going the wrong speed again. So this isn’t
a set–and–forget proposition. You need
to constantly pay attention, and even if
you don’t believe anything has changed
recently, recheck the action of your lures
every hour or so by holding one next to
the boat and watching it.
Finally, we can move on. Not! There’s
one more thing you need to know about
speed: when your results are lackluster,
change it. Far too many anglers putt–putt
along, waiting for the bite to pick up or
the tide to change, when a small variation
in speed might have
made all the difference in the world. So
if fishing is slow, try
inching the RPMs up
a notch. Or slowing
them down. Now, let’s
say a slight change in
speed works, and you
start catching. If you
can guess what you
should do next, you’ll
points: hold a lure
next to the boat to
see how it’s swimming – and remember
exactly what it looks like moving through
the water at that boat speed.
Another variable many anglers fail to
remember is the depth of their offerings.
They may let out a little more line when
they see fish down deep on the fishfinder,
or maybe they pull the lines up a bit when
the fish appear to be shallow. But this
makes about as much sense as pointing
a gun in the general direction of a target,
pulling the trigger, and somehow expect-
ing to magically hit the bull’s-eye.
Unfortunately, the list of factors affect-
ing the depth at which your lures should
run is long and varied: current, lure
weight, lure shape and size, line diameter,
and several more.
Lucky for you and me, there’s a general
rule of thumb you can use to get a feel
for where those lures are running. It’s
called the Rule of Fives. When trolling
at 5 mph with 5 ounces of weight and 50
feet of line out, your lure will be about 5
feet below the surface. Of course, it’s rare
that you’ll be going exactly 5 mph, using
exactly 5 ounces, and letting out exactly
50 feet of line. But by using the Rule of
Fives, you can do some simple math to
estimate about how deep your lures are.
If all of those lures are at exactly the
same depth, by the way, you’ve just vio-
lated one of the cardinal rules of trolling:
always set a few lines at different depths.
Not only will this help you hook up
when the fish are scattered throughout
the water column; it will also help you
catch bigger fish now and again. The real
lunkers often segregate themselves from
the bulk of the school, and if all of your
lines are set to pass by the hordes of fish
you see on the meter, you might never
hook into Bubba, who may be swimming
along 10 feet farther down.
OK, you now have determined the right
boat speed, and you’re pulling your lures
along at the proper depth. That already
puts you ahead of 75 percent of the other
anglers plying the same waters. But you
can do even better. Here are five general
trolling tips that will help you out-fish
all the competition the next time you
> Make turns, and make them often.
Trolling in a straight line is usually
not the best idea. As you turn, you
momentarily increase the speed and thus
decrease the depth of your outboard
lines. Inboard lines, on the other hand,
slow down and drop slightly. These temporary, minor-league changes allow you
to probe different depths and change
up lure speed without ever changing the
line’s length or the boat’s speed.
>> When you see a pile of fish (or one
really big individual) at a specific depth,
use your boat to momentarily change lure
depth. Shift into neutral to send those
baits falling through the water column, or
speed up a bit to raise them.
>>> Jigging is always a good idea. Although
most anglers leave it to the boat and the
lures to create a fish-attracting action, adding some good old-fashioned manual jigs
on the rod will, in virtually all trolling situations, boost your hook-up rate.
>>>> If your boat doesn’t go slow enough
to find that perfect speed, attach a 5-gallon
bucket to a line and tie it off on a stern cleat.
That should shave off a mph or two.
>>>>> If the bite is slow, try changing direction based on sea conditions.
Sometimes, going down-sea, up-sea, or
trolling across the seas makes a difference.
BoatU.S. Magazine electronics editor
Lenny Rudow, a fishing expert, is also
the senior editor for Boats.com.
For more of
Lenny’s fishing wisdom,
Top 10 Tackle
Tips, see this
Mollie, 12, caught her first wahoo on the troll thanks to
lures set at the proper depth. In this case, a diving planer
was employed to get the offering deep down beneath
the surface. Outriggers, like those on this sportfish, help
spread lures out to cover more water with each pass.