Trolling means for most anglers sitting in a boat with a rod in one hand, waiting for things to happen. Hereunder I want to reveal another approach of this proven method.
Trolling is no doubt one of the most successful methods of lure fishing as a searching method on big waters. The lures running behind the boat are on the effective depth all the time, and there is no time spend for casting, bringing the lures to the desired depth and moving to another spot with the lures out of the water. Also rod-holders enable you to use two rods a man, and more baits out means more possibility’s to experiment and a bigger change to contact fish. But trolling can be tedious, especially for the angler who isn’t steering.
Playing around with lipped plugs
Rarely do I fish as guest, so usually I am steering, but being an impatient character, I start to become restless if nothing happens for the best part of an hour. So I give line to change depth, start to change plugs and do all kinds of things that change the speed of the lure. On more than one occasion it happened that after giving slack or when reeling a plug in to change, a pike would grab the lure. As we already experienced with trolling for zander that moving the rod forward and backward increased results. On a nice October day in 1996 fishing for pike, after more than 2 hours trolling without any sign of fish, I started to try this method out. I had a Grim Reaper Undertaker attached, in the medium diving model. This lure floats quite low in the water, especially if compared to the Rapala Super Shad Rap, and due to its lesser buoyancy it won’t rise like a Polaris missile if you stop pulling it. This makes it possible to stop the plug dead in the water, with the plug slowly rising in front of a might-be following pike. I started to stop the plug dead now and then by moving the rod backward quickly while trolling, then give it a gentle sweep forward. It only took 5 minutes before a nice pike reacted aggressively to this stop and go method. Soon a second pike followed. Since then I’ve used this method of trolling with success on more occasions.
Trolling with jerkbaits
If this method of trolling was successful, why not do it with the stop and go lure per excellence: the diving jerkbait? In June 1997 - the season had just opened, I was fishing with my brother-in-law on one of our favorite waters - I tried out the jerking method with a Jerking Jack of Loz Harrop. Within a quarter of an hour a pike grabbed the lure, but it was missed. Probably a small one, at least I prefer to think that of missed fish. The next pike was hooked. Not extremely big, but it was my first fish on a trolled jerkbait, and the method worked.
After having tried some shallow spots by casting jerkbaits without much success, we started trolling again. The sun had risen and was shining from a blue sky. The fish probably had moved deeper. I steered the boat to
a depth of 10-14 foot and suggested that we should use deeper-running lures. I connected a custom-made Hog Seeker to my line. I had asked Loz to put extra weight in some Hog Seekers, so they would be suitable to reach greater depths. This Hog Seeker proved to be excellent for the stop and go trolling method when tried out next to the boat, and with 35 yards of line out could be pulled to over 10 foot deep, as I felt it hitting the bottom. Although nothing happened for a half an hour I didn’t notice the time was passing as I was occupied with steering the boat with the left hand, and jerk-trolling with the right one. Suddenly there was some considerable resistance in a forward movement and I was in a fish. To our surprise a nice zander had taken the pink Hog. My first zander on a jerkbait was a fact! Shortly afterwards a nice pike scratched the Hog. The third fish that day on a trolled jerkbait. Beside the jerkbait rod there were 3 other rods out, all with lipped plugs. Those three rods managed one small pike in the same time the jerkbaits counted for 3 fish and at least one missed take.
That experience was continued on other days: one jerkbait-rod out fished three others. Also more zander were to follow to be caught on trolled jerkbaits.
Trolling with jerkbaits is not new. Shortly after my first experience I read an article about it in “Musky Hunter”. The Americans use it with success for catching that hard to catch silver'ish cousin of our pike, especially in late summer and early autumn. The technique is simple. The boat has to move slightly faster than with normal trolling. Cast the jerkbait some 20-30 meters behind the boat, engage the reel with the rod pointing backwards between the position 7 and 8’o’clock. Wait till the line is tight and move the rod forwards quickly to the position 10’o’ clock. Now comes the tricky part: bring the rod back afterwards whereby you bring the jerkbait almost to a stop, but have to maintain contact with the lure. So you almost bring the top of the rod backward at the speed the boat is moving. It doesn’t matter that the lure doesn’t stop completely, the change of speed is enough to trigger following fish. By the way: even when you are attending the other rod, and the jerkbait is just trailing motion-less behind the boat, still a jerkbait is grabbed. Of course you can bring back the rod fast to stop the jerkbait completely, but you will miss a lot of takes in that way: You will only notice fresh tooth-marks when changing the lure.
