READING IN-LINE BOARDS
By Mark Romanack
More and more anglers are discovering how convenient to
use and effective in-line boards such as the Side-Planer
are for trolling up walleye, trout, salmon, steelhead and
many other species. Anglers new to these boards often ask,
how do you tell when a fish has been hooked?
Detecting strikes requires anglers to monitor the "attitude"
of their boards closely while trolling. I call this process
"reading the boards", and with a little practice
anyone can become a "pro" at using the Side-Planer.
It's easiest to detect strikes on the Side-Planer when
two or more boards are fished on the same side of the boat.
Strikes are more obvious when you have another nearby board
to compare it with.
It's also easier to detect strikes when the boards are fished
within 50-75 feet of the boat. When the boards are let out
100 or more feet away from the boat, slight changes in course
cause the boards to momentarily stall and start, making
it more difficult to tell if a fish has been hooked. This
is especially true if the fish is small.
Running the boards a little closer to the boat makes subtle
changes in how the board is running more obvious. However,
there's obviously a point of diminishing return. Fishing
the boards too close to the boat defeats the purpose of
using boards in the first place. Running the boards 50-75
feet out is a good rule of thumb when you're first learning
how to read planer boards. Once you get a little experience,
I'd recommend running the boards out 75-100 feet. Many of
the top walleye pros run their boards as far as 150 feet
out to the side.
Trolling with the wind makes it easier to read the boards,
no matter how far out to the side the Side-Planers are fished.
In a following sea the boards run smoothly and in a predictable
manner. When trolling into the waves, the boards jump around,
leap out of the waves and otherwise hop all over the place.
While this board action can trigger strikes, reading these
strikes is tricky for even those anglers who have considerable
experience fishing in-line boards.
Using low stretch lines such as the super braids makes
it very easy to detect hooked fish on Side-Planers. Because
the line doesn't stretch, anything that touches the lure
causes the board to react accordingly. When fishing super
braids I recommend using the new Off Shore Tackle OR18 Adjustable
Snapper release that's designed to hold this thin and slippery
surfaced line securely. Snapper releases are sold individually
and can be installed on a Side-Planer in less than a minute.
Turns are another time when reading boards gets tricky.
As the boat turns the outside lines speed up and the inside
lines slow down. The sudden increase in speed causes the
outside boards to lose a little of their outward coverage.
Essentially the board is pulled backwards in the water slightly.
When the boat straightens out, the boards will recover and
return to their original position. That is so long as a
fish isn't hooked or a line tangled during the turn.
Turns are one of the primary times when fish are hooked.
Because the board is changing direction, it's more difficult
to detect a strike, especially on small fish.
After a turn, the boards should quickly recover their original
position. If a board continues to sag, check it immediately.
Chances are the board has hooked a small fish, or one line
crossed another during the turn. To avoid lines crossing
during turns, make sure to space your Side-Planers at least
25-30 feet apart and make wide and gradual turns.
Another tip that makes it easier to read boards is to match
up lures of similar size and weight on the same side of
the boat. For example, if you set a 1/4 ounce Hot n Tot
and a 3/4 ounce Hot Lips on the same side of the boat, the
boards will react differently. The Hot n Tot has little
resistance in the water, which in turn allows the board
to achieve maximum outward coverage. The Hot Lips pulls
like a truck is tied to the end of the line and the board
struggles to present this bait out to the side.
As a result, the board pulling the Hot Lips doesn't get
as much outward coverage and compared to the board with
the Hot n Tot will sag in the water. By matching up lures
of similar size and weight, the boards will run in a more
uniform manner that's easier to monitor.
Reading the boards is part science and part intuition.
If for any reason you suspect something is wrong with the
way a board is running, take a few seconds and check that
line. The bait could have become fouled on something floating
in the water, picked up a weed or a cluster of zebra mussels.
It's better to check immediately than to drag something
around, twisting the line in the process.
I've got as many hours on the water with Side-Planers as
anyone. Until a couple of years ago I would occasionally
hook and drag a fish without noticing it. That was before
Tattle Flags hit the market.
The Tattle Flag is the final word on detecting strikes
with the Side-Planer. This after market kit comes with a
flag, two OR16 Snap Weight Clips, a linkage arm, spacer,
springs and necessary hardware to convert a Side-Planer
into a Tattle Flag board. It takes about five minutes to
install a Tattle Flag kit.
The spring loaded Tattle Flag enables the flag to fold
down when a fish strikes or the bait fouls on something
in the water. Even a small white perch or sheep head causes
the flag to fold down the instant the fish is hooked!
Tattle Flags are essential equipment when fishing in conditions
that would otherwise make it difficult to detect strikes.
Anytime anglers are fishing in rough seas, against the waves,
making lots of turns or fishing with the boards set way
out to the side, the Tattle Flag is the answer for detecting
subtle strikes. Anglers who fish live bait with boards are
also well advised to invest in Tattle Flag kits.
