Trolling can seem like a simple fishing technique at first look, but thinking just a little deeper reveals the different factors that can make you successful or not. For one, the act of trolling is essentially moving the boat at a slow speed with lures out the back and sides. You could theoretically troll the whole time you’re out boating, but the slow boat speed quickly makes that seem unreasonable.
The better approach is to find a place to troll, drive the boat to it, and then let the lines out. So how do you find out where to troll?
Whether you’re looking for a spot to troll inshore or offshore, the best places to troll are where baitfish congregate. These places normally provide shelter for them to hide from predatory fish. Underwater structure like reefs and wrecks, surface debris like flotsam and weedlines, and even bridges are great places to troll. Looking for birds can help narrow down a spot in a bit reef or long weedline.
From reading my article on Trolling Species, we know that mahi gather around flotsam and weedlines, and other species such as tuna and king mackerel will usually congregate near the wrecks, reefs, ledges, and drop-offs. Wahoo will gather near humps and pinnacles.
Keep reading to learn more about these places and how to fish them.
Troll Over Underwater Structure
Underwater structure is a great place to look for fish. There are wrecks, reefs, ledges, drop-offs, humps and pinnacles that are home to many baitfish and crustaceans that our target species feed on. First, you’ll need to locate the structure. Usually fishermen will look at a map before going out for the first spot and maybe the electronics on board to find subsequent spots.
It’s easy to start with something like a TopSpot map. They have common fishing spots identified, like reefs, wrecks, and rocky bottoms. As you might imagine, these spots might be crowded because of how publically known they are. For this reason, anglers tend to use them as a starting point and use electronics on board to discover new spots.
When trolling over underwater structure, it’s a good idea to look for baitfish on a bottom machine. You can usually tell it’s schooling baitfish when there’s a gap between the shaded area and the bottom. Gravitating towards this sign of life should help you hook into some fish.
Troll Around Surface Debris and Weeds
Another place baitfish gather is around flotsam, weedlines, and other floating debris. It might sound crazy, but if you see a piece of structure, like a wooden pallet, a potato sack, or a piece of something broken off from an old wreck floating in the ocean, you’ll likely see baitfish around the debris.
The difficulty with trolling debris and weeds is how difficult it can be to find. These are pieces of structure that are constantly on the move. You’ll never find flotsam on a map. Normally fishermen will find this kind of structure as they cruise around looking for signs of life.
Whenever you see baitfish on floating debris, there’s a really good chance there’s mahi nearby. When I see this, I am normally trolling by the debris and once I get a bite, I’ll cast additional lines out to snag some more mahi. Get ready, you can easily find yourself with all lines bit at once when doing this.
Long weedlines are a great place to find bigger mahi and tuna. I always get excited when I see a long weedline because there’s rarely a time I can predict where the weeds will be and I always get my biggest mahi near them. I’ll usually troll a bigger bait around these long weedlines to help attract bigger fish. If you’re interested in learning more about trolling baits, read my article What Bait is Best for Trolling?
Inshore Trolling Around Bridges and Piers
When trolling inshore, you have a few more options for structure. Bridges and piers can provide shelter for baitfish, making them a place larger fish want to be. Depending on the bridge, you may need to troll with as few as one line and keep a short, flat line, to avoid hooking into the structure as you drive by.
All of these places have something in common. They provide structure which gives baitfish protection from predators. Baitfish usually position themselves not far from cover in case a predator fish comes by. Even birds will tend to flock towards baitfish schooling around structure.
Birds are another clue to help you find a trolling spot. When anglers locate underwater structure and drive towards the spot, they’ll usually drop lines and troll along the structure. Sometimes you’ll see birds and find fish there.
I would also recommend keeping an eye out for birds constantly when offshore. Once you see them, get closer and let lines out. There’s a good chance when you find birds, you’ll also see baitfish, like flying fish, as you’re driving up. And where there are baitfish, there’s usually gamefish.
I am optimistic that this article will help you learn where to troll. I have written several articles on the topic of trolling, check them out by clicking “Fishing Techniques” in the menu and choosing Trolling. Tight lines, y’all!