One thing that we truly believe in here at SORD Fishing Products is that the details matter. Whenever we have listed a key detail, we have underline and bolded it. We are hyper-focused on making sure every single detail has been covered and we feel that when you focus on the details, it causes you to catch more fish. There is nothing worse for us than losing fish due to human error, so wherever possible, we have included these small details that have been learned from hundreds of mistakes. In our opinion, these details will make a huge difference between a good day on the water and a great day on the water.
How to pick an offshore trolling spot?
It will never matter what lures you put in the water if you are not where the fish are. That is worth repeating, it does not matter what you put behind your boat when trolling if where you are fishing is wrong. If we are trolling at a spot that has been unproductive for 1.5-2 hours and have not marked any bait, we will pick up and run to a new spot. There was a time that we were trolling out near the edge south of Orange Beach, Alabama and we had no luck in the morning, so we picked up and ran 10 miles to the southwest and ended up stumbling upon a new area with a nice rip where we caught 6 Wahoo.
Picking a spot to troll is about as difficult as it is for your significant other to pick a restaurant to eat at, since at any given moment there might be more than one area that is productive to catching fish. Pelagic species are highly migratory fish and will move around as they follow bait, water temperatures, and typical migratory patterns. We focus on four different variables when we are starting to plan our trip from most important to least important.
1. Satellite shots (using Hilton’s Realtime Navigator)
2. Time of the year / what kind of fish we are targeting
3. Bottom structure and contours
4. Fish Attraction Devices (FADs) or floating debris
The first thing that we check before we head out on an offshore trolling trip is the recent satellite shots from Hiltons realtime navigator. This is the most useful tool that you will have in your offshore fishing arsenal for pelagic species and it is more than worth the $200 yearly subscription fee. Our primary focus using this tool before we do some open water trolling in the Gulf of Mexico during the months of March through November is to find out where there are going to be “rips” or “weed lines”. An offshore rip is a place where currents and eddies collide. When this collision happens, anything floating on the surface of the two bodies of water get trapped where the two different bodies of water meet forming a rip on the surface. These rips can usually be found using Hilton’s by correlating the sea surface temperature, chlorophyll, and altimetry shots
A solid rip that has a well-formed line of yellow/gold sargassum grass and other debris is almost guaranteed to hold a few pelagic fish. The sargassum grass that is floating on the surface is the start of the life cycle for many species and holds everything from small crustaceans, bait fish, sea turtles, up to the pelagic species of Wahoo, Mahi, Marlin, Tuna, etc. on the top of the food chain. We have had days out there where we could not keep a line in the water for more than 5 minutes without a bite on one of these rips. Once you get a bite on the rip, mark that spot on the rip and then double back around with your spread back in the water to see if there are any more fish hanging out right there. Typically, the pelagic species are moving up and down the line looking for something to eat. When they find this food source, they will stick around until the food source has been depleted, so it is worthwhile to make a few passes over the spots that you have previously caught fish.
A subscription to Hilton's can help you find out where these areas are and there are great video tutorials on how to use the product on Hilton’s website. Understanding this product and how to use it will increase your chances of putting pelagic species in the boat tenfold.
Fishing Bottom Contours and Structure
Starting in late March a wide variety of bait starts showing up on the gulf coast and the pelagic predators are right behind them. Once the bait shows up off of our home port in Destin, we will start planning offshore trolling trips. Some of this bait will hold around the mouth of the passes, some will hang out offshore and swim with the currents, and some will hang out around reefs and prominent bottom structure. These ledges and structures can be usually be seen using google maps satellite shots and all of these are marked with coordinates on the Hilton’s software, the most common ones are:
1. south east edge (southwest of Pensacola)
2. nipple (south of Pensacola)
3. yellow gravel (south of Pensacola)
4. 131 hole (south of Pensacola)
5. elbow (south southwest of Pensacola)
6. steps (southwest of Pensacola)
7. spur (southwest of Destin)
8. squiggles (south of Destin)
When we are not able to find a good area with the satellite shots, we focus on fishing around good bottom contours. We will pick one of these areas depending on the target species as well as season and work our way back and forth across the contour and around the areas near it. For example, if we had chosen to go try to catch a wahoo near the southeast edge, we would make a zig-zag pattern across the contour like the photo below. When you are zig-zagging across the contour, make sure that you have your depth finder on and mark any areas that are holding bait up in the water column. These bait balls will look like a red blob on the screen or will be distinct marks that are suspended in the upper areas of the water column and not specifically attuned to the bottom structure.
If you utilize these four techniques to pick your next offshore trolling spot, we guarantee that you will put some fish in the boat. Have some questions? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.