Cod: The Roll Of The Troll

It had been a while but it seemed time to brush the dust off the art of trolling and revisit where it all began. Sometimes going back is not as easy as it seems but I was assured by an angler far wiser than myself that fishing is a little like riding a bike as once you’ve done it you never forget. The real truth of this line does not factor in many things, least of all the passing of time, a loss of coordination, and a few too many meat pies over the years. 4

A Foxie And A Porcupine

My last attempt at two wheels had all the grace and dignity of a fox terrier courting a porcupine; it was far from pretty and ended in much pain and the loss of skin. It seems the same could be said for trolling as my fishing partner offered up a lure without trebles in substitute for the one I was continually snagging on the bottom. In the first hundred yards we spent more time going backwards than forwards and one more stop could have seen me pumbled and tossed in the drink. 6

Depth Control Matters

Running depth and lure size are the key factors to successful trolling and getting it right is an art in itself. The correct running depth will not only see your lure able to negotiate the rough terrain that cod so often hide but should also see it spend the majority of its time in the strike zone. Sure you can run a deep diver short but you are given little warning of impending structure. If you run a lure further back from the boat that can achieve the required running depth you can easily feel the line running over snags before the lure arrives. As you warm to the feel you will notice as the lure approaches the snag the action will increase almost to the point you can drop the rod tip back and ride the lure up and over without even hitting. Get this right and you will be amazed at how often the lure is struck hard as it comes down the other side. Nothing comes quickly and the real skills of trolling take time to hone. 5

Solid Strikes

Lure size as strange as it might seem often dictates the amount of encounters you can expect to have over any given day on the water. Trolling smaller lures less than 100mm in length will no doubt entice more action from a wider range of fish and depending on what it is you are after this can be a good or bad thing. Smaller sized presentations are in line with the majority of bait size that smaller or lower end predators feed upon. Several strikes for a couple of size cod and a few golden’s could be deemed as a great day on the water. Personally I will forgo all of this for one solid strike from a large fish. While big cod will eat smaller lures they are far more inclined to commit and assault larger ones. Big cod are the apex predator that has the ability to engulf those very fish that feed on the smaller prey. It’s a pecking order that sees those at the top able to eat most of those lower down and one look at the bucket sized mouth on a big cod and you begin to understand how it all works. Over the years I have seen cod regurgitate all manner of large edibles from water birds to fish weighing a kilo or more. A meal this size could be deemed a great catch on a small trolled lure or a light snack for a giant fish, it’s all relevant when trolling.

Big Water Tactics

In big water we have found the 120mm range an excellent running size that does attract its share of by catch as in large golden perch and smaller cod. However on a consistently level it attracts more big fish than small. This insures regular encounters with mega cod and sufficient attacks by golden perch so as a few find their way into the pan. My first session back on the troll was a real learning curve of just how quickly we forget how things work. While I was running a bigger lure, I had chosen the deeper bib. In seven meters of water it was finding far too much bottom and only the occasional strike. With relatively good water clarity you are able to run the lure a little higher off the bottom opening up the field of vision for cod tucked tight to the snags. In dirty water, less than a meter above the structure is good but as it clears even two meters will see fish rise and commit. Just like the lure my mind spent most of the time buried in the snags, no doubt it was going to take time to once again find the roll of the troll. 3

Going Shallow

Next trip out we opted for the shallow approach and whilst still running the same sized lure chose the smaller bib. Still in seven meters of water the lure could now swim clear of the bottom only bumping the occasional log. It didn’t not take long for the caning strike of a solid cod to stop Jocks lure dead in its tracks. There is nothing better than instant success, except of course the feel of a giant god stealing string under load and the young fella held on tight as all hell broke loose. It was a great fight that saw the monster rise and disappear beside the boat several times before finally succumbing to the net. After a few snaps, the giant fish melted back into the depths from whence it came. The young bloke was chuffed as not ten minutes in we had scored a good meter fish and on most days out what happens after that is irrelevant. A little further downstream I hung my lure up on what seemed to be line as its action stopped and it slowly pulled up tight.

No Perch?

After a little convincing with the tackle back we retrieved not only my lure but another lost by a mate the week before. I could tell it was his lure by the model and black set of owner trebles hanging from the undercarriage. As is customary with found lures that are in good condition, it was tied on and sent out the back and into the depths. It had hardly made depth and a slight tap was followed by a strike that almost relieved me of my rod and reel. Another big fish and we had been on the water less than an hour. As luck would have it the day was far from over as our lures were belted all over the river by a string of fish rarely seen in any cod session. By day’s end we landed five cod over a meter with three of them on the lure retrieved from the riverbed. Others fishing the river that day also found fish but not of the size we were fortunate enough to encounter. For the most they were running smaller lures and their catch was in line with their presentations. While we went without a single golden perch most we spoke to had caught multiple numbers for the day. 1

Getting The Feel Of The River

Next trip out and we had the feel for the river. The casting distance was precise as the roll of the troll was coming back. All senses on high alert, it’s a hands on style of angling that cannot be practised from the holder as many on the river were doing. My next strike was a light ticking sensation that travelled over several meters flicking and tapping the lure with small sharp jabs. While I had not felt this for many seasons instinct said strike and sure enough the road crackled under the load of another solid cod. I had been there before where big cod inhale and mouth a lure before spitting it free if you allow. The sensation is like riding a lure through twigs or small branches that flick at the lure every foot or so. We were now on a real roll as number six over a meter was drawn from as many strikes. Next morning trolling downstream, my lure cleared a single stump well wide of the bank before being smashed hard. We had seen this snag on the sounder the previous week and it had all the hall marks of a big fish house. The take was a great reminder of what it is that make these giant fish so special, so much power in a nanosecond strike.

Gone In A Flash

  It was all over in a few seconds as the fish turned me and the rod inside out and scored itself a new lure. Why it had taken so long to return to such a productive method of targeting big cod is anyone’s guess but you can be sure we will put it to the best of use from now on. It is still early season and with a few hot spots holding good numbers of solid cod you can bet the roll of the troll will be put to good use as old skills are honed to an angling edge. We are often asked why so many big fish and the truth of it is simple enough to understand, yet rarely taken in. Consistency when it comes to targeting large Murray cod is exactly that, we actually go out on the water and deliberately target larger fish. Trolling sees the lures in the zone for maximum amount of time and a large lure is designed to tempt big fish. What else do you need to know? 2  

‘Try it, you might just be surprised.’ Rod Mackenzie

Photos – 1 An early morning troll along the Murray River is peaceful right up until the moment the lure is crunched. 2- Larger lures work best on the troll and seem to tempt the bigger cod. 3 – After a good fight Gareth Lynch leads a nice cod to the net. 4 – Trolling deep produces some of the biggest cod landed every season Christie Barnes landed this monster with a little help from her partner Timmy Polis. 5 – Using a set of clip on Harro blades to create lift provides anglers the means to work larger lures in shallower sections of river without dredging the bottom. 6 – Another monster from the deep caught by Travis Brand trolling a larger modeled 170 Muldoons King Mong.
Rod MacKenzie

About Rod MacKenzie

One of the most passionate anglers you will meet, Rod simply loves his fishing and is eager to share the wealth of knowledge and experience he has picked up over the years.


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