Latest News from SportfishingBC

← Back    More from SportfishingBC

Lake Trolling Trout Techniques

By Luhr Jensen, 🕔Mon, Mar 21st, 2011


Trolling is a technique tailor-made for anglers with all degrees of expertise because it's easy, fun and it works! It's a great way to start a youngster out as line tangles and snarls are few and far between and there's always something happening.

But, trolling's not just for kids. It's a fishing technique used by hundreds of thousands of anglers across the country every day because of its proven success. Put the deadly technique of trolling together with a high quality lake troll and you have a fish-catching combination that's unbeatable.!

The truth be known, luck is the least important factor in becoming a successful angler.

The person who employs the techniques given in this report, who understands trout and their habits and is willing to experiment with different lures and techniques will consistently outfish those using other techniques on the same body of water. Knowing the water you plan to fish, plus knowledge of the feeding and habitat characteristics of the fish species you're after are key ingredients for productive angling.

Consistent results! That's the reward, day-in and day-out for the angler who employs trolling as his or her primary fishing technique. The reason is simple — an entire lake or reservoir can quickly and efficiently be prospected by trolling, and concentrations of fish can be pinpointed with minimum effort.

Trolling requires a boat, a method of propulsion (motor or oars), rod and reel, blade string (troll) and a lure. The troll and lure are let out behind your moving boat, with the amount of line varying depending upon the size lure or troll you select and how deep you wish to fish. The forward speed of your boat will dictate just how fast or slow the troll or lure will run and also will control its depth. Once the troll and lure are in the water and working properly, you must then find the fish.

Whether you're using a troll, small lure on lead core line or a lure-and-worm combination, you'll find trout favoring certain areas of a lake. It saves a lot of time and energy if you are aware of these areas BEFORE you get on the lake and know in advance just what to look for.

Most lakes stratify into three layers during late spring, staying that way until late fall. The middle layer of water, the thermocline, contains both a large amount of dissolved oxygen and forage fish. To be most effective, you should troll close to or in the thermocline. This will be from 15 to 50 feet down in most lakes.

All fish relate one way or another to structure, shelter or cover. They use it for protection from predators, to escape from direct sunlight, for feeding and, in some cases, for spawning. Deep water, docks or other man-made structure, overhanging trees, shade, underwater rocks, and cliff areas are all likely to attract and hold fish. Trout must have shelter, both from predators and from direct sunlight, so they always will be either next to or within easy reach of a shelter, cover or structure area.

Locate food sources in a given lake, and fish will be found nearby. Minnows, salamanders, crayfish, midges, surface insects, beetles and other such creatures make up a large part of a trout's diet. Watch carefully for surface activity such as a school of small baitfish jumping or for insect hatches. On a windy day, fish that part of the lake where surface food is being blown and concentrated. Try areas adjacent to inlet and outlet streams where food items will be prevalent, or next to grassy shorelines or near marshy, weedy areas where food is easily available. Overhanging trees or bushes harbor all sorts of insect life, and fish will be waiting below for morsels to drop into the water.

Fish relate to structure and one of the easiest to detect, due to obvious shoreline features, is a dropoff. Be on the lookout for steep banks and then troll close to shore, along these banks. A depth sounder (a small, portable unit is fine for locating dropoffs) like those made by Lowrance, is a fishing tool that will help you locate ledges, dropoffs, and underwater islands not apparent any other way. It will save you valuable fishing time in finding these hotspots and allow you to troll next to them accurately.

Most lakes stratify into three layers during spring (see the diagram) and stay that way until late fall. The middle layer of water, the thermocline, contains both a large amount of dissolved oxygen and forage fish. Your trolling should be concentrated close to or in the thermocline for best results. It will be from 15 to 50 feet down in most lakes, depending on their size and depth. Fish also will regularly be found close to dropoffs, near inlets or outlet streams where highly oxygenated water is flowing, or in old river channels which contain residual water flows.

Because of their popularity, effectiveness and ease of use, Luhr Jensen makes a wide variety of trolls A complete listing can be found on the back page of this report. Trolls are especially effective in deep, murky waters or on overcast days. The basic difference between lake trolls is in the number and the shape of the blades, and the length of the shaft or cable. The shape of a blade determines how fast it will rotate and the particular sound vibrations it will produce. A round or nearly round blade, such as the Colorado or Bear Valley, swings slow and wide from the shaft while narrow blades like the Willow Leaf spin fast and close to the shaft. Narrow bladed trolls are best suited for fast trolling as they have less water resistance.

Trolls appeal to several fish feeding instincts. In addition to producing flash and other visual attraction, a rotating blade gives off vibrations underwater that spell f-o-o-d to nearby fish.

