It is a common belief that fish are scared of our
boats, while the fact is that they are actually attracted to it.
Armed with this knowledge and the correct dynamics of setting up
your lures; and the knowledge of how these lures perform, your can
turn your small ski-boat into a mobile FAD (Fish Aggregating Device)
and convert your liters of fuel into kilograms of fish. This is
already common practice on the large sport fishers, and with a
little bit of thought you can do the same on your smaller boat using
similar dynamics on a smaller scale.
The fact is that game fish are attracted to the prop
wash and wake created by your boat when it is underway, and the fish
actually come up to investigate this and then stumble across your
lures grouped like a school of fish which they would never have seen
from as far away as they can see your prop wash.
Game fish are also used to chasing schools of fish
as opposed to a group of one or two fish and so you need to imitate
a school of fish together with the prop wash and wake created by
your boat and capitalise on the inquisitive nature of these game
fish. Placing your lures in the prop wash and wake of your boat is
crucial to getting them to perform at their best and to get the fish
to see them. They will serve very little purpose placed far behind
the boat, as you need all the commotion, noise and action to make
your mobile FAD work.
So many times I see anglers out on the water with a
single lure trolled miles behind the boat at a slow speed and whilst
this may work if your lure happens to cross the path of a fish it is
not going to get the fish to come to you and it takes for ever to
cover the water.
The first dynamic that you need to explore is how
each of the different types of lures work, what depths they work at,
what speeds do they perform at, what do they imitate, and how do
they behave. Then you need to match your spread to the speed you
want to troll at so that they all can perform correctly.
These are the most misunderstood lures on the market
and I have seen so many anglers out there who have spent a fortune
on a collection of these and after trying them once or twice
unsuccessfully they stay in the box never to be used again. These
soft lures are designed to work on the surface and will only work if
you place them in the correct position and troll them at a speed
fast enough to generate a smoke trail (trail of small bubbles).
These soft lures can be separated into 5 main groups.
Feathers, Bullet heads, Meanie Heads & Jet Heads
This group of lures is designed for high speed
trolling and the faster you troll them the better. These lures are
all weighted in order to keep them in the water at high speed and
any where from 5 knots up to 17 knots, best between 6 knots to 12
knots and for feathers even faster. These lures will perform
differently depending on the sea conditions, prevailing winds and
the lure type. I love fishing with feathers (My favourite is the
Williamson Feathers) and have trolled them even when my boat is on
the plane at around 20 knots with extreme success so do not be
scared to use them at speed when travelling long distance to and
from your destination, they can produce a real unexpected surprise
which really helps on a quiet day. These lures have no specific
shape or action and so rely on speed to get them working and when
pulled at the correct speed will create a smoke trail and you really
need to test them out to see how they perform close to the boat.
The best position on the wave for this type of lure
will be behind the wave so that they have space to ride, placed any
where else these lures will jump out of the water and start to
tumble. The final positioning has to be done once you are at your
desired speed and then you need to maintain that speed. If you
change your speed, then you must tune the position of the lures. By
doing this you will get optimal performance from your lures and the
best chance of catching a fish.
You need to sight the lures behind the boat and
watch their position regularly and if the conditions change like
your wake and lines affected by wind, swell and currents which will
influence the performance of your lure. The best positions for these
lures are on the long & short out rigger positions and the deadly
shot gun position from the diagram. These lures also perform
extremely well when rigged in conjunction with a small exciter bird
on the long and short out rigger positions. Tip: You can enhance
these lures by adding a strip bait to them.
Cavitators, Plungers & Darters
These are the most versatile of all the soft lures
and can be placed in almost any position in the spread and are
designed to surf the waves of the wake created by your boat and so
must be positioned on the face of the wave to allow them to surf and
create an erratic broken smoke trail as they dive with each wave and
then break the surface on the next wave.
Cavitators will work well on the long and short
corners, long and short out riggers position and on the shot gun
position and they can be used with and without exciter birds. Large
Cavitators can be placed in the prop wash position without birds.
These lures can be trolled between 6 knots and 10 knots, and it is
important to ensure that they are created their smoke trails at the
speed your troll or you will render them useless.
Be sure to fine tune them once at your speed so that
they are in fact surfing on the face of the wake wave. It is also
important that you match your lures to perform at the same speed as
other lures in your spread. This will be different for each
position, each kind of boat and the prevailing weather conditions.
This means that you need to experiment to find out what works best
with what and when. Spend some time on the water and test all your
lures out and make some notes so the next time it is easy. Tip: You
can enhance these lures by adding a strip bait to them.
