Catch more fish by trolling this summer

Fishing the Midwest

Bruce DeShano with a mid-summer walleye that was taken while trolling.

Across the Midwest, most fish have set up their summer homes. They’ve completed the spawning ritual and now those fish are hungry. If you put a bait near a fish, it will probably bite that bait. The key is to show your bait to as many fish as possible and trolling is a good way to do that. Trolling enables an angler to cover lots of water quickly and efficiently. Trolling is most often thought of as a walleye technique, and trolling certainly is an outstanding way to find and catch walleyes. But in many situations, all of the freshwater fish that I’m familiar with can be caught by trolling. Following are some ideas for trolling up a few or a bunch of fish.

Lakes, rivers, and reservoirs are prime trolling locations. From now and through the rest of the open water fishing season, the predator fish will be where their food is. Walleyes will suspend if the baitfish they’re after are suspended, and largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, muskies, and crappies will do the same. If you find their food, you’ll find the predator fish that live in that body of water.

A variety of bait types can be effective when trolling, but many anglers reach first for a crankbait. Pretty much any predator fish will hit a crankbait that’s properly presented. You can troll faster with crankbaits, so you can cover more water faster. Much of the time in the summer the boat will be moving in the two miles an hour range: Sometimes a little faster, sometimes a little slower.

Depending on how far below the surface I want my crankbait to be running, I’ll probably start with either a Lucky Shad, a KVD 300 Deep, or a Banana Shad. These are long, thin crankbaits and appeal to most fish. The Lucky Shad runs about 8 feet below the surface, the KVD about 11 feet, and the Banana Shad goes down almost 20 feet. You want the bait running a little bit above where you think the fish are because fish are usually more willing to go up for a bait than down. Generally, fish see above them better than they see below.

Getting multiple lines in the water is very beneficial when trolling. You can show the fish lots of different baits, which helps determine which bait they want on that day. Planer boards enable an angler to fish more lines more efficiently. Planer boards take your bait out away from the boat so a wider trolling pass is possible. In 2 line states, and if there are 2 of you fishing, you can put a line on a board out to each side of the boat, and put 2 lines behind the boat. You’ll cover a wide area and you’ll get bit more often. In a 3 line state you can get even more lures in the water. The lines directly behind the boat should have the deeper running lures on them to help prevent spooking the fish.

It used to be that most trolling was done with an outboard motor providing the power, and today’s outboards do an outstanding job of trolling efficiently and quietly. However, electric bow-mount motors are becoming more and more popular as they become more and more powerful. Many of the Minn Kota electric motors can be operated with a small handheld control. You can control speed and direction from the back of the boat, so you’re near the rods, but you’ve got complete control of the boat. You can even chart a course and the motor will steer itself.

If you want to catch more fish, and that’s one of the main reasons that we go fishing, try trolling crankbaits the next time you’re on the water. Trolling will increase your chances for catching more and bigger fish, you’ll probably catch a variety of species of fish, and those things put together usually make for a good time.


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