Sliders are a popular way to add a second lure to a downrigger
trolling line. Adding a second lure doubles the chances
of contacting fish, but a slider doesn't double the chances
of hooking fish. Unfortunately a slider is free to move
up and down on the line depending on trolling speed and
the depth fished. When a fish hits a free moving slider,
there's no resistance against the fish until the angler
trips the downrigger release and reels up all the slack
Often a fish that hits a slider shakes free before the
angler can trip the line and reel up the slack. Sliders
are easy to use, but they are not the most effective way
to rig an extra lure into a downrigger trolling pattern.
A fixed add-a-line holds the trailing lure a precise depth
that can be duplicated as needed. Also, the resistance a
fixed add-a-line provides is just the ticket for insuring
that fish are hooked solidly.
To rig an add-a-line you'll need a six foot length of 17-20
pound test monofilament, two heavy duty snap swivels and
an OR14 planer board release. Begin by tying one of the
snap swivels to the monofilament line. Next take the other
end of the mono and run it through the hole in the OR14
release. Finish the rig by tying the second snap swivel
onto the line.
When using this unique add-a-line, clip a favorite spoon,
spinner or stickbait onto the snap swivel. Pinch open the
OR14 release and place it on the downrigger cable the desired
distance above the main line. Clip the second snap swivel
over the main line, toss the lure into the water and lower
the whole rig to the desired fishing depth.
When a fish strikes the OR14 provides enough resistance
that the fish is hooked securely before it can pull the
release free from the downrigger cable. In order to keep
tension on the fish, the angler must reel quickly to pick
up slack line created when the add-a-line pops free from
the downrigger cable.
Using a fixed add-a-line is more productive than an ordinary
slider. This simple rig can be used for walleye, salmon,
trout, muskie, striper and just about any other fish commonly
sought with downriggers.
Back to Top
By Larry Hartwick
Every time that I read an article on fishing for certain
species, I begin to feel that I need to go back to school
and get a masters degree; maybe a doctorate would be better?
At some point these fish are getting so smart that I doubt
they could be caught. C'mon ! Fish have a brain the size
of a pea! There is no logic taking place in that head.
Fish that are not spawning do basically three things during
their lifetime. They swim around looking for something smaller
than them to eat, defecate, and eat some more. That's it!
Salmon grow from 1 1/2 inches long when planted, to over
20 pounds in four years. Other species have similar growth
rates in favorable conditions. There isn't a lot of selective
eating taking place to achieve this growth rate. Certainly,
they are not eating very many vegetables.
Instead of giving fish artificial intelligence, what we
need to be addressing, are the issues that affect how fish
react to various lure presentations. Weather conditions
dramatically alter fish reaction to lure presentation, these
are the things we need to understand to catch fish on a
Back to Top
SOMETIMES BIGGER IS BETTER
By Mark Romanack
Sometimes bigger is better. Anyone who has ever fished
with a dual planer board system has no doubt discovered
how effective this trolling method can be. Matched with
a planer board mast and some dependable line releases, a
"big board" trolling system can best be described
as a fish harvesting system.
Walleye, steelhead, salmon and stripers are some of the
most common targets of planer board trolling. However, just
about any fish that is routinely found in the top 40 feet
of the water column is a prime candidate for planer board
Compared to in-line boards, dual board systems have the
edge not only on the number of lines that can be fished,
but also a clear advantage when faced with plowing through
rough water conditions.
In addition to running multiple lines without tangles,
dual planer board systems also key on water missed by downriggers
or diving planers. The ability to fish a wide variety of
lures both away from the boat and below the surface is a
combination that can't be beat.
Not surprisingly, dual planer board systems are most often
used on larger boats capable of comfortably handling several
anglers. While any size boat can be used with these planer
systems, one of the chief advantages of dual boards is their
ability to handle up to five or six lines per side. With
up to a dozen lures in the water at one time, anglers can
experiment with lure types, colors, trolling leads and a
wealth of other variables.
Getting started with a dual planer board system requires
some specific equipment. Anglers will need a set of boards,
a planer mast retrieval system plus an assortment of quality
The Riviera Dual Planer Board (DPB) has become one of the
most popular boards on the water because of several key
features. Most importantly, these boards can be folded down
to conserve space in the boat. No tools or adjustments are
required to fold the boards for storage.
In addition to being collapsible, the DPB is made from
tough plastic with a foam insert that makes the boards more
buoyant than others made from different materials. Tougher
than wooden boards, the Riviera DPB also features a three
position tow arm that can be adjusted for various trolling
For fast trolling situations mount the tow ring in the
forward position. For normal trolling speeds the middle
setting performs best. When trolling slowly early and late
in the season, move the tow ring to the back position for
In addition to boards, anglers will need a dependable mast
system. Riviera offers three different masts designed to
meet the needs and budget of all anglers. Leading the list
is the Riviera Dual Planer Manual Retrieval Mast (DPM) is
the standard others are compared to. This mast features
a six foot fiberglass reinforced boom that's the strongest,
a set of Lexan reels with built-in clutch, aluminum multi-directional
pulley brackets and 150' of 200 pound test fluorescent planer
The next step up is the Riviera Dual Planer Posi-Stop Manual
Mast (DPM-P). This unique mast system eliminates the reel
clutch, using instead a spring loaded that indexes into
holes molded into the reel. The pin operates like a bolt
action rifle, allowing anglers to easily unlock the pin
to let line flow off the reel or to reel line in. The pin
also secures the reel in place for fishing.
All the features of the standard manual mast are included
with the Posi-Stop Mast. Smooth and easy to use, this new
product is certain to become popular.
The Riviera/Kachman Automatic Retrieval Mast (DPMK) is
the flag ship of Riviera's mast systems. Two spring loaded
reels are used to both deploy and pick up planer board line
To use this unique mast, anglers first determine how far
out to the side they want their boards to run, then the
planer line is wrapped into a stop device molded into the
reel housing. When the tow line is attached to the board,
the angler only needs to toss the board over the side and
troll away until the board reaches the pre-set distance
from the boat.
