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Southerland shows off his "rip and drift" trolling tactic. Southerland shows off his "rip and drift" trolling tactic. Photo: Ty Southerland

Trolling tactics for tarpon, chinook, pike, musky and more.

The lures are dragging through the water, pulsing with each paddle stroke. Out of the corner of your eye, you see the rod tip dip and the rod shakes in the rodholder. Stop paddling and start reeling. Fish on! 

Slowly trolling lures or baits can be a quick way to locate fish and identify what they are eating. But pulling several lines and paddling the kayak at the same time can quickly turn into a big mess without some careful planning. 

Texas kayak angler, Ty Southerland ( trolls around offshore oil rigs for king mackerel, cobia, tarpon and even sharks. He fishes two rods, dragging a strip of ribbonfish with one and pulling a Rat-L-Trap on the other. “The ribbonfish strip swims across the surface while the Rat-L-Trap dives down 10 feet.” Southerland adds that his kayak moves slowly and quietly, giving him an advantage over noisy boats. 

His trolling setup is a stout, seven-and-a-half-foot All Pro bass rod, and Abu Garcia Ambassador 6000 reel spooled with 30-pound braid. Southerland says this combo is perfect because it’s light enough to cast lures and heavy enough to take a big hit on the troll. “I can’t take too many rods with me,” he explains, “so I have to get double duty out of one outfit.” 

By using Hobie Kayak’s MirageDrive, Southerland can troll hands-free. “I can pump the rod to rip the Rat-L-Trap forward then let it drift back, always keeping the line tight.” The added action calls in the fish and has resulted in some of his best catches. “It’s awesome when the fish tries to rip the rod from my hand.”

Michigan fishing guide Lucian Gizel (www.greatlakeskayakfishing. com) finds Chinook salmon by following a systematic search pattern. He uses his GPS to track his course so he doesn’t cover the same area twice. He can also monitor his speed in order to keep the baits moving between two and three miles per hour. Then, by watching the depth displayed on his fishfinder, he can set a course that zig-zags over drop offs and ledges. 

Jamie Pistilli, star of the television show Big City Fishing on the World Fishing Network, is an expert at trolling spinnerbaits for pike and musky. When picking out a trolling outfit, he looks for an eight-foot rod with plenty of backbone. “A longer rod spreads the baits out when I’m trolling two rods and gives me more clearance to get the line around the bow and stern during the fight,” he explains. When a fish hits on the troll, the forward movement of the boat sets the hook, Pistilli adds, so a sturdy rod will drive the hook into the fish. 

There’s no simple answer about the best place on the kayak to install rodholders for trolling. Some anglers vote for keeping rods behind them and others prefer to keep their rods out front. Both methods work, but be sure your rods and line are clear of your paddle stroke. And keep the rodholders within arm’s reach for a quick strike. Pistilli advises anglers, “Go fishing before you start drilling.”

This article originally appeared on page 34 of the Winter 2013 issue of Kayak Angler magazine. To read the article in our digital issue click here. Read the rest of this issue in our digital edition.

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Established way back in 2007, Kayak Angler is the #1 North America-wide kayak fishing magazine. Kayak Angler is about catching more big fish in small boats. Each issue is full of great saltwater and freshwater kayak fishing hotspots, the latest rigging techniques and pro fishing tips for every species, plus industry news and fishing reports on what's biting near you.

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