Well-Known Member
Dec 6, 2011
Western KY
Folks I've gone off the deep end with trolling. Went out with a striper guide on lake Cumberland here in KY and I'm hooked. We only landed two striper but caught three nice smallies and some big spotted bass. Had a dozen or more hits from smallies we were just running 6" shad and they couldn't get the hook/killing bait just to kill them.
My real question is should I run smaller bait to target smallies or use bigger bait and run a stinger hook? Knowing there are striper in that lake big bait makes sense, if a bass eats a 6" shad he'll be a keeper for sure. I know using smaller bait I can target smallies, large mouth and hybrid striper on other lakes where they aren't stocked.
I guess the real question is am I going about this right? I've fished since I was kid but trolling with several rods and live bait I've never done. My dad and I went whole hog on this adventure we had a ball getting my 83yr old pap-aw out and trying to replicate that success. He's wants to do this every weekend now and three guided trips would cost the same as we've spent getting set up.
I've got a 17' aluminum boat I'll be using 24v trolling motor to control speed as it's infinitely more adjustable. Bert's rod trees and bass pro depthmaster combos and planer board for up to 2oz baits. I've rigged my setup like the guide we went with, plan to run 1/2oz on the closest rods to get down 8-12', the 1/4oz, 1/8oz and the top rod unweighted. This should allow us to cover from 10-12' to the surface easily enough.
Am I going about this right?


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Well if you hired a guide, and you were happy with the results you had, and now youve rigged your boat so you can duplicate what the guide did, whats the question? lol
Anyway guide or no guide, always be prepared for not having yesterdays results again today.
As for trolling, it is simply a method preferred by some anglers over other methods. And it can be a very productive method.
For some species, it can be the only method, especially in salt water fishing, also great lakes Salmon fishing.
It can also be used as a method for locating fish, after which other tactics such as casting can be utilized.
Salt water Mahi Mahi fishing is a prime example of that as a way to locate the fish, then change tactics.
Im personally not a big fan of trolling, for me it can become very boring.
I look at it as the fish catching me, after which i just reel it in.
Of coarse it can be argued that they always catch you, regardless of the method used.
And although thats true, actually feeling the hit when that happens does add another dimension. At least in my opinion.
There are different methods of trolling also, and it would depend upon the species your targeting as to which method would be best. Downriggers are pretty much a must for great lakes fishing. And there is also the method of stacking multiple lures at different depths on the same downrigger.
The advantages of using a downrigger is that you can use very light lures at very deep depths. And when the fish hits the lure all you have on the line is the fish, nothing else by way of a heavy weight or other type device. They are available in manually operated smaller versions as well, and id be looking into those for your setup.
Planer boards are simply a means of getting lines further away from the boat, and can be used as a method for covering a wider area. Outriggers on offshore boats are used for the same purpose. There are different types of planer boards as well, with some smaller types attached to the line and needing removal before bringing the fish into the boat.
There is yet another method of trolling used almost exclusively by Crappie fishermen.
Here in the south, crappie fishing is very popular, including large tournaments same as the bass fishing has.
Spider rig trolling takes place from the bow of the boat.
As a rule, 6 or 8 very long rods are placed in rod holders in a semi circle in front of the angler. The lines are weighted and run straight down. Depth is determined by the water depth and what level the fish are thought to be holding at.
In some cases with several fishermen, trolling is done from both the front and rear of the boat at the same time, utilizing a dozen or more rods.
And yes, one large catfish can screw up the whole setup and require about a half days time of rerigging. lol
Checkout spider rig trolling on Youtube.
Big names in that world would be the team of Capps and Coleman, sponsored by B n M poles, but there are numerous others.
I can't help you specifically on southern smallmouth bass or trolling for them. I fish tournaments so we are casting artificial lures. I fish for smallmouth 95% of the time when I am on northern lakes. Although years ago I used to troll. These are just general comments and ideas.

Smallmouth bass are nomadic. They move with the bait. When they are feeding on bait fish they move with the bait. Relocating them with electronics is key to taking the luck out of it. They are also ferocious feeders. If you are on them and they are feeding they will hit your bait. If you know they are there with your electronics and they are not feeding find some that are feeding and come back later.

Smallmouth love crayfish. If they are feeding on crayfish it will be harder to catch them on a live shad. Typically if you see them on your electronics stuck to the bottom they are eating crayfish.

Smallmouth will eat bigger bait fish then you would think. I have seen 2 lbs fish with a 9" perch in them.

Smallmouth start moving up to spawn when the water is around 62 degrees. The males will not leave their beds until they have guarded the fry and the fry leave. They dont eat during this time. Of course every fish does not move in or out at the same time but if the majority of the fish are spawning the fishing will be slow. Depending on the weather this could take several weeks. My guess is that you hit them with the guide on the way in or way out.

In the spring and fall you will catch more fish in the depths you are fishing. Smallmouth are cool water fish and go deep in the summer. This is when dropshot rigs and football head jigs shine. In the north the majority of the big smallmouth go between 30'-70' deep.

I could go on and on but I won't bore you. If I were you I would get some shad colored stick baits that dive to different depths and put some of them out while trolling. The length of your line behind the boat will determine the actual depth they dive to. You can still have some live bait out at the same time for stripers. In the long run it will be cheaper than live bait with just as much or more success. Again I have not fished for smallmouth in the south only spots and largemouth and there are differences but this may help.

Good luck.
Nice fish.

Sounds like you're set up pretty good. I would upgrade the front release on the planer boards so they pop open when you get a bite or you can pop them open with a good hard tug. Double wrap the back release. When the front one pops loose, the back release holds and the board swings back to the rear of the boat, clear of all the other lines. You can bring the fish in without tangling the other lines. I'm using the Sam's pro release, Amish Outfitters makes one that looks like the same thing.

I would also try big diving stick baits like the Rapala down deep husky jerk, Berkeley flicker minnow, etc and use the Precision Trolling app. With a line counter reel, you can precisely target depths.
Thanks for the info guys, I've got crank and jerk baits to cover everything from 2'- 30' now. So far we've smacked walleye, smallies, a few striper and a truck load of white bass, large mouth and spotted bass. I haven't quite got the trolling for crappie figured out yet, I grew up catching them on shadrap and bobber fishing with a crappie jig but we occasionally find a few. Y'all weren't kidding when you said a catfish will wreck the set up I moved to Ky lake and have been battling the Asian carp. Last one was about 30lb and it managed to cluster **** every rod we had out, spooked from under one side of the boat to the other. If you haven't got the "privilege" of dealing with these slimy stinking demons rest assured anything you've seen from them knocking folks out of boats to destroyed equipment is entirely possible.
I haven't found the need for down riggers consistently here yet but I've always got my eyes open for a good deal.
Between trolling shad and crank/jerk baits I can usually find some active fish then we try to pick them off casting.
Now we just pray for rain so we can have a little current fish are scattered right now.
First walleye on table rock, and a white bass who needed that jerk bait.


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