On turns when the tow line would normally go slack, the
spring tension of the Kachman reels keeps the line taunt
making for crisp line releases even during turns.
At days end picking up is as easy as pointing the boat
towards one of the boards and motoring directly towards
it. The spring loaded reels automatically retrieve the planer
board line and store it neatly for the next fishing trip.
Planer board fishing has never been easier or more effective.
The Riviera/Kachman Automatic Retrieval Mast features the
same fiberglass boom used on other Riviera masts. Other
standard equipment includes 150' of 200 pound planer line,
aluminum pulley brackets, multi-directional pulleys and
stainless steel guide bushings.
All Riviera masts are available in Springfield Taper-Lock
base, Springfield Spring-Lock base, or a quick disconnect
CHOOSING LINE RELEASES
A planer board system is dependant upon quality line releases.
Ironically, line releases are one area where anglers frequently
try to save a few pennies by using rubber bands or alligator
clips as line releases. Cutting corners with line releases
is like buying a high performance sports car and filling
the gas tank with low octane fuel.
Getting the best performance from a planer board system
requires the use of quality pinch pad style line releases.
A line release must have enough tension to hold the line
securely at a wealth of trolling speeds and in all types
of wave conditions. This same release must also have a strong
enough grip on the line to insure fish that strike the lures
are hooked solidly before the line pops free of the release.
Quality line releases must also hold fast without damaging
the monofilament even after repeated use. These same releases
must be used over and over again and provide years of faithful
service. Frankly, most line releases on the market simply
don't measure up.
The Off Shore Tackle family of line releases has gained
a reputation as the industry leader. Anglers can choose
from several different releases designed to function with
the specific line sizes commonly used with popular species.
For example, walleye anglers typically troll with light
line. The OR10 Light Tension Planer Board Release is the
ideal choice when walleye fishing using 10-14 pound test
line. The spring tension of the OR10 (yellow) can be easily
adjusted by sliding the spring forward (towards the pads)
to increase or backwards (away from the pads) to reduce
Larger fish such as steelhead or salmon require heavier
line. The OR3 (white) is ideal when trolling for these species
with 17-30 pound test line. The larger pad diameter of this
release enables anglers to achieve a solid hook set even
on powerful species.
The OR14 (black) Medium Tension Planer Board Release resembles
the OR10 but this release has a stronger spring tension
for tackling trophy sized walleye, salmon or trout. Like
the OR10, the OR14 has a sliding spring designed make the
release tension adjustable.
The OR10, OR14 and OR3 are the most commonly used Off Shore
Tackle line releases, but the options don't end here. Anglers
who troll for muskie require a line release with even more
spring tension. Landing one of these tooth filled critters
requires the extra hook setting power of the OR19 (orange)
Heavy Tension Planer Board Release or an OR17 (black) Medium
Tension Planer Board Release.
No single release can do the job of all these products.
That's why Off Shore Tackle offers a complete family of
line releases for all dual planer board trolling situations.
Matching up quality planer boards, a dependable mast system
and time proven line releases is the secret to enjoying
successful planer board trolling. Riviera and Off Shore
Tackle offer all the products required to cash in on this
secret. What else would you expect from the Leaders in Trolling
Back to Top
UNDERSTANDING AND USING DOWNRIGGER RELEASES
A downrigger is only as good as its weakest link. The line
release used with a downrigger makes all the difference
in how these trolling aids function.
Few anglers realize that a complex set of standards must
be met for a downrigger line release to function properly.
To the casual observer a downrigger release simply holds
the line until a strike occurs, then releases its grip on
the line so the angler can reel in the fish. This all sounds
straight forward, but in reality building a line release
that functions properly in a variety of fishing situations
No single line release can function in all situations.
That's why Off Shore Tackle offers a complete line of releases
designed to meet the specific needs of anglers fishing for
walleye, salmon, trout, muskie and salt water species.
Before we describe the many line releases offered by Off
Shore Tackle, let's take a second to examine the specific
features a quality line release must offer. A downrigger
line release not only holds the line and trailing lure while
trolling, how the line is held, is critical to the overall
success of downrigger fishing.
The release selected must feature enough resistance that
when a fish strikes, the hooks are set solidly into the
fish. If the release tension is too light, the fish may
not be hooked securely at the strike and escape. If the
tension is too strong, the angler may not be able to determine
that a fish has been hooked and a fish may be dragged needlessly.
Off Shore Tackle uses spring loaded pinch pad style releases
for all applications. The rubber pads inside these releases
securely hold monofilament without damaging the line.
Several factors must be taken into consideration when designing
line releases. The spring tension, line diameter used, trolling
speed and the amount of stretch in the fishing line have
a strong influence on the function of these products.
The OR1 Medium Tension Single Downrigger Release was the
first line release introduced by OST. This popular release
has become the standard all others are compared to. The
flag ship of the OST product line, the OR1 was designed
as a downrigger release for salmon, trout, steelhead and
other powerful fish. Designed to be used with 17-30 pound
test monofilament, the tension provided insures solid hook
sets when trolling for trout or salmon. The OR1 is black
in color and the line should be placed near the back of
the rubber pads for best results.
The OR4 Light Tension Single Downrigger Release was designed
with a lighter tension setting especially for walleye fishing.
Ideal for use with monofilament lines from 10-17 pound test,
this light tension release is also ideal when smaller browns,
pink salmon or other small to medium size fish are the target
species. The OR4 is white in color. The line should be set
near the back of the rubber pads, but the tension of this
release can be reduced by placing the line a little closer
to the front of the pads.
