How to

Tangle Free Trolling

The Fishing School with Pat Brennan

FOR lots of different types of fishing, better results can simply be a numbers game. The more hooks you have in the water, the greater the chances of catching a fish. Trolling is a perfect example of this. The more outfits you’re trolling, the greater variety of lure type, colour and depth you are offering the fish. Thus it stands to reason that, theoretically anyway, you have a better chance of getting a strike. Probably more importantly, though, it allows you to try and identify a pattern regarding what the fish are eating.

However, trolling multiple outfits can be a recipe for disaster. Many anglers get in big trouble with tangles and frustration so they avoid trolling like the plague! However, with a bit of thought, planning and understanding, trolling multiple outfits can help you catch more fish, more often, and it can be stress-free as well.

Before we get too far down the track of increasing the number of outfits you’re using, ensure you spend some time investigating the fishing regulations for the area you will be fishing. In NSW freshwater, for example, anglers can only have a maximum of two rigged rods each. So two blokes in a boat means a max of four lines out.


Running On

Before we even start to talk about the detail of trolling multiple outfits I want to discuss “running on”, possibly the single most important factor in being able to troll multiple outfits. For lots of anglers, including myself as a younger fisho, if we hooked a fish or became snagged, the first reaction was to stop the boat by putting the engine into neutral. At the time, this seems the logical thing to do. What actually happens, though, is that you lose control of the boat and its direction. No control equals trouble because you have also lost control of what your trolled outfits are doing. Sinking lures sink to the bottom, a free-drifting boat crosses lines over each other … None of this is any fun. If you have another angler in the boat then they can start trying to clear lines once you hook up but it can be hard to clear them all in time. It should be said that clearing lines can be a good idea, but it doesn’t need to be a No.1 priority. More on that later.

“Running on” simply means not stopping when you hook a fish or even a snag. You can/should slow down but don’t actually stop. If I’ve hooked a fish, I don’t even bother about clearing the other lines unless it is obviously a good fish. In fact, it can be beneficial to continue trolling as you might hook up on another fish.

When I hook up I keep slow trolling but turn the boat slightly to the side the hooked fish is on. This gentle arc actually draws the lures away from the fish, minimising any chances of tangles.and the fish often away from the remaining outfits. The rationale behind running on is that you keep your remaining trolled lures “under control” while clearing them and also keeping pressure on the hooked fish.

If I hook a snag, I’ll still run on but slow down and make sure I continue in a straight line. While moving forward I begin to clear the other lines from the deepest to the shallowest. Once they’re all clear, I back down on the snag on exactly the same course that I became snagged. A GPS or plotter can be really helpful for this. I don’t turn around – this can just wrap your line around the snag and make your lure totally irretrievable. Going straight back should put you straight above the snag and in a very good position to get your lure back.


The term “lure spread” refers to where the lures are positioned behind the boat. Too many trollers don’t give this due consideration, resulting in tangles and trouble. Think of it this way:  if all your lures are the same distance behind the boat and all are running at the same depth, when you go to turn the boat, which is almost inevitable, the lures have a very high chance of running into each other and getting tangled. An efficient lure spread will usually consist of a combination of distance and depth. The range of options are endless but I’ll give you a few ideas to help you get thinking along the right lines.

If you’re in a small boat fishing an estuary or freshwater lake fishing scenario and want to fish four outfits, I suggest you try this. Your two outside outfits should be out the furthest and also have the shallowest running lures on them. Your two inside lures should be in closer and be your deeper running lures. This is mainly because small boats don’t have enough width (also known as beam) to keep the lures separated. If you’re fishing out to sea and want to fish more than four outfits, you can set up either a “V” or “W” pattern spread. As the titles suggest, the lure positions vaguely form the shapes of the letters. The idea behind this, is with lure spreads such as these, long set, shallow running lures will swing over the shorter deeper running lures as the boat turns.

The other thing you can do is to accelerate when making turns. The tighter the turn, the more the acceleration. The keeps lures tracking well and also often leads to strikes!


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