Trolling For Striped Bass

Trolling for Stripers in fresh water lakes and rivers is a tried and true way is to catch fish. While there are different techniques using downriggers and Umbrella Rigs.
In the below method we will focus on using live bait and your electric trolling motor to stay green.

Trolling with live bait when the fish are spotty & scattered, as they often are during cold months and transition periods, is an excellent way to find Striped Bass.

Start by preparing your rods.

Slid a 1/4 to 3oz barrel weight on your line and attach a swivel. Use a 4-5 foot leader to the end of your line using a hook in proportion to the bait size.
 (adjust weight for season and size of bait and area fishing if over shallow water, trees use no weight at all )

Pick the area that you want to start trolling and set the trolling speed which will typically vary between .8 and 1.2 mph. The Minn Kota Auto/Power Drives with the co-pilot installed and Lowrance depth finders with GPS speed indication are my choice. If you have not used this combination you are missing out on some fantastic electronic advantages.

I use the Garcia 6500LC series as my trolling reels, let out line from the reel, the amount will vary as to depth and time of year.

For our purpose we will say the stripers are showing around 30 to 35 feet.
(If you are not using line counter reels you can make a quick determination by pulling line from the top to bottom of your rod using the rod length as a measuring stick.)

Put the bait on the hook.
( If you are using shad or brood minnows hook through nostril / upper jaw or lips when trolling.)

Lets say we will be using 6 rods. See Photo 
(Six rods is a good number to start with when you get proficient start adding rods to the basic formation.

When the first rod is baited simply drop line and weight over the side of the boat, pull your determined amount of line out.
(Remember In our example we are seeing stripers on our electronics at 30 feet. So we will let out 30 feet of line using the line counter)

When you have pulled the line out attach a planer board, or balloon,
( a planer board's advantage is to get your line out to the side of the boat providing stealth as well as fishing versatility
) and simply drop over the side (reel out of gear and the clicker on) and start letting the line feed out (the speed off the boat will pull line) until the planer board is moving out from the boat. When the first planer board is out about 100 feet place the rod in the front rod holder, reel in gear . Repeat with the second rod let out 70 feet and place in the middle rod holder remember you need to trail each planer board about 30 feet or what ever depth you are setting your bait to help keep from tangling.

Now on the 3rd rod, using the same line let out drop beside the boat method, instead of using a planer board tie on the balloon or desired float when you have measured out the amount of line you want the bait to be below the float tie on the balloon and start feeding line out until it gets out past the outside planer board. Place the rod in the back holder.

Now repeat for the other side of the boat.  The balloon rod on this side we will stop behind the first balloon about 35-40 feet.

When you first drop the planer boards the reason to have reel out of gear with clicker on is so it adds enough drag that the planer start moving out to the side of the boat and it frees you up to start setting the other lines. When you feel its far enough out to side engage the spool.

With practice and a good planer board you can run out beside the boat 60 - 150 feet.  With that kind of coverage you can see where you would be covering 60 - 100 yards a pass.  

Now you should have out 6 rods out in a formation that will cover a lot of water and not tangle up. With practice and varying the depths of the trolling baits you can adjust to the bite of the fish. Also the same type of pattern can be achieved with more rods. 4 or more float (balloon) lines behind the boat can be achieved fairly easily by staggering the distance between them.

I recommend that you keep the boat moving while baiting and dropping the lines. When fighting a larger fish, you may need to decrease boat speed, or even chase the fish, but do not stop the boat unless someone else can bring in all the other lines in.

Turns can be a tricky maneuver while trolling. To avoid tangled lines make wide sweeping turns and not tight ones and turn the boat to the long distance balloon. Watch how much line you have out and learn to make your turns accordingly.

A tip to Live bait Trolling, and a way to catch more fish, is the increase of presentation to the fish. You can also varying the presentation. I always try to run in a figure eight pattern as opposed to running straight. This will cause the baits to speed up and slow down. As a result, they rise and fall and do not trail right behind the boat. An additional benefit is that you are covering more water with the figure eight pattern. Another idea is to stop, slow or speed up your boat for a few minutes which allows your baits to fall or rise a few feet, then adjust the speed to where you have the most action. Many hits come while in the turn as one bait slows (the ones you are turning into) or as one bait speeds up (the side to your outside turn) and on the temporary stops. So pay attention and adjust.

If you hit an active school and are getting a lot of fish hits fight it, net it, dump it, put into the box or released. Then hang the net in a pole holder outside of the boat out of the way and ready for the next fish. Change the bait, get your line/bait back into the water. Tie a new bait to the empty hook. Hook and land the fish that is now on another rod.
Repeat above until exhausted.

trolling-view.jpg (23682 bytes)

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