By Mike Carey
I listened to the trolling motor as it went into it’s programmed acceleration. Like clockwork the outside downrigger rod began to do a familiar “tap tap tap” as it signaled another kokanee on the other end. Pulling the rod out of the rod holder Alan reeled down and popped the release. “It’s not a bad fish” he noted. The rod doubled over as the kokanee gave some good head shakes. Alan slowly and steadily reeled the fish in to the awaiting net and we scooped a nice 14” shiny kok up and into the boat.
We were fishing with Alan “downriggeral”Hanna from the Northwest Fishing Reports website on Lake Stevens. Yesterday Alan had helped me install a new iTroll on my 9.9 mercury kicker. Alan is a product rep for iTroll and has his own web site, http://ifishsolutions.com . If you don’t know what an iTroll is and why you should consider getting one, then read on.
Before we get into the specifics of iTrolls, let’s talk a little bit about trolling for fish. Trolling has been around for as long as anglers paddled their boats. It’s an effective way to cover water and search out fish, whether schooled up or scattered. Done correctly it can be devastatingly effective – when done the correct way. If not done correctly (yes, that is possible) it can become a technique that leads to long hours of no action and the angler wondering just what they are doing wrong.
There are a few essential elements to trolling for fish, whether it is salmon, trout, kokanee, walleye, or any other species. It starts with right gear on the terminal end of the line. Lures, flashers or dodgers, bait – these are all critical components that will make or break your fishing success. After that, we have external factors such as speed, depth, set back, and the all-important “location, location, location”.
Today we’re going to focus on speed and the subtle nuances that go along with speed. And that’s where the iTroll comes in. Speed is a not to be underestimated essential element when it comes to trolling. When you’re kokanee fishing, for example, a variation of a few tenths of a mile an hour can make the difference between having a good day and a so-so day. Fishing with flashers for salmon requires a specific speed window. Too slow and the flasher won’t turn over, making it ineffective, too fast and nothing but the most aggressive salmon will strike. Watching underwater videos I’ve taken of Puget Sound coho I’ve seen coho following a flasher and hoochie set up and not strike, only to attack the lure when a slight speed increase caused the flasher to begin to fully rotate. The same fish that followed as if in a trance for miles suddenly comes alive and strikes.
If you’re like me you learned over the years that trolling in a straight line with no speed variations is about the worst way of trolling you can do. We learn from other anglers and through our own experience that periodically speeding up or slowing down, putting the motor in neutral, or doing s-turns is a good way of varying trolling speed. I’m sure like me; you’ve used these methods and have had a fish instantly strike your line. That’s no coincidence. It really does work. Again, go online and watch any of the new underwater footage on the web. It’s really quite interesting to see fish following behind lures and then for no apparent reason strike.
I will admit however that when fishing, complacency often sets in and I find myself doing the very thing I shouldn’t be doing. Call it laziness, boredom, distraction or come up with your own term; the results are the same – long stretches of trolling with a few fish in-between.
The iTroll automates trolling speed adjustments combating complacency.
When I first spoke with Alan about iTrolls I was immediately excited about the potential. That’s because unlike other throttle control add-ons out there, the iTroll does more than allow you to make speed adjustments on a dial. It does much more than that.
The iTroll has several “game changer” features that Alan told me about, but far and away the most impressive one is the “hunter” mode. This is truly going to be a game changer for trolling anglers. What the hunter does is give you eight presets of trolling speed variations. These presets can be further fined tuned to make individual adjusts on four different settings. Without getting too deeply into the details, suffice to say if you want to make any trolling variation you can do it. From slow, incremental speed increases and decreases, to sudden idle/pause/accelerate, the itroll unit can do it all. Just set it and forget it and your trolling motor will run the programs.
The magic comes when you find the speed range that the fish are most aggressive at. Zeroing in on that ideal speed can really make a big deal on your success rate. My personal weakness when it comes to trolling is the above mentioned “set it and forget it” where I will run my motor at 1.2mph and leave it there.
Installing the itroll is a fairly simple one hour job and doesn’t require a lot of hole drilling or changes to your boat or motor. Just install the servo and throttle rod on your motor, run the cables to the battery and up to the dashboard and you’re all set. No special tools required. Alan and I took my boat out the next day and I must say it was pretty cool to be steering and have the motor automatically go through its speed adjustments with having to play with the throttle handle. Alan explained that unlike my motor’s throttle handle, the itroll step adjustments are more sensitive, allowing for exacting incremental speed variations.
Another feature I found to be very helpful is the idle/pause. First, the unit comes with a second on/off idle button and cable that can be installed at the back of the boat or controlled from the itroll control box. This button allows the angler to pause the motor for a moment, say if you get a fish on and want to play it with the motor out of gear. What’s very cool is when you press the button again the unit goes back to the speed that you hit the idle button at, meaning you can get right back to the strike zone. The unit remembers the speed you caught your fish at! With that information you can now tighten your speed range on your unit and focus on the most aggressive fish at the right speeds. There are so many great tools available to anglers to improve their success on the water. I definitely add the itroll and its unique “hunt” and pre-programed modes to this list. It’s a tool you’ll want to seriously consider adding to your arsenal. It’s that revolutionary. You can learn more about the itroll at Alans website, ifishsolutions.com. In addition, Alan is very "angler-friendly" and more than happy to answer your questions by e-mail or phone.
Check them out today at ifishsolutions.com and "step up" your trolling game!