Trolling for Trout

Leroy Tirant
Trolling for Trout is undoubtedly the most popular and challenging form of fishing in Tasmania. It can be as easy as tying on a lure and towing it behind the boat, but believe me there is so much more to trolling, as it can be much more rewarding and enjoyable.

There are so many variables to trolling that it can be as technical as any other type of fishing and at times even more so. It just depends on how pro active you want to be as a troller. There are a number of variables that have a direct effect on lures when trolling, luckily we have control over these variables. How well we understand all the variables and how well we are able to apply them to our trolling has an enormous impact on our success. Looking at these variables, including how you position your boat, lure design, line diameters, line out and trolling speed we should be able to develop a better understanding of what happens on the business end of our line.
Flatlining, down rigging, side planning and leadlining are the main terms used for various forms of trolling. Let's take a look at these and what goes into trolling. Hopefully you find something in this article you can take away and use to your advantage to put fish in the boat.

This term basically means trolling a lure behind the boat with nothing impeding the line or acting as an attractor or to gain extra depth other than what the lure being towed will achieve. Flatlining is what the majority of anglers do, which is fine as it is probably the most effective method in the majority of Tasmanian waters and also because Trout spend a fair amount of their time feeding on or near the surface. Tackle used for flatlining should be selected and used in accordance with boat size and the type of lures and water you fish.
Both spinning and casting reel advocates have their favourites for flat line trolling, and both obviously have advantages and disadvantages. I generally opt for casting or overhead reels to run out the back as flat lines. Overheads trolled in this manner tend to sit well in a rod holder with the guides facing up and any striking fish pulling line from the reel against the backbone of the rod as it should be. Rods I favour are in the 6" to 6'6". Fast action light rods in the 2-4kg range work well for this application. Short light rods are great fun to land fish with, but they don't really give your lures much of a spread. To increase the distance between my trolled lures I generally use a much longer rods at the sides of the boat that allows me to turn more sharply and work my lures to better advantage. Light fast action overhead rods in the 2 - 4kg range with a length of 6'-7'6" are ideal for this application.
Spinning rods should be of the same lengths but with slightly longer butts so the reels handles and bail arms are kept clear of rod holders and gunnels.
Generally with two anglers on board I troll a four rod set. Two rods set amidships and at right anglers to the side of the boat roughly parallel to the water, and two rods set in each back corner facing directly out the back of the boat pointing straight at the lures at a fairly high angle. In a normal 12" tinny this spread will have your lures tracking roughly 4-5 ft apart.

Downrigging is using a heavy lead weight to take the lure to a greater depth than most other methods will do. Whilst I know anglers that use a handcaster with heavy cord tied to a lump of lead I would not advocate it. A proper downrigger has a rod holder and spool affixed to a boom (arm) with a roller on the end that the wire runs over. Wire is used rather than cord as it has less water resistance because it is thinner and it is also stronger. A proper bomb(lead weight) is usually shaped so it is aerodynamic. A small release clip is fixed to the rear of the bomb and this is what holds the fishing line and lets go when a fish strikes so the angler fights the fish with his rod free of the bomb. Some down riggers also have a line counter so you know precisely what depth your lure is being trolled at. A down rigger used in conjunction with a depth sounder can be deadly as you can track the bottom or over weeds beds precisely by adjusting the down rigger up or down according to the depth you wish to troll. I've used many down riggers and have found Canon to be one of the better brands on the market.

Leadline is beginning to wane a bit in popularity as the weight of the line whilst playing out fish tends to make them feel like a wet sock at times which is pretty unsporting for most. Leadlines come in different line weights but 18lb is the excepted norm and is also colored. The colors change every ten meters and spools come in three and ten colors.
Most anglers would be aware of the effect water pressure has on leadline so I wont expand to much on it except to say that its almost impossible to physically troll slow enough for ten colors of leadline to hang vertical so what happens is after about 4-5 colors (variable according to lure type) water pressure begins to push the line back towards the surface so hence you get a big bow in the line. Most anglers use only three colors with five maximum and this is what I would also advocate. To rig leadine simply push approx 4 inches of lead out of the core  and break off, push the now hollow outer back out flat and tie your leader directly to this short length using a uni knot or something similar. If you do not break off a short length of the lead and simply tie a knot directly to the line you risk your leader slipping off the leadline because the pressure of the knot will invariably break the lead inside and this will want to slip out under pressure letting your leader slip with it. Leadline can only be used effectively on an overhead reel. A rod between 5'6" and 6" should be used and must be fairly heavily weighted (3-4kg) to counter act the weight of the line.

