What Is Trolling Fishing? A Complete Guide

What Is Trolling Fishing A Complete Guide

Trolling fishing is where one or more fishing lines, baited with lures or bait fish, are drawn through the water. If you’re fishing from a stationary position, you could do this by trailing behind a moving boat, winding the line in slowly, or even sweeping the line side to side, as in the example above. when fishing from a jetty. Pelagic fish like salmon, mackerel, and kingfish are caught using trolling.

There is a phonetic similarity between trolling and trawling, a different type of fishing that uses a net (a trawl) rather than lines to move through the water. In contrast to trawling, which is primarily used for commercial fishing, trolling is used for both recreational and commercial fishing.

For more information, keep reading.

What Is Trolling Fishing?

To put it briefly, trolling is a fishing method that involves dragging a hooked lure or bait through the water from a moving boat. The goal is to fool the fish into thinking that your bait is moving prey, so you can use as many lines as you want in the water.

Of course, trolling involves much more than just dangling some lines in the water. There are many different ways to troll for fish, depending on where you’re fishing and the species you’re after. There are countless options, from necessary fishing equipment to selecting your spots and presentation strategies.

All of these aspects and much more will be discussed shortly. When you’re finished reading, you’ll have all the information you need to maximize your upcoming day on the water.

Is Trolling Fishing Allowed Or Forbidden?

There is a huge range of options for this question…

Some venues do not allow boats, so of course, trolling is not legal at these places. However, even if boats are allowed, it’s possible that you’ll need a specific motor to use it for trolling. It all depends of a location and local rules and regulations.

Assuming your boat is legal and you are permitted to use it, you must adhere to the rules regarding the permitted hooks, baits, and lures, as well as the types of fish you are permitted to catch.

I know that these regulations may seem like a nightmare, but the goal is to keep a healthy fish population for the future, and to make sure that all anglers can fish safely and happily.

Depending on a country you are fishing in (and this is important for those who like to fish on vacations), you may need a boat licence/insurance and similar. Check the local laws because every nation has a unique set of rules.

Also, a lot of these regulations are subject to change, so make sure you have the most recent information.

Where Can One Go Troll Fishing?

The versatility of trolling is among its many benefits. In addition to lakes and rivers, you can troll out in the ocean. It is important that the water is deep enough for a boat. Well, some fish would be nice too; however, I’ll get to that in a moment.

When trying to locate a good trolling spot, there are two things you need to pay attention to. First, get close to your fish. You can do this by using sonar to locate schools of baitfish, keeping an eye out for birds diving into the water, or locating floating weed lines.

Birds are an excellent indicator that fish are near

The second is choosing the proper depth. You can use a variety of techniques to lower your baits precisely where the fish are. Several pieces of equipment are required for this. They all accomplish the same thing, though some are fancier than others.

In a moment, we’ll discuss the trolling equipment. Let’s look at the fish that this technique might be able to catch first.

Common Catches Of Trolling Fishing

As we previously mentioned, you can troll for fish in many different types of waters. Therefore, it makes sense that there are a lot of different species that you can catch. It’s more of a book than a list, to be honest, but that’s what you get with a fishing method this good. For each type of water you can fish in, we’ll discuss a few endemic species to give you an idea of what to look for.

Bass and walleye are among the fish you can catch while trolling for salmon and trout in freshwater. Kingfish, Wahoo, and Barracuda are the three main nearshore trolling species in saltwater. Then, offshore, you can find thrilling big game animals like marlin, sailfish, tuna, and mahi mahi. With celebrities like these, it’s simple to understand why so many life-changing experiences were had while trolling.

That’s fine and all, but how exactly do you catch one of these fish? You must prepare yourself first, of course.

Trolling Fishing: Monofilament Vs Braided Line

Again, there are many variables that affect this. If you are trolling inshore or in freshwater and you are using gear that is not specialized for trolling, you can go with what you have. Trolling fishing line has to be long enough, without any damage, and strong enough for a fish you are targeting. Additionally, it must be compatible with the rod and reel.

Offshore trolling anglers frequently use mono because it is almost invisible and stretchy. Stretchiness acts as a shock absorber when trolling, which is crucial when strong predators strike. It minimizes abrupt impacts to your rod.

However, there are also benefits to braiding. Because of its smaller diameter, the reel can hold more line length. When you need to present your bait at greater depths, braided lines perform significantly better than mono.

When Trolling, How Much Line Should You Let Out?

