The Earth is two-thirds covered by water, so finding a fish in the expansive abyss can be like finding a needle in an Everest-sized haystack. Two factors significantly improve success: time on the water and distance covered. Trolling allows the lure to stay in the water while the angler paddles for miles, making it among the most productive fishing tactics you can learn. Follow along as we review how to troll from a kayak.

Why Learn How to Troll From a Kayak?

Trolling a lure is one of the best methods for covering miles of water and maximizing fishing time. On the other hand, trolling lures is also one of the most complicated ways to catch a fish. RAM Mounts representative, Brad Hole trolls for walleye in Northwest Washington where swift current and deep water keep him on the move. “My biggest walleye was 33 inches,” he brags.

Hole pulled the trophy ‘eye from below a dam, working his lure into the current along a drop. To snare big walleye, he drags deep diving plugs up to 200 feet behind the kayak.

Trolling a lure maximizes fishing time.  | Photo: Brad Hole
Trolling a lure maximizes fishing time. | Photo: Brad Hole

Improve Your Chances of Finding Fish

Hole recommends a high-powered fish finder and GPS to identify structure and fish. Since the angler is searching and fishing at the same time, when a significant drop or rise appears on the screen, he can mark the spot on the GPS and pull his baits through prime water.

It’s best to set the combo unit to split screen to monitor the fish finder and the kayak’s track. When the screen lights up, mark the waypoint on the GPS to make a circle back through the productive area.

Trolling doesn’t mean set it and forget it. Hole instructs, “Watch the rod tip the whole time.” Reading the rod bouncing and bending will reveal the lure’s action or indicate a bite.

With hundreds of feet of line behind the kayak, boat handling skills are key to keeping lures straight. To keep the lines from crossing, make wide turns and stagger the distance and depth of the lures. Most important, never stop moving forward. “A pedal kayak has an advantage for trolling,” Hole insists. Moving ahead while adjusting line, holding the rod or working the lure makes trolling even more effective.

Trolling doesn’t mean ‘Set it and forget it’. | Photo: Brad Hole
Trolling doesn’t mean “Set it and forget it.” | Photo: Brad Hole

Fine-Tune Your Kayak Trolling Setup

Many times, trolling requires the angler to use thin mainline to cut through the water and a heavier, clear leader to fool the fish. Hole’s favorite line-to-line knot when fishing braid to monofilament is a double uni-knot. He says the uni-knot is easy to tie, making it more reliable than a complicated knot with a higher breaking strength.

Setting up a boat is key for trolling. Angle the rod holders to spread out the lines and keep lures untangled. Hole suggests placing track-mounted rod holders ahead of the seat to keep an eye on the rod tip while pedalling.

3 Pro Tips for Trolling From a Kayak

1 Troll for king mackerel from a kayak

William Ragulsky | Virginia Beach, Virginia | Ocean Kayak, Werner Paddles

Man on a kayak holding up his catch
The King of Kings, William Ragulsky. | Photo: Ric Burnley

Kayak trolling tip for king mackerel:

Paddle fast enough to keep the bait near the surface. Run a second bait deeper with a half-ounce egg sinker above the stinger rig.

Season: Late summer

Forecast: Northeast five to 10 knots, partly sunny

Tactic: Trolling live menhaden in the ocean. Launch through the surf at dawn. Use a weighted treble hook to snag menhaden from large schools on the surface. Hook bait on a stinger rig. Paddle from the beach up to three miles offshore looking for schools of menhaden.

Rods: Medium-action with a slow tip prevents small hooks from pulling out of the fish.

Reels: High-speed conventional to keep up with a charging kingfish.

Line: 20-pound high-visibility monofilament

Leader: 12 to 20 feet of 20-pound dark green monofilament shock leader. Kings have sharp eyes.

Rig: Use haywire twist to attach a No. 4, 4X treble hook to one end of 12 inches of No. 4 wire. Twist a small, 80-pound swivel to the other end of the wire. Attach a three- to five-inch piece of wire to the eye of the hook. Haywire twist another hook to the end of the trailer.

Tackle tip: Set the reels at four pounds drag to prevent the fish pulling the hooks.

2 Troll for brown and rainbow trout from a kayak

Brad Hole | Cooper Lake, Washington | RAM Mounts, Hobie Fishing

Man wearing baseball hat holding up his catch
It’s a trap! Brad Hole | Photo: Jordan Parker

Kayak trolling tip for brown and rainbow trout:

Speed is critical. Use a GPS to monitor speed. Pedal faster for a few minutes, then slower. When you get a bite, note the speed and repeat—the fish are often keyed in on a specific speed.

Season: Spring and fall

Forecast: Flat calm to light chop

Tactic: Trolling spoons with lead-core line over drops and points in mountain lakes. Look for steep cliffs and feeder creeks on the lakeside to indicate structure below the water. Mark fish and bait on a fish finder and use GPS to focus in on the location. Keep the rod in front with a large, elevated rod holder like the RAM Rod HD.

Rods: Seven-foot, six-inch Daiwa North Coast SS Kokanee Rod

Reels: Daiwa Sealine B with Line Counter

Line: 18-pound Leadcore Line by Tuf-Line

Leader: 50 feet of 10- to 12-pound fluorocarbon leader

Rig: Mack’s Lure Wiggle Hoochie, Wedding Ring spinners, spoons, flatfish

Tackle tip: Tip lures with small chunk of earth worm, mealworms or scent. Use the line counter to set the depth of the lure. More lead core line in the water will drop the lure deeper.

3 Troll for striped bass from a kayak

Alan Battista | Chesapeake Bay, Maryland | Author, Light Tackle Kayak Trolling the Chesapeake Bay

Man on a kayak holding his catch
Go big or go home. | Photo: Alan Battista

Kayak trolling tip for striped bass:

Fishing the river is best when the water is muddy. An electric motor makes it easy to maintain speed and direction when heading upriver.

Season: Spring

Forecast: Calm, cool early spring morning

Tactic: Trolling large swimming plugs in Susquehanna River. Pedal or motor into the current while looking for large boulders on the fish finder. I pull the lure over the boulder while holding my rod tip high. As soon as I pass the rock, I drop the rod tip to make the lure dive deeper and strike the rock.

Rod: Six-foot, six-inch medium-action baitcasting. Shorter, lighter rod is easier to work the lure.

Reel: 4500-series baitcasting reel to quickly release line and drop the lure deeper.

Line: 15-pound braided line cuts through the current. Braided line is sensitive to feel the lure bounce over rocks.

Leader: Abrasion-resistant 30-pound fluorocarbon runs over the rocks without breaking.

Lures: Rapala Shad Rap and Cordell Red Fin are large, noisy lures putting off violent vibrations to attract big striped bass in muddy water.

Tackle tip: Expect to snag lures in the rocks. If the lure isn’t bouncing off boulders, it’s not going to catch fish. Never risk safety to retrieve a snagged lure.

This article was first published in the Fall 2018 issue of Kayak Angler Magazine. Subscribe to Kayak Angler Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

More time with lures in the water plus covering more distance equals more fish in the boat. | Feature photo: Jordan Parker



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