Trolling can be a very effective technique in the seaway but as with every seaway technique the trick is to know where, when and with what. This article will go into detail about the lures to use, how to decide on which lure, where to troll, how to troll effectively and when to decide to troll rather than using another technique.
Trolling is the art of using the boat to propel the lure and give it action, basically cast out your lure, get up to a steady slow speed, say 3 knots let about 30 metres of line out then click the reel into gear. You can either hold the rod or stick it in a rod holder. Trolling keeps your lure in the strike zone for longer and is an ideal method when the fish are hanging deep on the bottom over a large area.
Tuning lures for trolling
One of the most annoying aspects of trolling is that many lures will not troll straight. By straight I mean swimming in a straight line with the lure sitting horizontal to the bottom. Many lures will swim off to one side or the other and blow out of the water when the speed or current gets too great. In the seaway trolled lures are constantly exposed to extremes in current so a lure that trolls straight is very important. You will rarely catch fish on a lure that is not swimming properly so if your chosen lure is not, then you need to know how to adjust it so that it will.
For basic tuning if the lure is swimming to the left then your need to bend the front end of the eye to the right to get the lure to swim straight again. Its best to do this in small amounts, and test after each adjustment as the tiniest of movement in the eye can make a difference.
If the lure tracks LEFT, bend the front end of the tow point to the right. If the lure tracks RIGHT, bend the front end of the tow point to the left.
Its also worth mentioning that upgrading trebles to be able to withstand the challenges of seaway fishing can make changes to the way a lure swims. Some lures do not like the heavy duty Owner ST-66 and will not swim properly once you have changed them while other lures are not bothered at all. All of the recommended lures below will swim properly with Owner ST-66 trebles.
Lures for trolling
You will need a number of lures to effectively troll the seaway. The reason for this is that fish often sit at different depths and getting your lure in the strike zone is very important. There are hundreds of lures out there that will do the job but I am only going to cover the known effective lures. Many lures have rediculous claimed depths on the box. For example the Sebile 118LL Koolie Minnow has a claimed depth of 13 metres which is rediculous. At best it manages 5.5 metres. Keep this in mind when purchasing lures.
Rapala XR10/Flash Minnow 25 - Basically the same lure but with different finishes. These lures will dive to around 1.5-2 metres and are ideal for fish that are sitting approximately 3-4 metres down. Tailor and Bigeye Trevally are the main targets for this lure but they will also catch Bonito, Mackerel and GT's.
Top: Flash 25 Minnows Bottom: Rapala XR10
Rapala XRD10/Halco Laser Pro 120 - These lures will dive to 2.5-3m and are ideal for fish sitting in depths around 4-6m down. Giant Trevally, Bigeye Trevally, Hairtail, Tailor and numerous other species are possible. The XRD10's can be frustratingly difficult to get to swim straight at times and suffer from water penetration into the body after a few fish. The Laser Pro's are very hardwearing and will handle lots of fish before needing to be replaced but the large body seems to limit its ability to attract different species. The XRD10 is more of an allrounder. The fat Minnow 9 is unproven and is still under testing..it looks good though.
Top Left : Rapala XRD10 Top Right: Halco Laser Pro 120 Bottom: Rapala Fat Minnow 9
Bolt Omega - This lure dives 3.5 - 4.5m and is ideal for trolling the Canyon and Northern Y. So far in the seaway they have caught lots of Giant Trevally, Tailor, Barracuda and Maori Cod though I would expect them to land many more species over the next few months as we get into summer. This lure seems to get in the sweet spot for many species, most predatory fish like to hunt upwards and if they are sitting on the bottom in 7 metres, then a lure running 4 metres will attract alot of interest.
Various colours of the Bolt Omega
Sebile Koolie Minnow 118LL/ Rapala Magnum 15 - These lures dive to 5-6m and are useful around the canyon and trolling around the north wall. The Sebile has landed lots of GT's and Tailor, the Magnum 15 so far only GT's but it hasn't had alot of swim time. Both of these lures will track very close to the bottom in the Northern Y so are useful if the fish aren't feeling very active.
Left: Rapala Mag 15 Right: Sebile Koolie 118
Maria Deep Snare/ Rapala Magnum 20 - Both of these lures will dive down to 7 metres and are capable of bottoming out in the Northern Y so you should keep them on a short leash if using them in there. The Maria Deep Snare has a unique ability to sink down to a chosen depth and stay down there, for example you could sink it down to the bottom of the canyon in 14m and it will track close to the bottom for the rest of the troll. I haven't given this lure alot of swim time but I'm sure it will pick up some nice fish in the future. The Rapala Magnum 20 is the biggest lure in this article but fish will still hit it, it has been proven effective on low light GT's and I'm sure some other species would eat it as well. It is this lure that I am currently testing for use around the north wall for pelagics such as Spanish Mackerel.
