Deep Water Trolling
Trolling is one of the most productive ways to catch inshore game fish. It allows you to target and cover lots of water as you motor around pulling lures. But not all trolling methods can be accomplished without a lot of specialized rods, reels and terminal tackle. For instance, one of the most popular methods of trolling for striped bass and bluefish is using wire line, and that requires an investment in rods, reels, line and a pile of expensive lures that can easily cost more than $1,000. If you’re a more casual angler that doesn’t want to blow the budget, here is a simple system to use this fall when you want your trolling lures to get down into the bite zone.
You can catch striped bass, bluefish, king mackerel and even grouper with this simple technique without spending an arm and a leg.
The key to this simple trolling technique is using braided line, the latest generation made with Spectra fibers, and pull a deep-running swimming plug.
The line is important because it is extremely thin, has very little stretch and is amazingly strong. The thin diameter lets it cut through the water with considerably less drag than monofilament or Dacron line. That enhances the ability of the plugs to dive to their desired depth and get in the strike zone of the fish you are trying the catch.
The low stretch means that when a fish grabs your plug, the line will not stretch out, so it will provide a more positive hookset. You’ll hook more fish and keep them tight on the line. Last, the strength of the line is amazing. Thirty-pound super braid is typically the diameter of 10-pound monofilament very abrasion resistant and generally tough as nails. The plugs you’ll be using have long plastic bodies and a large swimming plane or bill on the front that make it swim to a prescribed depth when trolled on braided line. They are equipped with 3X or stronger saltwater hooks and through-wired so they can take all the punishment a big fish can dish out (even toothy critters like bluefish.) They come in a number of sizes that relate to the depth they are capable of hitting and the packaging is clearly marked accordingly.
Typically, deep-divers will hit depths ranging from 15 to 30 feet in 5-foot increments. They vary in cost, but most sell for $10 to $15 each, and they will last several seasons if you wash them off after each use. Deep-diving plugs are very effective when trolled with super braid line and will catch everything from big bluefish to grouper, kingfish and striped bass.
For a rod, you can go as light as a medium-action plugging stick, preferably a 7-foot model, or move up to a slightly heavier conventional rod with a little more backbone. The rod you choose is not critical just as long as it has enough backbone to handle the size of the fish you’re after.
For reels, a medium or wide-spool baitcaster or conventional reel will do the trick as long as it can hold a couple hundred yards of backing and a couple hundred yards of super braid. For a lighter outfit like a baitcasting reel on a plugging rod, 30-pound braid will suffice. For the slightly heavier outfits, you might want to step up to 50-pound, especially if you plan on trolling near structure for grouper or big striped bass.
Once you have the braid on the reel, add a 6-foot section of 50- or 60-pound monofilament leader and a simple snap. No swivel is necessary because the plugs do not spin. Deep-diving plugs are optimized for trolling around three to five knots, so watch your speed. Keep the drags set relatively lightly, six pounds for 30-pound line and no more than 12 pounds for 50. When you get a bite and hook up, the drag will slip easily on the fish’s initial run. After the fish is on and you slow the boat to fight it, you can push the drag up if needed, although it rarely is for most fish.
Using this simple setup with deep diving plugs is one of the most popular ways to fish for grouper, especially gag grouper, wherever they are found in water less than 50 feet. You just have to keep the plugs near the bottom or even bouncing off the bottom.
Trolling plugs is deadly on kingfish pretty much anywhere they are found, and it’s a sure bet for catching striped bass and bluefish, regardless of the depth of the water. And there is a bonus. You can use the same rods, reel and line for trolling other popular inshore lures like umbrella rigs and bunker spoons as long as the rod is heavy enough to take the pressure these lures generate and can take on the large fish they catch.
For the most part, there is no need to purchase lots of expensive tackle to go trolling when you have a trolling outfit spooled up with braid and some deep-diving plugs.