Enchanted trolling …

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Enchanted trolling …
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Many devoted lure anglers think that classic trolling – fishing the lure towed behind the boat, is not a method for a “real” lure angler – sportsman. They often suggest, that trolling does not require neither skill, knowledge, nor preparation. In short – it does not even require the use of a rod or reel! All that an angler has to do is to steer the boat and a fish is just being caught accidently. So, where is there any room

for finesse and skill?

 

Modern trolling is as sporty technique, as any other. It requires from an angler a proper tackle, theoretical preparation and… a lot of diligence.

So, what sort of changes took place in the recent years, in both the tactic and the technique of trolling,  that allow us to add it to the number of those modern methods? To finish the subject, even the wide content of all of the “Elite Rybolov” magazine would not be sufficent. In my article, I want to share with the readers my observations in trolling for one, but the most popular predator in Europe – the pike subject. Let’s leave other species for the future articles. Also, I will focus on only one type, in my opinion, the best type of the lure. Besides that, I will write only about the most important factors which influence the fishing efficiency in the most serious way.

Obviously the first an the most important on the list are

 

Rod and reel

 

Many anglers still believe, that there is no need for sophisticated rod for trolling. Any ordinary, strong, fast and hard to break rod should be fine. The same goes with the reel – all that is needed is less than a hundred metres of a thick line. There are some, that think that their day- to- day pike spinning rod should do. Obviously, both groups have some success from time to time. But if they modify their tackle a bit, they may have a lot more takes, plus the amount of fish lost during the fight will be reduced greatly. So, how should the proper trolling tackle look like? I presume that there are two anglers on the boat. Company, especially when fishing this method is very important. Especially if we fish for more than two rods. First – efficiency goes up, as we are able to fish the wider stretch of water.

. If we use two rods, each about two metres long, and put them on the boards, we can troll the stretch of around 4 metres wide. So the optimum is something like 3 metres long rod, thanks to that we can extend our area of fishing by two metres extra. Action of the rod is another important thing. Of course, rod should be stiff and it depends on the size and the action of the lure. But the best, in my opinion, are rods with parabolic action. They have the abillity to strike the fish from greater distance, as well as perform very well during the fight with the fish. We should remember that during the take all of the tackle is going through much greater stress than as we are spinning in normal way. The energy of the boat is added to the energy of the fish. It is very important, especially when rod is placed in rod holder. For the same reason, the reel is very important, or its drag, to be precise. It should be very smooth and of excellent quality, so it can give the line during the take effortlessly no matter how strong the take is. Reels that are unable to give the line smoothly can lead to snatching the line and loosing the fish. Practice shows that the medium sized multipliers are the best tool for trolling. They create much less oportunities for tangling the line around the bow of the reel or body of the reel.

