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JohnMickish

Trolling 101 (AKA Trolling for Dummies)

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Here is part 1 of some trolling information I have put together. We have some guys that are starting to get into the trolling side of fishing and this should get you headed in a good starting direction.

Feel free to discuss and ask questions, as that is what this is all about.

Part one of a multi segment trolling information article. Wikipedia defines trolling as "The practice of fishing by drawing a baited line or lure behind a boat”. During my time spent as a co angler on the FLW Walleye Tour, I had the pleasure of being able to fish wish some of the best trollers to ever hit the water, and I learned more than I thought there was to such a simple task. This article is not meant to be a set of rules on how to troll, but more of a set of guidelines. We won't be focusing so much on how to troll, but more on the why, when and when not to use the various trolling techniques. Nothing here is secret or a tournament proprietary technique, it just the different ways to accomplish the same thing, under different conditions with different results. The techniques discussed will be

Equipment

Long lining

Snap weights

Trolling weights

Planer Boards

Leadcore

The first segment here will be why should you learn to troll? The answer is easy, to put more fish in the boat. I am going to say that 80% of the time a troller will catch more fish than a non troller will over the same given time on the same water. I have seen times where fish are stacked up on a small piece of structure that the only way to get them is to jig, but those situations are, as a whole, rare. There are other situations such as post cold front where fish will only take live bait, but being versed in trolling will make you a more successful fisherman.

The reason a troller will catch more fish is not because he is a better fisherman, it's not because he has better equipment, it is because he will come in contact with more fish over the same time. For example, say you are fishing a two mile long break and you will come in contact with a fish every 1/8th mile. You want to Lindy Rig a leech at .5MPH, over that break it will take you 4 hours and you will contact 16 fish, for a 4 fish per hour average. Not bad, right? Well, someone trolling a Slow Death rig at 1MPH, will cover that same stretch in 2 hours, contacting the same 16 fish but have an 8 fish per hour average. Pulling a spinner rig or cranks at 1.5MPH gives you 12 fish per hour and trolling that same stretch at 2MPH, contacting the same fish every 1/8th mile will give you a 16 fish per hour average! Speed is the key here, as you want to fish for the most active fish, not the most lethargic.

As a guideline, you want to fish as fast as you can and still catch fish for the reasons listed above. If your catching fish at 1.5MPH bump it up to 1.6 or 1.7. You might catch more or bigger fish, as the more aggressive fish in the schools will hit the faster baits, but there is a limit to the speed the fish want. If you stop catching fish, slow back down to where you where catching them.

Equipment

The most important piece of equipment a troller can have in his boat is a GPS. It doesn't have to be a $3000 10" screen, it can be a small $150 hand held unit, but you must be able to see your speed down to the 10th of a MPH. While you and I can't tell the difference between 1.2 and 1.3MPH on the water, the fish can, and the GPS will allow you to see what is working and you will be able to repeat it. After all, aren't we out there to catch fish, not just go for a boat ride? Having a unit that also reads a map is a plus but that is not just an advantage to trolling, that's an advantage everywhere.

The Precision Trolling book, AKA the Trolling Bible and a set of line counter reels are the next pieces of equipment that a person should have. The book is hard to find but there are dive curve sticker kits available now so if you are only going to use a couple of lures the sticker kits will help you out.

The reason you want to use line counter reels is that they offer repeatability, just like the GPS speed. If all your going to do is fish shallow and bang your lures off the bottom you can skip the line counters, but if you want to target a specific depth, line counters are a necessity. The ability to put your lure back at the exact distance after a catch is key when fish are targeting a specific depth. We will get deeper into this later. With line counter reels you really do get what you pay for. They are available from $30 up to $200+. Reels in the $60 range are a good place to start, with most of the guys that troll a lot end up with reels in the $100 range. I would personally try to stay away from the lower end reels as they tend to have inferior drag systems which can heat up and create an inconsistent resistance, possibly costing you a trophy fish. The Daiwa Accudepth is a good place to start, and the Daiwa Sealine, Abu Garcia Ambassadeur LC, Cabelas Depthmaster GOLD or Okuma Convector are good placed to end up. The upper end reels are what you would expect, very nice and smooth at a premium price.