A troll can be used in conjunction with just about any lure or bait, three of the most effective being a small spoon (Needlefish ®, Super Duper ®, Midge Wobbler or Hus-Lure), small plug (Hot Shot ® or Kwikfish ®) or a worm. The troll consists of a rudder at the front end which prevents line twist, a series of free-swinging blades on a wire cable or shaft and a swivel to which you tie a leader. From the end of the troll, the leader should extend at least 12 inches back to the lure (many anglers prefer leaders of 12 to 18 inches, but they may range clear up to five or six feet). When trolled, the blades act as attractors, fish follow the flash and sound to the source, spot the trailing lure and go after it.

Larger and more blades should be used for deep trolling or murky water. Clear water or depths of 10 to 20 feet require fewer, smaller blades. Nickel finishes work best on bright days or in clear water, while Brass and Copper finishes produce better in murky, deep or brackish (tea-colored) water. Brass, 50/50 Brass-Nickel, or Copper finishes work well when skies are overcast.

If you are going to use lures or trolls that have a tendency to spin in the water, a rudder is an essential piece of trolling equipment. The rudder will keep blades tracking straight and prevent your line from twisting. Small rudders should be used whenever you have some concern about line twist.

Combining the rudder idea with the need to easily change weight on a sport fishing line has resulted in the Troll Ease, a wire-frame rudder with the added feature of hollow-core sinker attachment capabilities. It's one item a troller should have several of. Although simple, it eliminates a very big problem — how to change lead or add or subtract weight without constantly tying knots and cutting off pieces of line. By simply unsnapping a metal pin, you can easily add or subtract the lead you desire. It allows light spin tackle to effectively reach depths ordinarily attainable only with lead core line or by using a downrigger. An added bonus is that the Troll Ease also acts as a line-twist-preventing rudder.

Usually the strikes that come when trolling are vicious. If you are using a troll, or are fishing for species known to have delicate mouths, such as kokanee, a rubber snubber is one piece of equipment you'll be glad you have. A snubber is a length of surgical tubing with a coiled piece of heavy line inside and swivels attached to both ends. When a fish strikes, the snubber stretches out to help absorb the impact, and then retracts. Snubbers are attached between the troll and leader-to-lure to absorb the shock of hard strikes. They are available in light, medium or heavy-duty sizes, depending on the pound test leader you select.

We've gone through much of the information that you'll need to become a successful troller. Here now are some techniques you can use to make trolling easier, more fun and even more productive.

  1. TROLL SLOWLY:Big fish will not expend any more energy than necessary to catch a meal. Also, most lures will not perform correctly at fast speeds. The best advice is to troll S-L-O-W-L-Y, the slower the better. Many expert trollers, particularly when fishing for trout, refuse to use a motor because they feel it's just too fast. They use oars instead. However, if you must use a motor, make sure it will throttle down to a crawl, or, better yet, purchase a multi-speed electric motor or a one- or two-horse gas motor. You can use this for trolling and save the large one for power.
  2. 2 VARY YOUR SPEED: While slow is the password, this does not mean slow all the time. A lure running through the water at a constant speed, at a constant depth and giving off the same vibration pattern will not catch many fish . . . there's just nothing there to indicate an easy meal is available or that something is in trouble. Slowly, yes, but adjust your speed every few minutes to change the lure's speed and vibration pattern.
  3. WORK IN "S" CURVES: Consistent trolling results require that you do everything possible to keep from running in a straight line. We recommend an "S" pattern because every time the troll and lure are on the inside swing of the boat, they will drop deeper and slow down. On an outside turn, they will speed up and rise. With each turn, you will impart a different action to the troll and trailing lure, signaling MEAL TIME to nearby fish.

Here are a few final tricks that should help you outwit trout when everything else you've tried has failed. How many times have you watched a fish follow a lure right up to your boat, just to turn and swim away at the last moment? Chances are that fish had been following your lure for some distance, but the action of the lure or troll didn't indicate it was an easy meal and therefore didn't entice a strike.

Sometimes, in addition to trolling "S" curve patterns, a little more is needed. For example, try a sharp jerk or two every few minutes, or allow the troll and trailing lure to go completely dead in the water and sink for a few feet before continuing to troll. Another way to bring a strike from a following fish is to double your trolling speed for several feet, and then quickly slow down. You will receive most hits after the lure has been quickly and erratically moved and is just beginning to slow down.

Another thing to consider if strikes are few and far between is to go to a lighter, longer leader between troll and lure. A six-pound premium-quality monofilament line of small diameter, such as Trilene XL or XT, will be more difficult for finicky trout to see. At the same time it has high knot strength and very high tensile strength in relation to its diameter.

Two accessories that will greatly enhance your success when trolling are the Luhr-Speed trolling speed indicator and a quality depth finder. Many lures and attractors have optimum speeds which must be maintained to operate correctly. The Luhr-Speed is accurate to 1/10th of a knot, easily mounts on about any boat and assures getting proper lure action. A depth finder such as those made by Lowrance will allow you to locate schools of fish and help get your lure where it will catch them.

← Back    More from SportfishingBC