Need for Speed

Brooks Morris of Area Rule Engineering was the first angler to extol the virtues of fast trolling as a primary technique for multiple species, and Morehead City’s Dancin’ Outlaw puts his tactics to good use each spring.

Fast trolling is a technique that works well for many types of saltwater gamefish.

The howl of the clicker on a large Penn International reel is a sound that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

It spurs excessive adrenaline release and has been known to cause loss of direction, movement and common sense. It’s multiplied significantly when a large fish is at the other end of the line.

It becomes immediately addictive when the howl escalates into a primal scream compounded by the boat heading in one direction at 10 to 15 knots and a trophy wahoo or tuna speeding the opposite way at roughly triple that speed. When this happens, the howl becomes a siren wail that’s all encompassing and triggers a primitive “I’ve-got-to-catch-this” instinct.

Several anglers thus have described the feelings and emotions that come with the strike and run of a big fish hitting a lure being trolled rapidly.

My experiences have been similar, plus having a feeling of absolute helplessness until the fish and boat slow to a speed where fighting the quarry is possible.

If someone were to find a way to bottle that sound and the resulting rush of emotions, the lure of crack cocaine couldn’t compare.

Many older Carolinas’ offshore anglers were introduced to fast trolling without it being described with those words. Until roughly 25 years ago, most larger sportfishermen, and almost all charter boats, cruised at speeds well below 20 knots. These slower speeds made the offshore and Gulf Stream fishing trips long endeavors.

Diligent captains and mates were always looking for ways to catch more fish and often complained about lost fishing time while running across potentially productive waters on the way to a destination farther offshore.

In searching for ways to use this time for fishing, they began dabbling with high-speed trolling without considering they were breaking a new trail for anglers.

Capt. “Little George” Bedsworth was one of the legendary fishermen of the Morehead City charter fleet. During several offshore ventures with him and mate Charles Styron, they usually began fishing as they passed the 14 Buoy — without slowing.

The Dolphin One wasn’t a particularly fast boat, even compared to the boats of that time, but it would move fast enough to destroy rigged ballyhoo.

There were several lures they used at cruising speeds with good success.

Styron usually put out a heavy Sea Witch and strip bait with a wire line and behind a pound or heavier trolling sinker off one side and a Green Machine or cedar plug off the other. The drags were tightened to withstand the strain of trolling the hardware and lure without allowing line to creep out, so they were pretty stiff.

Even with the drags tightened up, the strike of a fish would make the reels sing and the note those clickers howled would make your skin crawl.

During a trip with Bedsworth and Styron during the Cap’n Fannie’s Billfish Tournament, a false albacore hit a Sea Witch so hard the screaming clicker awakened several fishermen who were in the cabin trying to get a nap. The adrenaline rush was so intense no one was able to relax enough to get back to sleep.

Brooks Morris of Area Rule Engineering was the first angler to extol the virtues of fast trolling as a primary technique for multiple species.

He said fast trolling was more than a way to fish while moving between locations and he constantly proved it.

A retired Air Force fighter pilot from California, Morris is a dedicated marlin fisherman who transferred some of the theories of aerodynamics to hydrodynamics.

His understanding and desire to cover more water while fishing led him to become one of the innovators of specialty lures for fast trolling. The door-knob lures he introduced through Area Rule have been imitated by many and the basic design concepts hold true today.

Morris was quite candid regarding his lures and their performance. He said the name of the company came from an engineering term used to describe how the shape of a particular area of a design reacts with the air or water moving across it.

“An example of area ruling would be how the shape of an airplane wing creates lift,” Morris said. “Our doorknob shape for the lure heads is a waist design that came from a similar shape used to stabilize smaller jet airplanes at higher speeds.

“We used it with water, rather than air, but the principle is similar. The waist section helps stabilize the airplane and creates a slight suction that helps hold a lure in the water.”

In addition to being the head of product development at Area Rule, Morris is also the chief field-tester. With this relationship nothing is lost in communication between the departments.

While fishing mainly in the Pacific Ocean, Morris and the Area Rule lures have an impressive record at Californian, Mexican and Hawaiian fishing tournaments, including several wins and high placings in the prestigious Kona Billfish Classic.

An Area Rule lure caught the first “grander” (1,000-pounds) blue marlin during the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament. That 1,062 1/2-pounds marlin put Gil Kraemer into the IGFA record book.

Fishermen using the Area Rule Hoo-nob, a weighted door-knob style head designed specifically to troll below the surface for wahoo, have won numerous wahoo tournaments throughout the Caribbean.

