The slowest speed on some larger outboards is too fast for trolling when targeting slower chasing fish such as Trout, Walleye, and Salmon. So to successfully catch trout and many other fish we need to slow our boats down.
How fast to troll when targeting trout?
The ideal speed to troll when targeting trout is between 0.5 and 2 miles per hour (Basically under 1 knot). When the water is very cold stick towards the lower end of this range.
When a boat can not troll slow enough, the lure zooms through the water faster than the trout are willing to respond, which usually greatly reduces the number of fish caught.
For more in-depth information on the best speed to troll at when targeting trout I have an article here.
Option 1: Trolling Plate
What is a trolling plate? and do they work?
The first method of slowing down an outboard I will like to discuss is with a trolling plate. Basically, a trolling plate is an attachment that bolts onto the cavitation plate of your outboard. The plate then acts as a barrier blocking a significant portion of thrust from the engine.
Just how well a trolling plate work does depend on many variables, the two major ones being the amount of thrust generated at low throttle and how streamlined the hull is. In most cases, a trolling plate should be able to get a boat’s minimum speed down to around 1.3-1.8 miles per hour.
Disadvantages of a trolling plate (over a kicker)
1) Trolling plates do not reduce the noise generated by a large outboard. A large outboard, even at a slow speed is enough to frighten some boat shy species.
It is possible to limit the impact of a noisy outboard by trolling an extremely long way behind the boat.
2) Trolling plates reduce the thrust, and hence the ability to steer. When using a trolling plate the steering can feel more sluggish.
3) Trolling plates can be damaged if too much power is applied when they are still locked in plastic. Budget plastic ones are extremely prone to damage.
Aluminum plates can also be bent out of sharp, although it is usually possible to mold them back into sharp a few times before they lose effectiveness.
Some better designed plates do have shear pins that are designed to break preventing damage to the plate itself.
Some have shear pins that will break if you forget. While others such as the Ironwood Pacific EasyTroller has a hinge mechanism that automatically allows them to raise up to prevent damage.
Option 2: Trolling bags
I have never been a fan of trolling bags, they just seem inefficient to me and they can get in the way when fighting fish. On the plus side, they are one of the cheaper options.
A trolling bag is a sort of ‘underwater sail’ or sea anchor that is designed to slow a boat down.
Trolling bags do differ from Drift Socks, they are made much more durable and are constructed to be pulled through the water. A cheap drift sock can shred itself within a few weeks.
If you are thinking of getting a trolling bag I can recommend the Big Papa Trolling bag. It comes in a wide range of sizes.
Once deployed, the bags open up which greatly increases resistance. This in turn can slow down a boat.
I like to attach a small net float towards the front of the sock to keep it somewhat closer to the surface. Makes retrieving significantly easier.
On larger boats, it can be worthwhile to run two trolling bags. One off port and the other starboard.
A trolling bag is by far the cheapest option, and they do work.
Trolling bags can also be used to slow down a drifting boat on a windy day.
If on a very tight budget, try towing a 5 gallon bucket or two in a similar fashion.
Option 3: Auxiliary outboard, trolling, or Kicker motor
Sometimes the best option is just to run a second smaller outboard. Smaller engines generate less thrust and are quieter. Meaning they are less likely to scare wary fish.
It is possible to either go with a small gas outboard or go for an electric trolling motor. I personally feel an electric trolling motor is the better of the two options. They require less maintenance and are typically extremely quiet.
While gas motors are usually more powerful but are the better option for a whole day of trolling. Taking more gas is easier than multiple batteries. Expect to spend around $1000 for a name brand four stroke gas outboard, or anywhere from $200-2500 for electric.
The biggest downside of a second motor is the expense. They cost a lot more to purchase and maintain than the other options.
Although, on the other hand. They do reduce the amount of wear and tear on the main outboard which is a cost saving in its own right.
Electric trolling motor options
The two main brands in electric trolling motors are Motor Guide and MinnKota. Models within both ranges are broadly comparable, but motor guides come with better integration with lowrance fishfinders, while Minnkota’s are designed to be paired with Hummingbirds.
Garmin also has a premium offering that integrates with their own products.
If you are just after a good budget option for smaller boats then the Newport Vessels NV-Series is one I can recommend, it comes in a range of different powers but roughly speaking 55lb of thrust is about equivalent to 1hp.
If you have a Pontoon boat with poor hydrodynamics it will require more thrust to get it moving so I suggest going for the 85lb model.
Gas trolling motor options
It has been a while since I last used a gas motor for trolling. I personally like the Suzuki BF2.5, it is a compact small four-stroke that is relatively quiet, although I do see a lot more Honda 2.3 out on the water.
The Honda is popular due to its reputation of reliability and its very simple design but it is quite a bit noisier.
Yamaha and Mercury also have 2.5hp options, both are quite heavy. All these engines offer comparable maximum speeds.
(Two stroke engines can also be used for trolling, although they are noisy)
Option 4: Start Rowing
Rowing is a viable option for some smaller boats. Yes it takes energy and becomes a workout but on a calm day it is not difficult to row fast enough to catch fish like trout while trolling.
For example, the relaxed cruising speed of a kayak is too fast for trout. Any forward momentum is generally fast enough. This is achievable with a couple of oars in most small boats.
When the wind picks up, it does become very difficult to row boats that are not designed for it. So either turn on the main engine, or just troll downwind.
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