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Trolling For Dinner
By Rich Johnson

The morning was clear and calm with balmy temperatures for this late in October. Our goal today was to troll up a few keeper bass for the dinner table with my captain for the trip, Joe LoCicero of the Josey Whales (516-546-4356) charter boat out of Freeport. You guessed it, Joey is a big Clint Eastwood fan and is almost as serious as Clint when it comes to catching fish. This was my second trip in as many days with guest Jake Hartwick, executive vice president of the Outdoor Channel ( We were off to a late start breaking the inlet around 10:30 a.m. and we expected the clear and sunny skies to stay with us the duration of the trip and they did.

This was Jake’s first try at reeling in 400 feet of wire line and by days end was well worn, but happy as we had a pair of keeper bass and a few small bluefish in the box. Best bet this trip was the shad rigs, which have really taken this area by storm over the last few years. They are the normal umbrella arms, but instead of tubes they are made with the plastic shads in any size you want or any color you want or any combination you want. Their only drawback is they do not hold up well against bluefish, but their advantage is they look more like a school of bait fish than anything else and they swim great.

We caught a majority of our fish on these shad rigs with a few on the crippled alewife spoons. Either way you had to troll them in 35 to 45 foot of water and if you are not familiar with wire line trolling, you have to lay out 10-foot of wire line for every foot of depth you want the lure to sink to. In other words, to place a lure 40-foot down, you need to lay out 400 feet of wire line…no small chore to reel in every time you have some weeds or plastic bag foul hooked not to mention three or four fish on at the same time. Needless to say Jake and I were tired at days end and we had a couple of tasty fillets for the table.

For anglers looking to try trolling in your area, several places come to mind right away where good numbers of quality bass and blues are trolled up every fall. The Tobay & Gilgo beach areas are prime target areas and you can start in 25 to 35-foot of water and work your way deeper. You also want to work the area around the Roda Wreck hard. There are many BIG bass caught from this area every year on the troll or using live eels at the wreck site that sits just a few hundred yards off the pavilion at Tobay Beach. Bunker spoons should be Charlie Graves/West End Tackle spoons and the prime colors are white and green. However, don’t be afraid to put silver and even powder blue on the end of the line either.

Other items to drag are large wooden Danny or Gibbs trolling plugs. These work great and can be trolled tight to the beach better than a spoon and on mono line along the sand bars and jetties of the South Shore. You may also want to include umbrella rigs in your trolling arsenal with dark red (wine) or dark green for bass and brighter colors for blues with the all purpose white a good stand by as is amber for both species. Large single surgical tubes are also part of any good trolling tackle box assortment and the colors for bass vs. bluefish as described above hold here for the most part as well.

When it comes to the tackle, you want to use the Penn 113H, Senator 4/0 reels with Dacron or mono backing under your wire line. Most use wire line in 40 or 50-pound test with the wire marked at 50-foot intervals so you can better gauge the amount of wire in the water. Make sure your rods are glass as they give a better “bend” and they throb allowing the bunker spoons to swim back and forth seducing large cow bass. The better rod for bunker spooning is the Seeker 1153M-9WL Bunker spoon rod. This rod is 8-foot in length and specifically designed for bunker spoons allowing greater flexibility so the spoon can swim with ease, allowing a more fluid motion to the spoon. You can find this rod at Bob’s B&T on Wilson Ave. in Amity Harbor (631-842-7573). I have one and it works great for this fishing.

Make sure your hooks are sharpened, drag systems are in top working order and all systems go. When trolling wire line, make sure you take in a crank or two or let out a few feet of wire every 10 minutes or so. Leaving the wire line trolling at the same length for any duration of time can put a “bend” in the wire creating a weak point. You do not want to lose a big fish because you overlooked something so small. Trolling speed varies from boat to boat as engines and boat hulls are different.

For instance while my Sea Pro SV2100 and 150 Yamaha can troll steadily at 650 to 700 rpm’s this slow speed may be too slow for some engines and you may have to kick yours in and out of gear. Best speed is 1.5 to 2.5 knots for bass and slightly faster for bluefish. Inboards and diesels perform differently than outboards and experiment each trip to see which speed the fish want that particular day. I prefer to use my LORAN speed as the constant rather than the fish finder speed or the speedometer on the boat. Remember, trolling into the current or with the current can change the speed of the boat without you even noticing, but believe me the fish know in an instant.


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