In the Carolinas, the best claim to fame of an Area Rule lure is Capt. Thomas Wood’s 1999 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament winning marlin.

Wood’s 600-pound blue marlin was caught with an Area Rule Engineering Neon Munchie. In typical Carolinas’ style, it was trolled a little slower than designed and sweetened with a horse ballyhoo.

Morris pointed out several major positives regarding high-speed lures such as ability to cover more ground and the speed makes a gamefish commit to eating the lure during a strike.

“At these speeds there is no billwacking or mouthing of the bait,” he said. “The fish sees it, turns on it, runs it down and attempts to eat it.

“With the speed of the lure and the ferocity of the strikes, the hook sets are immediate and solid.”

It doesn’t require deep thought to realize his explanation makes a lot of sense. The boat is running 10 to 18 knots in one direction when the fish chases down a lure, grabs it and heads off in another direction. With enough drag to keep the lure from pulling out line, plus the speed and force of the strike, there has to be plenty of force to drive the hook solidly home.

Morris said several factors make any high-speed lure more effective. He prefers lures that move vertically rather than side to side. He said many fish, especially billfish, can’t see their quarry while their mouths are open. So a lure that moves up and down, rather than side to side, is easier for them to catch.

Morris’s other preference is for lures that run below the surface about two-thirds of the time and only pop to the surface occasionally. This creates a solid “smoke” trail and makes it easy for the fish to track the lure.

Morris also said it’s important to have a boat that pulls a stable wake pattern to get the most out of high-speed lures. To work properly, lures should be set at the front slope of the individual wakes and appear to be surfing and playing in the wakes.

Capt. Michael Wells operated the Intimidator out of Ocean Isle and Southport for several years but now runs the Miss Ann out of Atlantic Beach. He enjoyed fishing spots out of Southport but likes the shorter run to fishing grounds from Beaufort Inlet.

Wells’ favorite lures for fast trolling are cedar plugs and swimming lures, plus he usually trolls at least one daisy chain.

Wells said daisy chains are simply several lures pulled off the same leader to create the appearance of a school of bait. His favorite daisy chains are cedar plugs, skirted cedar plugs and squids; the fishing principle is the same for all of them.

“My daisy chain rigs are simple, “Wells said. “I use 20 to 30 feet of heavy mono and at least four lures. All but one of the lures are the same; the last lure is the one that’s different, which sets it apart and makes it appear easy to catch.”

Wells said he placed the lures on the mono and secured them at set distances. He said that with a four-lure daisy chain the first three would be the same color and size and are set the same distance apart. For cedar plugs and 5- or 6-inch squid, this distance is usually 2 feet.

The last lure in the daisy chain is set at 4 to 6 feet behind the third one and is the only one with a hook. The last lure is always different; it may only be in color but also might be a different shape. The last lure also may be a little smaller but never larger (see diagram).

Wells said he primarily uses fast trolling early and late in the season before much bait has arrived or as a means to cover a lot of water looking while searching for schools of baitfish and game fish.

He mixes skirted cedar plugs with regular ones and sometimes one produces better than the other, but the differences haven’t been enough to be noticeably obvious. His preferred colors are natural, red, pink, blue, green, white and combinations of these colors.

In addition to cedar plugs he uses swimming plugs that have good action at speeds of 10 knots and more. His favorites are the Yo-Zuri Bonito and Braid Runner lures. These lures run below the surface, and he typically uses darker colors. Wells noted just about every gamefish will hit a dolphin color.

Two other lures he recommended for trolling quickly below the surface were chrome-plated jet-heads and Wahoo Bombs. He said their weight and shape help hold them down, but they could be taken deeper by using trolling sinkers and high-speed planers.

Wells begins his early-spring and late-fall offshore fishing trips by fast trolling and usually enjoys good results. One day in particular stands out.

The water was cool, the fish were moving quickly, and cedar plugs, daisy chains and swimming lures were all being bitten almost immediately. Wells had carried some rigged natural baits, but the action never slowed enough he felt the need to put one in the spread.

His catch that day included wahoos, yellowfin tunas, blackfin tunas, king mackerels and a barracuda. All but one struck at a trolling speed faster than 10 knots. The one that didn’t hit at speed struck a plain cedar plug as it slowly dropped through the water column when he slowed the boat for an angler to fight another fish.

That surely puts an exclamation point on any statement saying fish like cedar plugs. They like them even better when they are bouncing through the water at 10 to 15 knots.

About Jerry Dilsaver 1172 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., a full-time freelance writer, is a columnist for Carolina Sportsman. He is a former SKA National Champion and USAA Angler of the Year.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply