The Best Wahoo Trolling Advice-Trolling Techniques and Tactics for Beginners
Within the blog you will find my best wahoo trolling advice-trolling techniques and tactics for beginners just starting out. Trolling may look easy, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. For fishermen who want to catch wahoo, blackfin tuna, mahi mahi, and sailfish consistently using trolling lures, understanding the science behind it is critical. Things like reading the water, following the movements of baitfish, studying moon phases, and understanding engine behavior and currents can all help you be a successful troll fisherman. With some dedication and time spent mastering the art of trolling, you’ll have a much better chance at success out on the water. Within in this blog are few trolling advice and few techniques and tactics that you may find helpful.
Florida Keys Wahoo Trolling Spread
Trolling is an effective and popular way to catch a variety of fish in the Florida Keys, including wahoo, blackfin tuna, mahi mahi, sailfish, and blue marlin. But getting your trolling spread just right can be tricky. To make things easier for you, here’s one of my favorite trolling spreads when targeting these species.
Combination of Meat and Plastics
For wahoo, blackfin tuna, and mahi mahi, I like to use a combination of trolling plugs, rigged ballyhoo, and strips of artificial or dead bait. Using this spread, you can maximize your chances of catching all these Florida Keys fish species. I run this spread because it matches the hatch of most bait species the wahoo, tuna, and mahi mahi may feed on over the course of the day. Fish change feeding habits over the course of the day so for me personally I like to run mixed spread of trolling plugs and rigged dead bait.
This trolling spread is a great way to target various species and keep the rods bent. The deep diving plugs provide maximum depth penetration so you can fully take advantage of the area you’re fishing in. Swimming ballyhoo and strips of artificial or dead bait act as flying fish teasers, bringing fish into your spread that is looking for an easy meal. Combining the best of all worlds gives you plenty of opportunities to catch various Florida Keys fish species. If you would like to learn how I rig ballyhoo for wahoo fishing using titanium wire purchase my course by clicking here.
A trolling plug is one of my preferred lures for targeting wahoo and blackfin tuna. The Laser Pro 190 by Halco has been my go-to choice for many years due to its tight wiggle and fish-attracting ability.
However, the Nomad DTX trolling plugs are making a big splash in wahoo and tuna fishing all across the globe. With their tuned action and natural features, these lures get the attention of wahoo and tuna. I recently started combining the Halco Laser Pro 190 and the Nomad DTX trolling plugs for a compelling mix of old and new. Also make sure you change out the hooks on the Laser Pro 190 by Halco. You can read my recommendations on previous blog: The Best Hooks for Florida Keys Wahoo Fishing
Wahoo and tuna love eating flying fish, squid, and bonito. The Laser Pro 190 has a slender bait profile that resembles all the 3, whereas the Nomad looks more like a small bullet-size bonito and blackfin tuna, which is a wahoo favorite. I have caught many large blackfin tunas over the years and have found smaller blackfin tunas inside their stomachs. Therefore, matching the hatch is extremely important. Read more about matching the hatch and selecting lure color by reading How Wahoo See Lure Color.
No Outrigger Spread
Setting up the trolling spread is an essential part of catching wahoo. On the right side of the boat start with a Halco Laser Pro lure set 220 feet back in a gunwale trolling rod. A Nomad DTX 165 set 150 feet back off the transom. On the left, have a Nomad DTX 165 set 170 feet back in a gunwale rod holder and 6-12 oz. seawitch or islander style lure rigged with an artificial Baitstrip on the left flat line set off the transom. Finally, use a deep shotgun bait such as 6-12 oz. seawitch or islander style lure rigged over with a dead ballyhoo. Place this deep shotgun lure 350 feet behind the boat in the clean wash for the best results. I set this rod way high on the middle t-top rod holder. Learn more about how to select a Freddy Collins Seawitch by reading our detail blog: The Best Wahoo Sea Witch Guide for 2023
I highly recommend this AFTCO Flatline Clip to get you started. Wind is always a factor so it essential that you run lines lower to the water. The flat line will help manage the wind and keep your lures running nice.
I talk in detail about trolling plugs in this blog: Wahoo Fishing-The Easiest Way to Catch a Wahoo | A Complete Guide to the Best Wahoo Lures In addition, by taking the time to understand the design of these trolling plugs and experimenting with different trolling speeds and patterns, anglers can increase their chances of success.
Measuring Out Trolling Leader Length.
Accurately measuring each leader line is essential to maximize success while trolling. Doing so will help prevent tangles during tighter turns, providing anglers with a more effective troll spread and a better chance at catching fish throughout their charter. Before a fishing charter, I use a digital Rapala Line Counter to accomplish this task and measure the top shots of monofilament as I spool them onto each reel, then mark each reel accordingly.
I prefer trolling “S Curves” rather than the “Z Curves” when trolling deep-diving plugs. This technique helps reduce lure speed on the inside of the “S” while increasing it on the outside. By trolling in an “S” pattern, anglers can quickly determine whether to speed up or slow down their lure based on how the fish respond.
If you want to learn more about trolling the “S” pattern and other hard-to-find trolling tips, contact me at email@example.com for information about joining the Good Karma Rigging Crew II monthly seminar series.