The spring tension on the Tattle Flag is adjustable making
these ideal for using with lures that have a modest drag
in the water such as a stickbait or with lures that pull
exceptionally hard in the water such as deep diving crankbaits
or heavy Snap Weights.
To adjust the spring tension simply place the spring wire
in one of several holes molded along the front lip of the
Side-Planer. If you own an older Side-Planer without these
pre-drilled holes, you can drill your own series of holes
in the front lip of the board.
The closer to the bottom of the board the spring is placed,
the more tension that is applied to the flag. The ideal
spring tension is just enough to keep the flag upright while
All this talk about reading boards, makes this process
seem more difficult than it really is. When a good fish
is hooked on a Side-Planer board, the weight of the struggling
fish will cause the board to immediately react by dragging
backwards in the water. The primary times when hooked fish
aren't obvious is when fishing in rough seas, when trolling
into the waves or during turns.
In short, don't let concerns about detecting strikes keep
you from enjoying the excitement of trolling Side-Planers.
These easy to use in-line boards are ideal for a wealth
of trolling situations.
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OR16 SNAP WEIGHT CLIP GETS FACE LIFT
The popular OR16 Snap Weight Clip (red) has changed the
way anglers fish. This simple line clip started a nation
wide trolling craze. In-line trolling weights have become
one of the most effective and widespread methods for trolling
up walleyes, salmon, steelhead and a wealth of other fish
species. Popular trolling techniques such as the 50/50 rigging
method have become so accepted, the Snap Weight brand name
has become an icon with anglers coast to coast.
In addition to being a Snap Weight clip, the OR16 also
sees double duty as a heavy duty line clip for the Off Shore
Tackle Side-Planer and other brands of in-line skis. Especially
popular among walleye anglers who prefer to rig in-line
boards to stay on the line, the extra spring tension of
the OR16 insures the board will stay put when trolling at
high speed or in rough seas.
Off Shore Tackle, the leaders in trolling technology, are
constantly refining and improving their products. New for
2001 the OR16 Snap Weight Clip has been modified to make
it even more useful for fishing in-line weights or as a
line clip for in-line planer boards.
The new OR16 has a small plastic pin that sticks out of
the top rubber pad. This pin fits into a hole molded into
the bottom rubber pad. When the OR16 is opened, the line
placed behind this plastic pin and the clip closed, there's
no way for the line to pull free of the clip. An easy to
use and positive line clip system, the new OR16 is ideal
for use with Snap Weights. Anglers have no fear of loosing
their Snap Weights no matter what lead length is selected,
how hard the fish pulls or what size in-line weight is used.
The new OR16 line clip opens the door to use much heavier
in-line weights. In the past the heaviest weights OST recommended
were eight ounces. With the new OR16 anglers can fish 12,
16 or even 24 ounces of weight without fear of the Snap
Weights popping off the line.
Salmon and trout anglers will find a Snap Weight with a
heavy in-line sinker is a more efficient way to fish spoons
and stickbaits than long lining with lead core line. In
fact, when fish are located in the top 40 or 50 feet, a
line or two rigged with a Snap Weight is an excellent supplement
to downrigger lines.
The new OR16 features the same strong spring tension anglers
have come to demand, plus a plastic pin that insures this
line clip will stay put. Those anglers who fish thin diameter
monofilament or super braid lines will also appreciate the
new OR16. The ideal line clip for walleye fishing with in-line
boards, the new OR16 will hold monofilament or super braids
securely. Trolling at high speed or in rough seas is not
a problem for the new OR16 line clip.
The staff at OST recommends using an OR16 clip on both
the tow arm and back of the Side-Planer board. Anglers who
want there boards to release can use a unique rigging option.
Attach an OR14 (black) line release on the tow arm of the
Side-Planer and an OR16 (red) line clip on the back of the
When a fish hits a board rigged in this manner, the line
can be tripped from the tow arm release (OR14) by giving
the rod tip a sharp snap. Once the line releases from the
OR14, the board no longer bites the water, but remains attached
to the line via the OR16 line clip at the back of the board.
The angler can now fight the fish without the drag of the
planer board biting in the water.
When the planer board is reeled to within reach of the
boat a quick pinch of the OR16 frees the board from the
line. Removing the board is as quick as pinching open the
OR16 line clip.
This unique rigging option allows walleye, steelhead or
salmon anglers to fish several boards per side without having
to clear lines every time a fish is hooked on an outside
line. Try this new rigging option and see if you don't agree,
the new OR16 opens up a wealth of exciting trolling techniques.
When trolling in-line weights or in-line boards insist
on the new OR16 Snap Weight Clip. This tournament tested
product has been made even better, thanks to the leaders
in trolling technology.
Back to Top
SNAPPER RELEASE, NEW FOR 2001
By Gary Gray
Have you ever had an in-line planer board pop off the line
and drift away? Sure, anyone who has spent much time trolling
these boards has experienced this problem at one time or
Often the board pops off the line because the angler didn¹t
get the line into the release mechanism correctly. Sometimes
the board pops off because the line is jerked out by heavy
seas or trolling at high speeds. If the line snags, the
board can also be pulled from the line. However, the most
common reason in-line boards pop off the line is because
an increasing number of anglers use super braid lines.
