Feet kicked up, hat brim low. One eye peripherally guiding the boat as it chugs along as the other resting lazily on the stern where the lines lay taught, spread wide behind the trolling vessel. The …
Feet kicked up, hat brim low. One eye peripherally guiding the boat as it chugs along as the other resting lazily on the stern where the lines lay taught, spread wide behind the trolling vessel. The wake of the lake laps lethargically against the hull as I make micro-adjustments to the wheel, following the shoreline counter-clockwise for the second lap in the hour. The sun is out, which is never a great thing for the fishing, but not terribly uncomfortable for the waiting. As my dad always prompts on a fair-weather day when fishing, “Why aren’t we catching any fish son?” To which I would always reply, “Sky’s too blue and the sun’s too bright.”
While fair weather may not be a desirable fishing ingredient, it does lend itself to a casual style of fishing that I personally enjoy just for the redneck beach-lounging aspect of it. I’m talking, of course, about the practice of trolling.
Trolling, for those who don’t know, is when you mount one or more rods on the back of the boat; as the term might suggest, the boat moves at a trolling speed and the lines trail leisurely behind. Trolling motors can be bow-mounted and controlled from a footpad to make adjustments as the water or wind push the boat from its predetermined path. Less expensive models can be mounted off the back of the boat and controlled by a handle which doubles as a throttle to control your exact trolling speed. Still, others don’t feel the need to invest in a trolling motor or feel that the exact speed and pattern they wish to achieve doesn’t come from one. My dad, for instance, has no issues with using his trolling motor, but like many old and beaten tools, it doesn’t always want to work the way you want it to or when you want it to. From this comes his creativity. With the motor idling, you can bump it into gear while keeping the throttle as low as possible. With most boats, though, this is going to be too much speed, especially if you aren’t fighting the current. To quell this extra bit of speed, he would tie a sturdy bucket to a rope, sometimes two, and toss it in the water to be tied off on the boat cleat with perhaps 10 yards or so of slack. This would slow down the boat to that sweet speed that works the trailing lures with consistent action without speeding by the lazier fish.
Another way to take advantage of buckets like this is to tie one off the bow and another off the stern in order to get the current to pull the boat evenly sideways. When doing this, it’s important to start at the top of the current and allow the natural drift to take you to its furthest point. Depending on the body of water you are on, you will need to determine these points in order to set up for this drift. Just as in trolling, lines can be laid out to drag even slower behind the boat. Often this is useful when using live bait because the baitfish will not have too much water running over it to pull it off of the hook. Worms also appear to drift across a larger stretch of water at a speed that is more natural than faster trolling speeds.
Starting out like this can be quite beneficial for moving a natural bait such as these from shallow waters where it is in more cover and less exposed, out to deeper waters where there is neither of those things. As the bait appear against the stark light coming from the surface, larger predators that sit in the deeper environments come up to take advantage of the prey now in sight.
Trolling also comes with fun toys. Planer boards are a method of having more lines in the water behind the boat than would normally fit without getting tangled. Typically, a large pole is mounted to the side of the boat. From the pole, a clothesline or braided line runs out to two offset yet parallel boards that are made in such a way that they veer out from the boat atop the water, creating tension on the line. On this line, small clips are placed that pinch a fishing line from one of the rods mounted on the back of the boat. If a fish comes up to take the line, that sudden jerk pulls the line from the clip and the fisherman is able to fight that fish directly behind the boat. As clips are snapped throughout the fishing, they slide down to the boards and are all retrieved when the planer boards are pulled in. Using this method, I’ve seen as many as 10 rods out behind a boat at a time. That’s a lot of coverage as you sweep the shorelines. It’s also a lot of options since you can put a different lure on each line.
Downriggers are another nifty tool you can use when trolling. These control the depth that you put a line down to before it draws behind the boat. To do this, a large metal arm supports a hefty sinkerball on a wire cable. Similar to the planer board clips, the wire above the ball has a clip to hold the line. The nice thing about downriggers is that they aren’t only for trolling or drifting; they can be used when anchored or sitting in one location. Typically, in this instance, you would use live bait.
As great as all this is, there is the necessary caveat that more preparation is required, along with a fundamental understanding of what to do with all those rods when a hookup occurs. Clearing rods out of the way can be as much of a challenge as reeling in a fish on the line. It’s a lot like juggling. Start off with just a few and add more as you gain confidence and understanding. Keep in mind that there’s always a possibility more than one line will go at the same time. Fish swim in schools after all, and it’s not unlikely that they won’t want to grab a bite to eat at the same passing restaurant.
Once you get the hang of it, kick your feet up, keep an eye on where you’re going and just let the boat do the work. After all, who has time to cast and reel all day? Just go with the flow.