Line length depends on how deep do you want your lure to go, size of the lure, and some other factors like your boat speed.

There is no precise formula to calculate this, so I will give you a few examples so that you can figure it out …

Let’s say that you are freshwater trolling for walleye, and you are using crankbaits. You must select a lure that dives into this depth if the fish is relatively shallow, at a depth of about 7 feet (there are different types, such as shallow, medium, and deep diving ones).

To present this lure in the right depth, far enough from your boat, you will need to release about 100 ft of line. Use a shorter line length to make the same lure dive deeper. But if you want it to go deeper, switch to a deep diving lure.

If you want the same lure to dive at a said depth, around 7 ft, but you want to release less than 100 ft of line, you can add weights to lower it. Whether you release your bait at a depth of 100 or 110 feet, the objective is to get it as deep as it needs to be.

Some anglers have a “formula” they use, mostly for offshore trolling, but keep in mind this is not always accurate. You receive an estimate from it…

FORMULA: Your lure will be about 5 feet beneath the water’s surface if your boat is moving at 5 mph, you are using 50 pounds of line, 5 pounds of weights, and you released 50 feet of line.

But this is only true under ideal circumstances; it does not account for wind or currents.

What Is Trolling Fishing A Complete Guide
What Is Trolling Fishing? A Complete Guide

The Best As A Lure Or Bait When Trolling Fishing

Best trolling lures are the ones that are interesting to targeted fish species. Therefore, what works best for walleye does not work best for tuna. Luckily, you have a variety of options.

In freshwater, you can use lures that are commonly used for spinning or baitcasting. Spoons, soft plastic, and crankbaits will work for fish species that are frequently caught with them. They are trout, bass, or walleyes.

Skirted lures are another option, suitable for bigger fish, especially in saltwater. Dead or live bait in form of squid or baitfish are also excellent for saltwater, and you can even combine cut bait and artificial lures. Because it combines the scent and natural appeal of cut bait with the visible colors and motion of artificial bait, combination is a fantastic presentation.

Unfortunately, large fish skirting lures are quite expensive. See more about What Is Inshore Fishing?

Essential Gear For Trolling Fishing

You should always have a few essentials in your trolling arsenal, whether you’re chasing giant fish offshore or fishing in a lake. First and foremost, using high-quality rods, reels, and tackle will help you catch more fish. Also available are riggers, which you can use to set your bait at the proper depths. Let’s go over each of these individually.


The number of rods on a typical trolling boat can range from two to six. Each has a specific spot on the boat, which is typically in one of the rod holders on the gunwales.

Going offshore on opening morning is the best part of the day.

You can use pretty much any kind of reasonably stiff rod for inshore or freshwater trolling. Your gear will need to be a little more specialized for offshore fishing, though.

When pursuing large fish, heavier, stiffer rods in the 6 to 7 foot range typically perform best. Nearshore, you might be able to get away with a lighter rod, but a heavier one will handle fish much better when they hit and dart in the opposite direction.

Guides are usually included as extras with contemporary offshore trolling rods.” These have the effect of reducing friction on the line as the rod bends. Roller guides and turbo guides are the two most popular types of rod guides. Both are effective, but roller guides frequently perform better with larger fish. On the other hand, turbo guides are significantly lighter, making the rods easier to handle.


Anglers frequently argue about trolling reels. Once more, more sophisticated reels are typically needed when pursuing larger fish offshore. Even so, if you’re freshwater fishing, you shouldn’t just purchase any old reel.

The decision between a spinning reel and a conventional reel is straightforward. With conventional reels, you typically have a lot more line at your disposal, which is essential when trolling. But there is more to it than that.

These days, a lot of anglers use line-counting reels. In this way, they can considerably reduce guesswork and repeatedly reproduce their presentation. There are countless types of line-counting reels available, including electric ones with LCD screens. However, most anglers will counter that’s excessive.

Two-speed reels are indispensable for combative species like tuna. You can switch to a faster, line-gulping speed with just one click, which is extremely helpful when battling a fish that is charging straight for you. When fighting a behemoth that has just taken a nosedive, you can also gain more pulling power.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to purchase your first trolling reel. Just make sure it can catch the fish you want. Purchase a quality “clicker” as well.” The noise that is heard when the bite is successful is made by a clicker. Make sure your trolling reel has this particular sound because it’s the one you don’t want to miss!