One thing that really isn't discussed is that if you are going to have more than one line counter reel, get them all of the same model and manufacturer, and spool them up with the same amount of line. One often overlooked issue when using LC reels, is that the footage readout is not the same from manufacturer to manufacturer. This can be an issue when trolling multiple lines. Say, one rod keeps getting hit at 98' back, and all the other rods have the same lure at the same depth and they are getting nothing. There is a good chance that 98' on one reel isn't 98' on the others if they are not all set up the same, and the other lures are running out of the strike zone. When the fish are picky and targeting a specific zone this can be very frustrating and time consuming to figure out, costing you missed fish.

Line, not much thought is given to line. The trolling bible uses 10lb mono on all its dive curves and 10/4 fireline on some. Here is something to think about when you are setting your gear up. Mono floats, flourocarbon and braid sink. When trolling the same lure at the same amount of feet back, mono will run the shallowest with braid the deepest, and flouro in the middle. 10LB mono offers a nice compromise between strength knot holding and stretch. Many long line guys will use braid since it will get their lures a couple feet deeper than mono, but you have to consider your rod choice when trolling with braid. There are lots of good lines out there, pick the one that you like but don't cheap out here. Line is not the place where you want to cut three dollars out of your fishing budget.

I'm going to stop it here for now, but with the increase in your catch, please fish responsibly and remember, limit your take, don't take your limit.

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Awesome read. I'm pretty sure I've bugged you (and lots of other folks) a few times on here for some info....good to have it all in one place. I'd love to add my .02. but I'm pretty positive I'll have nothing to add (yet) in terms of this method. smile

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I would be interested i hearing your thoughts on rods, and specifically lengths and actions. (maybe coming in nest segment)

I have seen on multiple occasions where all else being equal (reel, line, lure) one particular rod action has outproduced others. In general it seems as if the more moderate actions are more consistant producers. Almost to the point where you think they are too soft.

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Yes, rods will be a segment on it's own. There is alot more to rod selection for trolling than just picking one out because it's pretty. wink

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Good read like trolling. Some of the biggest fish I have caught is from trolling. I am looking to get new gear for next year. Want to try lead core too. I need to revamp my trolling gear and winter time is a great time for this discussion. I don't have any specific question's at this time but I will be fallowing this thread. Will this topic be for trolling walleye only or can we talk about pike and musky also?

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Ok I have a question for yeah. As far as crank baits go what brand and style is best used? For instance.

Lead core

Snap weights

Long lining

Planer boards. Are some brands and styles of baits used better for a specific method?

When pulling crawler spinners and need to get it down 30' would you use lead core or snap weights?

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Good questions.

As far as lead, vs. snapweights on a crawler harness, that will come later.

What cranks work best on each presentation, I really haven't found where you can say that this style of crank is for this presentation only.

With that being said, a given crank will act slightly different on each presentation, and sometimes the fish will want it one particular way.

For example, when trolling the "can line" on Pool 4, which is roughly 11-14' deep, any decent shad style bait can hit bottom even if long lined. The fish in this area can really show a preference to shad baits on lead over any other method. I don't know why. One day it can be Flicker Shads and the next it will be Lindy Shadlings, but it will have to be on lead.

We will get into leadcore and other weights deeper here right after the first of the year.

As far as trolling for Musky, the principals will still apply, but the rods and line selection will be much different.

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So when a guy is setting out 2 lines he might want to run one with lead core and the other with a snap weight to get it down in the zone but both lines should have on the same style and size of crank bait? But maybe different colors? Too find which set up the fish prefer.

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Good read, thanks. At what point do you consider switching techniques? Is it a time frame? Or switching lures? 1/2 hour or an hour? I have a bunch of cranks in my tackle box but I rarely troll because I don't have the confidence in them. I remember trolling for hours with my dad only to look back and see the rapala rolling on top of the water. I tune them now but after an hour of not getting anything I try something else.