Stacker releases are another important accessory for downrigger
fishing. A stacker is simply two downrigger style releases
connected together using coated steel cable featuring one
short lead and one slightly longer lead.
A stacker release allows two lines to be fished using a
single downrigger. Off Shore Tackle offers two stacker releases
including the OR2 Medium Tension Stacker Downrigger and
the OR7 Light Tension Stacker Downrigger. The OR2 is designed
for use with salmon and steelhead and the OR7 for walleye
or other smaller fish.
Stackers are easy to use and an excellent way to get maximum
benefit from downrigger fishing. To rig a stacker release,
first set a favorite trolling lure the desired distance
behind the boat. Clip this line into the OR1 or OR4 downrigger
release attached to the cannonball.
Lower the downrigger weight five to 10 feet below the surface.
Next take a second rod and set a spoon or stickbait about
10-12 feet behind the boat.
Grab an OR2 or OR7 Stacker Downrigger Release and open
the heavy duty snap. Place this snap over the downrigger
cable and close the snap. Then take the release on the short
lead and pinch it onto the downrigger cable above the snap.
The line from the second rod is placed near the back of
the rubber pads on the release on the long lead. Next the
cannonball is lowered to the desired fishing depth.
The stacker positions a second line a few feet above the
main line. Normally the lead length on the stacker line
is shorter than the main line to avoid tangles. Most trollers
prefer to run their stackers from five to 10 feet above
the main line, but this distance can be altered as needed.
Remember when pulling lines to pop the main line first to
avoid tangling lines with the stacker.
Another release has become a popular part of the OST family
of line releases. The OR8 Heavy Tension Single Downrigger
Release was designed for salt water trolling applications
and for muskie fishing. Two springs are used to beef up
the spring tension on this release to insure solid hook
sets on large and powerful fish. This release also has a
very strong following from dedicated dodger/fly/squid anglers.
The OR8 features a #210 stainless steel leader and heavy
duty snap. This release is designed to be used with at least
20 pound test monofilament.
All of the OST downrigger releases are designed to provide
years of trouble free service. Should the rubber pads become
worn after considerable service, new pads can be purchased
and installed. A downrigger is only as good as its weakest
link. Insist on genuine Off Shore Tackle downrigger line
releases. Releases that increase your hooking/landing ratio.
Back to Top
By Larry Hartwick
Downriggers have been a mainstay of the Great Lakes since
the mid 1960's salmon boom occurred. Since that time, downriggers
have been used to effectively catch virtually every species
from pinfish to muskie. Many people shy away from using
downriggers because they feel that they are too complicated.
Some of this has been fueled by people who have little or
no experience fishing downriggers yet still feel they are
experts in the field.
Nothing could be further from the truth. A downrigger does
one function and it does it better than any other method
devised to this day. A downrigger gives you the ability
to control the depth of your offering to within inches of
where you want the lure to be. No other method can offer
this amount of depth control.
How does a downrigger work? A downrigger has a wheel/reel
filled with 200 feet of 150 pound test stainless cable (don't
substitute anything else no matter what you read) that is
attached to a 10 pound weight (cannonball). The weight has
a line release attached to hold the line.
First, let the lure back 10 to 15 feet behind the transom
of the boat. Next, pinch open the pads of the line release
(Off Shore's OR1 or OR4), insert the line between the pads.
By referencing the depth meter (counter) on the downrigger,
the weight can be lowered to the desired depth; keeping
slight pressure on the line while the weight is lowered.
Once the weight is at the desired depth, place the rod in
a holder, and crank up any slack line until the rod has
a "C" shaped bend in it. The amount of bend is
up to you. At this point you are fishing. When a fish strikes
the lure, the line is pulled from the line release. The
slack line created by the strike causes the rod to "pop"
straight up indicating a strike. Remove the rod from the
holder and crank in the slack line until the fish is felt
on the line. Now its up to you to land the fish. Once the
fish is boated, retrieve the weight, re-set the line, and
go back to fishing.
This system is easy to learn, and depending on how hard
you want to fish, can be relaxing or demanding. One thing
that you can bank on, is that the downriggers are the first
things that I set every day, regardless of what specie I'm
fishing. That's the confidence level that I have in downriggers.
Back to Top
GETTING WALLEYE WIRED
By Jerry Fox Jr.
Wire line trolling is a mainstay for many walleye anglers
in the metro Detroit area. Popular for over 60 years, wire
lining is the ultimate in hands-on walleye fishing!
Developed as a technique for fishing the fast current of
the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers, wire lining or hand lining
as it is sometimes called has recently gained popularity
in other parts of the country. As this unique fishing method
gains acceptance, more anglers are asking how to get involved
in wire line fishing.
Wire line fishing requires some basic equipment. The wire
itself is 60 pound test cable stored on a spring loaded
reel. The wire line reel is best mounted near the front
of the boat along the gunwales. Riviera Downrigger Corporation
produces a spring loaded reel that's ideal for the job.
The reel features constant tension, so any slack cable is
instantly wound onto the reel.
Approximately 300 feet of wire is loaded onto the reel,
then a four to six foot length of 45 pound test coated cable
called a shank is attached to the wire via a strong clip.
The shank itself has several clevises attached that will
ultimately accept trolling leads. At the bottom of the shank,
a heavy duty snap accepts a lead cylinder shaped weight,
mounted on a length of heavy wire. The lead weight varies
in size depending on water depth. One pound weights are
normally used for most shallow water or moderate current
situations. In deeper or faster water up to two pounds is
Two or three trolling leads are attached to the clevises.
Most handliners prefer to use two leads. The lead closest
to the weight is approximately 20 feet long and mounted
24 inches above the weight. The next lead is 40 feet long
and mounted 12 inches above the first lead.