Most line releases are designed to work with monofilament,
not super braids. The thin diameter and low stretch properties
of super braids make them great trolling lines, but they
simply don¹t work well with most planer board releases.
Off Shore Tackle's new OR18 Snapper Adjustable Release,
solves the problem of in-line boards popping off the line
forever. This unique line holding device is both a line
release and line holding device in one. Instead of using
spring tension to hold the line between rubber pads, the
Snapper uses a cam action lever that can be used two ways.
To use the Snapper as a line release, adjust the single
set screw to set the desired release tension, then place
the line between the rubber pads and close the cam action
lever backwards. When using the Snapper as a line release
monofilament lines from 10-30 pound test may be used.
To use the Snapper as a line holding device, adjust the
set screw for a heavy tension. Place the line between the
rubber pads and close the cam action lever forward. A pin
in the cam lever fits into a hole at the front of the release,
making it impossible for the line to pop free of the Snapper's
As a line holding device, the Snapper can be used with
super braids, monofilaments and other line types. Ideal
for anglers who troll with super braids, this easy to use
product can be opened and closed with only one hand. The
set screw adjustment on the Snapper allows this line clip
to be adjusted to securely hold any diameter or type of
super braid line.
When using the Snapper there's no need to wrap the line
around the jaws. Simply open the jaw, place the line between
the rubber pads and close the jaws using the cam action
lever in the forward position. That's it, the line is secure
and there's no danger of line abrasion.
The Snapper is sold as an after market item for use on
the tow arm of an Off Shore Tackle Side-Planer. To install
the Snapper, simply remove the bolt and nut that holds the
standard release in place. Replace the release with the
Snapper and you're ready to go fishing.
Off Shore Tackle recommends using a Snapper on the tow
arm and an OR14 as the rear tow point attachment when rigging
the board to stay on the fishing line. The Snapper also
works well in combination with Tattle Flag kits.
Keeping the Side-Planer on the line and fishing is a snap
with the new Off Shore Tackle OR18 Snapper.
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LOOK HIGH AND LOW FOR WALLEYE
By Keith Segar
Open water is the last frontier in walleye fishing. Sprawling
bodies of water like Saginaw Bay, Lake Erie, and others
offer anglers a chance to fish huge schools of fish while
avoiding the crowds that swarm community spots.
Finding fish on large bodies of water can seem a little
intimidating, but it's not too hard if you know what to
look for. More time spent getting ready off the water, directly
translates to more quality fishing time once you hit the
water. First off try to find out as much information about
the area you are going to be fishing before you hook onto
the boat. Many fishing web sites such as Walleye Central,
and others have message boards where anglers readily share
information such as fishing reports, tactics, or specific
details about a particular body of water.
Picking up bits of information from different sources
and putting it together can be fun as well. Kind of like
playing detective with walleye being the object of your
pursuit. There are web sites from many different universities
such as the Sea Grant site that offer satellite thermal
imagery of the Great Lakes. Charter Boat operators have
quietly used this information for years to find thermal
breaks, and help them locate possible areas where fish could
be stacked up, making them easier to locate and catch.
Once on the water you should be using your sonar to tell
you what's going on underneath the boat. Power is the name
of the game here. The more you have the better off you are.
Low-end units do not have enough power to show you all the
detail or even the fish beneath you. When your sonar display
shows horizontal marks or "hooks" within a couple
feet of the bottom, you should try a deep water trolling
pattern such as bottom bouncers to take your offering down
to the fish.
Trolling with bottom bouncers is a simple and effective
method for taking active fish close to the bottom. However
there will be times when you will only catch a few fish
out of what appears to be thousands down below you. In this
case a three-way rig let out farther behind the boat can
be more productive than the clunky bottom bouncer.
A new twist in spinner trolling uses a Snap Weight clip
to help extend your leader back farther from skittish fish.
First attach a snap swivel onto your line and add your favorite
walleye spinner. Next let out anywhere from 20' to 50' of
line then attach an Off Shore Tackle OR16 (red) Snap Weight
Clip to which you have tied a four foot dropper line of
six pound test monofilament. To the bottom end of the
dropper add the appropriate size sinker to take your offering
to the bottom.
The OR16 features a pin in the center of the pinch pad
that prevents the clip from popping off the line should
the sinker snag on bottom. If the sinker gets hung up on
bottom a steady pull will break the light 6# dropper line.
The only thing you lose is the sinker! With this set up
you can customize your leader length for spinners as short,
or as long as you wish. When a fish is hooked simply reel
until you come to the Snap Weight, unclip it from the line
and continue to fight the fish.
