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To Troll or to Cast, That is the Question

There are lots of different ways for an angler to present a bait to fish. Drifting can be effective if the wind is from the right direction, but trolling and casting are, in most places at most times, for freshwater fish, the most popular ways to try to put a bait in front of a fish. Trolling versus casting, here we go.

Casting is usually most effective in shallow water. In the spring, many species of fish are in the shallows spawning or getting ready to spawn. Let’s say you know where there’s a rock, gravel, or sand point in shallow water. To take it one step further, you believe that there are some walleyes hanging out around that structure. The spot is two- to four-feet deep and the water is clear. If you drift or troll over the spot, you’re going to spook the fish. However, if you stay within easy casting distance and cast to the fish, they’ll never know that you’re there. Or at least they won’t know until they discover your bait in their mouth. When the fish are shallow and in a small area, casting will be highly effective.

Casting isn’t just for shallow water. This was made noticeably clear to me several years ago when a group of us discovered that casting was the way to go on a lake on the outskirts of Minnesota’s Twin Cities. We had located by sonar an area in seventeen to twenty feet of water that held what we believed to be walleyes. We hovered directly over them and fished our jigs vertically below the boat. No action. After a while of no action, all of us but one boat piloted by fishing pioneer Randy Amenrud moved on to other areas in search of fish that weren’t so finicky. Randy and his partners stayed in the area where the fish were. In a last attempt to get the fish to bite, they moved off to the side of the fish and cast to them. Do you know what happened? They started catching, and they were walleyes. After they figured things out, they invited the other boats in our group to come back and get in on the action. Randy explained to us what they were doing. All of us, four boats of anglers, backed off the fish and started casting jigs to them. We all started catching. These fish had seen a lot of pressure in recent weeks and a boat hovering overhead, even at that depth, spooked them to a point where they wouldn’t bite. But if we got away from them and cast a jig into the area where they were holding, we got bit. Even in deep water a casting presentation can be productive at times.

Trolling works best when the fish are spread out or are suspended near the surface over deep water. When they’re near the surface, you can catch them, but you must be quiet. Planer boards attach to your line and enable an angler to get their bait out to the side and away from the boat. That allows us to troll in areas that hold fish near the surface without disturbing them.

Many states allow an angler to use multiple lines. When the fish are spread out, boards enable anglers to effectively get a sizable number of lines in the water. By doing so, we can cover a variety of depths and show the fish several different lure offerings. Off Shore Tackle makes boards that are easy to use and highly effective at getting baits into the fish zone.

When you go fishing, if you’ll remember to cast for shallow fish or deeper fish that you’ve pinpointed and troll for fish that are spread out, you’ll catch more fish.

– Bob Jensen of

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