Surf: Why Fish A Troller? – The Fisherman
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Surf: Why Fish A Troller?

author
The author with a solid bass that crushed one of his custom trollers.

Just because it’s called a troller doesn’t mean you need a boat to fish it.

The troller is one of the most underutilized and misunderstood plugs available to the surfcaster, likely because the name “troller” implies that it is designed to be trolled behind a boat. The name is misleading though, because in the hands of a surfcaster this plug is a superb offering that accounts for some very large fish.

A well-designed troller is an incredibly stable plug under a variety of conditions, and because its pronounced action is felt throughout the retrieve, the plug becomes an extension of the angler’s hand. I think it’s this input from the plug that makes it a confidence lure for many surfcasters—basically, it’s easy to ‘feel’ when it’s swimming just right.

The stability of the plug also creates a unique swimming profile; a fast, tight, thumping action rather than a lazy roll. This doesn’t necessarily imitate an injured baitfish but more closely imitates a fleeing baitfish. One of the comments I get most from casters that use my trollers is how vicious the hits are. I believe this is because the stripers read it as a baitfish trying to get away and they’re forced to react fast, which leads to a more aggressive strike. As my close fishing partner likes to say, “The fish don’t hit this plug, they eat it.”

While I typically fish the troller at a slightly faster pace than a standard metal lip, the plug can be fished at many speeds.  Generally speaking, during the day I like to fish the plug a little faster and as the evening hours approach, I slow down. Mixing up your retrieve between the two can sometimes provoke a strike. The stability of the plug makes it well adapted for the fast-moving currents found in inlets, off jetty tips, breachways or in areas with deep channels. The hefty size of the troller makes it a perfect choice to imitate large prey such as bunker, porgies, blackfish and mackerel; the junior size is a great imitation for midsized baits.

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A closer look at the artistry that goes into creating these amazing lures.

The troller doesn’t only show its versatility when it’s swimming, it’s also an easily modified design that can be adapted to be fished from the surface all the way down to 25 feet. My standard troller is designed to be fished in fast water. It relies on the current to push the plug down deeper. This can also be used in slower moving water, too, which will result in it swimming a little higher in the water column. My standard troller more closely resembles the trollers offered by legendary builders like Donny Musso, Stan Gibbs and Danny Pichney and what is now more readily available from builders of today. As mentioned, the standard troller is versatile and can be utilized in a variety of applications, but it is limited to how deep it can dive because it is dependent on current.

The development of my next troller design came about because I wanted a plug that would dive to around 15 or 20 feet.  My troller would be my typical go to for this application but the area I was targeting didn’t have the water movement I needed to drive the plug down to where I believed the bait and fish were holding. I decided to go back to the drawing board and modified my standard troller.  The overall shape went relatively unchanged, but I experimented with different woods, different weighting configurations, and a different lip, and eventually settled on the design that became my deep diving troller. This plug set itself apart from the standard troller because it wasn’t reliant on the water movement to get deep.

The deep diving troller is a big offering, it can take a toll on your casting shoulder, and it requires a rod that is capable of casting 5 ounces. While the troller might not be for everyone, it has an uncanny ability to deter the smaller fish and to reach down deep to catch the attention of those larger fish during slack water. I’ve had a lot of success fishing the troller, particularly the deep-diving version.  The plug has gone on to prove itself in a multitude of conditions and is becoming more popular with anglers and other builders alike.  Put one in your bag and I guarantee you too will become a believer in this widely misunderstood plug.

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