What if you only see a few fish marks here and there, but
see vertical lines or "bubbles" on your sonar
screen? In reality you are missing the majority of the fish
as they are high in the water column and you sonar has such
a small cone angle at this upper end that it doesn't show
them as the usual horizontal hook. Those bubble lines are
fish that have been spooked by your boat, and are dropping
to the bottom to avoid you. This can be witnessed primarily
on sunny days when the zooplankton is growing up near the
surface. Minnows will come up to the surface to feed on
the zooplankton, and the walleye will follow to dine on
In this situation you have no alternative but to use a
tactic that will take your lures away from your boat. Most
anglers will run some form of shallow diving crankbait,
but remember to keep it on the small side. The Little Ripper
is a good example of this type of lure. In clear water situations
metallic finishes will usually outperform most other patterns,
and bright neon colors work better in stained or muddy water.
Floating spinner rigs work well for this application also.
The added buoyancy of the floats help to keep them in the
strike zone better, but more importantly they add action
to the lure that can help entice a strike. Mack's Lure has
developed a new one called the "Wally Pop" with
the float actually connected to a piece of soft surgical
tubing in a variety of neon colors which grab the attention
of the walleye and make them hang on longer.
Attach a snap swivel to your line and clip on a Wally Pop
spinner. Let out 50' of line then attach a Snap Weight with
from 1/2 to three ounces of weight attached. The amount
of weight used depends on the depth level targeted. Release
another 50' of line then attach an Off
Shore Side Planer to spread out individual lines away from
Experiment with different size weights on different lines
until a successful depth and spinner combination is discovered.
Once a productive combination is identified, switch over
other lines to present as many baits in the strike zone
As you slowly troll through the schools of fish occasionally
take your motor out of gear for a few moments. This will
allow the spinner to start upwards as if the minnow is feeding,
and when you start forward again it pulls it down as if
the minnow were trying to escape. Walleye can't resist this
stop and go action.
Next time out, try looking for your own private school
of fish. Open water fish are the last frontier in walleye
fishing. Don't miss out on the bonanza.
Back to Top
MODIFYING THE SIDE-PLANER FOR GREAT LAKES STEELHEAD FISHING
By John King
Any time the surface water of Lake Michigan and other Great
Lakes waters is 38-54 degrees anglers can expect fast action
for steelhead on or near the surface. Spoons, stickbaits
and shallow diving crankbaits will all produce smashing
strikes, impressive leaps and cartwheeling action.
In-line planer boards such as the Off Shore Tackle Side-Planer
are the best way to spread out these lures and cover the
maximum amounts of water. These trolling aids also bounce
around in the waves, imparting an erratic action to spoons
and crankbaits. Many captains, myself included, feel that
in-line boards produce more strikes per angling hour than
a traditional mast and board system.
The Side-Planer produced by Off Shore Tackle is my choice
for steelhead fishing. Although this board was designed
for walleye fishing, with some simple modifications it can
be converted into an outstanding product for Great Lakes
steelhead and salmon fishing.
1. The first step is to remove the flag that comes with
the board. The contrasting red flag helps to make the yellow
boards more visible when fishing in rough seas. Although
the flag is a good feature on a walleye board, the flag
only gets in the way when fishing steelhead. The flag can
be removed by removing one Phillips screw that secures it
to the board.
2. The stock OR14 release that comes with the board needs
to be upgraded to the heavier tension OR16 Snap Weight Clip.
The most recent version of the Snap Weight Clip features
a plastic tab in the center of the pads. This tab must carefully
be sliced off flush to the rubber pads with a sharp knife.
3. The stationary front tow point needs to be converted
to a flexible tow point. The easiest way to do this is to
remove the line release that's held in place with a small
bolt and nut and remount the release using a large split
ring. Thread the split ring though the hole in the tow arm
and then through the hole in the line release. The flexible
tow point helps the board impart more action to the lures
and aids in triggering the release when small fish are hooked.
4. The rear tow point -- another OR14 release -- must be
removed by twisting out the screw eye from the bottom front
face of the board. The screw eye must then be mounted on
the back edge near the bottom of the board. A small pilot
hole makes it easy to remount the screw eye. Attached to
this screw eye, add a split ring and heavy duty snap swivel
to serve as the rear tow point.
5. The final modification to the Side-Planer involves removing
the lead ballast weight located in the bottom of the board,
cutting away part of the lead and replacing it. A single
screw holds the lead weight in place. Once this screw has
been removed the weight can be popped out by slapping the
board against the palm of your hand. Using a pair of side
cutters, cut off about one inch of the lead weight from
the front end. Replace the lead weight being sure to put
the screw back in to secure the weight (wash your hands
after handling the lead weight). Removing a little of the
weight from the front of the board causes it to ride a little
higher in the water and adding a skipping or jigging action
to the board.
The modified Side-Planer works best when rigged to release
and slide down the line when a fish strikes. Rigged in this
fashion, several boards can be fished per side without fear
of tangling lines.
To prevent the board from sliding down the line and hitting
the fish, a Speedo bead is attached to the fishing line
approximately five feet in front of the lure. A barrel swivel
and bead can also be used in place of the Speed bead.
