Don’t Fear Speed

Two important keys to success in trolling arre presentation and trolling speed. This is where a lot of fishermen really miss the “boat!” How many times have you seen a fisherman take out a rod, throw a crankbait or spinner behind the boat, lock it in and take off. Certainly, there are times when the fish are aggressive enough that this will work, but that is the exception.

What happens when the fish are not in that aggressive mode? They don’t realize how critical the exact trolling speed can be when it comes for both crankbaits and spinners.

First, get yourself a copy of the Precision Trolling book (now a Telephone app  HERE ). Precision Trolling was done exclusively with Trilene 10# XT line. However, there is a conversion chart that tells the depths that various line diameters will run with all kinds and sizes of crankbaits. In a nutshell, Precision Trolling tells us the depth various baits run with various size lines and the amount of line let out.

There are four factors we need to know to determine what depth our baits will run: lure design, line diameter, trolling speed and how much line we have out. Now, to someone who has not used this method before, the thought of knowing the ins and outs of each lure, combined with line diameter, trolling speed and line let out – that is often enough to make them shy away from trolling with crankbaits. That’s the beauty of Precision Trolling. It takes away the guesswork and also the fear of what to use at what speed at what distance.

First, you have to know your crankbaits. Although you have the Precision Trolling as a guide, I think we need to see how the bait itself works. Many times when working with an unfamiliar crankbait, I will pull it alongside the boat so I can watch its movement. I continue to increase my speed to see how the movement increases. There are some misconceptions out there about trolling speed. One is that the faster you go, the deeper your lure will dive. Yet it is true that the slower you go, the longer it takes to get the lure to its maximum depth. For example, between 3/4 mph and 3 mph, a crankbait will run the same depth; however, it is obvious that at 3/4 mph it takes a lot longer to get the bait to its maximum depth.


All experienced crankbait trollers have that comfort zone in which they like to troll. For me, that is 1.5 to 2.5 mph. Most crankbaits have been designed to run at 2 mph and above. Any slower and the action of the bait changes. However, until we conquer it, there is a fear of trolling too fast. I’ve also found that if a fish wants your bait, it will catch it. Believe me, they can swim faster than we troll.

This point became very evident to me on an early spring day in northeast South Dakota. The ice had been out only three days, ideal conditions for jig fishing or slowly moving a plain hook, minnow and a slip sinker. We found the fish stacked in a shallow bay. So, I decided it was the perfect time to experiment with crankbaits. I wanted to find out just how lethargic these ice-out walleyes were. Here’s the shocker. We caught over 30 walleyes at 4.1 mph just three days after ice out! Moral of the story: don’t fear speed!

One final thing is the tuning of the crankbaits. Most of them come tuned out of the box; however, some may need to be fine-tuned. To do this, I like to run my boat speed at about 3-3 1/2 mph and let out about 20 feet of line. At that length, I watch to see which way the bait is running. If it is running true and straight, it is ready to use. If it is running to the left, the eye of the bait needs to be bent to the right. Do the opposite if the bait is running to the right. It takes some practice, but don’t give up until you have the crankbait running true. Fine tuning these plugs can make all the difference in a bite.

A final thought. Don’t fear using crankbaits. Precision Trolling will help you gain confidence. The real key, though, is to use them. The more you do, the more comfortable you get with them and as they catch fish, the more you will rely on crankbait trolling. Oh, and don’t forget-Don’t fear speed!