Watching the rods…

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Trolling is not for everybody. While it is the primary method we use to catch Lake Trout out on Flathead Lake, and big Gerrard Rainbows on Little Bitterroot, we get talk to many folks who say “trolling is boring.”

I suppose trolling could be considered boring if all you do is put one or two lines out, and drive slowly around the lake hoping to catch something. I prefer to use the term “precision trolling” when I explain how we fish to prospective clients as it usually gets them asking questions, and that is what I want from a client. The more questions I can answer up front, the greater the assurance I have that the folks on the boat understand what they are in for, and why we do what we do.

The term “precision trolling” infers that there is nothing random about what we do, and there really isn’t. We set precise trolling speeds, with precise depths. We choose our setbacks (the distance behind the downrigger ball) carefully, the same as we choose the leader length (distance from flasher/dodger to actual lure).

Then comes the color of lure and the attractor, sometimes matching the bait and flasher and other times choosing a contrasting set-up.

A LOT goes into finding that right combination that fish will not just bite, but will aggressively chase and attack, each and every time you lower it into the strike zone. Nothing “boring” about that in my world!

And that is just the presentation! So much more goes into precision trolling, before you even get a spread in the water. The type of boat matters, as does how you set it up to mount downriggers, rod holders, trolling motors and electronics.

What rods and reels do you choose? Lines, leaders and terminal tackle? Net type, how long of a handle and how deep of a bag on your nets? Where do you put the net with the fish in it so you can extricate hooks, get a good photo and either release the fish or care for it for the table? All of these factors must be considered before you even go on the water!

We get complimented regularly about the efficiency of our operations on our boats, and how we “make it look so easy”! Well it didn’t just happen overnight, it is a system, slightly different on each boat but overall very consistent in the basics, that has been developed by ourselves and many anglers and guides before us.

We regularly get experienced anglers on our boats that can’t wait to get back to their own boats, and make changes or apply our processes. We even offer a service that puts me or one of our guides on your boat to test and evaluate your set-up and make suggestions to help you make the most of your own platform. Just give us a call and we can discuss the options as fall is a great time to do this so when next year comes around you are ready to put these “precision trolling” systems to work.

Well, I got a chance to take my boat over to Fort Peck and chase the Chinook, or “King” salmon I wrote about last time.

The many varied vessels, systems and tactics employed by the 50 or so boats that were on the water each day really prompted this article, and even my own system required some tweaking to be efficient in the quest for a king. While overall the bite was extremely slow (less than a one fish per day average between all those boats) the anticipation of a strike at any moment was all the motivation I needed to keep lines in the water!

Our patience was rewarded with an 18-pound, 33 inch fish on the third day, and the battle was everything you hear it is. That fish is currently “in the brine” and will be in the smoker tomorrow!

There is plenty of time left to get over to Fort Peck and try for these fish. Give me a call and I can give you some suggestions how best to approach it.

I’ll see you on the water!

— Howe is the owner/outfitter at Howe’s Fishing, A Able and Mo Fisch Charters. Call 406-257-5214 or at

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