Staggering the leads allows two lures to be fished tight
to bottom without fear of tangles. The most common lures
are stickbaits such as the Rapala Minnow, Storm ThunderStick,
Bagley Bang-O-Lure, Bomber Long A or Reef Runner Little
Ripper. Other baits that find there way onto a wire line
rig include the Helin Flatfish, pencil plugs, various spinners
and a wealth of other shallow diving crankbaits.
When setting a wire line rig it's important to bring the
boat up to trolling speed then lower the weight and shank
into the water a few feet. Next feed your trolling leads
into the water and watch the lures to be sure they are in
tune and running properly. Once the lures are running properly,
lower the whole rig to the bottom keeping the weight ticking
bottom at approximately a 45 degree angle behind the boat.
Wire lining is effective because it keeps two lures in
the strike zone 100% of the time. Even in areas where the
current is fast or the bottom irregular, an angler fishing
a wire line rig can keep pace with changes in bottom contour
by simply letting out or taking up a little wire line to
maintain contact with bottom. The more erratic the bottom
the better this presentation works.
Wire lining is often practiced at night, but this technique
works equally well during the daylight. At night, walleye
are often taken in water less than 10 feet deep. During
the day, most of the action takes place in deeper water.
When a fish strikes a wire line rig, the angler can easily
feel the struggling fish. The wire is slowly pulled in by
hand and the spring loaded reel spools the wire automatically.
The weight is placed in the boat and the angler determines
which trolling lead has hooked a fish. The fish is pulled
in with a hand-over-hand retrieve. When the fish makes a
run, the angler allows line to slip through his fingers.
Trolling leads are normally made from 20 pound test monofilament.
Smaller line tends to tangle too much. Keeping the boat
clean and organized is important when hand lining to avoid
This method has proven to be very effective in river current
situations across the country. It has been so effective
that the PWT circuit has banned its use in their tournaments
(as of the printing of this paper).
Two anglers each fishing a hand line rig with two trolling
leads each is the ideal set up. Hand lining is effective,
easy to learn and considered by many to be the ultimate
in hands-on fishing.
Back to Top
THE INSIDE STORY ON IN-LINE BOARDS
Sometimes less is more. In-line planer boards are small,
inexpensive, easy to use and these small boards are deadly
on a wide variety of fish species. The use of in-line boards
has grown steadily over the past few years thanks in part
to improved products and a growing number of anglers who
recognize the need to be versatile on the water.
Walleye anglers were among the first to recognize the value
of in-line boards such as the Off Shore Tackle Side-Planer.
Hands down the most popular in-line board on the water,
it's easy to see why walleye anglers insist on using the
bright yellow board with the red flag.
Side-Planers are small enough to pull easily through the
water, yet big enough to haul a wide variety of lures and
trolling aids such as Snap Weights. Size is one of the major
reasons the Side-Planer has become so popular. Smaller boards
simply can't handle the drag of deep diving crankbaits,
Snap Weights, mini-disks, lead core line and other common
WALLEYE RIGGING TIPS
Because Side-Planer boards attach directly to the fishing
line using spring tension line clips, they are easy to put
on and take off the line. Also the rubber pads used in these
line clips won't damage monofilament or super braid lines.
Begin by selecting a favorite trolling lure and setting
it the desired distance behind the boat. Once the desired
lead length has been set, place the Side-Planer on the line
by opening the line clip on the tow arm of the board and
placing the line near the back of the rubber pad. Repeat
the same process with the line clip mounted on the back
of the board (be sure to leave a little slack in the line
between the clips) and drop the Side-Planer over the side.
As the board trolls forward let line off the reel to start
the board planing the desired distance out to the side.
If your reel has a line clicker feature, open the reel bail
and engage the line clicker. Place the rod in a conveniently
located rod holder and as this line clicks it's way out
to the side, grab a second rod and begin setting another
Landing fish is as easy as setting lines. When a fish is
hooked, the weight of the struggling fish causes the board
to pull backwards in the water. There's no need to set the
hook! Keep the boat moving forward and get the rod out of
the holder. Begin reeling the board and fish in using a
slow and steady retrieve. Jerking on the rod to set the
hook may cause the board to pop off the line or worse yet,
tear the hooks free of the fish.
As long as a steady tension is maintained, there is no
fear of losing the fish. When the board nears the boat quickly
remove it from the line by pinching opening the line clips.
Once the board has been removed from the line, slow down
the forward speed of the boat and fight the fish to net.
If a fish is hooked on an outside line, it will be necessary
to clear the inside line. Reel up the inside line until
the board touches the rod tip, then simply place this line
on the other side of the boat where it won't be in the way.
Once the fish is landed, put the line that was cleared,
back in the water, open the reel bail and let this line
back out to the side. Reset the line that caught the fish
and you're back in business. The process of setting lines,
landing fish and resetting lines with in-line boards takes
amazingly little time or effort.
BOARD RIGGING OPTIONS
Off Shore Tackle manufactures two types of line clips that
are commonly used on the tow arm and tail of the Side-Planer.
The standard release used is the OR14 that comes standard
with the board. This adjustable tension release is black
in color. Ideal for use with line sizes ranging from 12-17
pound test and normal trolling speeds, the OR14 can also
be used as a medium tension release for use with dual planer
Professional anglers and those who often troll in rough
seas favor the stronger spring tension of the OR16. This
line clip is the same one used in the Snap Weight kit.
The OR16 line clip is perfect for use with light line or
super braid lines. This clip is also the best choice for
those who troll at high speed or in rough seas. When the
OR16 is used there's never a worry that the board will accidentally
pop off the line.
Two OR16 clips can be used on a Side-Planer or anglers
can use an OR16 on the front of the board and an OR14 on
TROUT & SALMON RIGGING TRICKS
Part of what makes the Side-Planer so popular is the many
ways this board can be rigged for various fishing situations.