When it's time to set lines, begin by letting your spoon,
stickbait or crankbait out the desired distance behind the
boat. I've taken steelhead with leads as short as 25 feet
and as long as 125 feet. The average lead used on my boat
is 80 feet.
Grasp the fishing line and fold it over your finger, then
twist your finger to make several twists in the line and
a loop around your finger. Open the OR16 Snap Weight Clip
and place the twists of line three quarters of the way back
into the clip. Twisting the line makes it easier to trip
the board when a small fish is hooked or when it's time
to trip the board to change lures or lead lengths.
Now open the snap swivel at the back of the board and place
the line inside the snap and close it securely. The snap
swivel insures the board will remain on the line once the
line has been triggered from the Snap Weight Clip.
Rigged in this fashion, two, three or more boards can be
fished off each side of the boat. To trip a board, give
the rod tip a sharp upwards snap. Once the line pops free
from the OR16, let the board slide down the line a ways
before reeling in the board.
Monofilament line is the best choice for fishing Side-Planer
boards. The controlled stretch and superior knot strength
of monofilament is essential to effective planer board fishing.
Lines from 14-20 pound test are ideal for steelhead trolling.
Lighter line yields a few more strikes. However, heavier
lines have more abrasion resistance and provide a cushion
of extra strength should a king or coho find its way to
your planer board spread.
Standard medium action downrigger rods make ideal planer
board rods. Equip this rod with a quality line counter reel.
When fishing spoons such as the Wolverine Silver Streak,
adding a 1/2 to one ounce worm weight to the line is often
necessary. I thread the bullet weight onto the line, tie
on a barrel swivel, then add a five foot leader to the spoon.
On one side of the boat I fish 1/2 ounce weights and one
ounce weights on the other side.
Adding weight to spoons helps these baits fish a little
deeper and gives the spoon a little more action.
Back to Top
FISHING, A WOMAN'S PERSPECTIVE
By Mark Romanack with Julia Davis
Despite how it appears, fishing isn't a gender thing. It's
true that more men than women participate in fishing, but
those numbers are rapidly changing. Every year more women
take the plunge and discover how exciting and rewarding
fishing can be. Within the fishing scene, women currently
represent one of the fastest growing segments. In fact,
females of all ages are discovering that fishing is not
only a wholesome activity, it's just plain fun.
Julia Davis is a Wisconsin native who is typical of the
growing number of women involved in sportfishing. Julia
was introduced to fishing early thanks to parents who appreciated
the outdoors. Her father loved to fish and he helped Julia
develop the same appreciation for the sport. "I caught
my first fish at age four and have been "hooked"
every since," says Davis. "Fishing is a "positive"
in my life that I'll never give up."
Davis's attitude about fishing is simple. What's not to
like? "When I'm fishing, I'm surrounded by nature and
all her beauty," says Davis. "I especially like
the end of the day, when you have time to reflect on the
fun and fellowship shared with friends and family."
Davis enjoys all aspects of fishing, but trolling has a
particular appeal. "To me trolling is like being involved
in a mind game with the fish," says Davis. "You
set the lines using different baits running at different
depths, then you "listen" for the fish to tell
you which presentation they prefer. When I'm trolling there's
no time to get bored. I'm too busy changing lures, experimenting
with different lead lengths, trying different colors, sharpening
hooks and other aspects of trolling."
Getting more women involved in fishing isn't a simple task.
"I was lucky to get exposed to fishing at an early
age," explains Davis. "Those women who are learning
about fishing as adults have more obstacles to overcome."
Many aspects of fishing can be intimidating to new comers,
especially to women who have had little contact with the
sport. Things like handling live bait, backing up a boat
and trailer, reading fishing maps and electronics take time
"The best way to master important fishing skills is
to go with someone who is both patient and willing to teach,"
advises Davis. "The more you learn about fishing and
become involved in the process of fishing, the more enjoyable
the experience becomes. It's important to be involved, not
just going along for the ride. Women share the same sense
of pride and satisfaction in doing something well that men
do. Taking the "hands-on" approach makes the whole
fishing experience more enjoyable."
Davis found herself attracted to tournament fishing several
years ago. "The website www.walleyecentral.com got
me interested in tournament fishing," says Davis. "I've
met a lot of fellow anglers through Walleye Central that
share my interest in fishing for walleye. When a PWT tournament
came to my local lake, I was lucky to get an invitation
from one of the pros to pre-fish for a couple days. At the
end of those three days I had learned more about fishing
walleye than the rest of my fishing career combined!"
There's little doubt that tournaments can be a crash course
in fishing knowledge. Davis enjoyed the experience so much
she signed up to fish two different walleye circuits.
"To be a good tournament angler you have to be a competitive
person," says Davis. "Tournaments help feed my
need for competition, but I try to keep things in perspective.
You can't win or even cash a check in every tournament.
I look at tournaments as part of my fishing education."
