Trolling Tips and Techniques
Any day is a good fishing day. That’s the hard and fast rule of the fisherman’s heart. Of course, the fish don’t always agree with the statement. A good fishing day isn’t necessarily that bright, clear morning, without a cloud in sight, and quite a large variety of fish squabble over water temperature. Warm water fish grow lazy and search for warmer water pockets when wintry chills take over their favorite feeding grounds. Cold climate fish often wait for the sky to cloud over and their river routes cool down before working up a good appetite. Usually, the best time to fish is just before a storm, when the fish go into a feeding frenzy, sensing that their favorite snacking areas are about to be disturbed.
Nor are fish necessarily compliant with that ancient philosophy, “bigger fish like bigger bait”. The truth of the matter is, those fighting warriors are just as eager to snap up bit-sized morsels as they are to swallow a full meal with a single stroke. In fact, tiny baitfish provide the most substantial part of any big fish diet.
The Battle Rages
There are other advantages to ultralight fishing. Part of the thrill in catching a fish is the challenge of the fight. When you begin fishing ultralight, you find yourself developing a whole new field of skill sets as the crank and pull suddenly turns into a major battle, and even that ten inch trout becomes a lean, mean fighting machine.
For trolling with ultralight lures, you’ll want a rod with a limber tip, so you can keep an eye on the action. As long as it’s flicking and bobbing, you’ll know that lure is doing its job, twinkling just under the water surface, enticing your prey, instead of dragging down in weeds, or scraping up mud. Just because you’re using ultralight, don’t believe a lighter test line will do. Ultralight will attract that large or small mouth bass and land-locked salmon as quickly as it will a trout. Stay prepared by using a strong enough test line to haul in the surprise entry of the day.
Keep your lures close to the top of the water column. You don’t really want to add any extra weight, and usually, just a straight lure will do, although if the fishing is slow, you might wish to add extra broadcasting by using a combination with very small flashers. For lake fishing, spoons and spinners work well on bright, sunny days when there is a bit of chop in the water. Once it turns smooth as glass, try using flies.
Crank your ultralight lures along weed beds, over rock piles, under trees, and among roots or dead logs lying in the water. Most fish relate in one way or another to structure, and do not enjoy the effects of direct sunlight. Those shadowy niches are their favorite hiding spots. Keep a sharp eye out for schools of minnows or for insect hatches. On windy days, fish in the portion of the lake where surface food is blowing and concentrating, such as insect larvae or egg clusters. Fish can also be found close to drop-offs and near inlets or outer streams where highly oxygenated water is flowing or near old river channels containing residual water flows.
Trolling is a way of guaranteeing you’ll catch your limit even on days when fishing is slow. There is something about the trolling technique that tells fish they really want that particular bait. Maybe it’s part of the stalker-prey tradition; while you’re stalking the fish, it’s stalking your bait, afraid it will get away. When trolling, keep your motor at a low speed, unless you are using a narrow bladed troll, as it has the least amount of water resistance. You can then speed up a little, but remember, you don’t want your lure swimming so fast, the fish can’t catch up with it. Do not run a straight line, but make your path through the water a slow, lazy “S” curve. If the fish don’t seem to be striking, experiment with your lures until you hit on the right combination.
If all else fails, try jerking or twisting your line now and then to deliver a little more action. Slow down nearly to a stop, so your lure begins sinking to the bottom, then speed up, so it resurfaces to the top. The erratic movement will catch the attention of the fish, who immediately identifies it as food. Along with location, that’s the big key to catching the big fish.