As you might have guessed, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to trolling lines. A monofilament is a wise choice when trolling at higher speeds, most anglers will concur. When pursuing large game, the mono’s stretch capacity will provide it with superior shock absorption.

On the other hand, braided lines have a smaller diameter and are significantly stronger. As a result, you can safely troll your baits over a much wider area. If you’re trolling at deeper depths, braided line is likely the best option because it is less buoyant than mono.

See our comprehensive guide for more information on the various kinds of fishing line.


The benefit of trolling is that it gives you the ability to fish a wider area than any other fishing method. With just one line out, you can move through an impressive amount of water. However, you’ll need much more than just one line if you’re serious about getting a consistent bite. Riggers can help in this situation.


The only thing an outrigger is are long poles attached to the sides of the boat. Outriggers are a vital tool in the arsenal of any offshore troller despite how basic they are and the many uses they serve.

You can put more lines in the water thanks to them, first of all. The likelihood of a tangle is significantly decreased by having your lines spread out, as number two. Third, you can present your bait in clear water, away from the engine’s bubbling spray, thanks to outriggers.

When an outrigger generates a hit, a clip releases the line, allowing you to use your rod to fight the fish.


Downriggers are tools that help you spread out your baits, much like outriggers do. A downrigger is used to lower your bait using a heavy weight deeper underwater. The line is fastened to the weight with a clip similar to an outrigger. The clip separates when the fish bites, putting you face to face with the animal.

Anglers use downriggers, which are specialized devices, both on land and at sea. Even though they are expensive, they do the job well.

Planer Boards

Planer boards, a less expensive alternative to downriggers, are another tool you can use to spread and lower your trolling baits. These are essentially tiny, floating objects through which a fishing line runs downward.

The more the merrier in this situation applies to using two to six at once.” Using more boards not only makes it possible to travel farther, but it also makes it possible to see who is trailing behind. In the event that this occurs, it is probably time to battle and grab the rod.

Planer boards also have the fantastic ability to tell you when you get a bite. By securing the line to a spring mechanism that is connected to a flag with a prominent color. The flag begins to lower, indicating a strike, as soon as the fish bites. You can even alter the sensitivity of the spring on many planer boards to accommodate the different fish’s pulling strengths. Pretty cool.

Lures And Baits

Your trolling hook-up rate will significantly change if you choose the right presentation. You can use live bait, dead bait, lures, or a combination of lures and bait, as is the case with most fishing presentations.

Small Tuna are a great bait when trolling for big game

Lures can replicate the same depth with remarkable accuracy in shallow water, where trolling boats typically move more slowly. Here, the right lure will not only resemble a live fish, but it will also help you reach the precise depth needed to attract the target predator’s attention.

You can use a variety of lures, including soft plastics, spoons, plugs, and skirted lures. Skirted lures are more effective for pursuing larger fish, whereas soft plastics are better suited for trolling for smaller game. The versatile and middle-of-the-road choices of spoons and plugs.

For saltwater trolling, the majority of anglers prefer to use squid, ballyhoo, mullet, and mackerel as bait. You can pursue a variety of pelagic species using these. With these, you can catch anything from Barracuda and Mahi Mahi to Wahoo and Tuna—true masters of all trades in the world of live bait. Check out our comprehensive guide if you want to discover how to catch live bait.

When trolling for big game, offshore anglers frequently prefer to use a combination of cut bait and skirted lures. This is because the skirt, which is typically a brightly colored tail, can draw predators from a great distance. They’ll probably swoop in to bite the cut bait once they’re within striking distance. It’s then full-throttle.

What Distinguishes Trawling From Trolling, Exactly?

Trolling and Trawling, despite the similar name, are not the same thing.

As was already mentioned, trolling is the act of a boat in motion dragging a bait or lure through the water. Lines, rods, and reels are used by anglers to accomplish this.

Trawling is a type of fishing where a fishing net is dragged through the water by a boat. These two have nothing in common except a moving boat.

Also, trolling is a sport fishing or recreational fishing method, while trawling is commercial fishing.

Knowing what is trolling fishing and how it differs from trawling is important when learning or researching online. Some people confuse these two, and that is a mistake.

Is A Spinning Rod And Reel Sufficient For Trolling Fishing?

As I already mentioned, for some light trolling you can use almsot anything you already own, and there is no need to buy specialized equipment.

However, for saltwater, especially offshore trolling, anglers should get a suitable gear. When I say the necessary equipment, I don’t just mean baitcasting rods and reels—spinning ones can also be used. Although some anglers favor spinning, baitcasting or even baitrunning reels and rods may be superior.