Davis cautiously advises women to explore tournaments. "Tournament
fishing isn't for everyone," warns Davis. "Tournaments
are made up mostly of men, some of which are not friendly
or happy to have women competing against them. You need
a thick skin and good sense of humor to survive in the male
dominated sport of tournament angling."
According to Davis, the rewards of tournament fishing are
worth the negatives. "Most of all when I'm involved
in a tournament, I'm enjoying an opportunity to go fishing
and a chance to spend time with my friends."
Back to Top
SNAP WEIGHT TROLLING WITH SPINNERS
By Mark Romanack
Some days walleye bite live bait best and some days they
prefer artificial lures. Mixing the two is the surest way
to catch the attention of hungry walleye. Spinner rigs are
tops when it comes to combining a mechanical lure with live
bait. The rotating blade provides flash and vibration to
attract fish, while the trailing nightcrawler adds action,
scent and taste to the package. The combination is more
than any self respecting walleye can resist.
There are lots of ways to fish spinner rigs, but few are
as versatile as combining spinners with in-line trolling
weights known as Snap Weights. A Snap Weight solves the
common problems associated with putting weight on a fishing
line. Simply a lead weight attached to an Off Shore Tackle
OR16 (red) Snap Weight Clip, these unique trolling sinkers
can be placed anywhere on the line. The OR16 has a strong
spring tension that insures the weight will remain on the
line until the angler removes it.
To place a Snap Weight on the line simply let the spinner
out the desired distance behind the boat, pinch open the
OR16 between your thumb and forefinger and place the fishing
line behind the plastic pin located in the middle of the
rubber pads. When the clip is closed the rubber pads grip
the line securely. The pin prevents the line from accidentally
getting jerked out of the clip should the lure snag.
The OR16 stays put on the line until the angler removes
it to change a lead length or when the weight comes to the
rod tip while fighting a fish. The Snap Weight can be placed
virtually anywhere on the line, providing unlimited options
for lead lengths.
THE 50/50 SYSTEM
The standard rigging system for using spinners is a rigging
technique known as the 50/50 system. Developed by tournament
anglers, the 50/50 system begins with a spinner rig baited
and set behind the boat 50 feet. A Snap Weight Clip is placed
on the line with from 1/2 to three ounces of weight attached,
depending on the depth desired, and another 50 feet of lead
let off the reel for a total lead of 100 feet.
Line counter reels are the easiest way to measure and monitor
lead lengths while trolling. These reels are an essential
part of any trolling presentation.
Positioning the Snap Weight 50 feet ahead of the lure helps
to prevent the weight from spooking fish in clear water.
This rig can be slow trolled as a flat line or attached
to a Side-Planer board to present the spinner out to the
side of the boat.
When fishing the 50/50 system the depth levels fished is
determined by the size weight used. When starting out each
day, use several different weights to stagger your lures
at different depths. When one particular weight and lure
combination starts producing fish, simply switch other lines
over to the same set up.
The 50/50 system is a great way to get started in Snap
Weight fishing, but this rigging method is only one of the
many ways Snap Weights can be used to catch walleye on spinner
rigs and other lures.
OTHER RIGGING OPTIONS
Virtually any combination of lead lengths can be used when
fishing Snap Weights. The only rule that must be followed
is to remember what your lead length combinations are, so
you can duplicate those that are productive at triggering
Some walleye tournament pros such as Keith Kavajecz prefer
to use short leads and heavier Snap Weights to give them
more control when fishing spinners. "I feel you get
better hook up ratios by using heavier weights on shorter
leads," says Kavajecz. "I set my spinners 25 feet
behind the boat and select a 1.5 or 2 ounce Snap Weight.
These weights are heavy enough that at a slow trolling speed
the line tracks into the water at approximately a 45 degree
Because the overall lead length is rather short, there¹s
less line stretch that detracts from the hook set. Also,
it's easier to control the depth the bait fishes when using
heavier weights on short leads.
Kavajecz uses Snap Weights in combination with Side-Planer
boards most of the time to increase lure coverage. The typical
trolling rig features two boards per side, with the trailing
spinners staggered at different depths.
FISHING SPINNERS AND SNAP WEIGHTS ON BOTTOM
Snap Weights are commonly used to fish spinners for suspended
fish, but these trolling weights can also be used in place
of bottom bouncers when walleye take to the bottom. To avoid
snagging the Snap Weight on bottom, it's important to use
a shorter and more manageable lead length, and a weight
that's heavy enough to maintain good depth control. For
most bottom fishing applications, weights from 1.5 to 2
ounces are used. In deep water or when trolling at faster
speeds, Snap Weights up to 3, 4, 6 and even eight ounces
can be used.
A lead of 10-15 feet from the Snap Weight to the spinner
is ideal for fishing near bottom. Select a Snap Weight that's
heavy enough to reach bottom with the line at no more than
a 45 degree angle behind the boat.