The question braid vs. mono should be answered individually by each angler. Recently braided line is more popular. Added to a rod with parabolic action and a reel with a smooth drag, it allows to strike the fish safely and land a pike of every size. Its strength depends on the size of the lure,of course. In my opinion, the best size for the purpose is something around 0,18 to 0,23mm with 12 to 15 kg test. If we decide to use strong braid to a small lure, we have to either set the drag delicately, or to arm the lure with stronger split rings and trebles. As we fish, we have to pay attention to the way the line is winded on the spool – it has to be the tightiest possible! If the line is loose on the spool, an aggressive take can lead to trapping of the line between the coils of a loose line and it seized, resulting in loss of the fish. Even the best, delicate and smooth drag won’t help then! To be on the safe side, I try to set the line on the spool in such a way, that it is as far as possible from both edges of the spool – in the middle. So in the european anglers armory there is a braided line and the classic mono line. Recently also the fluorocarbon lines are getting popular. Besides their few advantages, such as greater specific weight, lower stretching ability and greater resistance to damage, their main disadvantages are smaller endurance and.. the fact that they are much more expensive than mono or braid. It must be stated that some types of fluorocarbon work well as pike leaders, but only in large diameters – over 0,9mm. A very interesting alternative to mono- lines and lines is, so called, ‘leadcore line’. It is a braid line filled with a lead wire. It is wound the same way as other lines onto a reel with a large spool capacity (with the same tightness as an ordinary braid line, it has much greater diameter, of course). It allows to fish using a small lure (as a rule, a swimming crank) very deeply, without additional load. The most often, the last  part of leadcore glides on the bottom and the lure on a leader works exactly above it. This technique is very popular in the US, mostly when fishing for local zanders – walleys. On our waters it can be used for zanders but only in special cases, when pikes, for some reason, feed at the very bottom, chasing small fish (elike gudgeons). This especially happens on large rivers. The length is equal to 25 cm. Longer ones can spoil the casting. In case of trolling we can use leaders of practically any length, though. Everyone has heard about cases of ‘biting off’ even half-meter length leaders! Is a pike able to swallow a lure with such an addition? Of course, no. There are various reasons for losing the catch. Often it is a weakened or  poorly tied knot or a defect on the line. Besides, it happens that the predator miscalculates the distance and attacks just before the leader, cutting it off. Such cases usually happen to small fish. But it happens, that in the moment of fight, a large pike coils itself with a leader and ends up with its teeth  on the ‘bare’ line. Therefore, in this case, the length matters! I, myself, use leaders of various lengths, depending on the trolling technique. If I’m fishing without any additional load, the leader is usually 50- 80 cm long. Whereas, I place additional load at the beginning of the leader, that, in this case, can even reach 120 cm. I prepare such long leaders by myself, using available materials. The most usually it is a steel or wolfram braid- line covered in plastic or a fluorocarbon line of 1- 1.2 mm diameter.  I check the durability of each one myself before the use, in order to avoid unpleasant suprises during fishing.

The last and probably the most important element of the set is

 

The lure

 

Most of traditional, artificial lures is suitable for pike trolling. But the most versatile one, and for this reason, most frequently used for the purpose, are cranks. Having their various types and versions, we can easily manage on any fishery. The first feature typical for cranks is the version, of course, a swimming or a sinking one? Both of them work and succeed in fishing for pike. Swimming cranks are more convenient for use. No matter if they are used without or with additional load, they allow to avoid problems in the moments of stopping of a boat or its sudden manoeuvres. Every sinking lure, in such a case, quickly goes down to the bottom and, the best case scenario, catches various “stuff” on trebles, becoming useless. The swimming one, on the other hand, hangs in the depth of the water, ready for action. Before we decide which specific type of a crank we use, it is good to know at what depth we expect the predators to occur. Next, we choose a suitably deep diving lure. Majority of brands offer a wide range of cranks, which, in trolling, dive at 0.5 to a dozens of meters depth. Cranks with the longest lips dive the deepest, of course. Usually, the diving depth can be easily checked on the package of the lure. The most often, there are two diving depths shown there – the one related to classic spinning and the other, for trolling. Majority of cranks dives about two times deeper in trolling than in spinning. This information is worth our attention, because often an ordinary – looking crank dives much deeper than we think!

We use sinking cranks on the spots, where we plan to fish long distances of a constant depth – without more sudden manoeuvres and stopping.In case of both swimming and sinking lures, we can control the depth of their movement. If we slow down the pace of a boat, the swimming cranks get closer to the surface, and the sinking ones the opposite – dive deeper. The opposite situation happens, when we increase the pace of a boat.

A very interesting and still not widely known offer, also for trolling, are vertical jerkbaits. Those are the lures created for fishing verticaly, but work excellent in an active trolling, too. A boat must be swimmg at moderate speed ( 2 – 4 km/h), and the fishing technique is based on pretty dynamic pulling up with the rodtip from the water level to vertical line, or, in other words, at the distance of about 1 – 1.5 metres. Next, after lowering the rodtip, we repeat the maneouvre. The condition which must be fulfilled to maintain the efficiency of vertical jerkbaits is a great activity of the angler and depth of 6- 7 metres. Of course, these lures can be used for much deeper fishing, but not from a swimming, but rather a drifting boat – in fact, almost vertically under its hull. These cranks work excellent both during pulling up and diving down. So strikes can happen any time, also during taking out of the lure, just beside the boat’s board. So it is advisable to be alert at all times.

