A trotline is usually a long, braided high-test line (typically 150 feet in length) that has shorter lines called "drops" or "leaders" tied onto it via quick-release clamps or barrel swivels. State regulations will determine how the trotline is to be marked, how many hooks are allowed, and the minimal spacing requirements between each hook. The trotline is composed of four basic parts - the trotline, the drops, the hooks, and the weights (or anchors).
- Braided line - one can either buy a trotline set or make their own. If you're going after the big monsters, build your own trotlines; but if you're going for regular-sized catfish, buying one already rigged up is your best bet. The reason for this is (1) cost; (2) already set up; and (3) requires minimal assembly [attaching the drops and hooks to the trotline].
- Leader (or drop) lines
- Hooks - for small bait, use No. 4 or 5 Mustad circle hooks; for live bait, use No. 10 or 12 Mustad circle hooks.
- Anchors - the type of anchors needed will depend on where you are setting your lines. If running from the shore, then you'll only need one anchor on the other end (also called the "wet" end). If running offshore, you'll need anchors on both ends of the trotline. Check under the TIPS section below for items of interest regarding anchors.
- Floats (optional; unless required by state regulations)
For me, this is the most important step that most tend to overlook. Well, they overlook it until it's time to set out the lines again and find a tangled mass that has Tylenol Tension Headache written all over it! Follow these suggestions and your next venture in trotlining will go smoothly...
- NEVER leave your drops/leaders and hooks on the trotline when storing.
- One method of storing the leaders and hooks is to run the hooks into a foam board and then use a rubber band to bound the loose ends of the leaders.
- Another method of storing the leaders and hooks is to run the hooks into a long piece of inner tube.
- A handy way of running and retrieving your trotline is to use one of those extension cords reels. When running the lines, simply tie-off your lie and then mount the reel somehow on the boat so that you can slowly troll out to deeper water and the line will slowly feed out. This will allow you to clamp on the hooks and bait them as you go along. The same method applies to when you are retrieving your trotline. Clamp it down and reel in the trotline and remove your drops and hooks as you move in. This method of storage is especially helpful when you're working alone.