Left: Rapala Magnum 20 Right: Maria Deep Snare
Many different types of lures can be trolled, not only minnows. Metals like the 40-65gram Raider, 30 Gram Twistie work well trolled at times especially around the North Wall during summer. You can also troll poppers, small skirts/christmas trees, any of the plastics on 1/2oz Jigheads, Vib's like the Vivi30s will get down and stay down, the list is endless and sometimes going with something different can yield some good results.
Choosing what lure to use on the day
Deciding on what lure to use is much easier if there are two in the boat or if you are using two rods(though handling two fish hooked up at once when you are alone is...difficult). One rod can have a lure that runs to 3 metres, the other can have a lure that runs to 5 metres, you'll soon know which one the fish prefer. Alot depends on the area you are in and the species likely to be feeding. For example in the Northern Y, GT's are the most common so I would go with a a lure that runs to 2.5m like an XRD10 and a lure that runs to 4 metres like the Bolt Omega or a Rapala Magnum 15. If you were trolling around the North Wall and pelagics are likely, I would change that to a Flash 25/XR10 shallow runner and a Bolt Omega/Magnum 15 to get down deep. Experimentation is important, if you are not getting hits keep changing lures until you do.
The following video is a good example of using lures that gets down to the right depth on the day and how much of a difference that can make to your catches. I was using Bolt Omega's and Sebile Koolie 118LL which run from 4-5 metres where as Mick was using XRD10's which dive to a maximum of 3 metres. The result from that was 6 fish hooked to his 1. Diving depth matters when trolling, keep changing lures until you find out what they want.
Areas for Trolling
Random trolling around the seaway is not likely to yield many fish. The fish hold and feed in certain areas and a trolling run that takes in to account these area's will yield alot more fish. The following area's are the most consistent for fish taking trolled lures but remember that if people are casting around these area's already they won't take kindly to someone trolling through the area, always give a wide berth to other fisherman. The broadwater has lots of area's suitable for trolling, all maps are marked with good trolling runs for you to try.
North Wall Tip & Current Lines
The most important area for trolling here is the current line that is evident on a run in tide(A). Ideally you should troll right along the outer edge of this current line, you can do it both ways..with and against the tide it doesn't seem to matter I have caught fish on both. It's also worthwhile doing a troll a bit further out (B & C) for pelagic fish. You can also do a troll run that runs right along 'The Line' that heads directly east of the end of the wall(D). On a trolling run through this section with the run-in tide you are best starting back along the north wall flats dropoff then going past the wall turning as you enter the seaway then trolling along the current line that heads west into the seaway. Pretty much any fish are possible trolling through this section especially pelagics like Bonito and Mackerel but Bigeye Trevally, Giant Trevally and Tailor are the main species likely to be caught.
The South Wall
The South Wall does not yield as many fish trolling as the North but you should always keep it in mind. Schools of Bigeye Trevally, Kingfish and Giant Trevally will sit along this wall at times though Kingfish are rare on trolled lures in the seaway. Ideally you should troll no further out than 5 metres from the outer edge of the rock wall as the fish tend to sit just where the rocks meet the sand. They can sit anywhere along the wall so a decent troll run would run from the tower right to 50m beyond the eastern most tip of the wall(F). Due to the high numbers of landbased anglers it can be difficult to get a decent troll run going, you won't win any favours trolling close to the wall and picking up thier lines. It is also worth a troll along the front of the wall approximately 10 metres out as schools of fish will often sit just out from the end of the wall(G). Troll run E runs along the area where the rocks meet the sand on the inside of the north wall, around 6 metres down. All species are possible, some other fish that might be caught include Hairtail, Flathead, Mangrove Jacks & Cod.
SeawayFishing Map 3 Outer Walls
Northern Y &Canyon
The Northern Y and Canyon are the best trolling area's in the seaway. The reason for this is the very rocky bottom in the Northern Y is a fish feeding area and the deep hole in the Canyon is a fish holding area. Inactive fish hold in the deep water in the Canyon until bait comes through at any stage of tide or the time of day signals feeding time(any time after 3pm or Sunrise through til 9am. When that happens the fish either move into the Northern Y or move into the Northern Channel to feed. I have included a diagram below outlining the best trolling runs for this area. You can integrate all of these trolling runs into a non stop troll but it is best to bring in your lure and check every so often to make sure there is no weed on it.
Northern Y Closeup
The South Wavebreak Wall, Southern Y & Southern Corner
This area doesn't hold alot of fish but sometimes you can get Tailor, Bigeyes, Salmon and Kingfish here, worth a quick troll but don't spend alot of time on it.
Seawayfishing Map 1 Wavebreak to Pipeline
There are 3 main species that take trolled lures in the seaway. They are Giant Trevally, Bigeye Trevally and Tailor. Each requires a specific approach to target them effectively but there will always be occasions where fish will change things up a bit.
