How to

The trolling option

TROLLING is a neglected technique in the sportfishers bag of tricks. Trolling has been around in some form or another for years but just doesn’t seem to be utilised all that often by sportfishers. I can remember trolling Wonder Wobblers for tailor in Botany Bay as a young kid back in the ‘70s. When we were gamefishing in southern NSW we did quite a bit of trolling for tuna, dolphin fish and marlin with skirts and minnows. It was always a good way of fishing while searching for bait schools or bird activity and covering a bit of water.

Many sportfishers look at trolling as the last option. To them, it’s all about casting or sight fishing and getting that hit as you retrieve the lure. I get that. You don’t get that trolling. It’s usually a couple of rods, in holders, and waiting for a trolled lure to get eaten. Yeah, maybe not as exciting but trolling lures has several advantages over casting and retrieving. I think one of the major advantages is that you can cover a lot of territory while trolling and have lures in the strike zone at all times with minimum effort. We spend a lot of time searching for fish before we cast lures or flies at them, but trolling is a great technique to search for fish or bait while actually fishing. Let’s look at a few scenarios of where I’ve used trolling to catch fish.

Several years ago, while chasing squid in Jervis Bay I had an idea to troll for them with the electric motor. We were catching a few along a stretch of beach but they were spread out over a large area and we were spending a lot of time looking and casting before we’d catch the odd one. We put a couple of squid jigs down about 2 metres deep in 3 metres of water and trolled them at between 1 and 2 knots with the Minn Kota electric. We caught more squid doing that than blindly casting all over the place. Trolling for squid has now become a staple for us. It covers a lot of territory and is a quicker way of finding them. When we hook squid on the trolled jigs I’ll cut the electric or spot lock it and spend five minutes casting around the area where we found the squid before moving on. You’ll nearly always get a few more once you find them.

Another trolling technique that has worked for us over the years is chasing big flathead in deep water. I spent a lot of time chasing big flathead in St. George’s Basin before moving to Hervey Bay. We mainly fished soft plastics in 4 to 6 metres of water around bait schools but if that didn’t work I was quite partial to trolling a couple of diving minnow lures that worked deep and close to the bottom. The technique caught us some good fish because it covered the best water with two lures down deep and close to the bottom where the flathead would be lying in ambush. The hook ups weren’t as exciting as casting and retrieving plastics but it worked for quite a few flathead anglers. You had to keep a constant watch on the lines to make sure there was no weed on the lures but that was easy with 6 pound braid because the lures wouldn’t wriggle with weed impeding the action.

Another area where we’ve used trolling as an alternative to casting lures is snapper fishing. I can remember catching a 2 kilo snapper on a Rapala CD9 about 20 years ago while trolling for bonito over some shallow reef out from Greenwell Point. That capture had me thinking and got us out trolling diving lures in various depths as an alternative to casting soft plastics. It also caught us some nice snapper. We get some nice snapper around schools of yellowtail each winter in Hervey Bay and that technique is going to get a good work out next winter. I know of a few anglers up here who have very good success trolling deep diving cod lures for snapper. Once again, the advantage is you can troll around the vicinity when you find the bait schools and it’s easy fishing.

Some of the best trolling I’ve done in recent times is chasing Spanish mackerel with Halco Laser Pros. We spent a lot of time looking and casting stickbaits with no action. The options were to drift with livebaits or troll minnows. I’d much rather fish lures than any bait so trolling it was. We had a ball on Spaniards to 1.6 metres. Seeing those Laser Pros vibrating the rod tips with PE3 braid and buckling over when a Spanish jumped on really restored my love of trolling.

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