Dragging a lure behind a boat under “electric bow-mount” power may be against the rules when you’re fishing a bass tournament. But it’s a heck of a lot of fun, and very productive, when you’re fishing for fun. Plus, it’s a great way to locate fish when you’re practicing for a competition.
The technique is similar to trolling because its purpose is to keep a lure running in the strike zone for a long time. It’s different, however, because the boat and lure speeds are generally much slower. We call it “strolling.”
I learned one strolling variation a few years ago while fishing smallmouths with Dale Hollow guide Tony Eckler. It was late February, and the lake’s brown bass were suspended 30 to 40 feet deep near bluff banks and over deep flats. Vast schools of alewives were suspended in that depth range, and the smallmouths were growing fat on them.
Eckler’s most productive lure in this situation is a naked 1/4-ounce Blakemore Road Runner tipped with a minnow. Casting the lure for such deep fish would have been horribly ineffective, since it would actually be in the strike zone less than 10 percent of the time it was in the water. The rest the time we’d have be waiting for it to sink to the fish’s level, or reeling it to the surface for the next cast.
By strolling the Road Runners, Eckler kept them constantly swimming in the strike zone, which put us in touch with several hefty smallmouths.
We started by locating baitfish with the sonar unit, then flipping our Road Runners behind the boat on medium-action spinning rigs filled with 6-pound mono. We let out 50 or 60 more feet of line as Eckler pulled the boat ahead slowly with the electric motor, just fast enough to make the blades spin. Since the bass were sluggish in the cold water, we held the rods dead still, allowing the flickering blades and live minnows to trigger the subtle strikes.
Spots And Largemouths, Too
Cleveland, Ohio, bass pro Frank Scalish targets cold-water spotted bass in clear Southern reservoirs with his own strolling technique. At Lake Martin, Alabama, for example, he typically graphs bass and baitfish suspended 25 to 30 feet deep over 60 to 70 feet of water. He then fishes them with a 1/2-ounce horse head jig, sporting a willow-leaf blade and dressed with a pearl white Yum Houdini Shad instead of a minnow.
“When I see baitfish on my depthfinder, I stroll that rig through them on 14-pound test line with a 7-foot, 3-inch, medium-heavy Powell baitcasting rod,” he says. “I just hammer the bass doing that.”
Another situation in which strolling jig-spinners pays off is when the water warms and largemouths move out to long points, humps and other large, deep, offshore structures, Scalish slowly strolls a Carolina-rig consisting of a 3/4-ounce XCalibur Tg tungsten sinker threaded on 50-pound braided line above a plastic bead and a crane swivel. To the other end of the swivel he ties a 6-inch Texas-rigged Yum Lizard on a 20-inch, 17-pound Silver Thread monofilament leader.
“I’ve found a ton of isolated brush, stumps and rock piles by strolling a Carolina-rig,” he explains. “It takes forever to find that stuff when you have to cast and retrieve.”
Ultimate Search Technique
Strolling also allows Scalish to search vast areas of water and cover every inch of the bottom along a given contour. After he catches a bass from, say, a stump, he marks it as a waypoint on his GPS. Then, when he returns to the spot later, he can fish it more thoroughly by casting the Carolina-rig, or another type of lure.
“I usually stroll with a Carolina-rig to find key bottom cover,” he says. “When I know exactly where a piece of cover is, I’m more efficient casting to it.”
Strolling also excels at picking off bass scattered over large areas. Scalish often finds smallmouth bass spread over sprawling reefs and flats in Lake Erie, his home water.
On most days, there’s enough wind to push his boat over the bass as he drags a tube along the bottom. When the water is dead flat, however, he starts to stroll.
It paid off on a recent trip with his sons Frankie and Noah fishing on Erie. He handed a 7-foot, medium-heavy baitcasting rod strung with 10-pound fluorocarbon to each boy. One rod sported a 4-inch tube on a 3/8-ounce jig head; the other a 4-inch Yum Dinger on a 1/4-ounce jig. Both baits were green pumpkin purple.
“I told my boys to sit in the passenger and driver seats and to wait until I told them to cast. Then, I put the trolling motor on warp speed and cruised over a huge 22-foot flat.”
When Scalish would see a bass on his graph, he’d tell the boys to cast straight over the transom. Then, he’d slow the boat so the baits could sink to bottom. Invariably, one of the boys would catch the fish. In about 90 minutes, they landed a dozen or more smallmouths that weighed 3 to 4 pounds each.
“I had to cover lot of water to find those individual bass,” Scalish says. “There were other fishermen in the same area. They weren’t catching much because they weren’t strolling.”