Trout & Kokanee Trolling: How To Troll Deep Without Downriggers

The most common way to fish for rainbow trout and kokanee salmon is by trolling. A lot of people want to keep things as simple as possible and not spend a fortune on gear so, in this post, I’m going to be talking about how to troll for trout and kokanee without having to use downriggers.

This has been the main way I’ve been fishing for most of my life and you don’t need to use downriggers 90% of the time. I’m going to be showing you the gear I like to use, the setup/rigs, how fast you should be trolling, and a few other tips and tricks to help you get started.

This isn’t the only way you can troll for rainbow and kokanee and it’s not necessarily the right way. I’ll just be showing you what I like to use and then you can take it and make slight tweaks. Every lake is going to be slightly different and the fish might prefer something else. That’s why you should always be testing. Continue reading or watch the video below for the full details.

The Gear & Setups For Trolling

The first thing we’ll start with is the rod and reel. It’s not really a huge deal what type of rod you use since you can catch fish on pretty much anything but I do have a preference. If you’re not fishing too deep then you can get away with a lighter rod but you’re most likely wanting to go deep if you’re reading this.

Since you’re not going to be using downriggers, you’ll be attaching weights to your rod so that’s why I like using a medium or medium-heavy fishing rod. Using a slightly heavier rod will give you a bit more backbone which will help you keep tension on the line at all times. The type of reel really doesn’t matter that much. Sometimes I’ll use a spinning rod, sometimes I’ll use a baitcasting rod, and sometimes I’ll use a standard trolling reel.

The next thing you’ll want to do is put on the right fishing line. Again, this doesn’t matter too much but I almost always use a braided line with a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader. I’ll normally use a 20 lb braided line and the reason I use it is that it lasts much longer and it doesn’t stretch as much so you can feel the bite easier. I’ll then use as thin of a mono leader as I can get away with because the fish have a harder time seeing it. We’ll cover how to set everything up next.

The first thing you want to put on is your sliding weight clip. This is the thing that lets you easily clip-on weights, which are going to help your line sink down. Here’s an example on Amazon. All you’ll need to do is put the sliding clip on your main fishing line (use the least amount of weight that will work), which in my case, is the braided line. You’ll then attach a swivel which will keep the weight from sliding down and prevent line twisting.

The next thing you’re going to do is attach a 3-foot piece of line to the other end of your swivel and attach it to your favorite dodger or flasher. See our favorites here. I normally use a 12-15 lb mono/fluoro line because I don’t want to lose my stuff if I get snagged but you can use whatever you want. I’ll use the Uni knot to attach the line to my swivel.

After that, you’ll want to attach your monofilament leader to the other end of your flasher/dodger. You’ll want to use the lightest line you can get away with and it’ll all depend on the size of fish in your lake. Depending on how picky the fish are, I like using a leader that’s between 12 and 16 inches long. 16 if they’re being picky, 12 if they’re not.

The final step is to attach whatever lure you’re going to use. It could be a wedding ring, hoochie, spinner, spoon, or whatever else you like to use (I like to attach corn to whatever I’m using). I find that none of them work better 100% of the time. It’ll all depend on the day, the weather, the lake you’re in, and a number of other things. Experiment to see what’s working best in your area.

How Fast To Troll For Trout & Kokanee

It isn’t an exact science when it comes to how fast you should troll but I do think you should keep it as consistent as possible. If you keep changing the speed you’re going and what weight you’re using it’s going to be hard to pinpoint the right spot. I prefer to keep the speed the same but change the weight if I want to go higher or lower.

I don’t have a speedometer most of the time so I go based on looks and feel. If you do have a speedometer, the average speed I’d go is around 1.2 MPH for kokanee and a little faster for trout. Everywhere is going to be slightly different though so you’ll have to experiment.

If you’re going based on looks and feel, the thing you’ll want to look at is your rod tip. When you’re dragging your lure through the water it’s going to have action to it and that’ll show in your rod. Your rod tip is going to twitch and bend as you move through the water and you’ll know you’re going too slow if your tip is twitching very slowly or there’s no bend in your rod.

If you’re moving along and your rod has a decent bend to it and your rod tip has a continuous movement then you’re most likely going at a good speed. If nothing is biting, you can try changing the weight (or change lures).

How Deep To Troll For Trout & Kokanee

One of the more important things to know is that you should lower your line super slow. If you have a good amount of weight on your line and let it out quickly, it’ll pull your line down and most likely tangle. Let your line out slowly for a couple of seconds, pause to let your lure catch up, and then repeat until you get to the right depth.

The right depth is going to change all the time. It’ll depend on what time of day and year you’re fishing and it’s something you’ll need to test while you’re out. If you have a fish finder then you can pinpoint the depth but I’m assuming most people don’t.

Like I said before, I always try to go the same speed to keep that variable consistent but the one thing I’ll change is the amount of weight. Even adding or removing a quarter oz weight can be the difference between catching something and not. The great thing about the setup I mentioned is that you can quickly clip on or clip off the weights.

Until next time, happy fishing. If you want to catch more fish, use more hooks.

Let me know your thoughts and any questions you have. Like this article? Feel free to give it a share!

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Jon Webber

I'm by no means an outdoors or fishing expert, but it's something I've been interested in for over 20 years. I created this site to test out different gear and techniques to see what actually works.

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