Deep Water Trolling: Best Way When You Don’t Have Downriggers

Trolling isn’t my favorite type of fishing but it does have it’s time and place when you want to catch big lake trout or salmon. A lot of people don’t want to spend money on downriggers so, in this post, I’m going to be showing you how to troll deep without them.

If you want to troll without downriggers you’ll have to use some sort of diving device or weight. I don’t use divers very much myself but a lot of people prefer them. I like to use clip-on weights that attach to a slider on the main fishing line before I attach my leader. I find it’s the easiest way to do things and I can quickly remove or add weight to go deeper or shallower.

There’s no right way to do things and either or will work. Sometimes if you want to go real deep you might need a diver but for 90% of the time, clip-on weights do the job for me. Continue reading or watch the video below for the full details on how deep you should be fishing, how fast you should be going, and how to set everything up the right way.

How Fast Should You Troll

I like to keep things as simple as possible so I try to keep my speed the same throughout the day. If you’re changing your speed and changing how much weight you have on it’ll be tough to figure out what’s actually working. That’s why I’ll change the weight first while I keep the speed variable the same (then change speed if need be).

The speed you want to go will depend on what type of fish you’re after and what lure you’re using. I don’t normally use a speedometer so I go based on looks and feel.

If you do have a speedometer, somewhere around 1.2 MPH for kokanee, 1.8 MPH for rainbow trout, and 2 MPH for chinook. It’s not a 100% rule but it’s where I like to start.

Once I’m up to speed I’ll start messing with how much weight I have and how much line I’m letting out. If nothing seems to work I’ll then speed up or slow down. It might not be the best approach but it’s the simplest in my mind and has worked.

If you’re like me and don’t use a speedometer, you’ll want to go based on looks and feel. You’ll want to look at your rod bend and how much action you have. Your rod should NOT be maxed out and it shouldn’t be straight.

Obviously, it needs to be somewhere in the middle and after that, the next thing you want to look at is your rod tip. If it’s twitching every few seconds, you’re going to slow. If it has a continuous twitch, you’re probably doing good.

How Deep Should You Troll

Once I get my speeds sorted out, the next thing is to figure out how much weight to put on. Obviously, the more weight you use the deeper you’ll go. That being said, you want to use as little weight as you can get away with because you don’t want to snag on bottom and you want to be able to feel the fish.

Since you aren’t using a downrigger you won’t know how deep you actually are. If you don’t have a fish finder you won’t know how deep the water is. That can be a bit of a problem but this is why you’ll have to do a lot of testing.

The first thing I’ll do is guess what amount of weight I’ll need to put on. I’ll toss that out for 10-15 minutes and see what happens. If nothing happens I’ll let out a bit more line and try that.

The next step is to add a small amount of weight (even 1/4 oz more can make a difference) and give that a try. I’ll keep doing this until something hits. If something hits I’ll know the speed, amount of weight, and amount of line I have out.

Just remember, when you don’t have the gadgets and tools you’ll need to test everything out. When you’re testing, try to change one thing at a time and keep everything else consistent. That’s how you truly figure out what’s working.

How To Set Up Your Gear & Tackle

The first thing we’ll talk about is what rod and reel to use. It really doesn’t matter in my opinion and you can use whatever rod and reel you’re most comfortable with.

I’ve trolled with spinning rods, baitcasters, and proper trolling reels. The one thing you’ll want to make sure is that you’re using the right rod strength. Since you have weights on you’ll need to make sure you have a decent amount of backbone. Light rods probably won’t do the job so you’ll want at least a medium-heavy rod.

The next thing is what fishing line to use. Again, this isn’t a huge deal but I like to use a heavier braided line as my main (anywhere from 20-50 lb). The reason I like braid is that it’s stronger than normal line and it’s thinner which will help your lure sink deeper. I’ll then attach a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader (fluoro most of the time).

After that, you’ll want to slide your sliding weight clip onto your braided line. This is where your weight will go and it’s super easy to add or remove weight. You’ll then attach a swivel (using Uni knot) which will keep the weight from sliding down and prevent line twisting. Watch the video to see the exact steps and gear used. See our favorite gear here.

You’re then going to attach your leader line, your flashers, and whatever lure you’re going to use. Find out here what lure/flasher color to use in each type of water.

I like using a heavier fluorocarbon to go from my swivel to my flasher (which prevents breakage). You’ll then attach your fluoro leader to the other end of the flasher and then to your lure.

Somewhere around 12-16 inches should be perfect. The line you use will depend on what fish you’re after. Keep things as small as you can so the fish won’t be able to see your line.

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

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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