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So when a guy is setting out 2 lines he might want to run one with lead core and the other with a snap weight to get it down in the zone but both lines should have on the same style and size of crank bait? But maybe different colors? Too find which set up the fish prefer.

If it were me, I'd base my presentation on conditions and use two different lures.

We will get into when/why to use the different presentations later. There are times and conditions where it is a must to use one over the other.

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Good read, thanks. At what point do you consider switching techniques? Is it a time frame? Or switching lures? 1/2 hour or an hour? I have a bunch of cranks in my tackle box but I rarely troll because I don't have the confidence in them. I remember trolling for hours with my dad only to look back and see the rapala rolling on top of the water. I tune them now but after an hour of not getting anything I try something else.

A big part of trolling is confidance in your skills and tools. You can't expect to read some stuff then go out and just kill them every time. I really wish it worked that way.

If you have cranks that you have zero confidance it, I'd get rid of them. Seriously, I'd get rid of them. Your not going to use them and if you do, you will probably swap them out right away anyways.

Tuning your cranks is a must, even Rapala's can get out of tune. This is where a good rod will be your friend. If it is good enough to show the wiggle, it will show when the wiggle is different. If it's different the lure is fouled up with a weed or some thing. That will make the lure run bad, run up to the surface or tangle with other lines. A fouled up lure when running multiple lines close together (like leadcore on the river) can make for a real bad mess. That leadcore can braid itself toghether in no time.

When to switch stuff up? If your marking alot of fish and are sure your in the right spot then I start to change things up. It might be speed, color, size and/or action until I either give up or they do. We've all been there, when everyone around you is catching fish and you've thrown everything including the kitchen sink at them and can't buy a bite. Not much you can do at that point.

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Good read, thanks. At what point do you consider switching techniques? Is it a time frame? Or switching lures? 1/2 hour or an hour? I have a bunch of cranks in my tackle box but I rarely troll because I don't have the confidence in them. I remember trolling for hours with my dad only to look back and see the rapala rolling on top of the water. I tune them now but after an hour of not getting anything I try something else.

If they're not running true, you'll see it on the rod tip...it should be pulsing. If not, reel up to check for weeds or a foul of some sort.

Mnfishinguy is the expert on this stuff, but I give it *maximum* 20 minutes without a bite. I just started trolling seriously last year, and I was amazed numerous times at how a lure change would make a HUGE difference. Sometimes it just takes (a lot of) time to figure out exactly what they want. To wit, one time this fall I was out for two hours with one fish. Switched to a flat rap (which was at the bottom of the tackle box....which is why it took me so long to get to it), and it was lights out. We had four on in twenty minutes. I've got no idea why fish are so preferential at times, but they are. Same was true one time out fishing leadcore: hours of no fish, and then I put on a wiggle wart (again, because it was at the bottom of my tackle box). That was what they wanted.

What I learned from the process: Change lures frequently. It sucks to be fishing alone because you can't cover as many options, but it's still better to try lots of things and go back to the "old standbys" than to waste $$ on gas and get nothing but a tan.

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Carmike sums that up pretty well.

That is the bad thing about fishing in Minnesota, you can only use one rod per person. That is part of the reason I like Green Bay so much. Three rods per person. You can dial it in pretty quick that way!

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This is really a fun topic and a fun way to fish.

I got more into walleye fishing probably 6 years ago with fall night trolling on both Cass Lake, Lake Mille Lacs, and a few other smaller lakes with good fall night bites.

Within the topic of trolling alone, there are plenty of different variations and techniques of which many have been mentioned. When learning, your probably best to start with the basics and expand from there. By basics... I'd say basic longlining crankbaits whether they are sticks (husky jerks & rogues) or shad style baits (shad raps, flicker shads, etc). The fall night bite is as basic as it gets although you compound things with the darkness of the night.