When trolling for powerful species such as steelhead or
salmon, the Off Shore Tackle staff recommends rigging the
Side-Planer using the release-and-slide method. Equip the
Side-Planer with an OR14 (black) release on the tow arm
and a heavy duty snap swivel mounted to the back of the
The snap swivel can be simply attached to the split ring
at the back of the board, or a screw eye can be twisted
into the plastic at the back edge of the board.
Before setting lines attach a Speedo bead, barrel swivel
or split shot three or four feet ahead of the lure. When
a fish is hooked and the board released, this stop will
prevent the board from sliding down to the fish.
When setting lines select a trolling lure and set it the
desired distance behind the boat. Next pinch open the tow
arm release and place the line near the back of the rubber
pads. Allow this release to pinch closed and then clip the
snap swivel at the back of the board over the line. Be sure
to close the snap swivel.
Once the board is rigged on the line, drop the board into
the water and let out additional line until the board is
the desired distance from the boat. In-line boards can be
run from 50-150 feet out to the side depending on wave conditions.
In calm weather set the boards out to the side from 100-150
feet. In rough water run the boards from 50-75 feet out
to the side.
The powerful strike of a steelhead or salmon usually pulls
the line free of the release on the tow arm of the board.
If a fish strikes, but the board doesn't release a quick
snap of the rod tip will pop the line free.
When the line pops free of the tow arm, the board will
begin sliding down the line towards the fish via the snap
swivel at the back of the board. Keep the boat moving forward
and apply steady pressure on the fish by reeling slowly
with the rod tip held upright.
With the release-and-slide method there's no need to clear
other lines or take the board off the line. Simply fight
the fish until it can be reached with the net, unhook the
fish, reset the line and you're back in business.
Line tension can be adjusted when using the release-and-slide
method by using one of two different releases or by adjusting
the release tension setting. The OR10 (yellow) and OR14
(black) are both adjustable for spring tension. The OR10
has a lighter spring tension designed for walleye and other
smaller fish. The OR14 is a stronger spring tension more
suitable for steelhead, salmon and other large fish.
To increase spring tension, slide the spring forward (towards
the pads) using the blade of a screw driver. To reduce spring
tension, slide the spring into the back (away from the pads)
Many anglers remove the flag that comes on the Side-Planer
when fishing for powerful fish such as steelhead or salmon.
When using the release-and-slide method removing the flag
allows the board to pull through the water with less resistance
when fighting a fish.
For walleye fishing the flag is an essential tool. Because
the angler must monitor the boards to determine strikes,
the flag aids in keeping track of the boards. The flag also
makes it easier for other anglers to spot and avoid your
boards when trolling in traffic. Since the board rides upright
in the water during the fight, the flag generates additional
Off Shore Tackle also offers an after market flag kit known
as the Tattle Flag. The Tattle Flag is spring loaded and
folds down when a fish is hooked, making it even easier
to use in-line boards. A whole feature is dedicated to the
use of the Tattle Flag in this edition of the Off Shore
In-line boards such as the Side-Planer are versatile tools
for catching walleye, steelhead, salmon, browns or just
about anything that swims! Depending on the target species
and trolling situation these boards can be rigged in several
Back to Top
GETTING THE MOST FROM THE TATTLE FLAG
Imagine a planer board flag that tells when you've got
a bite. A year ago when the Tattle Flag was introduced some
anglers felt the concept was a gimmick. The Tattle Flag
is no gimmick to those who have tried this unique accessory
for the Off Shore Tackle Side-Planer, it's a necessity.
Those who have spent long hours fishing in-line boards
know that it can be hard to determine when a small fish
has been hooked. This is especially true when fishing in
rough seas or when frequent turns are required. With the
help of the Tattle Flag, detecting bites is never a problem,
even when small perch, sheephead or other non-target species
A simple spring loaded linkage system enables the flag
to fold down when a fish is hooked. The Tattle Flag kits
are only sold as after market items. Installing one takes
about five minutes and simple hand tools.
Once installed the angler only needs to place his fishing
line in the two line releases provided on the front and
rear of the Side-Planer being sure to leave enough slack
so the linkage can function. When working properly the flag
should run not in the straight up position, but tilted towards
the back of the board slightly.
To get the ideal performance from the Tattle Flag, simple
adjustments to the spring tension must be made. Because
all trolling lures don't have the same drag in the water,
the spring tension on the Tattle Flag is made to be easily
changed to match various fishing situations.
Adjustments in spring tension are made by moving the spring
up or down along the front edge (nose) of the board in the
holes provided. Rigged in this manner the spring will not
pop off even during the roughest handling.
For light lures such as stickbaits, spoons or shallow diving
crankbaits the spring is positioned on the front of the
board near the top edge.
Lures that have a little more drag in the water such as
medium diving crankbaits, require a little more spring tension
to keep the flag running near upright. Position the spring
in the middle hole for best results.
When trolling heavy Snap Weights, bottom bouncers, lead
core line or deep diving crankbaits, the strongest spring
tension is required. Attach the linkage spring in the bottom
hole when trolling heavy weights or deep diving lures.
The Tattle Flag kits offer anglers the opportunity to match
the required spring tension to the trolling application.
It only takes a few seconds to make these important adjustments.
MORE TATTLE FLAG TRICKS
Anglers who are first exposed to the Tattle Flag are amazed
how many times the flag indicates a bite, but the fish isn't
hooked. Fish often strike at trolled lures without getting
solidly hooked. The Tattle Flag can help anglers catch even
the fish that didn't get hooked. Here's how.
When the flag on the board folds down to indicate a strike
then pops back up quickly, immediately open the reel bail
and free spool the board for a few feet. Freespooling the
board causes the lure to stall right in front of the fish.
When the board starts pulling forward again, look out. Often
a savage strike occurs. This simple trick works well on
walleye, salmon, steelhead, pike, muskie and other species.
The Tattle Flag has become one of the most popular product
introductions in Off Shore Tackle history. What might appear
as a gimmick to some has become an essential tool to those
anglers who routinely fish in-line planer boards.
