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FALL TROLLING MADE EASY

Posted 10/14/2011

You Can Catch Stripers, Bluefish, King Mackerel and Even Grouper With This Simple Technique


Deep diving plugs are very effective trolled with super braid line and will catch everything from big bluefish like this to grouper, kingfish and striped bass.

Trolling is a great way to fish for kings and braid with plugs, or a variety of other lures or baits, will catch these toothy critters.

There are many ways to find and catch popular inshore gamefish, and trolling is definitely one of the most productive. It allows you to go to an area where fish might be and, motor around pulling lures they find enticing. When you troll near enough to your chosen quarry, chances are you are going to get a bite, and chances are even better that you will hook the fish.

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, outrodders and a pile of expensive lures that can easily cost more than $1,000. So what is the more casual angler on a budget to do? Pay attention and you’ll be in on the action without spending an arm and a leg.

The keys to this simple trolling technique are super braid line, the latest generation made with Spectra® fibers, and deep running swimming plugs, which are now offered by most of the popular lure companies in the United States.

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 older Dacron® braided 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 factor 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 hooked. Last, the strength of the line is amazing. Thirty-pound super braid line 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 minnow-shaped bodies and a large swimming plane or bill on the front that make it swim to a prescribed depth when trolled with super braid 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 achieving and the packaging is clearly marked accordingly. Typically, the models range from 15- to 30-foot divers in five-foot increments. They vary in cost, but most sell for $10 to $15 each, and they will last a long time if you wash them off after each use. 
For rods, 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, but it is not critical which you choose. Just as long as it has backbone enough to handle the size of the fish you might catch, it will swim the plugs just fine.

For reels, with the plugging stick a medium or wide spool baitcasting reel will do the trick or any saltwater star drag conventional reel that will hold a couple hundred yards of backing and a couple hundred yards of super braid line. For a lighter outfit like a baitcasting reel and plugging rod, 30-pound braid is sufficient. For the slightly heavier outfits, you might want to step up to 50-pound, especially if you plan on trolling in structure areas for grouper or big striped bass. Once you have the braid on the reel, add a six-foot length 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, so 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 a little if needed, although it rarely is for most fish.

Using this simple set up 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 bottom.

It 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 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 handle the large fish they can sometimes catch.

For the most part, there is no need to purchase lot of expensive tackle to go trolling when you have a braid-equipped trolling outfit and some deep diving plugs. Get out there and enjoy the fall fishing. It’s usually the best of the year! Good fishing.