Figure out your boat control, figure out how to dial in your speed, figure out how deep a few basic crankbaits run on how much line, etc.

I don't run a big walleye boat with a kicker motor so it took some trial and error to dial in my speed which is so critical. I settled on the double trolling bag method tied off under the bow of the boat for pulling cranks. This has worked very well. I have great control and I can troll 1.5 to 2.0 mph very easily. I'm thinking of getting some slightly bigger bags to see if I can drop that speed to 1.0 mph which would be nice in the late late fall.

For pulling harnesses, I use my bowmount. That lets me play around with speeds in that 1.0mph mark very easily. I just have a PowerDrive V2 so I run the foot pedal by hand from the console. Works well. If I had a Terrova, I'd use the I-Pilot. I'd lose my foot pedal if I put I-Pilot on my PowerDrive.

I'd start learning these two tactics and then go from there. You can use the same rods and reels for each as well. From there... leadcore is an option but you'll need new rods and reels for lead.

It was mentioned earlier but electronics are soooo important for trolling. Waypoint or Icon where you catch fish. Depending on the type of structure I'm trolling, I'll spin around and pull back through that area as often as they keep biting. When they stop, I move on to find the next bunch of biters. Patterns will develop on your GPS after awhile.

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Yeah, an efficient method of controlling speed is on my to-do list for next year. Our drift sock is too big to work all that well for our boat, so last fall I ended up dropping two or three cinder blocks over the side and/or an anchor or two and/or the trolling motor. It was a bit of hassle, to say the least, plus wet hands from pulling up the ropes don't feel all that good when it's 20 degrees outside.

I was also amazed at how important speed was...on some nights, a few tenths of a mph too fast or too slow, and I'd catch nothing (some nights it didn't seem to matter at all). Heck, even going (relatively) the same speed but going down or into the wind would make a huge difference sometimes. A little boat surge would either turn them off completely, or make them bite. Odd things, fish.

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Awesome thread and good information. Here is a comparison of trolling methods that I have started to put together. I primarily fish the Mississippi River Pool 4 and the St. Croix where 2 lines are legal, if fishing inland MN waters a Dubuque rig would not be legal.

Walleye crank bait trolling methods evaluation

General definitions of the primary 6 methods:

Lead core – Weighted line with a 5’ to 50’ leader attached.

Long lining – Normal line with crank bait directly attached.

Snap weight – Normal line with a weight added in front of the crank bait.

3-way – A 3-way swivel to attach a crank bait and a weight on a dropper line.

Dubuque rig – Same as a 3-way but replaces the weight with a jig.

Hand line – Special reel, cable, shank, and weight. Basically the same as a 3-way rig.

Of the six methods discussed in this article 2 basic groupings stand out.

1. Lead core - Snap weight - Long lining

All 3 of these methods rely primarily on the dive curve of the crank bait to determine the depth.

These methods generally use deep diving crank baits. Deep diving crank baits will typically run 5’ to 10’ under the surface but specific crank baits can be purchased that will run much deeper without any additional weight.

The weight of the lead core line and snap weights is placed ahead of the crank bait to allow the baits to be fished deeper than the bait will dive by itself. Long lining relies only on the dive curve of the crank bait to determine the depth.

2. 3-way - Dubuque rig - Hand line

All 3 of the methods use the weight to get the crank baits to the bottom. Each of these methods employs some type of 3-way swivel with the weight and crank bait attached to the 3-way swivel. The weight for each of these methods is generally dragged on the bottom or in close proximity to the bottom.

These methods generally use shallow diving crank baits. Typically shallow diving crank baits will run 1’ to 4’ below the surface without the addition of any weight.

Lead core

Advantages:

Not as speed sensitive as other methods.

Detractors:

Weeds, leaves, (surface debris)

Long deployment time

Long lining

Advantages:

No special equipment or line needed.

Detractors:

Limited to the depth of the lures.

Snap weights

Advantages:

Quick deployment.

