Fishermen aren’t known for their intellect, but the best ones are deep thinkers. They know that to catch the biggest striped bass, they need to get their bait or lure down to where the fish are holding—especially if they want to score during the hot, bright mid-day hours when most stripers are chillaxin’ near the bottom.
One of the best methods of presenting a lure to low-lying lunkers is the time-honored technique of trolling wire line. Not only is trolling wire a great way of getting a lure into the payoff zone, it also lets you cover a lot of territory, which is helpful for locating fish along a rip or over a large section of rocky bottom.
Rods & Reels
The easiest way to get started is to have a tackle shop put together a wire-line outfit for you. It’s money well spent, and you’ll likely get a few good tips on how and where to fish with your new outfit. The standard setup starts with a 4/0-size trolling reel, such the venerable Penn 113H Senator, Daiwa 400H Sealine or Shimano TLD 20. The rod is typically 6’ to 7’ long and rated for 40- to 60-pound-test line. Wire-line rods should also feature special guides (eg., carbide) that resist grooving caused by contact with the wire, plus a roller tiptop to prevent kinks.
The line itself comes in either stainless steel or Monel. The latter is more expensive, but is a lot easier to work with, as it’s suppler and therefore more resistant to kinking.
Before spooling on the wire, fill the reel half way with 60-pound-test Dacron. On the end of the Dacron, use a Palomar knot to tie on a small, low-profile swivel, such as a SPRO Heavy Swivel, in 180-pound test (size 3). Now connect the wire to the swivel using a haywire twist and flatten the wire loop by compressing it with pliers.
An even sleeker way to connect the Dacron and wire is to first tie a short (1-2’) Bimini twist in the end of the Dacron. Next form a small loop in the end of the wire using a haywire twist. Pass the end of the Dacron loop through the haywire loop and back over the entire reel twice to form an interlocking loop-to-loop connection. This connection will pass easily through the rod guides when you let all the wire out and when you reel it in.
How Much Wire?
How much wire do you need? Unless you’re fishing water over 20’ deep or in very strong current, you can generally get by with 150’ of wire line (figure on roughly 1’ of depth for every 10’ of wire let out). Given a moderate current and a slow trolling speed (less than 4 knots), letting out all 150’ of wire will get a 2-ounce parachute jig or tube lure down to about 15’.
If you plan on fishing deeper than 20’, you’ll need 300’ of wire. Most wire-line pros use two 150’ sections, connected by a 3’ “bridge” of 60-pound Dacron. This lets them fish shallow areas by letting out only 150’ of wire and jigging on the Dacron bridge instead of directly on the wire, which can weaken the wire and create grooves in the rod guides. Also, it’s cheaper to replace a 150’ section of wire than an entire 300’ length.
Once you’re spooled up with wire, you’re ready for the nylon of monofilament leader. Go long (10’-15’) when fishing tubes, plugs and spoons. Parachute jigs typically are fished on 5’ to 6’ of leader. If you’re fishing over sandy bottom, you can use 40-pound-test leader, but in rocky areas go with 60- or even 80-pound test to guard against abrasion.
You can connect the wire and leader via an Albright knot or a low-profile swivel, such as the aforementioned SPRO Heavy Swivel. Either way, make sure your knots are well formed and cinched down tight. On the end of the leader, tie on a 150-pound-test ball-bearing snap swivel to prevent twists in the leader and wire. A ball-bearing snap is critical when using tube lures, which spin when pulled through the water.
Wire Line Lures
You can fish almost any kind of lure on wire, but the most productive types depend on what the fish are feeding on. That said, here are some general guidelines when it comes to lure selection. The most important thing to remember—no matter what lure you choose—is to fish it “low and slow.” If you’re not tapping bottom from time to time, you’re not getting deep enough.
- Parachute jigs are perhaps the most commonly used wire-line lures. They work well in areas of sandy bottom, especially when squid, herring or mackerel are present. Parachutes feature a heavy lead head, a “reverse” skirt that pulsates when jigged through the water, and come in 2-, 4- and 6-ounce sizes. Be sure to try different colors and sizes, and always “sweeten” your jig with a long strip of pork rind (red and yellow are the top colors). Parachutes are usually fished on short rods, with the angler making the jig dart through the water in short bursts. This is typically done by pointing the rod tip at the water and making short, sharp sweeps—like using a broom.
- Tube lures are another top producer, and are usually fished over rock or kelp bottom or over wrecks. Savvy tube trollers always place 1 or 2 seaworms on the rear hook of their tubes to add scent and taste. In fact, some anglers feel that the tube is simply a means of presenting a largely weightless worm to the fish. Popular tube colors include burgundy, black and red, although hot pink and fluorescent green can be effective on certain days.
- Bunker spoons are large teardrop-shaped slabs of metal sporting a keel weight. They work well when schools of large menhaden and herring are prevalent. The key to fishing these lures is to troll them as slowly as possible, so the spoon wobbles and flashes like an injured baitfish. Some anglers use special extra-long rods for trolling bunker spoons. These 8’ sticks feature a slow, “parabolic” action, and are generally left in the gunwale holders while trolling.
- Umbrella rigs work extremely well when large schools or small baitfish such as sand eels, spearing or peanut bunker (juvenile menhaden) are on the menu. Umbrellas are typically rigged with small tube lures, metal spoons or soft-plastic shad bodies, depending on the prevailing forage. Attaching an oversized swimming plug to the center of the umbrella rig, so that it tracks behind the “school” of smaller baits, is a great way to score a big fish.
- Plugs & bucktails: Other productive wire-line offerings include wide-lipped swimming plugs, big spoons, eel-skin rigs and bucktail jigs. Be sure to account for the additional swimming depth afforded by the lure when letting out line.
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