To take right decisions on the fishery and, if necessary, modify them during fishing, an absolutely essential device is -

 

A fishfinder

 

Of course there are anglers, which think that they know their water so well, that they need no electronics. Usually they are older, skilled anglers that fish one lake or stretch of river all their life, so they know basically every mystery of such a location. But even they have to step aside when the mighty modern angling techniques step in. There are days, that fish behave completely different than usually. Predators always keep a short distance from their prey. Without a fishfinder, showing at which depth the prey fish are, any catch is accidental. It is especially important when catching pikes that prey on shoal of fish such as herrings, vendaces, bleaks, or roaches. Then, a fishfinder shows exactly where we should present our crank.

We also always have to remember about a rule – better too shallow, than too deep! A pike mostly uses his sight during a hunt. His eyes are directed upwards and practically it never happens that pike hunts striking downwards. So, pike is always positioned just below any potential victims in order to keep an eye on them and attack in the right moment. If water has great clarity, it can be even a couple of meters. In such situations, like other predators ( lions, cheetahs, alligators), a pike selects its victim as the one similar to others, but making an impression of weak or sick. Sometimes it means uncoordinated convulsions, and sometimes the opposite – very slow and sluggish movements. Which tactics to choose – this is the matter of experience.

Anyway, a fishfinder allows to monitor behaviour of small baitfish and to take sensible decisions concerning fishing technique. Of course, the most conclusions will be drawn from directions of modern fishfinders with large, colorful, high resolution screens. The simplest fishfinder will be suitable too, under a condition that we learn to ‘read’ its direction.

 

The most often mistake is the use of a beginner mode – with pictograms (fish-shaped symbols).Then, a fishfinder, using its software shows all the objects placed between the bottom and the surface as small and larger ‘fish’.

Majority of these objects, are unfortunately ‘trash’ suspended in the depth of the water, and a simplification of this kind disables right analysis of the screen readings. After switching off the pictogram mode, we quickly begin to understand a fishfinder and no great practice is needed to correctly read its directions. Big fish appear on the screen as ‘fat bananas’.

Next hit of electronics, not only fishing electronics, excellently helping  to increase efficiency of trolling is-

GPS navigation.

 

There is availability of very advanced devices, combining the functions of a fishfinder and GPS. If we additionally have a digital map of a given water area, we move over it as in our own home. GPS shows our present position on the plotter’s screen against the map of the fishery’s bottom. It increases the efficiency and also safety of fishing. Such an advanced device is very expensive, however, and in practice, we can use much simpler, manual GPS set. Many of the newest mobile phones have sufficient functions. Of course, on such a small screen we won’t see much, but it can still be helpful in fishing. If we save the position of the port we set off from, there is no chance of getting lost, even after dark, or in a fog. How can such a GPS be useful in trolling, though? So, keeping an eye on its directions, we fish off the fishery much more thotoughly. We can also come back to the spot of good catches with precision of several meters.

The devices helping angler in precise trolling can be much more complicated, of course. I had an opportunity to admire such a ‘machinery’ when I was fishing on Missisipi river with one of American champions- Bruce Samson. He is the greatest authority in the field of fishing electronics and precise zander trolling (www.doctorsonar.com).

He is also the only zander specialist, which has won more than million dollars in zander fishing competition, and the only man who abandoned medical profession for fishing! His boat is a real aircraft carrier full of electronics like F16. Having at hand a precise map of the bottom of the river (!), Bruce planned the whole route in the computer. Then, he programmed an autopilot in such a way, that in cooperation with GPS,it led the boat exactly on the planned track. The angler could take care of rods and lures. And it was something, as we were fishing on 10 sets at one time!

Watching the doctor at work I was only wondering if, when using all these magnificient devices, isn’t he loosing at the process the beauty and romantics of fishing. Of course, everyone can see the romantics of fishing a different way. In practice, the experience of an angler, not the whole electronics turns out to be more importan t- his knowledge about the location and fish habits, as well as right choose of a lure and the way of its presentation. We call this all together a tactics.

The first question arising always at the beginning of fishing is-

 

What is the depth we should be looking for predators at?

Is it, however a good practice to always use cranks swimming close to the bottom? Most anglers do so. The most often, too, they never find out how many beautiful specimen they missed by fishing too deep. It is impossible to answer the question ‘how deep’, though. The answer depends on the location. A type of a fishery the most frequently visited by anglers are, of course, shore slopes . Whether it is a lake, river, or a  reservoir, looking at the fishinder directions, we can decide what to begin with. Small pikes always stick to the reeds and thick cover of water plants, where they await and ambush their prey and hide from hungry, older siblings. So if the population of this predator in a given water is a ‘healthy’ one, which means composed of many generations, it is usually difficult to catch a small fish on trolling. Trolling is an open – water method. It’s greatest advantage is, however, the possibility of keeping a lure at the optimal depth almost the whole time during fishing. We don’t loose the time for casting, falling of the lure, nor repositioning of the boat. To use the most of this trump it is good to plan the track of the boat well. Big pikes the most often occupy the spots at the verge of area covered with underwater plants. The bonduary of vegetation is placed at various depths on various locations. This is dependent on the water clarity. On the lakes with low clarity it is about 2-3 meters, and on very clear, pristine water it is even 6-7 m. It is easy to observe it using fishfinder, though. If a steep fall of the bottom follows right after the margin of the vegetation, we just have an ideal spot for pike fishing. So all we have to do is move the boat over this steep, keeping the lures about 1.0 – 2.5 meters over the bottom. The track of the boat movement should agree with the depth of our choice. For example, if the verge of underwater vegetation is at 5 meters, we position the boat at 6 meters, set sinking cranks on our rods at about 3-5 meters and keeping an eye on the fishfinders screen, we try to follow the depth of 6 meters. If the vegetation is very high (for example high potamogetons) it is a good idea to use slightly shallower swimming lures. In such a situation pikes can even sit ‘halfwater’. When trolling in similar spots on the river it is better to fish with the current. As we know, fish position themselves with their heads against, and plants always lean with the current. By moving in the right direction, we allow the predators longer time to look at the lure and decrease the number of snatches.

Second type of a trolling fishery are -

 

Big lakes and reservoirs.

 

When planning the trolling on the fisheries of this type it is good to remember, that there are two ‘races’ of pikes that inhabit them. One is, known to all, ‘shoreside’ pikes, and the second one is ‘pelagic’ or ‘open water’ pike. These are fish which, while still young – after exceeding a mass of 1 kg, were tempted by endless depth. The ones, which managed to dodge jaws of bigger brothers, and got used to trace shoals of pelagic fish, grow much faster compared to their ‘shoreside’ cousins, are usually much more thickset posture and more valiant. In many lakes, the ‘shoresides’ are seriously eliminated by anglers, professional fishermen and poachers. It is difficult to catch a pike bigger than 1 kg, because the larger ones are immediately cought and….eaten! It is worth on such reservoirs to make some effort and try to track real, pelagic monsters! What tactics should be used in such case, though? The best is to use at the beginning two or more  (depending on quantity of rods used) versions of lures. For example, the first rod is equipped with a crank diving to 2-3 meters, and the second one with one diving to 7-8 meters. After first takes we can decide which option is going to be better on the day. In this case, of course, there is no swimming across any isobats. We rather swim with wide bends. This is how simply we increase the range of our searches for predators. GPS navigation in this case is useful in order to consciously plan the route of trolling. Away from the lake shores, without electronics it is virtually impossible. A fishfinder is equally essential. We are observing fish shoals and what is going on around them. We are trying to present the lures 1-3 meters below the shoal. This is not the rule, though, because sometimes such shoals over dozen meters high! To increase our chances then, we use various types of cranks, diving to the depth of 2,4, 6 and even more meters. In lakes with large populations of bleaks there is a time once a year, which should not be missed by any self – respecting predator angler. Usually in the month of June bleaks gather in the large shoals and begin to spawn. Although spawning takes place in the coastal zone, the shoals circle away from the shore. In such a situation practically all the predators move closer to the surface and regardless of the depth in a given place, hunt for bleaks overwhelmed by love. On the lake where we successfully fish for asps with our friends, during spawning of bleaks there are are virtually wonders happening! At the depth of 15 meters on a crank trolled just below the surface take pikes, unusual in this lake zanders and catfishes  and…eels! A number of eels cought using this method support the fact, that this was not an accident.

