Dialing in on a Trolling bite: Four Core Elements to Success
Trolling is a musky tactic that is generally misunderstood by the majority of anglers. Many think it is brainless and boring and some even more misplaced thinkers believe it to be an unskilled endeavor.
While we are all entitled our opinions regarding what we find to be entertaining and enjoyable while we are on the water, I feel like most of the misgivings regarding trolling are systemic of never approaching it properly and in a methodical manner. The vast majority of anglers that do troll do so as an after thought to casting and just “zombie troll” while eating a sandwich or buying themselves time to recoup from endless casting. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with “dragging baits around” while killing time there is an entire sphere of musky that is uninhabited by the majority of anglers…dialed in trolling.
How you approach any endeavor in life on and off the water often dictates your level of success and trolling for muskies is no exception to this rule. If you are serious about becoming proficient at trolling for muskies there are a few concepts you need to have a firm grasp on.
- Mapping and Structure
Across the majority of the muskies habitat range structure is the key to success.
Understanding how to interpret breaks, break lines and the topographic features of any body of water quickly and efficiently is imperative to musky trolling success.
If you are new to structure concepts, I urge you to dig into the Musky 360 Podcast Structure Master Class episodes. These podcasts cover the core elements of structure fishing to set anglers on the path to success.
- Trolling Specific Gear
Having the right tools for any job always makes the process easier and more effective.
However, to get going anglers new to trolling don’t need to break the bank.
The prerequisites for successful trolling are a line counter reel, a heavy action rod and leaders that have a heavy-duty swivel. Utilizing a line counter reel is a foundational element of trolling. The reason that a line counter is so important is repeatability. If you know exactly how deep your lures are running and contact a musky you can repeat this process time after time again.
Line counter reels take the guess work out of the musky trolling process and allow anglers to start dialing in on musky trolling bites.
Rods are less specific in my opinion but I would not recommend trolling with extra heavy casting rods and conversely medium heavy action rods would be a poor choice. Heavy action seems to be spot on if you are going to use a musky rod that is not a dedicated trolling rod. The typical heavy action rod has the back bone for trolling musky lures at typical speeds while driving the hooks home when a strike occurs. Rods like the afore mentioned extra heavy and medium action are often to whippy or far to stiff to get the job done consistently.
In regards to leaders a lot has been talked about over the years regarding the length of your trolling leader. As schools of thought vary on this matter, I would simply encourage a heavy-duty swivel which prevents the majority of leader fouling and line roll that can occur when trolling large lures.
- Boat control
Keeping your musky trolling lures where they need to be the vast majority of the time is the corner stone of trolling and this takes some serious boat control. Being able to mirror contours consistently while making tight and aggressive turns takes a little more practice than one might think. The best way to get comfortable with some of these core principles is making multiple passes over areas while grading your graphs trails to see just how on or off course you where on each pass. Having a “feel” for how your boat handles certain angles and turns and how responsive it is will quickly pay dividends when dialing in on a trolling bite. Boat control is simply a “practice makes perfect” scenario that anglers should be dedicating sometime too each and every time they hit the water.
- Master Your Boats Electronics
Many anglers in today’s modern age of technological advancement have thousands of dollars of mapping, down scan and side scan electronics on their boats and have a very loose grasp on interpreting the data provided. A tool is only as good as the craftsman using and simply put marine electronics are a tool. You’re mapping and down scan sonar are your greatest ally when dialing in on a musky trolling bite making some serious fish finder study a requirement for trolling success.
When it comes to electronics regardless of brand learn what every single option available on your unit does and follow up with research on how to interpret the data. Musky anglers in my opinion should spend far more time learning what different types of forage look like on their electronics as you will see bait fish far more often than muskies. I couldn’t recommend any more strongly to avoid musky electronics videos and watch videos of walleye and crappie pros demoing and teaching about your specific fish finder. These pros are often dialed in to the smaller details and make their living adjusting their fish finders for a multitude of fishing situations. At the end of the day learn everything there is to know about the marine tech on your boat.
The four above mentioned topics are the foundation to any solid musky troller. Once you have these components under your belt you can start dialing in in trolling bites.