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Trolling: The Basics


The following information is how Mordas and I setup the rods and reels to begin trolling for muskies.  This information is a large portion of how we setup.  This is probably the setup we use 75% of the time.  There are little variations that we use during the season for different conditions.  Some guys will disagree with some of the following and other will agree with it.  Take what suits you and run with it.  The following has brand names that are used just to tell you what we use.  We are not being paid by manufactures to promote their products.  


When there is only two of us fishing we are allowed four total rods.  So we have two "Out" rods and two "down/in" rods.  The "out" rods are 10 foot medium/heavy dipsy diver rods (Ugly Stick).  We like the length because it gives us a nice spread without a need for planner boards.  These long rods take some time to get use to, while reeling in fish.  They are great though when you get the feel for them.  The "down/in" rods are between 6 to 7 foot medium/heavy rods (Browning Syloflex, which are not made any more, but are a fairly soft muskie rod).  These are good versatile rods for many situations.  They can be put out and not cause an issue with the out rods, they can be down (tip straight in the water) or up with a lure in the prop wash.  These "down/in" rods are also perfect when using the big planner boards.   


The reels that we like are the Okuma Convectors 30's. These reels are good because they are reasonable priced, have a good drag and line counter.  Those three things are what is important to me in a trolling reel.  Any brand of reel will work. I know that these are tough reels that will hold up to muskie fishing.  (They are great for walleye and salmon trolling too.)


The line that we use is 50lbs braid. The brand is up to you.  A lot of guys like 65lbs or 100lbs braid.  This is fine if you run a lot of bigger baits.  We run 6" lures or smaller up until late in the fall and then we will run a little bit larger lure.  50 lbs braid is fine for many of the smaller lakes and St.Clair.  If you fish in areas where there are giant fish, I would suggest going with 65lbs or 100lbs. 

The following is the order that the reels are spooled:

Backing: 100 to 200 feet of cheap mono backing. 25lbs to 50lbs test is more then fine. This does two things one it gives the braid something to bite into and is much cheaper then the braid.  It can get quite expensive to fill the reel entirely with braid. 

Braid: You will need to learn how to tie a "Blood Knot" or a "Back to Back Uni Knot" these are fairly simple knots to tie.  There are many websites that contain great knot tying diagrams.  There are also many video's on YouTube.  Once you have the braid tied to the backing, fill the spool with the braid. (Tip: use the same amount of line on every reel. This keeps your line counters more consistent with each other).  FILL YOUR REELS with line.  By having full reels you can cut back without any worry of not having enough line.  Full reels will have a fast retrieve then an empty one. 

Leader: Since you now know how to tie a "blood knot" or a "back to back uni knot" you should probably tie your fluorocarbon leader direct to the braid.  This eliminates the need for more hardware like snaps and swivels.  You also will not keep reeling your snap through the first guide (prolonging the life of your equipment).  The knot will go through the guides easy and it will be easy to net the fish.  Most places you can get away with a 1 to 3 feet fluorocarbon leader.  On super clear bodies of water you might want to go longer with the fluorocarbon up to 8 or 10 feet.  Fluorocarbon is very expensive so take care of it and it will last longer.  The pound test of fluorocarbon that we use is between 50 and 100 pound test.  When buying fluorocarbon make sure that you get "fluorocarbon leader material" this is much better then just the fluorocarbon line.   

Snaps: For most crank baits the best thing to use is just a snap.  If you use a snap with a ball bearing you will kill a lot of the action of the lure.  Sometimes the lure will not even run with the bearing.  We suggest "staylock" snaps in sizes 4,4.5 or 5, but any good quality snap will work.  If you are trolling Bucktails or spoons it is a good idea to use a snap with the ball bearing.  Snaps do wear out (faster then you think) tie new ones on after a couple days of lure changing.  

Trent Tesmer