouting and trolling and they will tell you that kingfish are only one of a wide variety of species that will strike a real (live) or fake bait dragged behind your boat. The strategy of dragging metal or meat behind your boat is called trolling, and there are some basic tactics and equipment to consider if you want to add this proven and highly-effective method to your armory of fishy weapons.

The proper angle of the trolled bait or lure

There are several ways you can drag something behind your boat. Except for one method, they all require specialized equipment. Let's talk about what the equipment needs to do, and basic equipment needs. You can talk to a good tackle shop like Barracuda Bob's on the Dunedin Causeway, Tampa Fishing Outfitters in Tampa, Tarpon Fishing Outfitters in Tarpon Springs, Southeastern Tackle Supply near Downtown Tampa or any tackle shop near you to compare Shimano to Penn and a dozen other manufacturers as long as you know the basics of what you are looking for. The stores we mention staff experts which is a key to a good shop and critical to your getting steered in the right direction.

Trolling Basics

Image number 1 (above) are what we call "Flat Lines". They are rods mounted in rod-holders (usually) built into the boat's gunwales (the walls of the boat that hurt your knees when you lean on them). Image number 2 (below) are "outriggers" or even rods held above the lower rods by mounts on the top of the captain's tower. You can have two lines out on the high lines if you know what you're doing, and four more (two on each side) if you have real outriggers -- special long and extend-able rods that hold line with clips on them. You pull your line out to the end of the rod, and create a huge and wide "spread" of baits on the surface and below in various water columns. But you can start with one rod and one lure or piece of dead squid cut in strips, and still catch fish.

Downrigger

A "Downrigger" is a specialized device that holds a big heavy weight at a specified distance under (and behind) your vessel. You use a clip to hold the line to the weight, and when a fish hits the lure or bait the clip releases, you fight the fish on a freeline, and replace a new bait to the retrieved weight when you're done and ready to repeat the process. It's the way guys like Vance Tice and Captain Tommy Z (Zeissman) got famous putting their angling clients on big keeper grouper in the relatively shallow waters of Tampa Bay. But it works in eighty feet of water as well as it does in thirty feet of water. They range in price from a simple crank to these digital machines capable of measuring the depth to a millimeter below your boat while spraying your heated body with cool misty water (just kidding, folks, not yet, anyway)

Here are ways you can troll something - drag something - behind your boat.

Just drag the lure or spoon behind your boat

Put an 8'-10' leader onto a barrel swivel (stuff oh drag spins and twists line). Tie that to 30lb-50lb braided line connected to a level-wind "conventional" saltwater reel. Tie on a spoon or strip of cut squid or a ballyhoo or a threadfin (hooked through the nose from the bottom up) and move about 2-3 knots. Watch for birds, do not run directly through them, and whatever is chasing bait to the surface is likely to eat the lure or bait. When it does, make sure your drag is not too tight (before the strike), stop the boat, fight and land the fish, and repeat.

Drag a bait behind your boat that swims deeper than the surface.

Some plugs have big lips on them. The lips are meant to push the head of the lure down, and they can drive 10'-15' if they are trolled at 2 knots. Drag them too hard and they do not swim naturally, and you might as well be dragging a beer can (do not laugh. They work with treble hooks),

Make the lure or bait swim deep and parallel to the bottom.

This is a tricky thing to do, but once you learn it, it is as easy as tying a knot. There are two ways to do it. First, you can use a planer. A planer is a device that uses hydro-dynamics (the pressure of the water pushing onto its surface) to force it deep. The bigger the plate that makes up the surface, and the heavier the lead used to keep it balanced and straight, the deeper it digs. The problem is they weigh a lot, and they are tied into the actual line. That means you have to handle it before you reach the fish.

Drag - Planer

A "Planer" is a manual device relying on the pressure of the oncoming water to push it down into the water column. When a fish hits the lure or bait, the structure is such that the balance shifts, the front of the device lifts, the pressure from the water is released, and you get to fight the fish -- with the heavy and dangerously sharp blade of steel -- to the boat. It works, but be careful. We've seen and been part of very bad situations with flying planers, still-green-fish, and inexperienced anglers. If you're gonna fish a planer, please pay somebody like Vance Tice to teach you before you get hurt. Downriggers are a hundred times safer to use than planers and only thirty-times the price :)

The alternative to planers are the best of all worlds, and that is a downrigger. A downrigger is a specialized spool of wire. It allows you to sink a heavy lead weight, and to that lead weight attach the line on a quick-release clip. You connect the fishing line to the clip so the bait is 20' or 30' behind the heavy lead, you lower the lead on the spool (they range from simple marks on a metal hand-spun spool to digital devices that will spray cool mist on you if you are too hot from pressing the button). This allows you to run the bait parallel to the bottom, (so does a planer but not NEARLY as easily) and know exactly how deep that heavy lead - and hence your baits -are running.

As far as equipment you need a fairly medium-weight rod with a conventional level-wind reel. A lot of people we know prefer Star rods, but you can spend $500 on a custom rod and catch the same fish. Again, pick a tackle shop that stocks experts and friendly voices. The tackle they tell you to get will work just perfectly, and will apply to this article.

To learn the very basics of trolling in general, click here.

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