When trolling, speed can be a tricky concept. Currents, swells, wind, and course direction moving with the current, cross current, or against the current can all impact how you can present baits, and these conditions change daily or hourly on most days. Therefore, the best way to measure your speed is using RPMs, which will be consistent regardless of environmental factors.
Boat Weight-Lighten, the Load
With a single-engine boat, it’s important to lighten your load, primarily if you’re focusing on trolling at higher speeds. It’s also important to be mindful of how many people are on the boat, as too many can cause one side to lean, and the weight will slow the boat down to where the captain can not get the boat positioned correctly in the current. Finally, listen carefully to your captain when they ask you to move from one side of the ship to the next – they know best.
I remember swordfishing with the legendary Capt. Bouncer Smith before his retirement. He asked me to move from one side of the boat to the next because of how Bouncer presented the baits in the current on that trip, and he was not shy about it either. So after fishing with him that day and he did that, I now do that with my clients, and I am not shy about telling them to move either, as it will mean the difference between getting the bite and not getting a bite.
Adjust Trolling Speeds Accordingly
When trolling in the Florida Keys for wahoo, tuna, mahi mahi, and sailfish, my preferred trolling speed for my boat is 8-10 mph. However, depending on the conditions, I may have to adjust this speed accordingly. Going too slow or fast can make the difference between getting a bite.
Trolling at slower speeds doesn’t mean you have to miss out on catching wahoo in the Florida Keys – that’s where the deep-diving plug comes in.
A deep-diving trolling plug can help get your bait deeper and increase your chances of hooking up. And when conditions are rough, and the water is chilly, color and action become more important than speed, giving you a better chance of success. Plus, if there are a lot of surface weeds, it’s best to ensure your baits are presented below them so the fish can see them. Use this technique when trolling at lower speeds, and you’ll increase your chances of catching some wahoo.
Boat Engine Adjustments For Cleaner Trolling Lanes
Lure presentation is vital when trolling, so understanding how to raise fish with your boat by making engine and trim adjustments should be a top priority.
First and foremost, every boat produces a different type of chine wash. Chine wash is the wake generated by the ship consisting of surface bubbles that emerge from the vessel’s sides at a 45-degree angle from the prop wash creating two clean-water trolling lures channels on either side, which help improve bait visibility for more strikes. Now that chine wash is defined, it is time to learn how to manipulate it to your advantage to catch more fish.
Engine Up and Tabs Down for Turbulent Prop Water/Engine Down and Tabs Up For Cleaner Prop Water
Before setting my lines, I trim my outboard up and bring down my trim tabs to maximize the amount of prop whitewash. I then make quick adjustments to get my clean trolling lanes by lowering my outboard and bringing the trim tabs up. I want to create the best possible controlling lanes for my lures based on oceanic conditions. So it is essential to learn how to adjust a boat’s trim to reduce white water and create a less turbulent wake trail, giving baits better visibility and increasing your chances of catching fish.
Making Changes and Adjustments Based on the Controlling Lanes
You may have to set baits back further than initially planned or run them shorter based on the conditions and current direction on that day. Also, you may have to pivot and run a different set of lures than you originally planned to run because they may run better based on the fishing conditions. Therefore, learning which of your favorite wahoo trolling lures run best in certain ocean conditions is essential.
The trolling lane wash will change based on the path you are trolling. I always drop lures back further when trolling against the current or run them a little closer when running with the current.
Remember, your boat is a big teaser, and the bubble trail gets the fish’s attention. So the worst thing you can do is set the engine up first thing in the morning and leave it be rather than make adjustments based on changing sea conditions throughout the day. I will dig more into this topic in a future blog.
Where to Troll for Wahoo in the Florida Keys
It’s also important for anglers to thoroughly understand the contours of the ledge or wreck they are fishing to determine the best way to troll and increase their chances of success.
Purchase a Top Spots Map
Anglers new to fishing in the Florida Keys should consider investing in a Top Spot Map for guidance while on the water. This highly detailed and accurate map can help guide anglers to the top spots for fishing species such as wahoo, tuna, mahi mahi, and sailfish. The map details popular locations like wrecks, rock piles, fathom curves, canyons, offshore humps, rips, and seamounts known to hold bait that attracts these types of fish.
In addition, areas such as the Islamorada Rips are considered the best places to target large mahi mahi in the Florida Keys. With information on depths and contours of popular fishing locations available at your fingertips, this map is an invaluable tool for anglers looking to get the most out of their time out on the water.
Good Karma Sportfishing strongly recommends purchasing a Shimano Speedmaster 25 or Talica 25 Shimano trolling reels for anglers fishing the Florida Keys. These reels are perfectly designed for heavier-lipped plugs and are very lightweight, making them ideal for stand-up fishing. Additionally, investing in a quality trolling reel will save you time, money, and hassle as it can take considerable abuse without needing to be serviced regularly – get it right the first time and buy a reliable reel built to last.
Anyone can learn how to troll, but it takes time and dedication to master the art of trolling. By following these simple tips and studying the science behind trolling, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful big-game fisherman. And if you want to cut years off the learning curve, we can help. We offer personalized coaching that will teach you everything you need to know about trolling, so you can start catching big wahoo consistently in no time. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started today.
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