When setting this rig, let out line until the Snap Weight
can be felt hitting bottom, then reel up a foot or two or
line and place the rod in a convenient rod holder. Set the
rod holder so the rod tip is about 12 inches above the surface
of the water.
This Snap Weight and spinner combination will function
best if the weight spends most of its time one to two feet
off of the bottom. It's okay if the Snap Weight ticks the
bottom occasionally, but you don't want the weight to drag
on the bottom.
With the Snap Weight carefully positioned, the trailing
spinner is free to swim just above bottom where walleye
can easily spot it, and snags are eliminated.
A WORD ON TROLLING SPEED
Spinners must be fished at slow speeds to avoid line twist.
A trolling speed that's just fast enough to make the blade
rotate is ideal for most fishing situations. Trolling speeds
can be increased up to about 1.5 miles per hour so long
as quality ball bearing swivels are used to prevent line
twist. Small gasoline motors are the best tool for establishing
the slow trolling speeds required with spinners.
Any spinner harness can be fished in cooperation with Snap
Weights. When fishing near bottom, harnesses that feature
two No. 4 single hooks are the best choice. When fishing
suspended fish, anglers can get a better hooking ratio by
using spinners tied using larger single hooks or premium
K&E Tackle produces three of the best spinners for fishing
walleye. The Flats Rig is a 60-inch two hook harness that
features a pair of No. 4 beak style hooks, an assortment
of colorful beads, a No. 3 blade and Clev-R Clip metal clevice
that allows blades to be changed without cutting the harness.
This rig is ideal when fishing near bottom.
The Big Water Troller is a 60 inch harness tied on hard
monofilament line hat's more durable than ordinary monofilament.
The two hook harness features a No. 2 Mustad Beak hook as
the front hook and a No. 6 Mustad Triple Grip treble as
the back hook. Each harness also features a Clev-R Clip
This harness is ideal for fishing suspended walleye with
Snap Weights and Side-Planer boards.
The Magnum Willow Troller is a similar harness designed
for speed trolling tactics such as often encountered with
downriggers and Dipsy divers. This harness features a 60
inch hard monofilament leader, two Mustad No. 2 single hooks,
a large willow leaf blade and Clev-R Clip clevice.
For more information on the Flats Rig, Big Water Troller,
Magnum Willow Troller and other K&E Tackle products,
check out the web site www.stopperlures.com. Another company
to check out is Hildebrandt, who produces top end, high
BLADE SIZES & COLORS
When it comes to spinner harnesses, the blade choices available
are staggering. Anglers fishing walleye in open water will
want a good assortment of Colorado, Indiana and Willow Leaf
blades in sizes 3, 4, 5 and 6. Other blade styles to experiment
with include Chopper and Hatchet style blades that generate
a different flash and vibration pattern.
As a general rule it's best to start out with smaller blades
and switch to larger blades when active fish are located.
It's often suggested that bigger blades will produce bigger
fish, but the truth is, even small walleye will strike at
large blades. The size of the blade has more to do with
the amount of flash given off. Active fish are attracted
from great distances with large blades that have lots of
flash. Less aggressive fish, tend to prefer smaller blades
that produce a more subtle flash pattern.
Genuine silver plate is one of the best colors for fishing
walleye in clear water situations. Genuine gold plate, copper,
and other metallic finishes are also good choices. Blades
that combine both a metallic and painted finish have excellent
contrast in both clear and stained water. Blades with a
hologram finish are also good in clear or slightly stained
Waters that are stained to dirty in color call for painted
blades that are more visible than metallic finishes. Some
of the best colors include chartreuse, green, pearl, orange
and contrasting combinations of these colors.
Spinners are one of the best ways to combine the flash
of an artificial lure with the scent and action of live
bait. Snap Weights are the most versatile way to fish spinners
on bottom and for suspended fish. Together spinners and
Snap Weights make a walleye trolling presentation that's
tough to beat.
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RIVIERA DUAL PLANER BOARD AND POSI-STOP MAST RAISE THE BAR
By Larry Hartwick
At Riviera Trolling Systems Incorporated, we believe there's
always room for improvement. The bar that marks the standard
for dual planer boards and mast systems has been raised.
Riviera's popular Dual Planer Boards have been modified
to make them run even better in heavy seas. The arms that
attach the two boards are lengthened, increasing the spacing
between the boards approximately two inches.
Spacing the boards further apart makes these planer boards
more stable in rough water without making the boards themselves
bigger or heavier. In addition to making the boards wider,
the staff at Riviera has changed the ballast in the board
to raise the nose slightly.
Collectively these changes make the DPB the trolling boards
others are compared to. In calm or rough water, the DPB
is ideal for anglers targeting walleye, salmon, trout, steelhead,
muskie, or stripers.
Refinements have improved the DPB, but the features our
customers have come to expect haven't been changed. The
Riviera DPB still folds down for easy storage. The boards
incorporate foam panels to reduce unnecessary weight and
the bright yellow finish is easy to spot on the water.