Can be fished deep.

Detractors:

Very speed sensitive. Line counter reels are useful. Need to remove snap prior to netting fish.

3-way

Advantages:

Follows bottom contour. Easily adjust to variable depths.

Detractors:

Storage when not in use.

Tangles when deploying.

Dubuque rig

Advantages:

Puts multiple baits on each line.

Detractors:

Tangles when deploying.

Cannot be used where multiple baits are not allowed.

Both baits are in close proximity so less area is covered with each rig.

Handline

Advantages:

Multiple bait deployment.

Adjusts quickly to depths.

Detractors:

Special equipment needed.

Initial investment.

No mechanical (drag) or leverage (rod) advantage when fighting fish.

Only 2 per boat can be used at any time.

Baits on each rig follow same line so not as much water is covered.

Methods:

Lead Core:

Lead core line is a braided line with a strand of lead inside the braid giving the line weight causing it to sink. Lead core line is used to get crank baits to greater depths than they would normally run when trolled using regular line. A lead core setup typically consists of a level wind reel, a trolling rod, lead core line, leader, and a deep diving crank bait. While not the least expensive method it can be done fairly inexpensively with existing equipment.

Most lead core line is segmented in multiple colors with each color representing 30’ of line. The approximate sink rate is 1’ for every 6’-8’ of line in the water. Deploying 5 colors (150’) of lead core will typically get a deep diving bait down to 20’-25’ depending on the speed and the dive curve of the bait.

Long Line:

Long lining is one of the lowest cost methods because it can be performed with existing equipment. Depth that can be fished is limited to the dive curve of the individual crank bait. In order to fish deeper depths, purchasing deeper diving baits will be necessary. Using smaller diameter line will also allow the bait to dive deeper but the added depth may only be a few inches. Long lining can work extremely well in shallow water or for wary fish because the bait can be deployed a long distance behind the boat allowing for the boat to be well past the fish when the bait comes by.

Snap Weight:

Snap Weight fishing is adding weight to the line ahead of the crank bait to make the lure run deeper than it would normally run. Typically anglers use Offshore Tackle OR16 clip and add a ½ to 6 ounce bell sinker to make a Snap Weight. The Snap Weight is clipped onto the line ahead of the lure.

Reducing speed sensitivity with snap weights:

·The heavier the weight the more speed sensitive it will be. Use the lightest weight possible to get the bait to the desired depth.

·Higher speeds will reduce speed sensitivity for a given weight.

·Greater distance between the snap weight and the bait reduces speed sensitivity. The closer the weight is to the bait the more immediate the effect of a speed change is on the bait.

·Deeper diving crank baits will reduce the effect of a speed change with a snap weight.

3-Way Rig:

A 3-way rig consists of a 3-way swivel attached to the end of the line with a short leader connected to a weight on the second connection of the swivel and on the 3rd swivel connection, a leader to the crank bait. The weight used will depend on the current, speed, and depth. Typically the weight will be ½ to 3 ounces but it is not uncommon in higher current, or when higher speeds are desired, to use 3 to 6 ounce weights.

3-way rigs can also be used very effectively to run live bait or plastics.

Dubuque Rig (AKA Denver Rig):

A Dubuque rig is the same principle as a 3-way rig but the bell sinker is replaced with a jig. Typically the jig on a Dubuque rig will be ½ to 3 ounces.

Dubuque rigs are also good for live bait or plastics.

Combining methods:

There is great advantage to having multiple methods available because each method can be combined with another method to facilitate putting more baits and types of baits in the water.

Combining methods that use deep and shallow diving lures allows the fish to show you what they are interested in.

Planer Boards:

For this discussion Planer boards were not considered a method by themselves because they are most commonly used as an augmentation to Long Lining, Snap Weight, or Lead Core methods. That being said, planer boards can be a very deadly method for trolling shallow flats or trying to pull Walleyes off of shorelines. Planer boards also give you the distinct advantage of covering a large swath of water in each pass.