I only talked about divers, as gliders are not suited for this method. It is hard from a moving boat to give them the zigzag pattern with short twitches, and besides that they will run very shallow when trolled. For fishing deeper you will have to reduce the speed dramatically and thus give away the big advantage of trolling to search a lot of water quickly. Better use the gliders for working a hot spot. I have good experience with both the Hog and Hog Seeker, and the Jerking Jack of Loz Harrop as well with the original Pig made by the late Dave Scarff.
You can use the rod you use for normal jerk baiting. I myself have three jerkbaits rod build to my own concept: longer and lighter than the usual pool-cue-copies. Two are one-piece rods of 232 cm (7’9”) and the third is a two-piece rod of 240 cm (8’). Behind the trigger-grip they have 18” of cork, what gives good support for the underarm. These longer jerkbait-rods are - besides splendid for casting and a dream to play fish on – also better suited for trolling with jerkbaits. Because of their extra length the needed change of angle between the forward and backward position during “jerk-trolling” is smaller then with a 6’ rod. Most anglers will no doubt only posses short jerkbait rods build to the American concepts. In that case it is better to use the normal trolling rods to try this method out. The jerkbaits will probably be heavier than the optimal or even maximum casting weight of the rod. No problem, the resistance in the water is much less than of plugs with vanes. If you cast carefully, or just drop the lure in the water and let the line go, you can bring the jerkbait to the desired distance. Longer rods are also better for setting the hooks.
Extra weighted jerkbaits
I told you about some extra weighted jerkbaits. Custom-made services as delivered by Loz Harrop gives you the opportunity to obtain some divers that reach greater depths than the average divers do. These extra weighted models also enable you to search deeper areas with the normal casting techniques. That means opportunities in late summer and autumn to fish for pike in big lakes where they have left the shallow margins. These divers have a slower rise, so they hang nearly motionless in the water after the jerking-movement. This is, as I found out, very appreciated by…. Zander. Last season I caught my biggest zander, 85 cm (about 12 lbs., we Dutch don’t bother about weight but are interested in length) on a special Hog, that was weighted to almost neutral buoyancy. Its length is 6” but it weights nearly 2 oz. I was casting at the wind-swept side of a deep lake. The bottom runs steadily down from 3 foot near the shore to 14 foot under the boat. When casting in a certain direction I experienced some resistance. A cast slightly to the left or right and the bottom seemed clean, but in that particular spot there were some weeds. Although it felt that way, but there was never anything greenish on the hooks. After more than 4 (!!!) missed takes I was connected to some kind of plastic-bag, that started to live when close to the boat. Then there were short bumping movements to the bottom and after some time I saw that I was connected to a big zander. After landing, unhooking and taking pictures II fished the spot thoroughly and missed another nearly undetectable take of another big zander, as was proven by the scale pinned on one of the trebles. Last summer we have missed more zander on that specific spot. But as the takes of zander are very gentle with stop and go retrieves, and they are not enable to engulf the jerkbait, missing is a big part of the game when trying to catch zander on jerkbaits.
With this article I hope that you have become curious about, and interested in this “unnatural” method of using jerkbaits. But that is just the point: lures are artificial, so don’t bother about unnatural methods. Besides good results trolling jerkbaits gives more pleasure than normal trolling methods, as you are able to fool around with the lures. It sure will pay off to use this method on your trolling waters, especially if they are heavily fished (and most good lakes have of course a considerable angling-pressure). Give some extra thrill and pleasure to your trolling by using jerkbaits. I wish screaming drags (no snags) to you.