Master How to Troll for Fish

Trolling for fish is a fishing technique that involves dragging baited lines or lures behind a moving boat to attract and catch fish. 

This method is commonly used in fresh and saltwater environments and is popular among recreational and commercial fishermen. Here’s a how-to troll for fish

Choose the Right Location: Research the water you’ll fish before trolling. Look for information about the types of fish that inhabit the area, their preferred depths, and their feeding habits.

Troll for Fish

Select the Right Gear

Fishing Rod and Reel: Use trolling fishing rods and reels designed for this technique. Trolling rods are often sturdier and have larger reels to handle the weight and stress of trolling.

Line: Choose a fishing troll line appropriate for the species you’re targeting and the size of the lures you’ll use. Monofilament and braided lines are common choices.

Choose Trolling Lures or Bait

Lures: Select trolling fishing lures that mimic the appearance and movement of the fish’s natural prey. Consider the lures’ color, size, and diving depth based on your target species.

Bait: If using natural bait, such as live or dead baitfish, ensure they are rigged properly to achieve a natural swimming action.

Set Up Multiple Lines

Attach snap swivels to the main fishing line to make changing lures or adjust depths easier.

Depending on the boat’s capacity and regulations, you can set up multiple lines at different distances behind the boat, each with a different lure or bait.

Adjust Depth and Speed

Use downriggers, planer boards, or diving devices to control the depth at which your lures swim. 

This helps target fish at different levels in the water column.

Adjust the boat’s speed based on the species you’re targeting. Some fish prefer faster-moving lures, while others are attracted to slower presentations.

Monitor and Engage

Keep a close eye on the fishing lines for any signs of activity. A sudden jerk or line movement could indicate a fish strike.

When a fish strikes, engage the reel and start reeling in the line to set the hook. Use smooth and steady pressure to avoid tearing the hook out of the fish’s mouth.

Fight and Land the Fish

Play the fish by allowing it to tire out while keeping tension on the line. Use the rod’s flexibility to absorb the fish’s runs and sudden movements.

Gently bring the fish closer to the boat while maintaining tension on the line. Use a landing net to safely scoop the fish out of the water once it’s within reach.

Release or Keep the Fish

If you’re practicing catch-and-release, handle the fish carefully to minimize stress and injury.

If you plan to keep the fish, ensure it meets legal size and possession limits.

Remember that trolling can be a skill that improves with practice.

Pay attention to the conditions, the behavior of the fish, and any feedback from fellow anglers to refine your troll fishing technique over time.

Trolling fishing setup

Setting up a trolling fishing rig involves selecting the right equipment and assembling it to effectively troll for fish. Here’s a basic guide to setting up a trolling fishing rig:

Equipment Needed Trolling fishing gear:

Trolling Rod and Reel: Choose a trolling-specific rod and reel combo that matches the type of fishing you’ll be doing (freshwater or saltwater) and the size of fish you’re targeting.

 Trolling rods are usually sturdier and have a slower action to handle the stress of trolling.

Fishing Line: Use monofilament, fluorocarbon, or braided line based on your preferences and target species. 

The line’s strength should match the fish’s size and the gear you’re using.

Trolling Lures or Bait: Select trolling lures or bait that mimic the fish’s natural prey. Consider factors like size, color, and diving depth. 

Common trolling lures include plugs, spoons, and soft plastics.

Snap Swivels: Attach snap swivels to the main line to make it easier to change lures and prevent line twists.

Downrigger, Planer Board, or Diving Device: Depending on your target species and the water depth, use downriggers, planer boards, or diving devices to control the depth at which your lures swim.

Leader Material: Attach a leader between the snap swivel and the lure. Leaders can be made of monofilament, fluorocarbon, or wire (for toothy fish).

Release Clips (optional): Using planer boards or downriggers, you might need release clips to hold the line until a fish strikes.

Setup Steps:

Assemble the Rod and Reel: Attach the reel to the rod according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Thread the chosen fishing line through the rod guides and onto the reel.

Add the Leader: Tie the other end of the snap swivel to the leader material using a suitable knot.

Tie the opposite end of the leader to the lure using an appropriate knot, considering the type of lure and leader material.

Attach Diving Devices (if applicable): If using diving devices, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to attach them to your fishing line and adjust their depth settings.

Set Up Downriggers or Planer Boards (if applicable): Attach downriggers or planer boards to the boat according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Clip the release clips to the fishing line and attach them to the downrigger weight or planer board.

Prepare Multiple Lines (if desired): If using multiple lines, repeat the steps above for each line, adjusting the lure type, leader length, and depth settings as needed.

Launch the Boat and Start Trolling: Launch your boat and start moving at a consistent speed, adjusting based on the species you’re targeting and the type of lures you’re using.

Monitor the lines for strikes or any unusual movement.

Engage and Land Fish: When a fish strikes, engage the reel to set the hook.

Play the fish using the rod’s action, maintaining tension on the line.

Carefully reel in the fish once it’s tired, using a landing net to bring it onboard safely.

