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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 line.

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.

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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 daily basis.


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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 trolling.

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 line releases.

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 situations.

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 excellent results.

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 board line.

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 as needed.

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 aluminum base.


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 tension.
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 Technology?


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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 is difficult.

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.


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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.

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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 often used.

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 unnecessary tangles.

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.

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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 trolling equipment.


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 line.

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.

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 board systems.

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 the back.


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 board.

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) position.

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 resistance.

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 Release.

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 productive ways.

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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 are hooked.

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.


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 those releases.

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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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 untouched.

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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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 downriggers.

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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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 with downriggers.

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 your rods.


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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 cover.

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 them spooking!


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