Super Tactics For Summer Blues & Stripers

Today's super-braid lines are providing new ways to seek summertime stripers and bluefish -- without heavy tackle. Read on for tips on how to effectively fish these modern materials. (August 2007)

One huge advantage of trolling with super-braid lines is the ability to use lighter tackle for maximum sport and fishing fun.
Photo by Pete Barrett.

Tired of dragging heavy wire when trolling for striped bass and bluefish, or frustrated from dealing with cumbersome planers and heavy trolling weights? Then it is time to switch to super-braid trolling, a terrific alternative technique used by savvy inshore anglers and charter skippers.

Nearly all striped bass and bluefish trollers use traditional wire line techniques because they have to, not because they want to. Although time-tested and proven, wire line also feels heavy, requires rods with special guides and backlashes quickly if you aren't careful while paying out line. Other techniques, such as downriggers, planers and trolling drail weights, also have their own unique quirks and drawbacks.

Super-braid lines offer an effective alternative and can be used to present lures high near the surface, at mid- range or down deep where trophy-sized game fish are often found. Keep an open mind and be ready to do some experimenting because the rewards are well worth the effort.

SUPER-BRAID ADVANTAGES

Trolling with super-braid line is simple and requires no special tackle. You can scale down and employ reels that are small in size and light in weight, so the trolling experience becomes much more sporting and enjoyable. Matched to braid-capable rods with sensitive tips and powerful butt actions, the combination delivers the knockout punch required for battling trophy bass and big bluefish. As an example, I'm fishing a Shimano Tekota 500 level-wind conventional reel filled with 300 yards of 50-pound braid and mounted on a 7-foot Lamiglas BL-7030C. It is light in the hand, very comfortable to fish with and weighs about one-third of a traditional wire-line outfit. There are dozens of similar outfits available.

Like wire line, super-braid lines have no discernable stretch, so you feel the fight of the fish with a sensitivity that is remarkable. Unlike wire, super-braid lines are virtually weightless, so the tackle can be scaled down for a more pleasurable angling experience while fighting a fish.

Unlike monofilament, super-braid lines have extremely small line diameters along with exceptional line strength. A super-braid line of 50- to 65-pound-test has a diameter similar to 12- or 15-pound-test monofilament. This fine diameter allows super-braid lines to slice the water like a razor. When trolling a 4- or 6-ounce lure, super-braid lines will run at almost the same depth as wire line.

CALCULATING THE DEPTH RANGE

The big-lipped, deep-diving plugs from Mann's, Tsunami and Yo-Zuri are excellent choices when trolling for striped bass and blues. Seductive actions and lifelike color schemes match virtually any local bait, or present bright attractor colors, which are especially liked by bluefish. Each lure is named for the particular depth that it trolls. The Mann's Stretch 25 trolls at 25 feet. Other models are available to troll at depths from 8 to 50 feet, including the Giganticus G-50 that is a killer for big striped bass.

Other lures can also be trolled on super-braid lines, including the popular six-arm shad rigs, but you must accurately get the lures to the exact feeding depth of the stripers and blues by marking the line every 50 feet. A permanent-ink Magic Marker is a handy way to mark the braid.

Most super-braid lines sold on the East Coast are dark in color, so line marks are hard to see; but these same lines are also available in white and high-visibility yellow, and these colors are easy to mark. After several fishing trips, the marks will fade and will need to be retouched for maximum visibility. They can also be color-coded with red, blue, green or black to help determine how much line is out. As an example, black is 100 feet, blue is 150, red is 200, green is 250.

If you troll at night, visual markers are useless. Night trollers rely on the feel of the marks slipping through their fingers to determine the amount of line needed. Stretching a small rubber band alongside the braided line and then applying several half hitches of dental floss or Gudebrod's Bait Rigging Floss around the super-braid line and the rubber band make a "feel good" mark. When the tag end of the rubber band is clipped off, the rubber relaxes and is jammed against the braided line so the mark is tight to the line and immovable.

