Fishing on the go: trolling helps one angler sometimes boat 100-plus fish a day

Andy Fanter has trolled for fish on several continents, and in several oceans. Some days he catches more than 100 fish in Kansas reservoirs.
Andy Fanter has trolled for fish on several continents, and in several oceans. Some days he catches more than 100 fish in Kansas reservoirs. The Wichita Eagle

Andy Fanter is an angler on the move, keeping his boat in gear nearly non-stop, up to 12 to 13 hours at a time. Much of that time his net is pretty busy, too.

He caught 148 fish on his best day this year, including 60 wipers, 85 white bass and three walleyes. Last year he had a day with 220 fish, most of which were white bass. On Tuesday Fanter and his wife, Erin, caught more than 60 walleyes.

Fanter knows his way around trolling better than most. He’s done it many of his 46 years in Kansas and across most of the United States and Canada. Twice named the top Atlantic blue marlin fisherman in the world, he’s trolled for big game fish off the coasts of four continents.

“I can find fish that want to eat because I can cover so much water,” he said as he trolled Thursday afternoon. “Those that don’t want to eat, it doesn’t give them as much time to look at the bait and you’re getting a lot of reaction bites as the bait passes by.”

Fanter’s trolling techniques include much more than simply tossing a line behind a boat and riding around.

Boat speed

▪  Fanter does most of his trolling at around 2 1/2 mph., though he go as slow as 2 mph or up to 3 mph.

“One of the biggest mistakes I see out here is people trolling too fast,” said Fanter, of rural Marion. “Sure, they’ll still catch some fish, but not what they could.” As well as pulling lures by fish to fast for some to strike, some lures don’t work as well with too much speed.

▪  Fanter said he gets great speed control out of his four-stroke outboard motor. He’s learned a few tricks to help increase or decrease speed, like opening or closing the window on his walk-through transom. He also has drift socks to help curb speed, too.

An organized spread

▪ Through organization and experience, Fanter can troll up to six lines at a time without a lot of tangled lines.

▪ First out are lines attached to planer boards, plastic floats that pull the line to the outside of the spread. He puts one out on each side of the boat, and with about 115 feet of line behind each board.

As well as reducing tangles, blander boards get the lines further from the boat, which helps in clear water when the boat’s shadow may spook fish.

▪ Second rods are angled off the stern, with around 100 feet to a crankbait. Which style of bait, often depends on water depth.

“Most people have no idea how deep their baits are running,” said Fanter, who admits he’s gone online, from his boat, to get such information. “If you’re seeing fish at 14, 15 feet on your locator and you troll a bait that dives to 13 feet there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to catch some of those fish.” He also wants to know how much line he needs out to get the best depths from his baits. He has line counters on his reels, but said people can put marks on their lines so they’d know.

▪ The last two lines, often rigged with soft plastics, are dropped down a few feet on each side of the outboard with about 50 feet of line, and are generally rigged with a bottom bouncer or other heavy weight to keep them down. His method really pays off when it’s time to bring in the lines.

▪  “Anytime you need to bring lines in you start with the shortest lines and bring them in first then work your way out,” said Fanter. “The planer boards maybe 250 feet or more back if you have a big wiper but he’ll still be there.” Many times he’s had fish on all six rods simultaneously, and Erin and he have gotten all six fish in without a tangle. Fishing with two lures on some lines, they once had nine wipers on at the same time, and landed them all.

Other gear

▪  Fanter likes to have a variety of trolling baits so he can cover depths from just a few to 25 feet deep. He’ll go to downriggers later in the summer, which use a lead ball to keep a line and lure at a price depth when fish are suspended between the surface and bottom. He thinks color, even slight changes, can make a difference so he switches often if bites aren’t coming fast enough. His basic theory is bright lures on bright days, and dark lures when it’s overcast or fishing in low light of dawn or dusk.

▪ Of note, Fanter said anglers need a variety of trolling baits but don’t need to match his collecton of more than 1,000 baits he has aboard his boat.

“My wife’s a lure nut,” he said. “Every time we’re in some place she’ll pick some crazy new colors and we’ll try them.”

▪ He’s a big fan of a quality fish finder/depth locator, but said his GPS system is what really helps him get into some high-numbers when he’s fishing. With the GPS he can troll from structure to structure, or precisely along something like a river or creek channel. If he finds a big school of wipers attacking a school of shad amid a broad flat, the GPS will take him back to the spot over and over.

Fish long, and often

▪ Fanter began this year’s trolling about the first of March, and had some of his best day before most anglers hit the water. That was before wipers scattered from dense, winter schools. He’ll fish through the hottest days of the summer and when he’s not waterfowl hunting or ice fishing in the fall and winter. When it’s not too windy, he’ll usually spend dawn to dusk on the water. For reasons known only to them, a few hours of the day may see the vast majority of fish feeding actively.

Thursday, there was no time of frantic action on Marion for Fanter and two guests. Fishing was far slower than Tuesday, and the catch probably evenly divided between nice white bass, wipers to about four pounds and walleye short of the lake’s 18-inch length limit. (There were no keepers within the about 60 walleye he and Erin caught Tuesday. Most anglers report few keepers at Marion this year.)

“Well, it sure wasn’t as good as I thought it was going to be, but we still caught fish,” he said, stowing gear away. “But I guess anytime you go out and catch 60, and think it’s slow, you really didn’t do that bad.”