Giant Trevally are more commonly caught in the Northern Y and Around the Canyon on trolled lures than anywhere else. They want lures that dives to 2.5-3 metres(XRD10 & Laser Pro) at least but sometimes they won't hit lures unless they are running at 4 metres +(Bolt Omega, Rapala Magnum 15, Sebile Koolie Minnow 118LL). You can troll quite fast for GT's they will hit lures running at speeds over 6 knots(turbo trolling) and sometimes they will only hit the lures if they are running that fast. Giant Trevally are also possible on trolled lures around the end of the north and south wall's, particularly the tip where the rocks meet the sand approximately 10 metres out.
This 65cm GT took a trolled Bolt Omega
Trolling for Bigeye Trevally is mainly centred around the North and South Walls and the Pipeline. In particular the North wall tip and North Wall Flats dropoff holds quite alot of bigeyes over summer and it is always worth a troll at dawn with minnows or 30g Twisties during November and December past the front of the wall along the dropoff. Its also worth trolling along the inner section of the South wall from The Tower to The Gates as schools of bigeyes will also hold along here. The pipeline also has active fish feeding around it during the night over summer and you can troll around it and pickup Bigeyes one after the other if they are feeding. With Bigeyes keep the lure profile's small though, XR10/Flash 25/XRD10 are the perfect size but if you need to get a bit deeper you can go for something like a Sebile Koolie Koolie 90 which will hit 3.5m and has a nice thin profile.
This bigeye took a trolled XR10
Tailor are mainly found around the North Wall, you can pick them up trolling all around the wall from the inner eddies and current lines around the tip to the North Wall Dropoff. They will pretty much hit anything when they are in the mood, I've caught them on Rapala Magnum 20's at times. You can also find them further up the broadwater in the channels and around the deep holes by trolling Bolt Omega's or XRD10's. It's always worth a troll past the Cross Channels(Map 4) Most of the Tailor caught trolling are chopper size up to about 50cm, the big greenbacks are more specialised hunters.
This Tailor took a trolled Sebile 118LL
Other species that may be caught on trolled lures in the seaway include Barracuda, Hairtail, Flathead, Bream, Various Cod species, Golden Trevally, Yellowtail Kingfish, Bonito, Spotted, School and Spanish Mackerel, Cobia, Snapper, Mack Tuna, Amberjack and Mangrove Jacks. None of these can be planned for but it does make things interesting.
When to Troll
Deciding when to troll rather than cast is a tricky decision. I usually use it as a last attempt at catching fish but there are times when a decision to have a quick troll can pay dividends. If you see fish on the sounder and metals or plastics dropped into them gets nothing then it's worthwhile trolling a minnow through them. In the late afternoon's trolling works particularly well as the fish may not be that active but still hungry and if they see a minnow swim past them they have a hard time passing it up. I usually don't bother trolling until after 3pm when the big fish are starting to think about dinner. Early morning works well too in the time between first light and sunup, if casting has produced nothing then a 5 minute troll can make you decide whether it's worthwhile or not.
Advanced Trolling Techniques
Trolling In Place
Trolling in place is a technique of using the high tidal flows of the run in tides to keep your lure swimming in roughly the same place. Simply drive in the the current area of your choice and keep the motor idling forward so that the boat doesn't move but the lure will be swimming in the current. You can give the lure extra action by sharply jerking the rod tip. It is a good technique to use in the current line at the end of the north wall when conditions are too rough to cast but you can still drive the boat safely, once hooked up the tidal flow will push your boat inside the seaway into calmer waters. You can also use it over the Pipeline and Canyon but care must be taken when other boats are around otherwise your line could get run over. You need a decent tidal flow to get this technique working, any of the larger tides near the Full or New moon would suffice.
This Greenback Tailor took a large shallow running minnow trolled in place along The Face at the North Wall.
Using a Trolling sinker
A trolling sinker is a barrel sinker with a swivel imbedded on each end. Trolling sinkers are used to give small shallow running minnows extra depth, by opening the bail arm on your reel you can drop the lure right to the bottom just before you go past a school of fish. It gets the lure down fast and put's it in the strike zone. On a standard troll run they don't give alot of extra depth, probably only a metre or so but being able to drop a small lure to the bottom is an important option. I prefer using small suspending minnows like the Rapala XR8 but any small floating or suspending minnow would work, avoid sinking minnows as they might get stuck on the bottom. There should be a trace at least a metre long between the trolling sinker and your lure to ensure the lure's action is unaffected. You can either tie the trolling sinker on or use snap clips.
A 1oz trolling sinker and a Rapala XR8
Sometimes adding more action to a trolled lure will entice a strike from fish which are ignoring your trolled lures. If this happens try sharply jigging the rop tip forward three times in quick succession then pausing the lure, letting it swim a bit before repeating the action. This causes the lure to dart about aggressively which might get you a strike from shut down fish.
Trolling can be a very effective technique, BUT don't expect to troll around aimlessly and catch fish. Like every seaway technique it requires some thought, timing and observation to be successful. This article covers everything you need to know about trolling the seaway, all you need to do is put it into practice.
This 72cm GT took a trolled Bolt Omega just on dawn
Don't expect every trolled fish to be big, plenty of little ones get in on the action