Trolling: 101

Trolling is a method used by many anglers to cover a lot of water in hopes of catching one of the larger species of fish such as walleye, musky, or pike. Trolling involves casting your bait and letting the line go out as you slowly putt your boat through the water. By casting your bait out and keeping your bail open you will allow the bait to move out a safe distance away from the wake of your boats motor so as not to spook the fish. Of course, once your bait is about 50-60 metres away you should close your bail just in case a fish bites and to begin your troll. Once your bait is out in the water you can hold your rod or use a rod holder and simply manoeuvre your boat through canals, around structure, or through open waters in hopes of catching a hungry monster. This method is very successful when using larger baits such as large crank baits, large spinner baits, or big spoons. As larger fish species tend to cruise around looking for a quick snack, a well presented bait that is moving through the water with a bit of speed can entice them to bite. By trolling you may not put as many fish in your boat as you would when you are fishing for pan fish but when you do catch a fish using this method it is usually a trophy.

Classic Trolling

Classic Trolling: Side view

 The other method of trolling is to use a trolling motor. Now this method is not “really” considered trolling but it also allows you to cover a lot of water and get into some tight places where fish may be hiding. A trolling motor is an electric motor that attaches either to the bow of your boat or the stern. You will see many professional bass anglers using their trolling motors once they find a place where the fish are biting. By using the trolling motor you can pull up your main engine so that it does not get snagged or damaged on anything and then you can simply manoeuvre your boat in and out of weed pockets or shallow areas, the places where the monsters like to hide. When using a trolling motor you will usually be casting your bait and retrieving it making it a quite different method from the traditional trolling method described previously. The electric trolling motor is also whisper quiet which does not spook the fish and allows you to creep in on them as if you were stalking your prey.

For the traditional trolling methods you can use a trolling plate or even a drift sock on your boat to slow down the speed at which you are travelling. When your main engine is on, even if you are going at a slow speed, your propeller will still create a tunnel of water behind your boat. By using a trolling plate you disperse this “noise” from your propeller and help maintain a calm water zone behind your boat which in turn will not spook the fish. Secondarily the trolling plate allows you to slow your boat down even more so that you can slow the presentation of your bait if the fish are proving to be a bit sluggish. A trolling plate simply attaches in and around your propeller and can be lowered quite easily when you desire to do some trolling or can be easily raised when you wish to get under way. They come in a variety of sizes and materials but it is best to get the largest trolling plate you can afford and one that is made out of metal, not plastic, as the plastic ones have been known to easily break off.

A drift sock can also be used when trolling but it is not as effective as trolling under the power of your main engine. A drift sock is quite simply a large cone shaped device with a hole at the thin end to allow water to pass through. A drift sock is lowered into the water and adds more friction while you are getting pushed around the lake by the wind. This too will allow you to slow down your bait or will allow you to spend more time over certain structure, such as a sunken island or drop off, where the fish will be hanging out.

As mentioned you can troll a large bait behind your boat in order to entice to big boys to bite. Traditionally when trolling you will use a large crank bait that can be either deep diving or shallow diving depending on the depth of the water column that you are fishing and the fish you are targeting or a large spinner bait such as a Musky Killer. You can also use a swim bait or even a spoon when targeting the large fish you can catch when trolling. You would never use a worm and bobber when trolling and jigging is also a bad idea. You can easily get snagged up if you were to troll with any of these methods and it wouldn’t prove to be a very effective way of catching monsters. I will go in greater depth about trolling methods and baits to use in later articles but for now this is just to give you an idea of what trolling is all about and what to use.

Check out some of the maps I have posted and target some of the trolling lines I have outlined. Try your hand at some trolling and don’t forget to get some large baits to target the large varieties of fish you can catch using this method.