The Art of Trolling Rapala X-Raps and X-Rap Magnums
Rapala X-Raps have been a long time favourite of mine, and long before I was trolling feathers or konas (skirted lures) I was trolling Rapalas. Nowadays I only troll X-Raps offshore which are ideal for this situation.
X-Raps come in a wide variety of depths, sizes and colours. Here I will discuss the following as these are what I troll the most:
- X-Rap Saltwater – Code SXR – This is a shallow running lure with a small lip. Sizes 10, 12, 14 – These sizes are according to the length of the lure so 10cm, 12cm, 14cm.
- X-Rap Magnums – Code XRMAG – These are deep running lures with large lips. Sizes 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 – These sizes according to the depth the lure runs 10ft, 15ft, 20ft, 30ft, 40ft. As the depth rating gets deeper the lures get larger.
Whilst the X-Rap Saltwater lures can also be cast and are very effective when fished this way, in this article I am going to discuss trolling these lures.
Leaders cannot be too heavy as the thicker the leader line, the more it is going to affect the swimming action of the lure; and for the deeper runners it will also drastically reduce the depth that the lure dives to.
In areas where you know toothy fish such as mackerel are common, or even larger more aggressive fish – you should consider a wire leader. I usually use 50cm of wire with a swivel to match the diameter of the leader to be used. Some examples below:
- No. 5 wire – SXR 10 and XRMAG 10
- No. 7 wire – SXR 12 and XRMAG 15 & 20
- No. 9 wire – SXR 14 and XRMAG 30 & 40
Whilst it is ok to run a small lure like the SXR10 with 10lb line, it is not suitable to run a large deep runner like the XRMAG40 with such a light line; and so each lure has its purpose and needs to be rigged according to its size.
Typically for offshore I troll with two different line classes with two different sets of rigs.
- 30lb main line with a 0,55-0,65mm leader, set at 5kg of drag
- 50lb main line with a 0,70-0,80mm leader, set at 8kg of drag
Lures like the XRMAG 30 and 40 can only be pulled properly on 50lb gear with 8kg of strike drag as when you troll faster, the lures increase their resistance and will start taking line off your reel with lighter set ups.
As a general rule I use the following lures on each tackle class:
- 30lb – SXR 10 & 12 and XRMAG 10 & 15
- 50lb – SXR 14 and XRMAG 15, 20, 30 & 40
Setting Your Spread
One of the major differences between trolling Rapalas verses feathers and konas is the wide variety of trolling speeds that Rapala lures can be effective. Feathers and konas need higher speeds to work whereas Rapala X-Raps will work well at slower and at higher speeds. Larger Rapala X-Raps can be trolled faster, while the smaller Rapalas like the SXR 10 will max out at 9-10km/hr and will start spinning and popping. The larger XRMAG40 comfortably trolls at 18-20km/hr.
Fast trolling is not always the solution to successful fishing and sometimes one needs to slow the trolling speeds right down to as low as 4km/hr and here is where you have a distinct advantage when trolling with Rapalas verses feathers and konas. Even at these slow speeds they still move and shake very effectively and catch fish.
When trolling sometimes I only troll with Rapala diving lures such as the SXR and XRMAG on all rods, especially when there are many birds around and I want to avoid them hitting my feathers and konas, while other times I may mix it up and run Rapalas with feathers or konas if I don’t know what’s biting or how the fish are going to respond that day.
Usually if trolling Rapala lures only, I limit my spread to 4, but can run up to 6 if I go about things properly, however I find 4 is usually sufficient and much more manageable. You do not want your Rapala lures to get tangled up, because when they start popping and spinning they can make a real mess of all your lines.
The general rule of thumb is that the deepest diving lures go closest to the boat, and the shallowest lures further back. Never run 2 lures in parallel as they may run wide on a turn or pop in a swell and catch each other causing a mess in your spread. Just remember to keep a good distance between your lures don’t run them too close to each other.
Where to Troll
Once we have all our lures rigged and we know how to set our spread, we need to get out on the water and use our Rapalas to catch fish.
For inshore fishing (shallower water) we would look for ledges, reefs, pinnacles, bait spots, drop offs, colour lines, fish surface activity, dolphins, bait fish, temperature change and even patchy water to troll our lures. As we troll through these areas we would be watching our finder to see what it tells us. So in essence we are searching the waters until we see something that stands out, and then we can start working an area if it has positive signs of life. Sometimes one has to work a likely area several times to raise the fish to get them to come and inspect the lures.
For offshore fishing (deeper water) we would look for colour lines, a thermocline, deep reefs, drop offs, ledges, fish surface activity, dolphins, bait fish and temperature change and once we find these areas and get positive showings we start to work them to raise the fish.
If you come across a school of fish do not plough through them, go past and around; and then turn in allowing your lures to go across the school.
Sometimes when you find a shoal and they are not interested in your offerings, you need to give them more time and what we do here is what I call a slide. To do a slide is very simple as once you get to the shoal you simply cut your speed and disengage your motors, letting the boat slide and slow down. As the boat starts coming to a standstill the lures will begin to swim towards the surface and before all your lines cross each other you engage gear and go again which will send all the lures diving and shaking. This erratic change of pace often triggers the school of fish and you may suddenly find all your reels screaming.
Fast running lures do not always get the attention of fish; there are days you need to slow right down, especially when the water gets colder and when you find an area with potential, slow right down to give the fish time to come see to your lures. Some days I will slow to about 4km and hour. It may seem like you’re not covering any area, but on these days you can work the areas you know and try to slow it down, as it can make the difference between getting a fish on or skunking out.
Another thing I have discovered is when you are trolling your Rapala lures (We call them Rappies) and you run into a patch of bonito (or bonnies), you must know that there will normally be yellowfin tuna swimming with them. To change bonnie hits into tuna hits, I recommend slowing down about 2km per hour from whatever speed you were doing.
On days where I want to cover a lot of water and search for fish, I will run a mixed spread with 2 – 4 Rapalas and then open up my riggers and run some bullets, feathers or konas. If you run deep runners with these you can achieve really good speeds.
Over the years I have caught many species trolling Rapala X-Raps and X-Rap Magnums, often bringing home a catch of fresh fish when other boats not running Rapalas come back empty handed. Some of the species I frequently catch with these lures include Yellowfin Tuna, Eastern Little Tuna (Skipjack / Kawa Kawa), Oceanic Bonito, Dorado, Sailfish, Garrick, GT’s, King Fish, King Mackerel (Couta), Wahoo, Queen Mackerel (Natal Snoek), Sea Pike, Rockod, Daga Salmon, Queen Fish, Tropical Yellow Tails and Black Tip Sharks.
Good luck to you out on the ocean!