Dialing in Fall Trolling Speed
By Lance Valentine
We all know that trolling speed is an important of the fish catching puzzle, but in the fall, it becomes critical, especially when looking for trophy fall walleye. Differences of only 1 or 2 tenths of a mile per hour can send you home with a full livewell or nothing but a long day on the water. While GPS is common on almost all walleye boat, the Speed Over Ground on the GPS only tells a small piece of the trolling speed puzzle. Here are a few tools that will help you dial in the best trolling speed this fall.
1) GPS- as stated above, Speed Over Ground on your GPS is a necessity and one of the fundamental tools needed to measure and duplicate productive trolling speeds
2) Underwater Speed Indicators – common on most salmon boats, these tools are becoming a “must have” for walleye anglers too, especially those chasing trophy fish and fishing bigger bodies of water with lots of wind and current. Knowing what is happening at your lure is a huge help in getting the best trolling speed figured out and duplicated.
3) Inline Planer Boards – believe it or not, being able to “read” your boards properly can show you indications of currents and different lure speeds.
Let’s talk a little about underwater speed indicators. These are available in a few different products, with the Fish Hawk series and the Smart Troll probes being the most popular among walleye anglers I know. The Fish Hawk X4 series and the Smart Troll system are both “permanent” mounted systems that require a transducer on the transom and 12-volt power for the display. The probe on the Fish Hawk is usually attached to a downrigger and the Smart Troll uses small inline probes on your fishing lines.
The Fish Hawk X2 has become a favorite among small boat anglers, especially those who fish in more than one boat during the year. The X2 is portable; The display is powered by AA batteries and the probe can be lowered into the water on any regular rod. I use the 36” rod designed by Fish Hawk with a small line counter reel and 50 lb. braided line. The transducer is then attached to the fishing line with the probe and slides down the line, under the water where it can receive a signal from the probe. The transducer cable is hard wired to the back of the display to view water temp and speed readings.
Another quick and simple way to see current under the water is a trick I learned years ago when trolling for walleye on Lake St. Clair. Take a large weight (3-4 ounces) and attach it to the line on an extra rod. Simply lower the weight to the depth your lures are running and put the rod in a holder. When you catch a fish, note the ANGLE of the line. As you troll different directions, try to duplicate the angle when you caught fish. Simple, but effective.
Trolling speed is critical to fishing success anytime, but more so in the fall. Find a way to measure the TRUE speed of your lure when you catch a fish, duplicate it and you will see your livewell fuller than ever this fall.