Remember that the specifics of your setup can vary based on factors like location, species, and personal preferences.

Trolling fishing boat

Setting up a trolling boat involves equipping your vessel with the necessary gear and features to troll for fish effectively. Here’s a guide on how to set up a troll boat:

Fishing Rod Holders: Install rod holders on your boat’s gunwales, stern, and any available vertical surfaces. 

Rod holders allow you to position multiple rods at varying angles for different fishing lines.

Outriggers and Planer Boards: Outriggers and planer boards are extensions that extend from the sides of the boat to spread out your lines and cover a wider area. 

Planer boards are especially useful for trolling multiple lines at different distances from the boat.

Downriggers: Downriggers allow you to control the depth of your trolling lures. Mount downriggers on the boat’s sides and use them to lower your lures to specific depths.

Electronics and Fish Finders: Install fish and depth sounders to help you locate fish and monitor the underwater terrain. 

This information can guide your trolling efforts.

GPS Navigation System: A GPS helps you navigate and maintain a consistent trolling speed. It’s important to keep a consistent speed for successful trolling.

Rod Storage: Provide secure rod storage on the boat to prevent damage and clutter. This can be in vertical rod racks or horizontal rod lockers.

Seating and Comfort: Ensure comfortable seating arrangements for anglers to sit and monitor the lines.

 Comfortable seating can make long trolling sessions more enjoyable.

Livewell or Baitwell: If you’re using live bait, having a livewell or baitwell on board can keep your baitfish healthy and lively.

Safety Equipment: Always have appropriate safety equipment on your boat, including life jackets, communication devices, navigation lights, and first aid supplies.

Boat Speed Control: Some boats come equipped with features like trolling motors that allow you to control your speed accurately for trolling. 

If not, you can use your main motor while shifting between gears to achieve the desired trolling speed.

Trolling Techniques

Single-Line Trolling: If you’re starting with single-line trolling, position your rod holders to hold the fishing rods at different angles behind the boat. 

Attach your lures or bait to the lines and adjust their depth using weights or diving devices.

Multiple-Line Trolling: Use planer boards or downriggers to spread out your lines for trolling with multiple lines. 

Attach release clips to the planer boards to hold the lines until a fish strikes.

How to troll fish in Lakes

Trolling for fish in lakes is a popular and effective technique, particularly when targeting species that inhabit open water or different depth ranges. Here’s how to troll for fish in lakes:

Choose the Right Lake: Research the lake you plan to fish in. Learn about the types of fish present, their habits, preferred depths, and feeding patterns.

Select Trolling Lures: Choose lures that match the size and behavior of the lake’s baitfish. 

Crankbaits, spoons, and soft plastics are common choices.

Use different lure colors and sizes to determine the fish’s response on a given day.

Determine Trolling Speed: Experiment with trolling speeds. A typical trolling speed in lakes trolling is around 2 to 4 miles per hour (mph) but adjust based on the species and conditions.

Adjust Depth: Use diving plugs, weights, or discs to adjust the depth at which your lures swim.

If the lake has varying depths, adjust your lure’s depth to match where the fish are.

Position Rod Holders: Set up your rod holders at various angles behind the boat to cover different water depths and angles of attack.

Pay Attention to Structure: Target areas with underwater structures like drop-offs, points, submerged vegetation, or humps where fish might congregate.

Experiment with Lure Action: Vary your trolling patterns by adjusting the speed, making turns, or using lure actions that mimic injured or fleeing baitfish.

Use Fish Finders: If available, use fish finders or depth sounders to locate fish and structure, helping you focus your trolling efforts.

Watch for Strikes: Keep an eye on your lines for sudden movements, stops, or jerks, which indicate a fish strike.

Allow the fish a moment to take the lure before setting the hook.

Change Lures: If you’re not getting any bites, change lures, colors, or sizes to see what the fish prefer that day.

Cover Different Depths: Use different lines with lures set at various depths to cover the entire water column and increase your chances of finding active fish.

Pay Attention to Weather and Time: Fish can be more active during specific times of day, such as dawn and dusk. Adjust your trolling strategy accordingly.

Stay Patient and Adaptable: Trolling requires patience and adaptability.

Practice Conservation: Follow catch-and-release practices for sensitive or overpopulated species to maintain a healthy fishery.

How to troll for fish, freshwater, and saltwater

Trolling for fish is a popular technique in both freshwater and saltwater environments.

 The approach can vary slightly depending on the type of water you’re fishing in, but the basic principles remain the same. Here’s how to troll for fish in freshwater and saltwater:

Freshwater Trolling:

Choose the Right Location: Research the freshwater body you’ll be fishing in to determine the species present and their habits.

Identify areas with underwater structures, drop-offs, weed beds, or other features where fish might congregate.

Select Trolling Lures: Choose lures that imitate the prey fish of your target species. 

Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and soft plastics are common choices.

Consider using lures that match the natural colors and sizes of the local baitfish.

