Salmon Trolling Setup
Your choice of salmon trolling setup will largely be determined by how, where and for what you intend on fishing for.
Trolling puts a lot of strain on your setup and you really need to choose the right combination to make sure that it is durable enough to do the job.
For example a downrigger rod needs a faster action on the tip so that it can bend easily down towards the weight ball.
If you are long lining in the top few feet of the water column then it is better to go with a rod that has a more moderate action.
When trolling practically every outfit should use a trolling reel. Whether you choose one with a line counter on it is up to you.
Spinning reels are too much hassle when trying to troll and you have less control when letting line out.
If you are looking for what rigs to use with your setup check out our other article: salmon rigs for trolling.
Salmon Trolling Setup
The right setup for salmon trolling will depend largely on whether or not you are using a down-rigger or not.
The main advantage of a down-rigger is depth control. Sure you could use lead core lines but the accuracy is just not there.
Sometimes you want to troll only in the top of the water column and then running a long line with a diving lure is the best method.
Spinning setups are just a no! Using a spinning reel when trolling can be a royal pain so save your self the hassle.
That means when trolling you want a rod that is specifically designed to troll. They have more eyes on them than a normal baitcaster and are usually built a lot tougher.
Materials wise look for glass fiber or a glass fiber and graphite composite rod. The best salmon trolling rod I have used is the Lamiglas Classic Glass.
Look for a rod that falls somewhere within the following range of specifications:
- Materials - glass fiber or glass/graphite blend
- Type - trolling/casting, not a spinning rod
- Length - between 7'6" and 10'6"
- Power - medium/heavy to heavy
- Action - Moderate/Fast
- Line Rating - 20 to 30 lbs
The length of rod is often a big pain point for a lot salmon anglers who are trolling. A longer rod means it can be more difficult to net a fish, but it also gives you a big lever with which to fight them with.
Using a downrigger or looking to use it out wide with a planer board can also mean a different length rod and action.
My personal preference is to only run a dedicated downrigger rod on the downrigger as my main salmon trolling setup and for any other techniques I'll choose a rod that suit that specific technique, but the bulk of my trolling is down on downriggers.
Trolling reels are clearly the only choice to go for. Line counters can be great when looking to use a lot of line out the back or if you are specifically using lead core line to get down deeper as opposed to using a downrigger.
High quality reels are a must, but that is not to say that you have to spend a fortune on them. You can get some great value trolling reels that will last a decade of use providing you look after then and service then regularly.
One of the best salmon trolling reels is the Shimano Tekota and you'll routinely see these on salmon charter boats.
You'll need a size 300 or higher as you would want to able to hold at least 200 yards of 20 lb line.
I tend to run 40 to 50 lbs braid as the main line and the either a 20 or 30 lbs leader of monofilament or fluorocarbon.
You need that leader to act as a shock absorber as braid has very little or no stretch.
Some guys will run lighter braid as their main line but the problem with more modern braids is that they are actually too thin and under pressure the top layer of line will dig into the line that is already on the spool which can cause a tangle and a massive head ache especially of you are on a fish.
When the salmon are holding deep the the best option is to use a downrigger. Using this type of setup for salmon trolling is the hassle free way of getting your lures down to the correct depth without a lot of guess work.
You can do it using other methods such as adding inline weights to you line or using lead core line but they are not as accurate when it comes to getting to a precise depth.
When using a trolling flasher gives you a massive advantage as they trick the salmon into thinking that another salmon is attacking a bait ball. Other salmon see this and want in on the action homing in on your flasher from afar.
Once up close they should see your lure as a small fish that is not in the bait ball and see it as easy prey.
Flasher work by emitting a lot of vibration and flash as they spin through the water. This is what the salmon are attracted to and a really deep depths the color of your flasher is not that important more so that it is vibrating and flashing strongly.
The best trolling speed for salmon when using a flasher will lie in the 2.5 to 3.5 mph range any slower and you would be better off using a dodger.
There are lots of lures to choose from, hoochies, spoons, plugs even large salmon spinners.
The best salmon fishing lures will generally give off a lot of vibration and flash except for maybe a soft plastic quid like a hoochie.
With these types of lures you will almost always need the added help of a flasher or dodger.
Depending on the type of lure that you are using the stock hooks may not be of the best quality.
A lot of salmon anglers will switch out the stock treble hooks for higher quality single hooks.
If you are using treble hooks than you run the risk of foul hooking your salmon. A high quality single hook reduces this possibility considerably and you will find that you get a lot more hook ups in the side of the salmons jaw which is the best place to hook them.
Switching out the trebles for singles also allows you to dress the single hook with a squid or hoochie skirt for added swim action.