Assembling Your Offshore Trolling Handline

We're not talking here about a mackerel handline you can buy already made up on a line holder for just a few dollars - you'll need something considerably more robust for trolling offshore.

The Basic Offshore Trolling Handline

The Basic Set-Up for Offshore Trolling with a HandlineThe Basic Set-Up for Offshore Trolling with a Handline

Here's what you need to get started:

  • 100m of 300lb breaking strain monofilament;

  • A trolling lure supplied already rigged with 100lb breaking strain leader line and attachment swivel;
  • A snap swivel to connect the two lines together;
  • Crimps (or sleeves) to connect the snap swivel to the 300lb line and to form a reinforced loop (a Flemish Eye) at the boat-end of the 300lb line.

But before we go any further, if you haven't already downloaded my ebook 'Secrets of Sailboat Fishing', you should do so now - everything mentioned below is fully described in the ebook.

So just $62 will get you started, but before you go reaching for your credit card you should read the following explanatory notes...

The Handline

Nylon monofilament is the stuff for this; it's stretchy and relatively cheap. 300lb breaking strain is about right; not just for its strength, more for its diameter which makes it comfortable to handle when hauling in an uncooperative fish.

Leader quality line is more abrasion resistant than ordinary main line - a characteristic that's worth having. 

Conveniently, this one comes in 100m lengths which means you can make up four handlines of different lengths - 10m, 20m, 30m and 40m - each one terminating in a 350lb ball-bearing snap swivel.

Crimps and loop protectors are also provided as part of the kit. You'll need these for attaching the ball-bearing snap swivel on one end of the 300lb line and for forming a Flemish Eye at the other for the snubber (as described in 'Secrets of Sailboat Fishing')

The Snap Swivel

The snap provides for a quick and easy connection to the leader. You could of course use a standard ball-bearing swivel here and crimp the leader to it, but it's not very convenient when you want to try a change of lure.

It's worth paying the little bit extra for ball-bearing snap swivels. They're the only ones that will work properly under high load - you don't want strength-sapping kinks forming in your line.

If the swivel isn't equal to or stronger than the line they're attached to they'll be the weak point in the chain, and you won't want that either.

The Lure

I've got enough lures aboard my boat to open a tackle shop, but if I was to restrict myself to just one, it would be a cedar plug.

They're renowned fish-catchers, and unlike other less robust lures, don't get beaten-up by toothy critters like wahoo and their pals. It's the perfect lure for both fish and cruisers alike!

And you'll need a crimper...

When you start working with lines of 100lb and over, it's difficult to cinch knots up tight - and downright impossible in 300lb line. A properly crimped connection will never fail - and you can't make a properly crimped connection with pliers, so your first investment will be for a crimper.

This one is a cup-to-cup type - and that's the type you need. It's equipped with a side-cutter which you'll find is ideal for chomping through the 300lb line, and any wire leaders you may purchase in the future.

OK, now you can get your credit card out...

Desirable Extras

But you'll also need...

  • A Cuban YoYo or two to store your handlines on;

  • A gaff to drag your fish out of its environment into yours. Make sure that it's long enough to do the job;
  • A filleting knife for the fish and a knife-proof glove for yourself;
  • A hook sharpener. There's no point in not having one.

Sooner or later, hopefully before it actually happens, you'll become aware that some fish are capable of biting through a monofilament leader however strong it is - wahoo for instance, have a real gift for it.

To put paid to this unsporting behavior, a short wire leader (2 to 3 feet) should be rigged ahead of the lure.

There are two types (if we ignore the highly visible multi-strand cable); single-strand wire and plastic coated multi-strand wire.

You can't use crimps on single-strand, they'll always slip. The haywire twist is the only way to go here.

Plastic-coated multi-strand wire is more flexible and user friendly but if the nylon coating gets nicked - as it will at some point - the wire within will corrode, with predictable results. Your call! 

And it won't be long before you realize that just one trolling lure isn't enough. There are plugs that dive deep or skitter along on the surface, skirted lures for different sea conditions, flashy metal spoons, soft-plastic lures etc.

Some will be supplied fully rigged, others you'll have to rig yourself. But if you're armed with a crimper, leader line, appropriately sized crimps and swivels - and have downloaded 'Secrets of Sailboat Fishing' of course - you'll have no problem with that!

Well, that should be more than enough to get you started, all that remains is for me to wish you...

Fair winds, following seas - and tight lines!

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