When trolling with a 4- to 6-ounce fully rigged, six-arm shad rig, for every 50 feet of super-braid line in the water (don't count the line between the rod tip and the water), the lure goes down about 4 feet of trolling depth. I proved this by trolling along a sandy beach with 300 feet of super-braid line in the water. The shad rig hit the bottom when the depthfinder read 24 feet, which is 4 feet of depth for every 50 feet of line. Adding a 4-ounce drail got me to the 28-foot depth. This is virtually identical to fishing with wire line, which achieves 5 feet of depth for every 50 feet of line.

You can also catch surface-holding fish. Last year on one trip in late August, I marked bluefish at 15 feet deep along a sandy shoal. Letting out approximately 200 feet of super braid resulted in a good catch of blues, and they were caught on tackle usually thought of as summer flounder or weakfish gear. I used a 4-ounce drail, an 8-foot mono leader and an Acetta spoon. What a pleasure it was to catch these 5- to 8-pound bluefish on light tackle!

RIGGING UP

There are several backing-to-braid and braid-to-leader connections that have proved reliable and which also provide the strength to handle many fishing situations. You can use mono backing beneath a top-shot of 150 to 300 yards of super line and connect the two lines with Uni-knots if you double the braided line. Make five turns of the mono backing, but 10 turns of the braid and draw down carefully. Use gloves to get a firm grip on the fine-diameter super line to be sure the knot is snug and neat.

When trolling with umbrella rigs or shad rigs, the braid can be tied directly to the snap swivel, which is then clipped to the shad rig. A double-improved clinch knot is used to attach the snap swivel at the end of the braid. Most fishermen, however, will prefer to add a length of mono at the end of the main fishing line. I like to have a 15-foot mono leader and use the super-strong size No. 6 SPRO barrel swivel rated at 80-pound-test between the mono and the super braid. Double-improved clinch knots or Palomar knots are excellent connections to attach the braided line to the swivel. A three-turn clinch knot attaches the mono leader to the other eye of the

swivel.

You can also use a swivel to connect the backing to the top shot of braid, using the same knots. The swivels are small enough to easily pass through the rod guides and are extremely reliable. If you don't like the idea of swivels, no matter how small, running through the rod guides, attach the mono to the super line with Uni-knots or a five-turn surgeon's knot. In both cases, double the braided line. A few drops of Hard As Nails will add a protective coating and help the knots flow easily through the rod guides.

TACTICS AND STRATEGY

I like to troll with a matching pair of rods and reels, pre-rigged and ready to go. I fish them angled at 90 degrees to the boat by mounting them in L-shaped outrodders to keep the lines spread apart. This makes turning maneuvers over structure or through a fleet of other trolling boats much easier with virtually no lure tangles.

A combination fishfinder/chartplotter provides essential, detailed information on the depth of the fish, rising and falling bottom contours, surface temperature breaks, and also shows a structure chart on the screen and plots a track line of the trolling pattern as it progresses over each piece of bottom structure. Striped bass and bluefish are very structure oriented and success is often measured in yards; it is essential to make several trolling passes over every area of the bottom contour wherever you mark fish.

Trolling speed and direction are important. The best speed is from 2 1/2 to 4 knots, with jumbo striped bass preferring a slower pace than schoolies and bluefish. Be sure to approach the structure from several directions until the fish show a preference pattern.

If you get strikes while making a turn, analyze what happened. The lure on the outside of the turn rises and speeds up, the inside lure slows and sinks slightly. Adjust your trolling speed and depth accordingly to match the preference of the fish.

Trolling for big fish on lightweight tackle is a dream come true for old-hand wire liners used to tackle that "weighs a ton." Although still a relatively new concept for Northeast inshore trolling, super-braid trolling is the hot new strategy that will definitely give you that extra edge to catch a few more stripers and blues this summer and fall.

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