Weapons for the High Speed Troll
  |  First Published: December 2008

Every lure manufacturer has one; the long streamlined minnow with the thin pointed bib and the tight shimmying action. Yes, I’m talking about high-speed minnows with bibs (the bib-less ones being an entirely different kettle of fish).

These swift swimming bits of plastic don’t receive the same kind of publicity as the booming soft plastic industry and even amongst hardbodies they are usually treated as a ‘workhorse’ not a sportfishing tool. However, with the inclusion of some new and exciting designs, like the Classic Bluewater F18 and the 30+ Rapala X-Rap Magnum, there has been some renewed interest in this form of lure.

In the following are some basics on the subject that might spark some interest amongst those speed demons out there, and with mackerel in full swing around the northern waters you might just stumble on a new secret weapon.

What’s on Offer?

There are so many different variations on the market but starting with the old favourites is always a safe bet.

Rapala Magnum CD (hot colours: red head, silver mackerel)

Rapala Magnum CDs have had the market cornered for a long time. For those who aren’t familiar with this lure, it’s a steel bibbed minnow that dives to between 2.7m and 7.5m. The steel bib gives it a top heavy ‘controlled’ sink, which can be ideal if a fish school is holding down deep. It becomes as simple as letting the lure sink to the required depth before motoring forward and thus pulling the lure up through the school. The lure is also tough enough to stand up to big teeth, while the Perma steel trebles hold up to some serious drag pressure.

However, this is not the lure for the relaxed family boaters to pull behind the boat. Put simply, if you stop to fix the kid’s line, there is a real chance that your Magnum will have sunk and is fixed firmly to a rock! These lures aren’t cheap so be prepared to feel your wallet cringe every time you lose one.

Halco Laser Pros (hot colours: H50 pilchard, H71 yellowfin)

These are an ideal alternative to Magnums as they are a floating lure that still maintains a high speed without blowing out. This, along with the fact that they maintain action even at slower speeds, makes them ideal for trolling behind a yacht or a cruising mother ship. Coming in several different depths from 1m to over 7m, the Laser Pro is widely known as a versatile minnow that works just as well while casting along freshwater weed edges as it does when trolled at 6.5 knots (ideal pelagic speed) in the blue water.

The only downside is the basic Mustad trebles aren’t super sharp so feel free to upgrade to something chemically sharpened for an increased hook-up rate.

Reidy’s Big Boss (hot colours: Elton John, silver)

This lure is locally designed for Australian sports fish so you know that it’s going to hold up to the strain, especially with VMC hooks. It has achieved quite a lethal reputation in northern waters due to its high-speed shimmy, and also its ability to be worked slowly and twitched erratically for more stationary species. It comes in 3m and 5m varieties.

Even though the lure’s basic design means that you are looking at a quality lure, the colours, the finish and the common design means that it’s not exactly going to jump out of your lure tray at you. Some chrome colours and a B52-like finish would put these old workhorses back in the market.

Lively Lures Blue Pillies (hot colours: blue chrome, purple chrome)

The finish on these Australian made lures matches the common pilchard to a tee. The action is tight and highlights the lure’s chrome underbelly allowing for a very appealing flash. The three different sizes available are 4”, 6” and 7”, which allow anglers to match whatever bait is around and even target inshore species like queenfish and trevally along creek mouths and beaches.

The Blue Pillies’ downfall is its limited trolling speed. Originally designed for blue water work the Pilly can be temperamental at higher speeds, which leads to lots of blowouts. It seems to be much more suited to targeting structure-bound fish rather than swift pelagics. The finish also takes a beating as soon as teeth come into the equation.

Classic Blue Water F18 (hot colours: psycho mackerel, yellowfin)

As the first of the new models, Rob Gaden’s new high-speed lure is flashy and fast. These new releases have a lot going for them. The action is extremely pronounced giving the lure an incredible vibration and sound that is without equal. Furthermore, the finish is impeccable, with a chrome gloss and some natural colour variations. Speed wise, you’re looking at over 10 knots and at 200mm long this is an ideal lure for big pelagics.

It’s hard to find any real flaws in the design. The only thing that might beef them up a little more would be some sharper trebles but, all in all, there’s nothing wrong with the two VMC.

Rapala X-Rap Magnum (hot colours: spotted minnow, silver blue mackerel

The Rapala X-Rap is able to dive to around 9m, and is still reputed to move at a blistering 13 knots. These immaculately finished lures have once again proven to be a success for Rapala. It is ideally suited to trolling deep reef ledges for patrolling Spanish mackerel, and has the toughness to match its sexy finish. It is one of the few lures that look real enough to fool both fish and fishers.

However, for a lure that is at the top of the price list, it would be nice to see some hooks that are better than the standard issue. Many game boat Skippers have even started replacing the standard three VMC with large, heavy gauged, chemically sharpened singles because at the depth these things troll there’s no telling what kinds of aquatic behemoths you might be dealing with.


The joy of high-speed minnows is the fact that they are user-friendly in a way that allows the inexperienced fisher to use them successfully. Sportfishers will go out of their way to troll current lines, reef edges, shoal ridges and colour changes but for the boatie who just wants to go from A to B this lure is also a great choice to troll along behind. There are a few simple things to remember though…

The Outfit

If you want to hang a Halco off the back of the yacht it might not be a great idea to do it with a $25 Jarvis Walker combo, or at the other end of the scale, a stiff 37kg boat rod will be equally unsuitable. Look for a powerful rod that still has a reasonably flexible tip. Most pelagics scream down upon a lure at tremendous speed so if there’s no give in the rod, the hooks are likely to bust straight out on impact.

As for a reel, look at a lever drag overhead because the drag setting is going to be suited to the kind of battle you’ll be fighting. Overall, it’s a long smooth drag, not a locked up drag that will serve you best.

Suitable line is a debated topic with everything from 8kg monofilament to 24kg braid being popular. The general rule of thumb is to make sure that you have a bare minimum of 300m of line that matches the rating of the rod you’re using. Heavier is not always better with pelagics, as a thinner line will work lures faster and deeper while also maximising your spool capacity. The argument of ‘braid versus mono’ has a new light when using high-speed minnows due to the need for shock absorption. Many skippers find that the hook up rate using mono is far greater than when using braid (which does not stretch). Braid however, is substantially thinner, which is a huge advantage in itself. Both have their pros and cons and it comes down to a matter of personal choice.

Terminal Tackle

The common myth with toothy pelagics is that a snap-on wire trace is all you’ll need. Pre-made wire leaders can be fraught with problems. For example, a lure that is busting out of the water when trolled is often responding to a kink or an imbalance in the wire trace.

An alternative method is to use a heavy (75-150kg) monofilament, non-abrasive leader joined to your lure by crimps. Monofilament has the added bonus of not being visible and it leaves the lure to swim more freely.

If you do prefer wire, use a very short length to protect from teeth and then use a rod length of 40-60kg leader after that. This extra leader protects against tail flutes and other sharp appendages on the fish, as well as rocks and reefs.

Overall, remember to keep your eye out for birds working and bait being smashed up or, alternatively, watch the sounder for dark balls of bait. Once you find the fish it’s just a matter of picking the lure to suit the application. So, if you’re a bit of a tackle rat, drop into your local fishing store and ask the staff to show you some fast trolling minnows. You never know, getting from A to B might just produce a few trophy fish!

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