In the Game Part 8
  |  First Published: July 2006

Whilst conventional resin-head skirted lures may attract a broad array of billfish and other pelagics, anglers can get better results with some specific targeting.


When chasing species such as wahoo, tuna, dolphinfish and mackerel there is often a need for speed as these pelagics are used to chasing fast baitfish. Wahoo have been recorded at speeds exceeding 80km/h, so they can hunt down any fish in the ocean.

Most high-speed trolling is done between speeds of 10 and 15 knots, depending on what the best rev range is for your boat. Some boats are hard to keep in this range consistently. They will either be working hard trying to get on to plane or they will get onto the plane easily, yet pick up too much speed too quickly. Finding that sweet spot with some boats may take some rearranging of the cabin contents or trimming of the motor to get the desired ride and speed. I know anglers who will put a suitable lure out the back as they are moving from one ground to the next at speeds up to 25 knots.


Obviously traveling at such speeds means special lures are required. Most conventional, resin-head skirted lures and bibbed minnows can’t travel at these speeds without blowing out of the water or swimming incorrectly.

Some lures have been designed to travel at this faster than normal pace. Skirted lures with weighted metal heads are available in a variety of head shapes and each has a optimum running speed. These can be run at very high speeds when set up and trolled correctly as the weighted heads will prevent the lure from blowing out.

Most of these lures are designed to run at speeds to 15 knots. Speeds higher than this require special flat-lining techniques to keep the lures in the water and swimming properly. Usually the heavier and more pointed (bullet shaped) a weighted head is, the more speed it can handle. Some examples are Braid Bombs, Tuna Teasers, Citer Wahoo Gliders, Richter Torpedoes and TT Mcwhogs.

Flatter, cup shaped heads won’t troll as fast, due to the extra resistance of the head shape, but they will often give off a longer smoke trail, so they appear to be traveling faster than they actually are. These work a treat and lures with this head shape include Hex Heads, Screamers, TT Wild Things, Richter Wahoo Warrior, Fish-Eagle Fireheads and Citer Hexciters.

Some high speed skirted lures have holes or jets in the head to increase smoke trails and bubbles. A length of 49-strand wire leader, crimped 15cm in front of the lure to stop it from sliding after hookup, will help prevent bite-offs.Bibless minnows are fish-profiled lures with no bib that travel at high speeds just below the surface of the water. The thinner lures tend to handle higher speeds but they will need to be tuned well. Running a small length of piano wire on the eyelet usually guarantees an equal flow of water onto the lure so faster speeds can be reached.

Snaps, or snap swivels, placed directly onto the lure to decrease the trolling speed of a bibless lure. Most snaps aren’t elliptical so the lure experiences uneven water pressure on both sides.

Piano wire is a good guarantee against toothy critters. The piano wire should only be a maximum of 30cm long, so that the connecting snap remains close to the lure. A haywire twist is all that is needed to make a small loop in each end of the leader. After a hookup, other fish may bite at the bubble trail left by the snap if it were much further away from the hooked fish than 30cm.

Bibbed minnows come in many forms and brands but all seem to have a basic fish profile. They usually travel at speeds between 6 and 15 knots. The broad range of speed that they can handle also makes them great for occasions when the boat’s speed is surging in rough conditions. Some popular brands of bibless minnows include Mack Baits, R2S Terminator Vibs, Reflectas, Braid Runners, Halco Tremblers and Shimano Trick Baits.


High-speed weighted-head lures have the same skirts as resin-head lures although sometimes tinsels are also used. Colours often become a personal choice based on anglers’ past experiences. A angler’s favourite colour will spend more time in the water than other lures, and as a result its strike rate will increase.

There are a couple of colour combinations that fish and the best would have to be black/purple and lumo/bright. Other productive, high turnover colours include pink/silver, blue/lilac and gold/black. Bibless minnows in the QANTAS colour (red head and white body) are very popular.

Basic baitfish colours such as blue/silver, purple/silver, green/ silver are also popular and productive, but for my money you can’t beat purple/black or plain black, especially on overcast days.


When trolling lures at high speed you have to try a few things to get the lures running at the desired pace.

Flat-lining the lures is the first thing to do as it lowers your line’s angle to the water. This means the lure is pulled horizontally rather than vertically. It this situation the lure is more likely to bounce across the surface erratically, which may cause the hooks to tangle in the skirt or leader (see QFM March 2006, In The Game Part 4 for more information on flat-lining).

Eliminating tip-wraps is an added bonus with this system. Skirted lures that aren’t symmetrical will often spin a lot when trolled at high speeds, so including a quality ball-bearing swivel or snap swivel is a good idea. Drags should be set a little lighter than normal to account for the extra speed. A heavily set drag may result in a bust-off or torn hooks if the boat is traveling at 15 knots in one direction and a wahoo is traveling at 30 knots in the other as it hits your lure.

With lines lighter than 10kg, there is often a fine line between setting the drag low enough and avoiding the line slowly feeding out as the lure is trolled fast.

final thoughts

Trolling lures at high speeds can be a catalyst for some great pelagic action. The extra speed often entices wahoo, dolphinfish, mackerel, tuna and other pelagics into striking the lure. Billfish are occasionally caught at these higher speeds but they usually respond better to speeds of less than 8 knots.

Whilst shifting around between bottom fishing spots many anglers troll a couple of high speed lures and are often excited to score the best catch of the day.

With a little effort to get the lures running and tracking well, high-speed lures are a very successful way to get into some fast and furious pelagic action.

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