Third type of a trolling fishery

 

is a lake or a reservoir having small mean depth and very varied sculpture of the bottom. Single underwater hills are advised to be fished using traditional spinning method. But if our fishery has almost the whole bottom very undulatet and its area is large, it is good to use trolling method. I had such a situation in the Netherlands, where most of the reservoirs are artificial – polders and backwaters. Variation of the depth does not occur anywhere else. Two meters deep shallows suddenly fall to 6-7 meters to rise again a moment later to the depth of 2 meters. Additional problem is created by high underwater vegetation which makes it impossible to draw a crank deeper than 1 – 1.5 m. Dutch champions use in such situations very shallow diving lures. Moving a boat quite quickly, with wide bends, they fish on large areas, crossing the deeper and the more shallow spots alternatingly. It turns out, that such a tactics is very effective there. Because it allows to relatively quickly check a lot of potentially interesting spots in a short time. In this way there are caught fish that are active and have moved on the top of underwater hill, to wait for their prey there. Despite the fact that at the screen of a fishfinder we saw large ‘bananas’ at the bottom of these hills – at the depth of 5- 7 meters, my masters did not stop in these places! They claimed that they tried different tactics there, including precise fishing around the ‘holes’ using deep diving cranks and heavy soft lures. Statistically, they achieved better results when trolling in search of, so called, ‘Hot Fish’ – the predators active in a given moment, though.

Last type of a fisheries, very interesting one and difficult at the same time are -

 

Large rivers

 

Of course, on a large river we will easily find spots similar to the ones described earlier. But I would like to concentrate on very special places,  which are unrivalled, especially if we are talking about real specimen of pike, but also other river bandits. These are large depressions of the bottom with steep slopes, neighboured with the main current. Such river ‘holes’ attract the largest predators of the area practically throughout the year (except of the spawning season). They become especially attractive in autumn, when all species are looking for a place to survive winter. Use of adequate technique in such a place can result in the best catches of the season. Knowing about such a place, it is advised to prepare for rishing both theoretically and practically.I am sure every reader of this article has his own way to ‘work out’ a large river hole. Spinning with a large and heavy soft lure can turn out to be very successful. Unfortunately, it requires anchoring a boat. On a large river and at the depth of several or a dozen of meters it is not an easy thing to do, though. So I can recommend method of trolling with a large crank. If we plan it well, we are able to fish over such a hole virtually spot by spot and check, whether on the day the  toothed monster has an appetite for a treat. If the pit has the maximum depth of 5-7 meters, I use classic cranks diving to just this depth. I move along the pit, not across, in order to make my tracks the longest each time.Usually it doesn’t matter, whether we are moving with or against the current. At the bottom of such pit there is no much movement anyway. If the center of the pit is much deeper, I use the set with a big, heavily loaded diving crank. All is about reaching nearby the bottom, but avoid touching it. To tell the truth, there is not a trace of weed, but always rotten leaves and branches cover the bottom. So it is necessary to accurately control the depth that our lure is at, not allowing it to touch the bottom in the same time. The set I mentioned allows us to do so. It is composed of a long (100-120 cm) leader made of steel braided line or fluorocarbon with 1-1.2 mm diameter, triple swivel and a sinker on half-meter extra leader. Of course, that leader should be weaker than the main line just in case of snatch. We only loose the sinker, saving the presious lure. Weight of the sinker dependents on the size (displacement) of the crank

