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Trolling for Bass Single Handed - Getting Started

Spring Bass Spread
Have you ever found yourself in the situation where you really want to go fishing but your friends are lame or have to "work”?  Well it happens around here pretty often and I find that I end having to make a decision between running solo or not running at all.  Over the years of trolling for bass single handedly I have developed a pretty decent system .

I must start with the standard fishing alone caveats as we all know fishing (and trolling) by yourself is inherently laden with risk.  Wearing your PFD, keeping a constant look out and wearing a kill switch are always a good idea.  Once you have these items covered here are some suggestions:


1# Stay away from the fleet - Sometimes people see you hooking up in an area over and over and want to come and take a look. The first rule in trolling single handed is stay away from everything to the best of your ability (trolling deeper water will likely help this).

2# Pick your spread wisely - This is tough while you are prospecting to see what the fish want and what depth you need. I tend to prospect with a three rod spread. A spoon - wire (port), a deep diver-braid (center) and shad-braid (starboard). I find that 90% of my fish are on the spoon, the deep diver in the center will float to the surface when hooked up and the shad will stay down to prevent a massive mess.  If you are new to trolling single handed two deep diving plugs is a great way to start as when you hook up and the boat is in neutral under 90% of the scenarios that second plug will float to the surface.

#3 Its all about depth - Typically while prospecting I will let out enough wire to be 5 feet off the bottom. When solo I typically leave myself a little breathing room; ideally giving the spoon and shad enough line to drop without hitting the bottom while clearing lines.  The last thing that to do is to donate another maja spoon or 9er shad rig to the ocean floor. Typically I am running the 9er at 3/4 of the water column knowing that the deep diver is running shallow. And you would be amazed at what you will catch on that spoon that is just fluttering in the water as you clear lines.

#4 When the drags start singing keep the boat in gear for 15 seconds and do not be afraid to vary you speed just slightly or initiate a slight turn hoping of additional strikes! Step two, neutral. Step three auto pilot in stand by. Step four get after the fish.

#5a Getting after the fish. Assuming a single knock down the first thing I do while the fish is still taking drag is get all of the rods that are not hooked up out of the out rodders. I find with the rods vertical there is less chance of snagging the bottom. I also try give each of the rods between 10-20 cranks to get the lures in closer prior to worrying about the fish that is still taking line.  You need to be mindful as the boat stops making way, the slack in the line makes it much easier for the fish to toss the hook.  So always try and keep the slack out of the line.

#5b Getting after multiples. Honestly, typically the order I go after the fish are spoons first, then shads then divers as I find that the biggest fish hit spoons then shads then plugs. But if one fish is taking drag faster than the others it is first. From here all bets are off. Get the rods out of the out rodders. I try to get one in the rocket launcher and leave one in the gunnel as far away from each other as possible. This gives you some vertical distance to work with and space to move about. But honestly this is about luck as much as it is about skill. The name of the game is keeping all the lines tight!

I will be the first to say once you are dialed in; save yourself some head aches reduce the spread to two rods and go with what is working. It reduces the complexity by more than 33%; just saying.

This is what works for me on Chompers.  A few other things that I have gleamed over the years from running solo. The tuna door on the bigger boat was never latched shut; you need to have the ability to get yourself back in the boat.  A rule that I was taught from commercial fishermen friends always keep both feet on the deck and as crazy as it sounds when things get crazy you need to keep the cockpit clean of lures and other things that make you go ouch. And surely, make sure you always respect the treble!
Last Modified: February 10, 2015