Spinning reels were not large or sturdy enough in the past to handle very large fish, but today there are some very large and sturdy models that can be used under even the most difficult circumstances. One of the examples is Shimano Stella, but that real has a hefty price tag. So, you can maybe check Sedona or Sahara?

For saltwater trolling with a spinning reel, you need minimum 25lbs of drag or more, around 400yards of 50lb braided line capacity, and high-quality reel parts, like a roller bearing to reduce friction and snapping risk when the line is pulled. For larger fish, this applies.

Of course, for small saltwater fish like sea trout or ladyfish, while inshore trolling, you can use other, smaller, spinning equipment. Make sure they are suitable for saltwater (corrosion) and have large line capacity. Freshwater trolling allows you to use lighter setups than you would for saltwater, as well as spinning gear.

Top Advice For Trolling Fishing

Knowing what is trolling fishing will not help you a lot if you don’t know how to do it properly.

So, here are a few important tips about trolling technique!

Trolling Speed

Trolling speed is extremely important when presenting your lure, and that speed is not the same for every fish.

Presenting a lure faster than a fish is willing to or able to chase is the biggest mistake anglers make, and it is also the hardest thing to learn.

If the bites are not happening, change the speed, and turn and change direction. Movement that zigzags is especially helpful. Same as with any other technique, the goal is to appear as natural as possible.

Considering how fast a fish can swim is fine, but you have to calculate the currents and weather conditions too. Observe the lure and travel at a speed that causes it to move naturally. You are moving too quickly if it is moving erratically; you are moving too slowly if it is sinking more quickly than it is moving.

When freshwater trolling for walleye, you should move between 2 and 3.5 mph. For bass, you can go up to 4mph, and for trout a bit slower, 1.5-2.5mph.

When trolling in saltwater, adjust your speed to the fish species. Blue marlin will most likely to bite when traveling about 8 knots. Wahoo is faster, so you can go around 11knots. Tuna likes it a bit slower, so speeds around 5knots are the best. Of course, this is just a recommendation, and feel free to slow down or speed up a knot or two.

Bait Presentation

To keep live bait alive and allow it to move naturally while trolling, you must move more slowly.

No matter the lure, if the weather is rough and you are using a lot of motor power to keep your boat going, present the lure further behind than you would usually do.

Observe the wake created by the motor and keep your lure either far away behind it, or even better, on the side of it. When using small motors in freshwater, this is typically not an issue; however, offshore, it becomes an issue. Consider using outriggers to minimize lure disturbance.

When freshwater trolling, twitch the rod from time to time. The lure moves too “perfectly” and doesn’t appear natural when steadily trolling across a calm lake. The same goes for inshore trolling in calm seas.

Present the bait crosscurrent. Since many fish are drawn into the currents, moving up or down the current may cause you to be moving farther from the fish.

When presented crosscurrent, the lure will stay in the fish’s line of sight for a longer period of time and come into contact with numerous fish that are swimming against the current.

Line Placement

When fishing with more than one line, run them at different lengths.

It’s not ideal to let them all go to the same spot near the boat. Some should be closer, and some further away to create more natural look and to cover larger area.

The same goes for depth. If you are fishing with five or more lines, even if you are certain that fish are at a particular depth, let one line go a little deeper and one a little shallower than the others.

Weather Conditions

Same as any other techniques, trolling works best in sunset or sunrise, or during cloudy days (at least in warmer months).

But, always check the forecast, and don’t try your luck just before the storm. Being on a boat when the storm hits is too dangerous.


So, do you comprehend trolling fishing?

Trolling, method of fishing in which a lure or a bait is pulled behind a boat at varying speeds and depths according to the nature, habitat, and size of the fish being sought. Both freshwater and saltwater are used for trolling, and there are many different types of craft that can be used for it. Power boats that carry a variety of tackle and big-game equipment are typically used at sea, though they are also permitted to be used in some inland waters. Sport anglers prefer trolling because it allows them to fish in large freshwater lakes and rivers for highly mobile species like walleye and muskellunge (muskie). This is because trolling allows the fisherman to cover a large area. Sport trolling is typically done at slow speeds with heavy reels and sturdy rods. Sometimes in a fighting chair designed for the purpose, the fisherman sits with his back to the stern. For commercial catches, primarily of salmon and tuna, trawler fishermen also employ troll lines.

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