Handling & Trolling Direction
Well, you have your trolling tackle but you don not have much trolling experience and don't catch as many fish as those other guys you see out there when you do.. Makes you crazy at times? We won't talk about the times the fish are out there committing suicide. Rather, how to improve your numbers when things are tough. After all, you're right there with the fleet using the same tackle. They're catchin' and you are just fishin'.
Maybe it's the way you're driving your boat. Let's see if we can help you do better. When fishing an area where fish are relatively stationary because of structure such as a patch of rocks. A different type bottom, like a hard spot in a sandy area or a sandy spot in a hard area. An area where the bottom raises a foot or two or drops a foot or two. A wreck or a channel. It's all Structure to a fish. Look at a chart before you go out there and develop a plan. If your plan doesn't serve you well, have plan "B" ready and stick to them. If you spend all day hop skipping and jumping all over the ocean you will not have needed to buy ice for your fish box.
So, you're there and almost everybody's fishing the structure and hooking up but you're not. Some structure is very subtle. Be sure you're on it. If you don't have a GPS taking you to "the spot" you're at a disadvantage. You'll have to watch the guys that are doing well and try to line up with them. When you're on line, pick out a prominent feature on shore if it's visible. A tree, tall building or a church steeple can be good markers. If you use two markers that are separated by a good distance you can come close to the proper range too. Now comes the most important part. Wind speed, current direction, current speed and angle of the sun all affect your success rate. In the ocean, it can be hard to figure out what the current is doing. The only logical way I have ever found to figure it out is troll the structure in one direction, go back over it in another and another until I start hooking up. Remember the direction I was going and do it again and again. I guarantee your success rate will go up. Since you will be going with, against or sideways to the current or wind your boat speed and lure speed will vary. The important thing to watch is your lure action. Keep an eye on your rod tip frequently and make sure it's working. If you are coming up onto some high structure and your rigs are deep enough to snag it, speed your boat up to raise your rigs. The action on your lures might not be correct but the change in speed often triggers the fish to strike. Once over the structure, your guy on deck can shorten up the line so you can get back down to the correct speed. Or do as I do. Heads up !!! We're coming up on some high ground so shorten up the lines now and we'll be ready when our lures are in the "sweet spot". If you read the section on trolling with wire you should know how much to shorten up or drop back. If dropping down into a deep spot for a short period of time I never let out more line. I just take the boat out of gear and let it slide for a while to let my lures sink. Put it back in gear and get it back on speed. The lures rushing up from the deep almost always result in a strike. (Guaranteed)
Direction and speed are very critical when working a channel whether it's the center or the edge. When I troll against the current my hookups are usually minimal. But when I troll with the current it's often fast and furious. Current in a channel is only going one way or the other. Fish hang somewhat stationary in the channel. I think (no idea what a fish thinks) when you troll against the current, the current is helping work your rig but your speed over ground is next to nothing. You're coming up behind the fish real slow and he has a lot of time to look the stuff over and see it's not anything he wants to eats. But if you're trolling with the current, in order to get your rigs working properly, your speed over ground is whatever the current speed is plus about 4 MPH. So you're up to as much as 7 or 8 MPH. Your lure is going to fly by the fish and if he doesn't take a shot at it while he can, it's gone.
How do you approach a school of fish breaking on top? Remember, what you see on the surface is only the tip of the pyramid. Picture a big ball or pyramid with only the top out of water. That's basically what you are seeing. While you're going after a surface feed, try to watch closely to determine which way the school is traveling. When you get close (100 to 200 yards) start slowing down, take a wide swing around the school and try to get in front of it. Let the fish come to you. (If some other boats are headed it the same direction and your boat is faster, please give them a wide berth.) By now you should be down to trolling speed and someone should be sending your stuff in. NEVER race into the middle of a school. WE ALL KNOW BETTER. You would be surprised how many guys run up on em' and break the school up. I never do that and I'm sure you know better. If you are working a school and someone is constantly racing through it and screwing things up time and time again it might be prudent to explain nicely to him, how to do it. Nobody catches fish with a jerk like that screwing things up. If he doesn't stop, I go off and try to find another school. Got it All?