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By Larry Hartwick
Some years ago, someone told me that a certain person invented
the planer board. My reply was that he seemed to be too
young, by about 50 - 100 years. Planer boards have been
around for a long time, before there were outboard motors.
When the Finnish anglers in Michigan's Upper Peninsula were
still propelling their crafts by oar and sail, they were
using a style of planer board. These "original"
planers were reported to be fashioned after planers that
were used in Finland and the surrounding area.
Living in parts of the Upper Peninsula year around is a
very challenging experience and a good supply of fish was
a necessity. Planer boards were an instrumental part of
this equation and still are extremely effective. While there
have been many changes to the original design, most of these
changes reflect our need to be mobile and be able to store
planers in limited spaces. While this bit of history might
seem unnecessary, I like to keep the facts straight.
There are two types of planers, In-Line Boards and Dual
Planer Boards. In-line boards are designed to be fished
while attached to the rod. This system basically uses a
rod for the mast system. Two or more in-line planers can
be used per side of the boat; most anglers using this system
use 1 or 2 per side. The limiting factor is not the ability
to use more in-lines per side, but the number of anglers
in the boat. In-Line planers have been used successfully
on all specie of fish from saltwater to Canadian fly-in
trips. With the addition of the new Tattle Flag, in-line
boards have become a major factor in fishing light biting
species. If you can see the Tattle Flag, you can tell if
there is a fish even thinking about nibbling at a lure.
How do you use in-line boards? Set a lure back the desired
distance to be fished behind the transom. Attach the line
to the in-line board using 1 of 2 methods described in the
instructions, as much as I hate to admit it, it does help
even for men to read them. Drop the board in the water and
while keeping a slight amount of tension on the line, (leaving
the bait clicker on does a good job if you are using level
wind reels) let the in-line board out to the desired distance.
Throw the reel in gear and place the rod in a holder. At
this point you're fishing. One thing to keep in mind when
using multiple in-lines off of one side, when a fish is
hooked on an outside board, have your partner bring the
inside board close to the boat. This will eliminate most
tangles experienced while landing a fish. Once the fish
is landed, let the in-line back out to the desired distance.
Dual planer boards work the best when used in conjunction
with a planer mast system. The mast system has 2 distinct
advantages over tying a tow line off a rail. First, it is
a line storage system, secondly it adds to the height of
the tow line. The increased height allows line releases
to slide down the tow lines much easier. The ideal mounting
area is at or near the bow of the boat, this keeps the tow
lines out of the way on turns and gives the tow lines a
compound angle which aids in the setting of lines.
Here is an overview on how to use Dual Planer Boards. Once
the dual planer boards have been set to the desired distance
from the boat, let the lure out the desired distance behind
the transom. Next, using a planer style release, (these
releases are attached to a shower curtain style clip such
as the Off Shore OR10, 14, 3) pinch open the pads of the
release and insert the line. Attach the shower curtain clip
to the tow line and start letting out line from the reel.
(Again the bait clicker function on the reel will help)
The release holding the line will slide out the tow line
as you let line spool off the reel. When the release reaches
the appropriate spot on the tow line, put the reel in gear
and place the rod in a holder.
Repeat this scenario to add additional lines per side,
spacing the lines 15 to 25 feet apart. At this point you
have a trolling spread. When a fish is hooked, it will pull
the line out of the release and it can easily be landed
off of the transom without interfering with the other lines.
When a fish is landed on an outside line, simply let the
remaining lines out further, and re-set the line to the
inside of the spread. It becomes a circular pattern of movement
that is repeated until the supply of releases is exhausted.
The releases will harmlessly stack up against the dual planer
board until the board is pulled in and then you can retrieve
A word of CAUTION, Dacron TM planer line is standard on
most mast systems. It is on the reels for a reason. DO NOT
change it to monofilament, weed whip line, or 500 pound
test super braid - no matter who recommends it. Changing
the tow line to anything other than Dacron planer line will
probably void any warranty on the reels. If the shower curtain
clips don't seem to slide on the tow line as easily as they
once did, spray either Armor All TM or silicone on the line.
It will seem like you greased the tow lines, Armor All TM
also is great for waterproofing the leather on deck shoes
(of course you don't put in anywhere on the soles of your
deck shoes). Thanks to Michael Peel from Best Chances Sporting
Goods in Saugatuck, Michigan for this tip a couple years
ago, it sure makes for dry feet. Armor All TM also has a
UV stabilizer that will add life to your planer line. The
planer line can also be reversed for added life.
Which system is right for you? That question depends on
a lot of factors, including the size of the boat, the body
of water to be fished, and the numbers of anglers on the
vessel. Once thought of as a large boat system, dual planer
board mast systems are increasingly seen on smaller crafts.
In-line boards are also being used on some large vessels.
Generally, in-line boards produce better results on calm
days, and dual planer boards produce better on rougher days.
This is due to the difference in the movement of the board
thru the water, and the resulting difference in the action
imparted to the lure. In-line boards are designed to be
fished down wind in choppy conditions, and are almost impossible
to flip on a downwind troll. The dual boards can be fished
either direction, but are easier to flip. The bottom line
is, if you fish a lot or want to catch fish every time out,
you need both systems.
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By Larry Hartwick
Sliders have been an important part of a trolling spread
for years because they add another dimension to your spread
of lures. For those of you who aren't familiar with sliders,
a slider is a way of fishing 2 lures while using only 1
rod. Sound tricky? It isn't, sliders are actually one of
the easiest methods to master.
Sliders are used in conjunction with downriggers, after
a rod is set on a downrigger, the slider is added on to
the line. The slider is simply a 4 foot piece of monofilament
with a snap swivel tied on each end of the monofilament.
