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Going for a Troll
By Ross Grothe

Wherever and whenever you¹re fishing walleyes, you had better be versatile.
The wind might rip. The fish might be deep, shallow or out in the middle of
nowhere. The weather might change in a moment¹s notice.

One of the best ways to cover water‹and adjust with the whims of both the
walleyes and the weather‹is by trolling. But such versatility, which depends
on where the fish are located in the water column, is difficult without the
proper equipment and the proper approach to match the conditions. As a
touring pro who fishes the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail and FLW
Outdoors RCL walleye tour, I know the importance of a high-quality,
slow-idling kicker motor to run my lures anywhere from 0.5 mph to 2.5 mph in
anything from flat calm to a tempest. With it, I can troll contours or open
water, even boost the power from the back of the boat when I¹m running my
electric motor on the bow.

Yamaha Outboards four stroke T-8
Yamaha four Stroke T-8
My choice for auxiliary power is Yamaha's new T8, an eight-horsepower four-stroke kicker that runs quiet and clean. Beyond those qualities, the
kicker possesses a sharp turning radius for following tight contours and smooth idling for running down at a snail¹s pace.
That's important when I¹m faced with high winds and high seas, all-too-common conditions from the Dakotas to Minnesota. A technique that doesn't quite qualify as traditional trolling‹really, it's more of a controlled drift depends on the use of the four-stroke to supply additional power from the stern of the boat when a trolling motor alone won¹t quite cut it. If I'm jigging or live-bait rigging on contours but the gusts are too difficult to negotiate, I¹ll pop the kicker into forward gear, then use the bowmount trolling motor to steer and follow a drop-off.

Another asset of a kicker such as the T8 is its ability to troll contours‹forward troll, that is‹which can be difficult if the breakline twists and turns. This model from Yamaha comes with power tilt and trim built into it (rather than needing to be installed as an after-market accessory) that helps when you tilt up the motor to cut with the contours.

When I'm trolling the contours, I opt either for Stren monofilament or lead-core line, depending on the depth of the fish. When they¹re on the shallow side, I choose 10-pound mono; when deeper‹say, beyond 15 feet I'll switch to the lead-core. Here I have the ability to tweak the speed, by tenths of a mile an hour, depending on how the walleyes are hitting the lures. If the fish are engulfing the lure, it¹s a signal to speed up. If I'm just getting them on the back hook, I'll slow down.

For forward trolling for expediency¹s sake‹meaning I¹m covering water just
to find fish‹I know of no better technique to find out where the fish are
than to drop the kicker and put it in gear at about 1.5 mph. What I do next
is drop down Northland Rock-Runner bottom bouncers with spinners and night
crawlers. In this case, the bouncer keeps me near bottom and the spinner and
crawler unites the strum of an artificial lure with the smell and taste of
live bait. When I get a fish, I¹ll punch in an icon or a waypoint on my
Lowrance GPS unit, leaving me the ability to return and mop up on more fish.
Jigs and live-bait rigs are among the more stealthy, precise options for
hovering over fish and doing just that.

In the event the wind howls when I¹m forward trolling and I¹m going to motor
into it, a nifty trick is to attach a drift sock to the bow eye to keep the
bow of the boat down. I like the offerings from Drift Control for their
quick opening and the parachute effect to further slow and control the boat
when gusts are trying to blow the bow off course. It¹s important, though, to
make sure the length of rope on the drift sock puts the drift sock ahead of
the outboard and kicker motors to prevent tangling. The good news is that
the drift sock will tend to remain in the middle of the boat, out of the way
of lines.

In open water, when walleyes are essentially in the middle of nowhere, a
kicker again pays off in spades with its ability to run a spectrum of speeds. Another bonus: low fumes from a four-stroke to diminish exhaust in
your face when trolling downwind. For trolling open water, speeds that
trigger walleyes are typically between 1.4 mph and 2.5 mph, which with the
T8 can be dialed in to the tenth. If, however, you¹re faced with a cold front, you have the ability with such a kicker to dial down to the low 1-mph range and then troll both crankbaits and spinners at the same speed‹a way to achieve more variation when times are tough.

After all, that¹s what versatility is all about‹the ability to change with the conditions and the ways and whims of the walleye. Which is precisely where a kicker like Yamaha¹s T8 figures in. With it, you can do whatever it takes to find or stay on walleyes regardless of their mood or the conditions.

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