Trolling Strike Indicators
Written by James Athey - Team Experience Outdoors   
Saturday, 18 April 2009 17:46
One of the most common questions I hear when taking greenhorns trolling is “How do you know when we get a bite?” For the initiated it may sound like a silly question but after trying to see it through their eyes it doesn’t seem so silly. Bear in mind that to most people, you know you have a bite when the fish pulls on one end of the bobber and the other end stands up. When trolling the rods are in perpetual motion from the wind and waves and it really isn’t always so easy to detect strikes unless one knows what to look for.

Planer board rods: Out of all the presentations we use trolling, planer board rods can be the hardest to learn to read. The boards are alternately digging or slipping with the waves and rocking of the boat causing a lot of fishy looking action on the rods. The key is to focus on the boards and what they are telling you. If you make the effort to keep your inline boards in a v formation it will make it easier to detect strikes. A board will indicate strikes in a variety of ways. It might slowly start lagging back out of formation or streak back. Large fish will often pull the board right under making it very easy to detect the strike. Sometimes even big fish aren’t easy to detect on a planer rod as they occasionally grab the bait and swim along with the boat, leaving very little in the form of clues that they’re on the line. In this case the indication might be subtle and much resemble the bobber with the fish pulling down on the back of the board which raises the front end even though it may still maintain it’s position in the formation. Offshore Tackle makes an add-on accessory for their boards called a Tattle-Flag. When the fish pulls on the lure it makes the flag stand up on the board. Another good strike indicator for planer board rods is the reel clicker. With the drag tightened just to the point that it doesn’t slip in the wave surge any leakage from a seemingly harmless click or two to the heart racing zzzzzzzzzz! can alert you to strikes from fish big or small.

Diver rods: Diver rods are pretty easy to detect strikes on. The action caused by surge is usually slow and rhythmic. When a fish strikes your lure the rod tip will throb or lunge backward at a pace not in tune with the surging of the waves. The fish may or may not slip drag but it’s a sure thing you won’t hear it when it does if you don’t have the reel clicker on.

Downrigger rods: As with planer boards, downrigger strikes can take many forms. It may be a subtle tap-tap of the rod tip out of sync with it’s normal rhythm which is often the case when fishing lake trout or using sliders (add-a-lines). Sometimes the rod tip will go down toward the water momentarily before popping up as the fish pulls the line out of the release. My personal favorite is when the rod tip goes down and doesn’t come up. As with other presentations strikes can be thrillingly obvious or subtle and easily missed. The best way to detect the subtle bites is to keep a vigilant watch on the rods looking for any movement out of sync with the natural rhythm.

Regardless of the method of presentation, some strikes are impossible to miss as they are violent and provide both visual and audible indication of the fish attacking your lure. Quite often however the strike can be subtle and easily missed by a lethargic crew. To improve your chances of detecting those subtle strikes when every rod aboard is in perpetual motion you should pay heed to the natural rhythm of the motion. Once in tune with the symphony even the slightest movement out of synch will trigger your internal strike indicator and spring you to action.
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