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Faster trolling for faster fishing action

Fishing the Midwest

— Submitted photo You never know what’s going to eat your trolled bait. Dean Arnoldussen was after walleyes when this catfish ate his bait.

Fish are cold-blooded creatures. Water temperatures have an effect on their way of doing things. When the water is cold, the fish prefer a slow moving bait. Their metabolism is slower in cold water, so they don’t move as fast. When water temperatures warm up to where they are now, fish are more willing to chase down a faster moving bait.

In the summer, trolling fast is a good way to catch fish. You can cover the water faster while speed-trolling, so you’re putting your bait in front of more fish. That increases your chances for getting bit.

A faster moving bait is also more attractive to fish in the summer. Maybe it’s not more attractive: Maybe the faster moving bait just makes the fish react to it. There have been lots of times down through the years when we’ll troll through a school of fish at a mile an hour and nothing happens. Then we go back through the school at a faster speed, maybe two miles per hour, and we get them to bite. That tips us off that, at that particular time, a faster presentation will do the job better. The fish can see a slower moving bait more clearly and sometimes will refuse it. If the bait is moving fast, the fish have to react faster. Either they eat or they don’t. Much of the time they do.

Speed-trolling appeals to a wide variety of Midwest fish. Muskies and northern pike willingly eat fast moving baits in the summer. So do walleyes. Pull a crankbait quickly along a weedline and largemouth bass will be all over it. Most of the time when I’m trolling I prefer a long, thin crankbait over the shorter, fatter style. Something in the shape of a Lucky Shad crankbait just seems to appeal to a wider variety of fish species when trolling.

How fast do you go when speed-trolling? I’ve gone between three and four miles an hour with success, but that’s faster than usual. 2 miles an hour is a good starting point in the summer if you’re trolling crankbaits. Start a little slower if you’re pulling spinners for walleyes. Most sonar units have a speed indicator, and the speed indicator can be very helpful. When someone in the boat gets a strike, take a quick look at the speed, then match it when you start another trolling pass. On a good number of sonar units there is also a GPS system built-in. Many anglers will hit the waypoint button when a strike occurs so you can troll directly over the spot where the fish hit your bait. If it was a walleye, there will probably be others in that same area.

Modern motors are so much more efficient for trolling than they used to be. They’re quiet and fuel consumption is minimal. Even larger horsepower motors will troll down pretty well. However, anglers that do a lot of trolling will often employ an electric motor on the bow or have a much smaller horsepower outboard on the transom.

Many trollers prefer monofilament line for trolling because it stretches a bit when the fish hits. That stretch provides some forgiveness and prevents lines from breaking or baits being ripped out of the fish’s mouth. Others prefer braid because it doesn’t stretch, but if you use braid, you’ll want to go with a softer action rod. The softer action prevents lures from ripping away from the fish. You want the rod to have some bend in it as you troll. When a fish hits, the rod will just bend over.

Next time you’re fishing this summer, try trolling faster than usual. You could find that trolling faster when the water is warm is a good way to put fish in the boat.

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