Continuing this series on walleye fishing gear, the one category of presentations we have not touched on is trolling. If you’re going to be successful at walleye fishing on a consistent basis, you need to be good at trolling, and having the proper gear is a big part of that.
Reels for trolling are pretty straight forward; line counter reels are ideal because they give you the ability to duplicate successful trolling set-ups by consistently putting out the right amount of line to get your baits into the walleyes’ strike zone. Reels like Abu Garcia’s Ambassadeur Altum DLC features an easy to read digital line counter that can be adjusted to match the type of line being used, and a very smooth drag, which anyone that knows me, I consider a very important feature on every reel I use.
Where my slant on trolling gear tends to vary from other anglers is with the choice of rods. The trend in trolling rods over the years has been to go longer and longer, (8 ½ footers being the starting point and going up to as long as 10 to 12 feet), the thought being that longer rods have some advantages over shorter rods like helping to spread lures out from one another and to act as better shock absorbers for fighting fish to the net.
In my experience, you can use shorter rods and still spread lure sets out and handle fighting fish with the added advantage of having equipment that is simply easier to work with and handle in the confines of a boat.
If you’ve ever trolled with longer rods, you quickly understand that setting out rods, attaching and detaching boards and weights and even netting fish can be a challenge. I have found that using rods like the Fenwick HMG 7 foot, medium action casting rods (model HMG70M-FC), maneuvering around the boat and deploying various trolling accessories is much less cumbersome. The medium action of the rod is ideal for fighting fish and a shorter rod allows you to get closer to the fish for netting.
To me those are advantages that result in fewer fish missed at boat-side and therefore better tournament results. For you, that may just mean more fish catching and fewer “The one that got away” stories.
As for spreading out the trolling pattern, I do that by utilizing risers on my rod holders. Rod holders in the back of the boat are set at gunwale height and then subsequent holders are set with higher risers as you move forward. The rod holders I use offer 4, 10 and 15 inch risers, so getting the rod tips spread apart is not an issue even with shorter rods. From there, I use the planer boards to spread the baits out and manage my trolling spread.
One other highly important component to this trolling set-up is the fishing line used. While lure dive curves like the ones found in the Precision Trolling app, are developed using 10 pound test Berkley Trilene XT as the line of choice, using shorter rods, even medium action models, I want to use a line with a little more stretch to it. I have found that Berkley Trilene XL in the 14 pound test has the same line diameter as 10 pound XT.That means the dive curve data still works for me and yet the 14 pound test XL has a more “rubber band effect” for absorbing the head shakes and sudden dives of a fighting fish, eliminating the need for longer rods to handle the shock-absorption duties. On top of that, Trilene XL line has good abrasion resistance, so it holds up well when using things like planer boards and snap-on style trolling weights.
For me, an important trait to being a successful fisherman is to be efficient in my execution and quality trolling gear like the Altum reels and Fenwick HMG rods help me to do that.
And while it may seem counter-intuitive to what most other fisherman think, to use the 7 foot rods, I believe that with your gear set up correctly, you can experience how much easier shorter rods are to work with and you’ll benefit by caching and landing more walleyes.