A lure is attached to one snap swivel and the other snap
swivel is attached to line between the rod tip and the water
line. Once the snap swivel is attached to the line, toss
the lure into the water. The slider (lure) will work its
way down to the "belly in the line" and stay there.
Now you are fishing 2 lures from 1 rod. The belly in the
line will usually be between 1/2 and 2/3 the depth of the
downrigger weight. In other words, if you are fishing a
line at 60 feet, the stacker should be in the30 to 40 foot
range. There are variables that influence how deep a slider
is (speed and tension on the rod), but this is a good rule
of thumb. Sliders are most effective when the fish are scattered
vertically, they allow an angler to cover more depths than
would be possible using only lines from the downrigger weights.
What makes sliders so effective in a downrigger spread?
Besides the fact that you now have twice the amount of lures
in the water, they work for the same reasons that Dipsey
Divers and planers work. Any change in the speed or direction
of the boat causes the belly in the line to change position,
which in turn either creates a stall (drop) or rise (speed
up) in the lure. These subtle changes usually go unnoticed
in the boat but the fish pay close attention to them.
One word of CAUTION, when tossing a lure attached to a
slider overboard, ALWAYS grasp the lure by the rear hook
BETWEEN the barbs. Quite often the line has pressure on
it and this will save a painful lesson. Some of us old dogs
had to learn the hard way.
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SPEED BEADS FOR IN-LINE BOARDS AND WEED CONTROL
By Captain Michael Peel
Speed Beads are 8mm plastic stops that can be attached
anywhere on your fishing line without knots. The line is
simply routed through groves in the bead. This simple plastic
bead can save you valuable fishing time, instead of removing
weeds and leaves from lures. They also make planer board
fishing faster and more efficient. Speed Beads go on fast
and easy, but stay in place when using the routing instructions
for a "Fixed Position Speed Bead."
When trolling in areas with debris floating on the surface
or suspended in your trolling zone, speed beads will deflect
most of the leaves, weeds, or sticks that will commonly
slide down the fishing line to your lure. I use Speed Beads
while fall salmon fishing on the Kalamazoo River. In the
section of the river we take big spawning Kings in a tunnel
of hardwood trees. It's pretty when the fall colors are
peak, but when these leaves fall in October, fishing can
be both difficult and frustrating. Both floating and suspended
leaves being swept downstream by the current will foul your
crankbaits and bring them to the surface soon after the
bait is presented. By placing a fixed position speed bead
a few feet ahead of the crankbait, most of the leaves or
debris are deflected. This will keep your baits fishing.......and
in the fish! The best bait in your boat is useless when
it's out of the water. This weed deflection method works
great trolling for walleye's on large river systems too!
When using in-line planer boards on hard hitting fish like
salmon or steelhead that burn drags and jump repeatedly,
boards are often dislodged from the fishing line and have
to be retrieved. Having to turn or keep track of a drifting
board can be difficult in rough seas, low visibility, or
areas of high boat traffic can be difficult. By simply replacing
the back release on your inline boards with a snap swivel,
and using a speed bead on your fishing line, your board
can be retrieved on the line. Here's how it works. After
a strike, the release breaks free from the front of the
board, then the board turns around and slides back towards
the fish. To keep the board from sliding all the way down
to the bait, use a speed bead a rod length ahead of your
bait to stop the board. Without this bead to stop your board,
it will slide all the way down to the bait or the fish you're
fighting. This will result in it slapping against the fish
causing it to panic or become tangled in the lure. Normally,
you will either break the fish off or pull the bait out
of it's mouth.
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By Larry Hartwick
One of the questions that we are frequently asked each
year is in regards the proper use of stacker releases. Let's
end the confusion; stackers are relatively easy to use.
A stacker set up is simply two lures on two rods, being
used one above the other. One lure (rod) is fished from
a release connected to the downrigger weight, while the
second lure(rod) is fished from a release connected to the
downrigger cable. The lures are split vertically from 5
to 50 feet apart, but to harness the full potential of a
stacker set up, the lures should not be split more than
10 feet vertically.
The bottom line is normally set 10 - 15 feet behind the
release, while the stacker line is set 5-10 feet above the
bottom line and 10 - 15 feet (20-30) further back than the
bottom line. This is done for two reasons. First and foremost
is the elimination of tangled lines while the weight is
lowered. Secondly, this approach gives each fish two opportunities
to strike your offerings. They may resist the first bait
going past, but its tough for a predator to let two go by
When changing lures, trip the stacker line first, wait
a few seconds, and then trip the cannonball release. This
will eliminate tangled lines.
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DOWNRIGGERS FOR WALLEYE
By Larry Hartwick
In the course of one year, although I doubt that anyone
is keeping track, probably more than a million words are
written on how to catch more and larger walleye. What is
equally amazing, is the fact that very few of these words
are written about how to use downriggers effectively on
walleye. Not surprising. If you take a quick look at the
boats being fished on the Pro Walleye Circuits, you will
notice that very few of them have downriggers. Even fewer
of them actually use them.
Why? For years, I've listened to various seminars. When
the speakers were asked about the use of downriggers for
walleye, the answers were normally a variation of "We
feel downrigger weights spook fish". Of these speakers,
none of them, to my knowledge, had any experience with downriggers.
Will downriggers catch walleye? YES! Will they catch large
fish? YES! Will they work in small impoundment's? YES! Can
you learn to use them effectively? YES! And here are some
pointers to get you started.
To begin to use downriggers effectively, the first thing
that everyone needs to understand is simply that they are
a tool. No more, no less. Just as in lures, there is no
magic. Downriggers allow you to totally control the depth
of the bait. Nothing else does it better. Now lets get down
to catching fish!
When using non-diving lures or baits in conjunction with
downriggers, the actual depth of the bait is approximately
10% less than the depth shown on the depth meter. This is
due to cable sway from the trolling speed of the boat. Otherwise,
a downrigger weight that is set at 40 feet, is actually
at 36 feet. It's easy to calculate, and after a short time
will become automatic.