Flat Faced Pushers, Concave Faced Pushers and
These lures are to be used with a rod in an elevated
position to keep them on the surface where they perform best, and so
are best placed on the long and short out rigger positions and on
the shot gun position, the can be trolled between 6knots and 10knots
and are designed to swim on the crest of your wake wave. These lures
will take a large amount of air and push it into the water creating
an extreme smoke trail and a noisy splashing action and are sure to
get the attention of any game fish in the vicinity. Again with these
lures it is important to fine tune them once at your set speed to
ensure they are placed correctly to deliver optimal performance.
These types of lures also work well in conjunction with exciter
birds on flat seas. Sail fish and other surface hunters find these
lures irresistible. Tip: You can enhance these lures by adding a
strip bait to them.
Daisy Chains & Spreader Bars
Daisy chains are a group of five or six small
Feathers, Squids (My favourite) or Meanie heads and are designed to
enhance your mobile FAD be creating a larger school effect. These
work best when placed on the short corner or prop wash positions and
can be used with or without hooks. With hooks they will produce
small bait fish constantly, and if you want larger fish then you rig
them with out hooks to avoid the smaller fish and they will really
aid your FAD by causing smaller bait fish to run with your school
and enhance your effect. Daisy chains can also be used in
conjunction with exciter birds. There is not really enough space on
a small ski-boat to place a spreader bar and if you really want to
use one then the prop was position will be the best place to rig
them. Spreader bars are best used for attracting sail fish to the
boat and must be hook free.
Soft Plastics & Squids
Small squids and large squids trolled behind your
boat from 1 knot to 17 knots and are extremely effective. They can
be placed in any position of your spread. From bright colours to
natural colours squids will always produce fish. There are several
ways to rig them with and without weights so you can use them on the
surface or deeper down. The same applies to soft plastic baits which
are really so versatile. If weighted they work best in the prop
wash, long and short corner positions. You need to get out there and
experiment with soft plastics and squids.
From shiners to spoons to hard plastics with
enhanced actions and the age old wooden crank baits and jerk baits
which in their modern form are now made from moulded plastic. I
would have to say that my favourites are the Rapala X-Rap range
which give phenomenal performance even at speeds as high as 8 knots
and are ideally suited to swim in your spread with some live, dead
or strip baits. The Rapala X-Raps have the splash bait collection
which are designed to run just below the surface 1-2ft and the
magnums which can dive down to 30 ft. These lures can be placed in
any position in the spread and the deeper runners are best placed on
the long and short corner position and the prop was position. When
placing a deep runner in the prop was position you can rig your shot
gun position with a dead or live bait or even use a large jet head
and bring it in closer to run almost on top of the deep runner. This
is very effective for catching Wahoo and Tuna. You can also rig
heavy sinkers on the line to get these hard lures to run deeper.
Hard lures are better trolled at slower speeds fro 1 knot up to 8
knots and can work well with certain soft lures at the higher
speeds. At lower speeds hard lures will work well with live baits,
dead baits and strip baits. Remember that your wake wave pattern
will dramatically change at slower speeds and you make need to
compensate for this by letting your lures run further back than at
There are numerous ways to rig baits for trolling
and I am not going to go into detail with that for this article.
Strip baits can be used on Squids, Feathers, Bullet heads, Meanie
heads, Pushers, Cavitators, plungers and Darters and are best placed
in the long and short out-rigger positions and on the long and short
outdoors person who loves, respects, admires nature and
Gods creation with a passion, Mike has been fishing
since the age of 7yrs old where he started in Durban
harbour. With a special love for animals, especially
fish and birds, Mike collected Tropical marine fish and
kept an aquarium for many years, which he says taught
him a lot about fish behavior. Mike is in his sanctuary
when out on the water surrounded by nature, away from
the hustle and bustle. Visit his web site at
Live baits can be trolled without any lures which
are then best used with a circle hook placed in front of the bait,
and can be used with skirts and so on. The best position for live
baits will be on the long & short corners or in the prop wash
position. Dead baits can be trolled with out lures in the same way
as live baits or can be used with various weighted rigs to enhance
their movements. Sardines, Mackerel, Squid, Bonito, Shad and other
small fish all make excellent dead and live baits.
In conclusion; you need to try matching the food that is around
and do not be mistaken by thinking that big lures equal big fish.
For example in the summer of 2007/2008 there was large flying fish
around and so larger lures produced, in the summer of 2008/2009 the
flying fish were small and so small lures produced better. Many a
fine fish has been taken on small lures.