Prepping the Trolling Tools
Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz
It’s barely ice-out (or at least close to it in the colder regions) – not typically the time of year a walleye angler starts thinking about a trolling bite; but perhaps it should be! It’s a good bet that many of the better walleye sticks out there are spending at least some time these days taking inventory of their trolling gear – lures, line, rods, reels, and boards – wondering what it’s going to take to put walleyes in the boat this coming season. This must be true because we get a ton of trolling related questions whether at sport shows, in emails and through social media. Anglers are getting antsy and they want to know what it’s going to take to have their best trolling season ever.
One question that comes up again and again is how do we set-up our Off Shore OR-12 Side Planer boards. From the factory, these are the best boards out there; they’re tough and perfectly ballasted so they ride upright in the water under most any wave conditions and work well at virtually any trolling speed. One modification we use for crankbait trolling however is to change the clip set-up on the board to what is referred to as “The Pro Set-up”. We remove the release hardware and the OR16 (Red) release from the back of the board. The board comes from the factory with an OR19 (Orange) release that is mounted straight out on the arm and we add another OR19 just behind that one so it’s aimed back at about a 45 degree angle (the board comes with pre-drilled hole for this modification). The advantages to this “Pro Set-Up” are that it makes the boards easier to read because they will “tip back” more noticeably when a fish is on. This set up also makes removing the boards easier, especially when you’re fishing like a lone wolf, fighting in the fish and clearing the board all by yourself.
For most of our spinner trolling, we use the Tattle Flag kits on our Off Shore boards, but we put an OR18 Snapper Clip on the main arm and move the OR19 clip to the back of the board on the Tattle Flag device. This makes for a stronger, more reliable connection to the line, especially when using no-stretch super-lines like Berkley FireLine. These types of line tend to be pretty “slippery” and the Snapper Clip can be adjusted to hold them very secure.
As you prepare your equipment for the upcoming season, be sure to check your boards for things like loose or broken brackets, broken releases, flags, or worn out floatation in the back of the board. Replacement parts for your boards can be purchased from the Off Shore Tackle website.
Now’s also a good time to take inventory of your trolling rods and reels. Walleye trolling rods should have a few key features: They should be at least 7 feet 6 inches but by far the most popular lengths are 8 to 8 feet 6 inches. Really long trolling rods, in the 10 to 12 foot lengths, are also becoming popular for flat-line trolling and some lead core presentations. Trolling rods need to have a strong backbone for handling such trolling accessories as boards, weights, and diving planers, but yet have a soft tip section to aid in fighting big fish. The Walleye Angler Signatures Trolling Rods from Bass Pro Shops have been around for years and have been updated for 2015 to make them even better than before. We helped design this line of rods and there are models for every walleye presentation at price points much more attractive than other quality rods on the market.
When it comes to reels for trolling, nothing beats line counter reels for allowing anglers to duplicate successful trolling patterns effectively. Reels like the new Bass Pro Shops Strata Maxx Line Counter Reel model STMX-20 are ideal for most walleye trolling applications, with the exception of lead core line trolling tactics which require the larger spool capacity. In that case, we use the larger Strata Maxx model STMX-30. We strongly recommend building your trolling arsenal using identical trolling rods and reels. This way it is easy to duplicate productive trolling sets precisely without having to make concessions for varying reels and line capacities. That’s not to say that if you’re just getting started in the walleye trolling game you need to go out and buy six new trolling outfits (although if you can we encourage it), but it’s a goal to work toward.
Of course you’re going to need good line to fill those trolling reels and this is one area where the choices can muddle the mind. It’s tough to go wrong with the old standby Berkley Trilene XT in ten pound test. This line has great abrasion resistance, just enough stretch to act as a good “shock absorber” when fighting big fish, and let’s be honest … its very cost effective for filling a number of large capacity trolling reels. For those situations where you’re trolling crankbaits in deep water and are looking to get your lures deeper than they can go on monofilament, ten pound test Berkley FireLine is tough to beat. This no-stretch “super line” has the diameter of four pound test mono, which allows lures to dive as much 30% deeper than on monofilament. A newer version of FireLine – FireLine Tracer features alternating 5 foot sections of smoke colored line and high visibility Flame Green line. Many anglers like this for trolling because it helps them track their lines, as well as giving them the added ability of counting out line by colors adding another way to duplicate line out for trolling.
Obviously, everyone wants to know what the hot trolling lures are going to be for the upcoming season – and while we certainly have some thoughts on that subject, we’ll leave those for another article.
If you are looking to have your best walleye trolling season yet, understand the one and only factor you can truly control is to be prepped to have the best fishing season ever. That means you’re geared up and ready to take on anything the walleye Gods want to throw your way. Start the season off having gone through a thorough check list of your trolling gear, make sure everything is ready to go and you’ll be ready for your Next Bite!
If you have questions or comments on this or other articles from Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz, visit their website www.thenextbite.com.