This is a question often asked by anglers new to trolling and even some veterans. You may have found yourself in the offshore section of your local tackle shop confused by all the different trolling lures available and wondering how manufacturers expect you to cast them. The truth is that there is no “best speed” for trolling, it all depends on the situation and the baits you throw. I’ve broken down the different speed categories and what they’re best for.
The first is 0 to 4 knots called trolling. This is not so much about trolling as it is about giving a live bait direction for swimming. Live bait is a must for this style and this style of trolling is specifically for him. This can be used with pure minnows or menhaden for kings, hard live tails for yellowfin or even soccer or skipjack tuna for marlin.
Advantage: You don’t constantly attract live baited fish, so if you know exactly where the fish are, this may be the best tactic.
Disadvantage: If you are not sure where the fish are placed, the low speed prevents you from covering the water. You can only cover a small amount of water at the end of the day.
The next would be 3-8 knots depending on conditions and rigging. This is the area where fishing with dead bait can be deadly. Generally offshore, this is done with ballyhoo. The naked ballyhoo can be deadly, but most mix their spread of ballyhoo with some with chugger heads, islanders, sea witches, or feather dusters. This is also a good speed for hard baits. Make sure you have a wand bait on the extension, which at this speed should be a scuba lure with a beak, like a 30 stretch. A brush can also help when combined with a large spoon or islander with a strip bait.
Advantage: This covers more water than live bait and presents baits naturally without a ton of accessory washing.
Now my personal favorite is the lure speed of Hawaiian style lures like Black Bart or other lures. This speed normally varies between 5-11 knots and the majority is between 6-9 knots. It is possible to do combinations of islander and ballyhoo at the same speed sometimes, but I would not recommend it. These lures generally need more speed and it is better to just pick a style rather than mix. However, the inventions that Nitta Fishing Innovations has made are changing the game at these speeds. Now you can troll ballyhoo and other dead baits so fast and they won’t go away. When it comes to lures, head action is the key to the cove. Get it right and its magic. If you run a wahoo bait at this range, this is where a Marauder or Yo-Zuri Bonito shines on a bait billed at higher speeds.
Pro: Covers the water with the best of techniques. It’s like fishing before a bass tournament, you cover the water until you find the fish.
Con: moving so fast can be a challenge separating a productive area.
The last speed is high speed wahoo fishing. This is normally done between 10 and 22 knots. This is often equipped with a wired wahoo weight, followed by a 30 foot shock leader of at least 300 pounds mono followed by a trolling lure built for speed. These lures are usually cylindrical and hydrodynamic. One of the best is the new Black Bart Metal Heads. I also recommend the Yozuri Bonito behind a lighter bib weight. The best time to go high speed is from first light until sunrise or late afternoon light. However, you can also increase the speed between points.
Advantage: This speed covers a ton of water and excites the speedy bib.
Con: burns a lot of gas.