Choosing a trolling line for most trollers generally involves looking at properties like strength, abrasion, resistance, amount of stretch and for some applications colour. There are a host of excellent trolling lines available, choosing one is partly personal preference and partly the application. To determine the difference line diameter makes in relation to lure diving depth, a general fixed standard has been set at 10lb. breaking strain. Studies done to establish diving depth of lures have used this standard as a baseline to determine accurate depths. Nearly all lures will run deeper when trolled on smaller diameter lines, due largely to the effect of water resistance against the line. Try to use line of the smallest diameter to its breaking strain possible. One of my favourites is Platypus Super 100 and braided lines.
The new generation of braided lines are also another viable option for trolling. Softer rods and a light drag are the order of the day for trolling with braids. The minimal stretch with braided lines can result in hooks pulling and dropped fish when your not familiar with this style of line. The extra depth that can be achieved on a trolled lure utilising braids can give the troller the option of prospecting more of the water column.
Floruocarbon makes great leader material because of its abrasion resistance. Some of the new lo stretch mono's are definatley worth looking at but I cant offer an opinion on these as I am yet to use them trolling. I tend to stick with 6-10lb mono and 6-8lb braided line. Leader length and size will depend upon water clarity and how much timber weed and rock your trolling around.
Line stretch and resultant breakage can be a problem with some lines. Stretch is usually difficult to detect until you snag up or try to land a big fish. Ordinarily you can see or feel the difference when your line has stretched and not fully recovered.  When your line is stretched it may also show up as a different colour, most noticeable with darker coloured lines. To avoid problems like this most line manufacturers recommend that you cut approximately 1.5 - 2.0 metres off your line and retie your lure after landing a big fish or getting snagged. It's probably something that most anglers don't do often enough.

Sounders and GPSs.
Sounders are by far the most under utilized tool in a boat. I'm constantly amazed at how many anglers come into my shop admit they don't know how to use their sounder and how many don't even own one! Maybe I'm a child of technology but I wouldn't be without a sounder for any sort of fishing. Don't make the mistake of thinking they will find lots of fish for you and you just drop a lure down and catch fish because that is a rarity. A sounder is important to you whilst trolling because it'll give you the depth your in and a picture of the bottom and any structure under and near your position. Take my advice get a sounder even a cheap one and learn how to use it and your fishing will improve. Of late GPS's are becoming more popular for trolling as you can plot a track as you go and if you get onto a patch of fish you can back track your line and keep trolling backwards and forwards on the position the fish are holding. How far back you troll your lures also dictates and determines dive depth and action. . Letting more line out while moving all lures will eventually reach an effective maximum running depth. The majority of floating/diving lures will reach there maximum depth between 50 - 75m of line out. Obviously, if we know the distance a lure is behind the boat and the relationship to the distance the lure is down, we can achieve any depth in between the lures maximum depth and the surface. To do this accurately we need some sort of mechanism to measure line out.  There are a number of means to do this including marking your line in measured increments, counting bars on a level wind reel, line counter reels, or a Tackle Tracka line counter, designed in Australia from Precise Angling. Regardless of which method you use, the consistency and exactness of the measurement of line out will determine how accurately you can predict the depth of your trolled lure!

Winged style lures such as Loftys Cobras and Tassie Devils are by far the most popular lures for trolling in Tasmania and rightly so as they catch a lot of fish. They can be rigged in many various ways including running the line through your lure then a bead and tied off to a single hook or a treble. Or alternatively the line through the lure and tied off to a split ring with a single hook threaded onto the ring. If using a treble I like to use one a couple of sizes bigger than what comes with the lure. I find a larger one will give a better hook up rate.
Bibbed diving lures are becoming more popular with anglers as the shimmy action many of these lures have represent many various bait fish we find in our lakes. The diving nature of these lures lets anglers work at more varying depths also.
Boat speeds are also important but most anglers get the fact you troll as slow as you can. If you find your moving to fast a sturdy bucket or small drogue can be dragged behind the boat to great effect.
Lures for flatlining come in all shapes and sizes with a range of actions and diving capabilities. Lures with different running depths can be used to target fish in different parts of the water column. You can run a lure right on top of a shallow rocky bottom with a shallow running floating lure or fish an 8m. drop off with a deep diver. The key to successful trolling of any lure lies in understanding each models properties, including optimum speed, depth capabilities and action.
Trolling is a lot of fun and can be very productive. Don't be a lazy bugger and just throw a lure out the back and drive around the lake all day sucking on a stubby. Learn and understand the variables in trolling and you'll be rewarded for your efforts.

Leroy Tirant

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