Determine Trolling Speed: Experiment with trolling speeds. In freshwater, a typical trolling speed is around 2 to 4 miles per hour (mph), varying depending on the fish species.

Adjust Depth: Use diving plugs, weights, or discs to adjust the depth at which your lures swim.

Pay attention to the depth at which fish feed, which might change throughout the day.

Position Rod Holders: Set up your rod holders at various angles behind the boat to cover different water depths and angles of attack.

Monitor Strikes: Keep a close eye on your lines for sudden movements or strikes.

When a fish takes the lure, allow it to turn before setting the hook.

Saltwater Trolling

Research the Area: Study local saltwater fishing regulations and the species available in the region.

Determine whether the species you’re targeting are present inshore, nearshore, or offshore.

Choose Trolling Lures or Bait: Select lures or bait that match the saltwater species you’re after. 

Common choices include spoons, plugs, and skirted lures.

Pay attention to the size and colors that attract the target fish.

Check for Baitfish and Birds: Look for schools of baitfish on the surface or diving seabirds, as these can indicate the presence of predator fish below.

Set Up Rod Holders: Position your rod holders at different angles behind the boat to cover various water depths and distances from the boat.

Experiment with Speed and Depth: Adjust your trolling speed to match the target species. For aquatic species like tuna, wahoo, or mahi-mahi, speeds range from 5 to 10 mph.

Use diving devices or downriggers to control the depth of your lures.

Pay Attention to Currents: Trolling fish for Saltwater currents can impact your trolling speed and the behavior of fish.

 Adjust your trolling speed and direction accordingly.

Watch for Strikes: Look for line movement or sudden jerks indicating a fish strike.

Give the fish a moment to take the lure before setting the hook.

Whether in freshwater or saltwater, trolling success often comes from trial and error. 

Be patient and adaptable, as conditions can change throughout the day. Additionally, always follow local fishing regulations and guidelines to ensure ethical and sustainable fishing practices.

Disadvantages of trolling fishing

While trolling fishing can be highly effective and rewarding, this method has disadvantages and challenges. Here are a few disadvantages of trolling fishing:

Complex Equipment Setup: Trolling requires specialized equipment such as downriggers, planer boards, and multiple fishing lines. 

Setting up and maintaining this gear can be more complex than other fishing techniques.

Initial Cost: The initial investment for trolling gear, including specialized rods, reels, lures, and equipment like downriggers, can be higher than other fishing methods.

Learning Curve: Trolling requires knowledge of factors like trolling speed, lure depth, and the preferences of different fish species. 

It can take time and experience to learn these nuances effectively.

Time-Consuming: Trolling can be a time-consuming technique. It involves covering a lot of water and waiting for fish to bite, which might only sometimes result in immediate success.

Limited Interaction: Trolling involves a different level of interaction and direct engagement with the fish than other techniques like casting or jigging.

 Anglers might miss the excitement of feeling the strike and hookset in real-time.

Less Active Participation: Trolling can sometimes be less physically engaging than other fishing methods involving casting, retrieving, and maneuvering lures.

Dependent on Conditions: Successful trolling often depends on the right weather, water temperature, and other environmental conditions. 

If these factors aren’t favorable, trolling might be less effective.

Bycatch and Unwanted Species: Trolling can sometimes result in unintended catches, including bycatch of non-target species or undersized fish that must be released.

Environmental Impact: Improper trolling practices, such as dragging lures too close to the bottom or through sensitive habitats, can negatively impact the aquatic environment.

Regulations and Restrictions: In some areas, there might be regulations and restrictions specific to trolling, such as limits on the number of lines, types of lures, or fishing areas.

Skill and Timing: Trolling success often depends on the angler’s ability to read water conditions, adjust gear, and time the presentation correctly. 

It might take time to develop these skills.

Monotonous for Some Anglers: The repetitive nature of trolling, where you often wait for strikes, can be monotonous for some anglers who prefer more active and involved fishing methods.

Despite these disadvantages, many anglers find trolling a rewarding and effective way to catch fish, especially when targeting species spread out or located in deeper waters. 


Trolling for fishing is a versatile and effective fishing technique in various water bodies, including lakes, rivers, and oceans. 

It involves dragging lures or baited lines behind a moving boat to attract and catch fish. 

While trolling offers numerous advantages, such as covering large areas of water and targeting various fish species, there are also considerations to consider.

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What does it mean to troll for fish?

Trolling for fish means dragging baited lines or lures behind a moving boat to attract and catch fish. 

This fishing technique covers larger water areas and targets fish species in fresh and saltwater environments.

What is the difference between trolling and trawling?

Trolling involves dragging baited lines or lures behind a moving boat to catch fish; Trawling is a fishing technique that entails pulling a net through the water to capture fish and other aquatic organisms.

What is trolling good for?

Trolling is good for covering larger water areas and targeting various fish species.

It’s effective for catching fish that are dispersed or at different depths, making it a versatile technique for both freshwater and saltwater fishing.

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