Lines and getting the most from a trolled lure

Bill Presslor
One of the most critical factors in achieving optimum performance from any trolled lure is line selection. The line you choose for a particular application deserves a lot of careful consideration, after all it's your main connection to a fish. Though it has been said countless times, a lot of anglers seem to pay little attention to this detail when it comes time to spool up for a fishing trip. The age-old adage about getting what you pay for certainly rings true when it comes to line selection. The technology and choice available to anglers in the form of monofilaments, co-polymers, braided superlines, and fluoro carbon lines is really quite staggering. The array of manufacturers and brands of lines, along with the price and availability, seems to have expanded enormously in the past ten years. The most important areas for consideration with trolling applications should be lead length (dropback or line out), line diameter, stretch, and abrasion resistance. Manipulating all of these factors can have a huge impact on your success.

Lead length
Once you have selected a given lure to troll the first consideration should be lead length or drop back. For any given lure that's trolled this is the most important consideration and the easiest to manipulate. In general terms the further behind the boat the lure is trolled the deeper it will tend to run. In most trolling applications there comes a point of diminishing return, especially with longer lead lengths or drop backs. This point generally occurs somewhere between 200-250ft. (45-60m). Light weight shallow running or lures that float at rest and dive when trolled are particularly susceptible to this phenomenon.

Some large heavy diving lures will however, continue to achieve greater depths well beyond this range. Very long drop backs or lead lengths are often fairly impractical. Just imagine trying to run a very long drop back in heavy boat traffic! Long drop backs can also have an adverse effect on hook sets due to line stretch, especially with some monofilament and copolymer lines. If you are employing a very long drop back, reeling fish in over long distances is likely to result in more fish lost before they can be landed. Very long drop backs should only be used to achieve absolute depth from a given lure or when fish are so spooky that you must have your lure a long way from the boat.

Measuring drop backs or lead lengths is easy with one of the modern line counter reels or the Australian made Tackle Tracka. However you choose to measure line out, accuracy is the all important key! How consistently you can control the distance of line out or drop back will make a huge difference to your success rate.

Line diameters
Choosing a trolling line for most anglers generally involves looking at properties like strength, abrasion resistance, amount of stretch and for some applications colour. There are a host of excellent trolling lines available, choosing one is partly personal preference and partly the application. To determine the difference line diameter makes in relation to lure diving depth, a general fixed standard has been set at 10lb. breaking strain. Studies done to establish the diving depth of specific lures have used this standard as a baseline to determine accurate depths. Nearly all lures will run deeper when trolled on smaller diameter lines, due largely to the effect of water resistance against the line. All 10lb test lines are not the same diameter; they can vary in diameter considerably. I've had 10lb lines with diameters of .020mm through to lines with a diameter of .035mm still rated at 10lb breaking strain! Virtually all my flat lining for trout is done using monofilament with a diameter of .20 -.25 mm

When trying to decide on a line for trolling, keep in mind that lines that are primarily made for casting are not necessarily the answer for most trolling applications. In many of our impoundments you will encounter submerged trees, rocks, fences etc. that will really test out your line. Trolling lines need to be fairly tough with good abrasion resistance and low stretch, not soft and limp like a good casting line. The brand of line you choose is a personal preference, but buy as good a quality line as you can.

Line diameter plays a major role in how deep your lure runs when trolled or retrieved.  Thinner diameter lines allow your lure to run deeper and optimise the lure's built-in action. In most applications diameters in the 0.18 to 0.22 mm range are your best bet for trolling most trout style lures on surface or flat lines. My personal choice for flatlining for tout is line of 0.20 mm diameter. Lines of this size (and of course all others) can vary enormously in breaking strain from one maker to another. Most major brands of line between 2 - 4 kilograms breaking strain for 0.20 mm line, which is more than adequate for most trout trolling applications in our impoundments.

Generally line diameter for downrigging is not as crucial as when surface trolling.  Having said this you still need to choose your line carefully. Your selection of line for downrigging should take into consideration what type of line release clip you use and the type of downrigging you intend to do. The belly in your line (the main line from the rod and reel to the release clip) is created by water pressure pushing against the line as you move through the water. The amount of belly in the line increases with larger diameter lines, so it pays to not go overboard with heavy lines for this application. If you are constantly chasing the bottom in snag ridden waters you need to consider a tougher abrasion resistant line. For most Australian conditions line from 0.20 to 0.30mm diameter will handle just about any fishing situation for trout or salmon.

Braided lines
Today's new generation of gel spun braided lines are amazing to use. Surface trolling or flat lining with braided lines is almost like learning to troll again. The amount of stretch in this type of line is so minimal as to be almost non-existent. Your first hook-up on a fish will amaze you with what you can feel; every headshake or flap of a fish's tail is transmitted through this type of line. If you have never used this type of line keep in mind that with so little stretch you need to run a very light drag and use a rod that is soft enough to be forgiving and act like a shock absorber. Lines such as Fireline, Spiderwire, Cortland, Fins and the Australian-made Platypus are all excellent performers.

The new generation of braided superlines are also another viable option for flat line trolling. The latest research that I've seen seems to indicate that there is little difference between 6 and 10lb braid in diameter and trolling depth performance. Either breaking strain will add approximately 25% to the depth of your trolled presentation as compared to monofilament. Softer rods and a light drag are the order of the day for flat lining with braids. The minimal stretch with braided lines can result in hooks pulling and dropped fish when your not familiar with this style of line. The extra depth that can be achieved on a trolled lure utilising braids can give the trolling angler the option of prospecting more of the water column.

Leaders for braid can be any type of material that you choose including monofilament, copolymers or fluorocarbon. Leader lengths can vary according to conditions from 1-15meters, though a leader length of about 1- 2m is what I use in most of our impoundments. For leader material I now use fluro-carbon line almost exclusively.

Line Stretch
Line stretch and resultant breakage can be a problem with some lines. Stretch is usually difficult to detect until you snag up or try to land a big fish. Ordinarily you can see or feel the difference when your line has stretched and not fully recovered.  When your line is stretched it may also show up as a different colour, most noticeable with darker coloured lines. To avoid problems like this most line manufacturers recommend that you cut approximately 1.5 - 2.0 metres off your line and retie your lure after landing a big fish or getting snagged. It's probably something that most anglers don't do often enough.

Whatever type of line you choose as a trolling line think carefully about the intended application and how you will use the line. Braided Superlines certainly have a wealth of uses but are not always necessary for every trolling application. I still believe that good quality monofilament still has a place in every tackle box and is certainly a bit easier on the budget!
Bill Presslor.
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