When diving lures are used, it is important to understand,
that you need to factor in the dive depth of the lure you
intend to use. This is the MOST common error made by beginning
downrigger anglers. For example, the fish are hitting 3/8
oz. Storm TM Rattle-Tots TM, with most of the fish suspended
from 24-36 feet down. To target these fish, we must first
determine how much the Rattle-Tot TM is going to dive at
the lead length we intend to use. With a 15 foot lead this
lure will dive 5 feet lower than the weight. So, to effectively
target these fish we need to set our weight between 21-34
feet. Where did these numbers come from? 24 feet plus 10%
equals 26 feet minus 5 feet equals 21 feet. Simple. How
did we calculate the dive on the Rattle-Tot? We didn't.
It came out of one of the crank depth guides on the market.
It would take months of experimenting and jotting down notes
to learn what one of these guides will tell you in the flip
of a page. Yes, we use every advantage we can get, including
The distance of the lure to the downrigger weight is referred
to as (lead length). Any distance can be used. Normally,
a short length will work better than a long one. By short
we mean 6-15 feet. A short lead gives you several advantages.
First, it allows you to turn extremely tight. This is important
if you are working structure or a tight school of fish.
(They don't always stay feeding aggressively while you're
making a 1/2 mile turn)! Secondly, it allows you to take
advantage of the downrigger weight drawing fish to it. Fish
regularly come up behind weights to check them out. If your
lure is 100 feet behind the weight, the chance of catching
that fish seeing it are slim at best. Skeptical? My personal
largest walleye (12 lb 4 oz) was taken on a 15 foot lead.
The bait was also only set 4 feet down. The large fish are
not always deep! The important point here is that you have
total depth control available.
There are times when longer leads are the ticket to success.
During any week long period, fishing conditions will sometimes
change daily. During these barometric changes, fish can
hit anything that comes in range or develop a horrible case
of lockjaw. We are more interested in the lockjaw scenario
because these are the days that give anglers the most gray
hair. There are numerous "tricks" that can be
used to turn on negative fish. Speed is by far the most
important. If the barometer is falling, slow down. If the
barometer is rising, speed up. How fast is too fast? I have
caught walleye in excess of 5 MPH! Canadian anglers on Lake
Erie routinely fish at speeds in excess of 4 MPH once the
water temperature exceeds 60 degrees.
The most overlooked , but probably not for long, trick
is what we refer to as a "Controlled Stall". What
we are trying to achieve, is a variation in the speed or
depth of the lure or bait. This is one of the times that
long leads come to the front of the class. The best time
to use this trick is on calm water. Rough water will add
stalls automatically due to the effects of wave action on
the boat. Leads of 15-100 feet are used depending upon the
lures or baits being used. Hard diving cranks can be ran
shorter, crawler harnesses spoons, and shallow running crankbaits
need longer lengths to be as effective. Once the downriggers
are set and the trolling speed is established, pull the
gear shifter into neutral and wait until your cannonball
is hanging straight down, then move the gear shifter back
into forward. This change in speed will cause the lure to
either rise or fall in the water column. If your boat is
equipped with either an electric or hydraulic trolling plate,
changing speeds is only a matter of touching a switch. Try
the controlled stall technique, it will add weight in the
cooler. Have fun!
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WHY DIVERS WORK
By Larry Hartwick
Diving planers (Dipsey DiverTM style devices) have been
around for a lot of years. They originally started out to
be a way to get a non-diving lure down 30-40 feet without
needing to have a downrigger. They were used for years on
the west coast before salmon were introduced to the Great
Lakes. What started out to be a technique to replace the
use of a downrigger has evolved into a solid addition to
the every day trolling spread that is used in conjunction
Diving planers account for a solid share of the fish caught
each year in the Great Lakes. There have been a lot of theories
as to why the divers work so well. Most of these theories
give credit to some divers being able to achieve a limited
distance from the side of the boat. This can be a factor
in some conditions, but the foremost reason is that they
fish vertically! As they are trolled thru the water, any
change in speed or direction allows the diver to drop or
rise in the water column. This gives the bait a slow down
(drop) and speed up (rise) presentation. While this presentation
is deadly on all species of fish, it is especially deadly
on walleye. It is also easy to duplicate when using downriggers
or side planers. A slow "S" trolling pattern will
duplicate the effect on calm days. On rougher days, on the
downwind troll, simply drop the boat into neutral for a
few seconds and then back into gear. This is what we call
a "controlled stall". This technique has accounted
for every walleye over 10 pounds that I have caught, including
a 12 pound 4 ounce fish. Try these two variations while
trolling and you should see an increase in the action on
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WHY PLANER BOARDS WORK WONDERS
By Larry Hartwick
Most people who have never used planer boards are usually
both skeptical and confused as to how they work. Planer
board fishing is one of the deadliest ways to present baits
to fish in the top 30 feet of the water column. Planer boards
are simply devices that move multiple lures up to 100 feet
each side of your boat. They allow an angler to fish multiple
lines from each side of the boat, without the fear of a
tangled mess. Most anglers assume incorrectly that planers
work because the lures are away from the boat and covering
fish that were spooked by the boat. This is simply not true.
Planers work so well because they make an 8 foot wide boat
into a 100 foot wide boat! You are simply presenting lures
to 12 times the amount of fish that an 8 foot spread would
While it is possible to spook fish (in clear water) in
the upper part of the water column from the shadow of a
boat, the majority of these fish head to the bottom, not
to the side. In discolored water, it is almost impossible
to spook fish with a boat. One spring tournament on the
Michigan Walleye Tour is won every year by trolling shallow
diving crankbaits on flat lines (basically in the prop wash)
in water so shallow that using planers is not practical.
So much for not being able to put a boat over fish without
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