Trolling with baitcaster rod and reel

Trolling with lures that do not troll with much drag can be done with light saltwater rods and reels. This tenggiri was caught with a Halco Laser Pro 120 which does not produce much drag.

Trolling Halco Laser Pro 120 - Narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel

Trolling Halco Sorcerer 150 - Narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel

When trolling with “heavy” lure like this 8m diver, a Halco Sorcerer 150 XDD (magenta/purple toned - "chrome pink"), a medium tackle set-up is preferred and easier when left in the rod holders for trolling.

Trolling with overhead rod and reel

Revo STX 2nd generation

This big tenggiri was trolled up and caught with a light baitcaster setup (Reel -Revo STX 2nd generation, Rod – Abu Garcia Salty Stage Jiggernaut 2.5PE). The tenggiri foul-hooked itself on a Orange/Chrome Halco Sorceror 90.

Tenggiri Batang on Halco Max

Tenggiri love going for fast-trolled (more than 8 knots) lures. High speed lures like the bibless Halco Max works well.

Halco Max for Narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel

A green/chrome Sorceror 90 catches this tenggiri. The 9cm lure closely matches the size of the forage in this area.Halco Sorcerer 90 catches Tenggiri Batang

Narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel

Lure Trolling for Tenggiri (Narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel)


By Christopher S.G. Tan

Tenggiri batang, a.k.a. the Narrow-barred Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson) is a sought after pelagic species by Malaysian anglers for the sport and its good eating quality. There are various methods of catching them by angling, including the use of dead-bait, live-bait and artificial lures. In this two-part article I will look at the artificial lure methods I am familiar with.

A common tried-and-true method is trolling. Tenggiri often roam around, patrolling the areas holding food. Trolling lets the angler cover a big area; large areas of reefs, drop-offs and FADs - anywhere they might find forage.

Trolling requires lures that can track true at medium to high speeds as open water trolling is not done at a snail's pace. The lures also need to be able to track true in turbulent currents and wavy conditions. There are various good lures on the market that do this well.

The tenggiri can be found where the food is, so that is where one should troll, be it a wide ranging area where the lures are trolled along the drop-offs or reefs where baitfish gather or a smaller area like a rock outcrop/point or an FAD.

Narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel caught using a trolled LP190

This tenggiri was caught by trolling a large 19cm Halco Laser Pro 190.

The lure to be trolled is selected based on the depth of the structure or seabed and the depth of the baitfish schools. You do not want the lure to get snagged on structure or seabed and lose it. Getting the lure to run at the depths of the schooling baitfish will put the lure in the feeding zone of the tenggiri. Most predatory fish often hang below or at the same level of the baitfish school so is pointless trolling the lure well above the baitfish school.

If I am trolling with light saltwater tackle (i.e. bait-cast tackle or light saltwater spinning gear), at the most I will use a lure that dives up to 4m. I find that deeper divers (big bibs/lips) have very heavy drag and put an immense strain (bend) in the light tackle rod, making the rod very tiring to hold in a small boat.

Mustad Inline single hooks size 2/0 for 9cm Sorcerer 90nerbaits

Pelagics like tenggiri love any shiny lures like these Halco Sorcerer 90s (9cm in length) in different colour schemes with a chrome base. These lures are equipped with Mustad Inline Singles size 2/0 hooks.

For deeper diving lures like those 8m deep diving lures that create a heavy drag, stronger boat/trolling rods with overhead reels or similar strength spin reel and rod set ups are more appropriate. These can be left in the rod holders for less fatiguing fishing instead of holding on to them.

Narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel caught using a trolled Sorcerer 90

Where possible, the lure size and colour should be matched with the baitfish that the tenggiri are likely to be feeding on. I have found that the shiny chrome lures with colour tones similar to the baitfish seem to get more strikes consistently. That is not to say that a lure of a very different colour to the local baitfish is not effective. It sometimes can work when the normal colours do not, but I normally put out a “natural” colour first.

I found that the chrome colours tend to get fish like tenggiri, whereas bright solid green, red, yellow and blue colours similar to those found on reef-fish will more likely hook up reef-fish like snapper and grouper type species. If there are several lures being trolled, do vary the colours, then concentrate on using what gets the most consistent strikes if a pattern emerges.

Narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel caught using a trolled Giant Trembler Chrome Pink

My favourite colour patterns to catch tenggiri are these natural looking colours of chromed finish with bluish tones or a mix of colours. Interestingly for offshore fishing (Papua New Guinea and Sarawak, Malaysia) this magenta/purple ("chrome pink") tone consistently out-fished all other colours for tenggiri.Narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel caught using a trolled Sorcerer 150 Chrome Pink

I have caught tenggiri on trolling using lure sizes from 7cm to 19cm. The size that works best generally correlates with the size of the forage they are feeding on. A larger or much larger lure can work too, as the tenggiri might want a larger meal if it thinks it is worth the bite, or maybe it strikes them just out of plain aggression.

Trolling speeds for tenggiri would be predicated by the lure types. Generally tenggiri like a high vibration lure with a tight action, not a slow lure that shuffles along. So lures that can be trolled at a fast pace without blowing out of the water work best, because at the higher end of their trolling range speed they vibrate hard at a high frequency.

Narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel caught using a trolled Halco Hamma

Not all tenggiri are caught by fast trolling, this tenggiri was caught slow trolling (2 knots) a tight actioned small Halco Hamma 85 (8.5cm).

For some lure types, trolling at 4 to 6 knots works well, but tenggiri which are known for speed will readily hit lures trolled at 8-10 knots and even higher speeds. Lures that can troll at higher speeds are generally bibless lures or high speed jet skirts/feathers. Here is a link to an article about a small bibless lure I use for tenggiri – the Halco Max 110.

The second part of this article covers lure casting and jigging.



We need to protect and conserve our resources by practising catch and release of our sportfish and protecting the habitat of our fishes.


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