Smashing The Speed Barrier For Fall Trout

Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 13, 2012
Species: Trout

Generic Trout Kokannee Image

Anglers are pretty strange folks as a rule. Think about it. We get up at O-Dark-Thirty on our days off. We stand out in the cold and rain shivering and call it fun. And we spend untold thousands of dollars on boats and gear and guided trips for a few fillets you can buy at the store for $20 tops. Yep, we’re all crazy and we love it!

Anglers also like to make up rules that may or may not have a foundation in the real world and then we adhere to said rules as if they are written in stone.

One of the big rules that trout and kokanee trollers are sticklers for concern trolling speeds. You’ve got to troll for kokanee at 1 to 1.5 miles per hour and if you are after trout the correct speed is from 1.8 to 2.5 at the very most with 2 being “just about perfect”.

Talk to experienced trout or kokanee trollers and almost all of them agree that you can’t exceed these speeds. If you do you certainly won’t catch anything and it is just possible that you’ll cause the atmosphere to ignite or the earth to split or shift it axis…

Brace yourself and don’t repeat what you are about to read to anyone, as I’m about to commit a major sacrilege…You can troll for both of these species at brisk, downright fast speeds and enjoy very good success. Perhaps better success that you would achieve while trolling at slower, traditional speeds.

Kokanee season is over at this point, but some of the most exciting and most productive trout trolling of the year should bust loose very soon.

Cooling surface temperatures during the fall pull baitfish to the surface where they gravitate to structure. Where the baitfish go, big holdover trout follow. Let’s Troll!

Most of the stuff I’m going to talk about I learned from either Gary Miralles of the Shasta Tackle Company or Monte Smith of Gold Country Sportfishing. Both of these guys employ high-speed tactics when targeting shallow fall trout, but they each have their own unique approaches that are both worth exploring.

Before we move on I should make the point that the “slow must run speeds” that most trollers have adopted are mainly based on the limitations of the available gear…Most dodgers spin if trolled over 2 mph and most spoons don’t have good action when trolled much above 2.

This is also the thought that the trout can’t catch up to a fast moving bait. Well, I read someplace that your average everyday freshwater gamefish be it a trout or a bass can COMFORTABLY attain speeds of 12 mph….12! And we are all running around wringing our hands wondering if a trout will hit a lure going 3mph. Let me assure you, if a trout likes your offering, he’ll catch up with it!

Gary is a Lake Shasta man. Shasta has a great many large point. In the fall trout like to stack up along these point waiting to ambush bait. Gary relies on both toplines and downrigged lines to target these fish, but nothing is run deeper than about 15 feet. His lures are generally run without dodgers.

Gary uses aggressive boat handling and speeds from 2.5 to 3.5 to trigger strikes. The fish are shallow so you can’t run the boat over them and expect hits. Here’s an example of how Gary does it. He puts out four lines. Two toplines are working 200 feet behind the boat. On the downrigger on the shore side he puts a lure down around 6 feet. On the outside downrigger and runs a spoon 12 to 15 feet deep. He runs these lines about 100 feet back. Be sure to vary your line lengths a bit to avoid tangles.

With the rods spread as described Gary comes at the point from deep in the cove and get right up next to it in shallow water. As he nears the tip he swings the boat away from the point hard. This slides the spoons into untouched water near the end of the point. Next Gary swings back toward the point crossing the point where the water is fairly deep only to swing the boat hard down the point’s far side. This causes the lures to work into the undisturbed shallows right off the tip of the point.

For this work Gary uses small crankbaits called Flee Bitties, minnow plugs and his large ½ ounce Hum Dingers. His lure selection is based on two things. They all resemble baitfish and they can be trolled quickly.

Monte uses similar tactics, but he employs somewhat different gear and he trolls even faster than Gary! For lures Monte uses his Chucker T spoons exclusively, but you can do the same thing with Speedy Shiners or the ½ ounce Hum Dinger and of course Rapalas and Apex Lures will work nicely too.

Just like Gary, Monte runs two toplines as far as 200 feet back, but he doesn’t use his downriggers for his “deep” lines. Instead he uses a unique leadcore outfit, that I’m now using too.

To make one you need a soft fiberglass downrigger rod rated for 10 to 12 pound test. Fit it with a good size reel with a clicker and arm it like this. Spool 200 yards of 8 pound mono on the reel. Splice in 3 or 4 colors of leadcore. Tip the leadcore with a 20 foot 12 pound test fluorocarbon topshot, attach a swivel and tip the leader with a 48 inch 8 pound test fluorocarbon leader. This rig has all the benefits of using “old school” leadcore, but with much lighter gear that maximizes the fight of the fish.

A line counter is useful for this work, because it’s the amount of 8 pound backing out that determines how deep the rig works. With mine I’ve snagged the bottom in nearly 30 feet of water, so you can achieve impressive depths.

The times I’ve been with Monte, he’s done less structure fishing than Gary. Monte worked a lot of flats and areas of open water that showed breaking fish. Of course I’ve only seen Monte at work at Don Pedro, which does fish a bit differently than Shasta…

Here are some closing tips: Speedy Shiners, Uncle Larry’s Spinners, large Hum Dingers, and Rapalas are the lures to use when fast trolling and run them without dodgers or flashers. Your goal is not to attract fish to the lure, but rather to confront the fish with the lure, causing a reaction strike.

When trolling, depending on which lures you are using 2.5 to 3.5 should be your average speeds, but don’t be afraid to kick things up to 5 for short bursts.

Conversely if you’ve been trolling fast for a distance or you suddenly see the sonar screen fill with fish and you don’t get hit, drop the kicker into neutral for several seconds. This allows the lures to die in the water and begin dropping or in the case of a Rapala floating up. Often times when you go back into gear one of your rods will load up and it’s Fish On!

Great trout fishing is just getting underway in foothill reservoirs around our region and things are only going to get better! Don’t be a cookie cutter troller this fall. Grab some high speed lures and try breaking the speed limit for trout. I think you’ll like the results.

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