Myself, I use only large and very large cranks. The sinker has to sink such lure and allow it to reach the depth of 10-15 meters in a relatively short time, and then maintain the depth during the boat’s movements. 50 – 120 g loads are suitable for majority of swimming, 12- 20 cm long cranks.In this case, we have to hold the rod in our hand in order ro feel load’s contacting the bottom. If we feel that the bottom is rising, because the sinker is dragging on it, we rise the tip of the rod. If this doesn’t help, we increase the speed of the boat, or just wind several meters of the line. If, in turn, the bottom is falling steeply, we lower the top of the rod first, and then decrease the boat’s speed. The best method is to switch the engine to neutral for a couple of seconds.The boat is maintaining its momentum, but slower. It is better not to let it stop. If we do, we can easily tangle the lure with the leader. If we still don’t feel the bottom, it is better to release the line slowly. We will feel a ‘bump’ of the sinker on the bottom and than we can move forward. This simple way the sinker moves in a saw – shaped way just above the bottom. We are sure then, that our crank, at the end of a long leader, moves about 1-1.5 m above it. This is why it is not advised to use the cranks with long lip (deep runners). With a half-meter leader with sinker they would plough the bottom all the time. Of course, being focused and concentrated is very important. In fact, it doesn’t always happen that the line is strongly tight and we can easily miss the gentle take in such a case. They happen both when the lure is moving away from the bottom, and falling down with the slowing boat. When choosing the direction of trolling one should take into consideration only the strength of the river’s current. Generally, it is the best practice to swim as slowly as we can against the current. The river itself helps us then to keep the lure moving all the time and better control its action. We move rather on the straight line, the best keeping an eye on the fishfinder’s screen. It is worth to come back to a place where we have seen the fish with a different crank – a little bit smaller, or having a different action. If we fish in holes less than 8 meters deep, the most successful will rather be the lures in contrast colours – with fluo – yellow background (e.x. Green Tiger). On deep, river holes, the vertical jerks work well, too. We fish from a boat drifting along the current, keeping an eye on the lure moving 1- 1.5 meters from the bottom. Finally, it is worth mentioning a few inventions used over the world for advanced trolling, and think if they can help in our fishing. There is many of them, but they usually work in order to allow fishing on many rods a time. Therefore, I would like to shortly describe two of them-

 

Downdiggers and planer boards

 

A downdigger is an old system allowing us to fish using every, even the smallest lure at any depth. The lure is released behind a boat at a suitable length, and the line is linked to a steel line using a special clip, and it is released with a steel ball at the depth of choice. At the moment of take a fish tears off the line from the clips and fight can begin. When fishing for pikes, downdigger is used very rarely. There are not many pike fisheries where these predators feed on a dozen and more meters and the mean depth justifies using a heavy ball as a load.

Planer boards, on the other hand, are simple, and on some fisheries a  very useful tool in trolling. They turn out to be especially useful in case of using more than two fishing rods. Their task is to pull away lines with lures to the sides, even 30 – 40 meters. There are two types of these devices. First, the simplest one is positioned immediately on each line and thrown overboard. Each of them has a take indicator in the form of a small flag, which falls down when a lure meets resistance. Their disadvantage is that when fighting the fish, they hang on the line all the time, disturbing in fight with a fish. Second type are, so called, dual boards.

These ones are released on their own lines attached to the boats’ stern, or to a special mast. The line with a lure working on the end is fastened using a clip and hooked on a line running to a dual board. The clip slides on the line to the distance we allow it to. This way, we position the lure at any distance from the stern of the boat. We can place a few clips (for example, a one every 5 meters) and fish on a dozen of rods a time (if regulations let us do so!).

Practically, there is no much sense fishing on more than two rods per person. We will achieve an optimum effect by releasing two lures on the planner boards and two from the stern of the boat. After a take, a fish tears off the line from the clip, which should be noticed and immediately followed with a strong strike. We have to remember, that the further the clip (and a lure) is from the stern, the less tight the line is after a take and more difficult it is to strike successfully. In my opinion, the optimum placing are two rods on each of the boards – one about 10 meters from boat, and the second one from the stern, at the length of the rod (about 3 meters). We are fishing on a zone about  22- 25 meters wide. Some anglers try to position the lures as far from the boat as possible, assuming that a pike is afraid of the sound of boat’s engine. A many years of successful practice of hundrets of anglers have shown, however, that this is not true. I even know a few trolling champions who claim, that the best takes they had were just in swirls created by a working engine! I myself prefer to release the lures a little bit farther, though. This distance depends on initial ‘tactical assumptions’, too. When we want to precisely lead the lures – for example, at the wanted depth between two underwater hills, it has to be released as close as possible- the maximum is 10 meters. Only then, we are able to control their route by steering the boat. If, on the other hand, we are fishing on large areas of water, looking for pelagic predators, especially when using more than two rods, it is much better to release the lures farther – at the distance of 30, and even 40 meters. Larger distances, though, create bigger problems with efficient strike.

I have caught my biggest pike while using the trolling method, and I hope, that I will still break this record. I am sure, too, that this method is not anly an interesting and inspiring, but, most of all, effective- especially in trophy fishing.

Piotr Piskorski

 

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