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Trolling tactics aid anglers in hoping to land big catch


Just as a golfer utilizes a variety of clubs in tackling the golf course so, too, does an angler need a variety of techniques to effectively work a body of water.

While Phil Mickelson uses drivers, irons, wedges and putters, an accomplished angler turns to casting, bobber fishing, drifting, anchoring and trolling for the varied conditions he or she encounters.

Here is a look at the basics of trolling. Hopefully, these tactics will help to improve your catches this season when trolling is the technique of choice.


Trolling offers a number of advantages for the angler.

First, the technique works on a variety of waters from small rivers to the Great Lakes and for a variety of species from Adirondack brook trout to St. Lawrence River muskellunge.

Because so much water is covered, trolling can be the quickest technique for “learning” a body of water and for finding fish. From another perspective, trolling helps to identify unproductive areas, too.

When strong winds or currents make casting, drifting or anchoring ineffective, trolling is the way to go.

Under these and other conditions, this technique allows for a presentation of multiple lures at a variety of depths, and lures stay in the water for extended periods.


Boat control is the key to effective trolling, and anglers have an array of choices in controlling their boat.

Among those choices are the main motor, kicker motor, electric motor, oars, and drift socks. Skillful use of these tools allows for proper lure presentation regarding depth, speed, and proximity to structure.

When forward movement is too fast for good presentation, back trolling is recommended.

Back trolling is especially effective when the situation calls for a vertical presentation such as jigging or dragging a crawler harness close to bottom. The general rule says to troll into the wind and current, but exceptions do exist.

Boat control also means putting the boat in fish-holding spots so charts and depth finders or GPS units are musts.

Rather than trolling blindly, an experienced angler will maneuver his boat along such structures as mid-lake shoals, weed lines, drop-offs, points, steep-breaking shorelines, channels and deep holes.

Temperature probes can assist in locating the thermocline or areas with a targeted water temperature.


Depth, speed and feel are the three important factors in lure control.

Regarding depth, the key is to get the lure into the fish zone. An array of tools exists for getting lures to the desired depths, and among those tools are downriggers, in-line sinkers, attachable weight systems, bottom bouncers, lead-core and wire lines and line-counter reels.

Manuals are even available that detail depths achieved by various lures with various pound-test lines.

The wide range of diving plugs also aids in selecting a lure that will reach the desired depth. A general rules says that greater depth can be achieved by letting out longer lines.

Lures must be run at a speed that allows them to perform effectively. When trolled too fast, plugs will run off to the side. When trolled too slowly, spoons, spinners and crankbaits will perform in lackluster fashion.

A good way to check that boat speed is appropriate for lure action is to visually inspect the lures while they are running at boat-side. A general rule says that increased speed will lift a lure while a slower speed increases lure depth.

Feel is just as important in trolling as it is in jigging. An angler wants to “feel” the thumping or vibration of the lure at line’s end. Modern, low-stretch lines are effective in feeling that a lure is working properly. Even when rods are placed in holders, anglers can detect proper lure action by observing the pulsing rod tip.


Once fish are located, be sure to rework the area. Consider approaching any structure from different directions as strikes will often occur in one direction but not the other. If a particular area is crowded, move to an adjacent spot as excessive traffic can shut the fish down.

Trolling in an s-pattern will increase the number of strikes over a straight-line troll. Strikes can also be induced by periodically putting the motor in neutral or giving a slight acceleration to change lure speed and action.

Working a rod manually by pulling it forward, dropping it back, raising it up, lowering it into the water changes lure action and induces strikes, too.

Well-placed rod holders allow for the use of multiple rods, and quality swivels prevent line twist and enhance lure action. Naturally colored lures work best in clear water while brighter ones perform well in stained lakes and rivers.

Warm water temperatures call for faster trolling speeds while a slower presentation works better in cold water. Under sunny conditions and in clear water, troll deep; fish shallower on overcast, windy days and in stained waters. Low-light periods of morning and evening are good trolling times just as they are for the utilization of other techniques.


Monday: Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club hosts Trap and Skeet Shooting at Pray Rd. Property at 5:30 p.n.

Saturday: Sporting Clays Shoot at Black Lake F&G Club at 9 a.m.

Saturday: Nick Bergman Memorial Bass Tournament at Hooper’s Marina (481-7286 or 481-3815).

July 14: Spey Casting Seminar at Pineville Boat Launch on Salmon River (

July 27-28:Trapper Safety Course at Massena R&G Club (Pre-register at 389-5096).

July 28-29; St. Lawrence County third annual Trappers Rendezvous at Massena R&G Club (389-5096).

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