While trolling for bass is illegal in professional circles, it’s effective for amateurs. The ideal trolling speed is two to four miles per hour if you’re fishing with crankbaits and similar lures. There isn’t a perfect speed, but less than five miles per hour is a good place to start.
For most amateur athletes like myself, there comes a point when we realize that we won’t become professionals. I learned this the hard way with golf and embraced my amateurism, especially with bass fishing. As an amateur, I get to do things like troll for bass without worrying about judgment or penalization from a governing body.
Bass Trolling Speeds
Depending on when you’re fishing, you’ll find that bass will respond to temperatures differently. If it’s warm in the middle of the day, they slow down and aren’t as aggressive.
Mornings and evenings with cooler temperatures create more aggressive fish.
Trolling Speeds for Warm Parts of the Day
Once I could wrap my head around trolling for largemouth, I decided to try it. It was the middle of the day when temperatures were warm, and I wasn’t having success flipping into structure up shallow. I was bored, and trolling seemed interesting.
I tied on a crankbait, dropped it behind my boat, and drove five miles per hour through a deep section of the lake near where I was fishing.
To my surprise, I had a three-pound bass grab the crankbait. After a fun fight, I couldn’t help but feel like I had found some sort of cheat code.
I’d spent my younger years trolling for walleye and lake trout but never considered doing it for bass.
Since I often troll with crankbaits, I had to experiment with the best speeds. Each crankbait needs a different speed to get the most out of it.
When I started going faster than five miles per hour, the bites were non-existent. The bites became more regular when I slowed to around three miles per hour.
Slow trolls through deep pockets in the middle of the day allow for the crankbaits to create a ton of action and entice the fish. Check the depth levels before you choose your crankbait.
Some work better for deeper water than others, so make sure you know what lure you need before you tie one on your line.
I usually use crankbaits between sizes six to ten because they cover water six to 20 feet deep.
Trolling Speeds for Cooler Times of Day
If you’re fishing during cool times like the mornings and evenings, you get to be more creative with your approach.
Good trolling speeds can be anywhere from two to six miles per hour, depending on the lure you’re using.
In the mornings and evenings, bass are more willing to venture away from their structure and cover to eat. Plus, the bucketmouths are usually up in shallow water.
Largemouth will use the low light and more comfortable temperatures to put their hunting skills to the test. Smallmouth do the same thing, so don’t be surprised if you land a smallmouth while fishing for a largemouth.
I’ll throw swimbaits or spinnerbaits during the prime feeding hours. Swimbaits are best trolled slowly. I’ll go two to three miles per hour along the bank.
Usually, I have a half-ounce jig head with a four-ounce swimbait that matches the color of the water.
If I’m throwing a spinnerbait, I must do more prep than usual. I struggle to control the depth of a spinnerbait. When I find a place I want to troll, I’ll cast the lure, wait until it hits the bottom, and reel in a few feet.
Spinnerbaits can easily get snagged, so I want to avoid any cover or structure that will get in my way.
Once I’m at the proper depth, I usually go three to four miles per hour. These speeds give the lure plenty of time to flash.
Spinnerbaits are some of the best search baits you can find, so a properly trolled spinner will lead to fish.
It’s All About Depth and Speed
If you’ve ever trolled for fish, you’ve likely had moments where you thought you were doing everything right but still couldn’t catch fish.
Odds are, you’re either too deep, too shallow, or are moving at the wrong speed.
Take your time and experiment. Some days, you’ll get the depth and speed exactly right. On other days, you’ll have to reel in several times to get out more line and change your speeds by small increments.
Usually, I like to start trolling deeper and slower than I think is necessary. From here, I can work my way faster and more shallow.
Low and slow is a motto I live by during my trolling sessions, and it usually works in my favor. I’ll drop my crankbait one or two feet off the bottom and go two or three miles per hour through the deep sections.
If this doesn’t work, I’ll increase my speed and keep my lure in the same place. If the increase in speed doesn’t work, I’ll raise the level of the lure and drop back down to two or three miles per hour.
I’ll repeat this process over and over until I find what the fish want. Once I do, the fishing gets hot. As soon as I catch my first fish, I stick with that method until the bite changes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is 3 MPH Too Fast for Trolling?
No, three miles per hour is a perfectly fine speed when you’re trolling for bass. It’s a great option if you’re throwing a crankbait.
What is the Maximum Speed for Trolling?
The maximum speed for largemouth bass trolling is around six miles per hour. While bass can swim upwards of 15 miles per hour, they can’t sustain it for long periods of time.
How Far Behind the Boat Should I Troll?
Troll 20 to 50 feet behind the boat when you’re largemouth bass fishing.
Largemouth bass can be temperamental, and trolling is a great way to find out their mood. As long as you vary your methods, you’ll find the bait and speed that is effective for landing fish. Few anglers do it, so bass hit trolling lures aggressively.