Trolling Tackle Talk and Tactics

Here is a piece I wrote for one of our local forums concerning trolling leadcore and downriggers:

Gear:
On leadcore I’m using #36 lb test and I’m also using 30-50 feet of 25 lb Big Game clear mono for a leader. I used flouro leaders for the past 2 years and went back to mono leaders. I don’t think the leader type matters much (mono vs flouro). I’ve caught fish on both and don’t see a significant difference in the two. The only difference that makes mono a little better is the fact that mono is tougher than flouro. If I hang a good fish and he takes me to the trees, I’ve got more of a chance of getting the fish out with mono. It has more stretch and is more tolerent to abrasions. When you are using leaders at 30-50 feet at a time, a good mono is far more cost effective than using flouro.

I have one Accu-Depth 57LC and a Okuma Classic Pro for my leadcore reels. I don’t pay much attention to the line counter. I use colors to get the bait where I want it.

For my downrigger reels I use Accu-Depth 47LC’s. I use 30 lb Big Game green line and a 30-50 foot 25 lb Big Game leader. I don’t really use the line counter for the downrigger applications either. I just run it out about 20-40 feet past the leader and hook it up to the ball.

All of my rods are Power Plus Trophy Class 7 footers (med heavy). They are tough and I’ve never had a problem with the rods. They are made for trolling 1/2 ounce to 2 ounce jigs. I’ve also used my Tiger rods for leadcore and downriggers. They work great also, just a little more flex than the Power Pro.

Tactics:
When I’m trolling, I’m looking for active fish on the graph. Over the summer months the thermocline on Lanier usually sets up in July and the top is around 27 to 35 feet. The top is where the bait likes to hang out. They have the safety of being at the edge of the thermocline and they are still getting some oxygen rich water. That’s usually where the action is, right at the top of the thermocline. That’s where the stripers like to feed. Sometimes the stripers work together on a school of bait. A small bunch of stripers will attack the bait sending it scattering and lurker stripers nail the scattering bait from the outskirts of the main bait school. Because of this feeding scenerio, trolling single baits on leadcore and downriggers work well. The single jig looks like a fleeing bait as it goes through the feeding zone.
Right now the most popular feeding zone is 25 to 45 feet on Lanier. When I see fish feeding in the 35-45 depth I want to get my baits down to that area. I set my downrigger weights at 25 and 30-35 feet with a small jig and a larger jig. That’s when I start working the baits up and down. I believe that if you put action on your jigs and get them running up and down in the feeding zone you’re going to catch more fish. I achieve this by slowing, speeding up and turning the boat. Very Important: Keep in mind that you are pulling 275-300 feet of lead filled line. It takes a while for the action you create to get to the jig. You are actually putting waves in the leadcore line and it takes the waves a little while to get out to the jig. Start your action early and often.

Another important topic is baits. I’ve heard a lot of folks say they are running leadcore at the proper depth but not catching the feeding fish. The tackle your using is important. I’ve always said you can catch feeding stripers on a dog turd placed in the right area at the right time, but the dog turd has to be the right shape and size and color. Size matters when trolling. If the fish you are targeting are eating 3-4 inch Threadfin, you’re probably not going to get many running a 7 inch paddletail through the feeding area. That’s why I use different size jigs when trolling. If something is working better, I’ll switch my baits to that size.
At the depths that are being targeted, jig color is less important. I think that color tones are more important. Two tone baits work better for me. Flash is something that always helps in reaction strikes. I use a lot of flash on my jigs to help create a reaction. Sometimes flash helps for lathargic fish. Especially if fishing a group of inactive fish.

Another important tactic I use is marking a school of feeding fish on my graph. As I get over the feeding fish, I’ll lay a mark on my GPS and work that area from different angles. Sometime you won’t get them the first or even the second time through so trying coming from different directions and varying speeds as you go. Very Important: Make sure you keep the baits in line with the fish you marked. I use dead reconing. I usually look at my heading and what’s behind me to stay in line and keep my baits in the right zone. I’ll make left and right turns but always coming back to the imaginary line I made to keep my baits in the right area.

Here are my thoughts on summer mortality. If you put every striper you catch in your cooler those fish have zero chance of survival. One of the reasons I keep the boat moving while catching fish is to keep water flushing through the fishes gills. If you’ve ever Sail or Marlin fished, this same procedure is used to insure the fishes survival. It works and it’s the best chance for the fish to survive. I also slowly turn the boat into the fish to speed up the process of getting the fish to the boat. Almost every fish I catch has a good bit of fight left in him when getting to the boat, and swiftly getting the fish back into the water betters the chance of that fishes survival. If I see a fish swim away strong, I feel better about his chances. I don’t believe that every fish you catch in the summer is doomed to the bottom.

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