Advantages:

Puts bait away from the boat and can be very advantageous when fishing shallow water.

Very useful for running multiple lines on the same side of the boat and fishing a shoreline while keeping the boat away from the shore.

Detractors:

Not easily adjusted for varying depths and deployment time is longer than most other methods.

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even going (relatively) the same speed but going down or into the wind would make a huge difference sometimes. A little boat surge would either turn them off completely, or make them bite. Odd things, fish.

We will touch on this in the third segment and I'll explaine how to combat the situation to make things more consistant.

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This topic has been too quite so how often should a guy troll? I find my self only trolling as a last resort if live bait ain't producing any fish. Where I should first troll to find active fish? I think it's a lack of confidence in my trolling skills why I use live bait rigs more. If a fish won't bite on live bait why would they on a crank bait?

How do you guys incorporate trolling in an average day of walleye fishing?

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For me, it depends on what body of water I'm on.

But, since I fish almost always on Mille Lacs, I'll say that I start with trolling...and I start trolling fast, especially when I'm on the flats. I did my best last summer with leadcore going at least 2.0, and most likely 2.5, pulling cranks and looking for fish.

If I saw a fish, I'd mark it. Another one, I'd mark it, too. Two fish in close proximity (with neither biting), I'd reel up the leadcore and either pull a spinner through them, or Lindy them, or toss a bobber on top of them. Most of the time, using the electronics, I'd use trolling as a search tool. I'd even get lazy and pull the lead just about as fast as the lures would troll without going out of whack (about 3.0 or faster), and I was amazed that I'd catch fish going that fast. But I did--sometimes. And if I marked them but they didn't bite, I'd pull back through them with a slower presentation.

Of course, last year on Mille Lacs, you could've caught a walleye on a beer can with a treble hook attached, so we'll see how my strategy works when the bite isn't so good.

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The next section will be coming out today or Thursday (I'm going fishing tomorrow!).

How often should you troll? That is a great question. For me, it depends on the lake I am going to. If I am going to say Green Bay or LOW, trolling will be the first thing I do. These types of lakes have vast feeding areas and the fish tend to be spread out. If I'm going to go to Mille Lacs, Leech or Oahe, live bait will be the method of choice to start out with in the first half of the season. These lakes have big feeding areas as well and are great trolling lakes, but sometimes boat traffic will force your hand. It is fun to watch people change up and start to cover water after they see you pick off a few in front of them if there is room to troll around the drifters.

That dosen't really answer your question, but think of it this way. Say you are going to Mille Lacs in June and you KNOW the fish are on the mud, there really isn't a reason to start out trolling there and trying to weave in and out of the other boats. Now if your on an unfamiliar lake or don't have a real confidant idea of where the fish are, now is the time to troll cranks. Troll where you think they should be, troll close by, troll deeper and troll shallower untill you make contact. This is where a GPS comes in so handy. Put an icon at every fish you make contact with and pretty soon you have a map full of answers.

How do I incorporate trolling into my daily fishing? After about the 4th of July, my bait rig rods start to collect dust. As I get better at this game I have found that trolling, whether it's cranks or crawlers, is now my go to method. Go fishing some day and leave your bait rods and gear at home, force yourself into it and once the confidance is there you will enjoy it more. Minnesota, and it's "One line Wisdom" really does put a damper on the learning curve.

Remember too, trolling dosen't just mean cranks, it means crawler/spinners too.

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First post, and new member here ... (new to trolling)

 

I know this thread is 5 yrs old, but is there a continuation to this thread somewhere? This is quite honestly THE single best read I've run across!!! 

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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, Theoutdoorsman3276 said:

First post, and new member here ... (new to trolling)

 

I know this thread is 5 yrs old, but is there a continuation to this thread somewhere? This is quite honestly THE single best read I've run across!!! 

 

Welcome to the forum.  Yes it is an old post but still good info for sure.  Hope you find other posts that or of interest to you.  Feel free to start a new one as well. :-)

Edited by leech~~

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