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TROLLING THE MINNOW
with David Lockwood
Parts and accessories for boating, caravanning and 4WD enthusiasts
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IN BOATING, CAMPING,
Fishing fashions pass faster than a
halter on a Milanese catwalk. But like
the world of haute couture there are
enduring angling techniques that outlive
the trends. Trolling minnow lures is a
classic. If you want to catch a fish, this is
all you have to do.
Start with the lure. A deep-diving
minnow is your chosen weapon. The
baitfish-shaped offering needs an
extended bib at the front to ensure it dives
at least a few metres below the surface but
preferably a few more again.
Minnow lures from Manns, Rapala
and the excellent Aussie maker Halco are
hard to beat. The lures should measure
about 10-15cm (4-6in) in length. Colour
is subjective but get some blue-and-silver
pilchard and green-and-gold yellowtail
combos. A few bright fluoro numbers and
a timeless black-and-white mullet will fill
To take the most of these lures’
shimmying and sashaying actions troll
them on fine-diameter braided line of
about 10kg breaking strain. Top with a uni
knot to a clear 15kg fluorocarbon or light-
pink monofilament leader, which are hard
for fish to see, and use a Homer Rhode
loop knot on the end to let the lure swing.
If you want to maximise the depth
some more, fit a pair of horizontal holders
to your boat and run them in there rather
than upright rod holders that elevate the
lures’ pulling point and makes them run
Having said that, while you most
definitely want a few deep divers out
the back, a short lure and a longer lure
running the deepest, a shallow runner
up the middle in the prop wash can be a
winner. Even the old small pink squid or
a shallow minnow will work here.
The next important point is to troll
at dawn, preferably around the high tide.
The lower tidal and oceanic reaches of
estuaries and bays are best. You need to
skirt 50-100 metres from shore just beyond
the wash. Safety is paramount and keep
away from bomboras.
Some great trolling headlands include
Dobroyd, Middle and North and South
heads, The Gap, Rosa Gully, Ben Buckler,
Kurnell and Jibbon, Long Reef, Newport
Reef, Whale Beach and Barrenjoey.
The target species are many: tailor,
Aussie salmon, kingfish, bonito, occasional
bigger tuna, Samson and amberjack,
sometimes spotted and Spanish mackerel
in a hot year and to the north, and usually
a feed without much fuss but a lot of fun.
You get a few rubbish fish but also bonus
species like the odd snapper.
Once you are successful at lure trolling
you might add a depth sounder and
downrigger to your boat, slow troll whole
live squid along the drop-offs for massive
kingfish. But that, as they say, is another
story requiring a whole new wardrobe.
Meantime, May is a great time month for
While trolling is a great way to
prospect, fish gravitate towards structure.
Find the structure and you will find the
action is a catchphrase we hear often in
fishing circles. But what does fish-holding
structure look like?
It can be natural, man-made, solid or
soft. It can be a habitat as much as a happy
trolling ground. It is also a place fish call
home and somewhere transient they visit
when looking for a takeaway meal.
Tides play a big part with fishing
structure, as does water flow in general.
Each location fishes in its own peculiar
way and that is something you need to
get wired over time through trial and error.
But fish-holding structure is also
universal and, on a large body of water,
all good anglers know where to begin
their hunt simply by surveying the lay of
the land and/or seabed and flow of water.
Of course, a depth sounder or fish
finder (as marketeers like to call them) is
an essential piece of kit when looking for
submarine structure. But there’s a lot you
can glean by simply looking at the shore.
Headlands, rocky points, reefs, oyster
leases, sandy drop-offs, bridge pylons,
wharves and deep holes are all fish-holding
structures. As a rough rule, shallow spots
fish best around the top of the tide, drop-
offs are best on the falling tide when the
fish were pulling back off the shallows,
and the deep holes and bridges fish well
at night on the slack water and around the
change of the tide.
Look for the structure, work it with your
lures and baits, and you will catch more fish
than casting willy-nilly and wherever. h
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