There's also a three position tow ring that allows anglers
to custom rig the board to the trolling conditions in seconds.
For fast trolling speeds set the tow ring in the forward
position. For normal trolling speeds the middle setting
is best. For slow trolling chores place the tow ring in
the furthest setting back.
Product improvements are always on the horizon at Riviera.
Anglers will also want to check out the new Posi-Stop Dual
Planer Board Mast. The smoothest manual retrieve planer
mast ever developed, the new Posi-Stop mast eliminates the
clutch found on most planer board reels.
Instead a strong and positive pin system is used to secure
the wheel once the desired amount of planer line has been
let out. The pin operates like a bolt action rifle, making
it easy to lock the pin in place to securely hold the wheel
or to lock the pin in the free spool setting.
Simple, strong and smooth to operate, the new Posi-Stop
Dual Planer Mast makes fishing planer boards easier and
more fun than ever. Be sure to check out the new Riviera
Dual Planer Board and Posi-Stop Dual Planer Board Mast at
your nearest dealer or sport show soon.
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BIG BOARDS FOR MONSTER MUSKIE
By Mike Norris
I pride myself in catching big gamefish throughout the
Midwest. I don't have a lot of interest in traveling to
exotic fishing destinations hundreds of miles from home.
Lake Michigan does me good for trophy steelhead, lake trout,
and giant Chinook salmon. For trophy walleye, I look to
Lake Erie or Little Bay de Noc and I've caught dozens of
huge northern pike and smallmouth bass from the Green Bay
waters of Door County.
When I'm after muskie, Lake St. Clair immediately comes
to mind. The most underrated muskie factory in the world
is located just north of metro Detroit. This fertile fishery
produces not only large number of fish, but muskie upwards
of 50 inches as well!
Unlike other popular muskie waters, the only practical
way to fish Lake St. Clair is by trolling. There's simply
too much water to make casting a viable option. Hardbaits
trolled with the help of planer boards account for my biggest
catches and largest muskie.
Speed trolling is the key to triggering strikes from this
veracious freshwater gamefish. Depending on conditions,
I often employ speeds from 5 to 10 miles per hour when seeking
out muskie. My rule of thumb is the clearer the water, the
faster I troll.
Muskie trolling requires heavy duty equipment that must
be user friendly. The heart and soul of my trolling system
incorporates the Riviera/Kachman Automatic Retrieval Mast
(DPMK). The Riviera/Kachman Automatic Retrieval Mast (DPMK)
comes paired with two spring-loaded reels used to both deploy
and pick up planer board line as needed. On turns when the
tow line would normally go slack, the spring tension of
the Kachman reels, keeps the line taunt making for crisp
A six foot fiberglass mast keeps the 200# Planer Line high
above the water and away from troublesome weeds which would
otherwise foul the planer lines. With this mast system,
I incorporate Riviera's Dual Planer Boards (DPB) into my
trolling scheme. Riviera Dual Planer Boards are lightweight
yet stable in rough water. Their bright yellow finish helps
me locate them quickly in rough seas or when trolling in
A three-position tow ring incorporated in the board gives
me the flexibility to troll at slow to high speeds. The
forward position best fits my fast trolling needs, while
the middle position is utilized for normal trolling speeds,
and the back position for slow trolling.
Once I determine how far out to the side I want the boards
to run, I wrap the planer line into a stop device molded
into the reel housing. With the tow line attached to the
board, I need only toss the board over the side and troll
away from the board until it reaches the preset distance
from the boat.
The solid bone filled mouth of a muskie requires a heavy-duty
line release to insure a solid hook set. The release must
hold the 40 pound test monofilament firmly to insure the
fish is hooked solidly before the line pops free. If a line
release with too light a tension is used, many strikes will
not be converted into hooked fish.
Off Shore's OR8 Heavy Tension Single Downrigger Release
is hands down the choice of serious muskie trollers. This
salt water release incorporates a beefed up double spring
with an 18-inch 210# stainless steel leader and heavy duty
2/0 snap which insures a solid hook set before the line
In setting up my trolling runs, I use a 15 horse power
four stroke outboard throttled up until my boat reaches
the desired speed. The Riviera Dual Planer Boards are set
to run approximately 50 feet from each side of the boat.
Two or three lines are run off each side of the boat.
My favorite muskie trolling plugs include the 6-inch jointed
Terminator, Believers, and Lindy's brand new "Big M"
muskie crankbait. These lures are normally set to run 20
feet behind the boards. These short leads keep the baits
running three to five feet below the surface where they
aren¹t going to foul in the weeds and are more visible
to muskie. Also with short trolling leads there's less line
stretch which leads to a better ratio of hooked to landed
When setting lines, attach the Duo-Lock snap on an Off
Shore OR8 Heavy Tension Downrigger Release to the planer
line, then pinch open the release and place the monofilament
line three-quarters of the way back into the release. The
pull of the lure in the water will slide the Duo-Lock snap
down the planer line as more line is played off the reel.
Once the release reaches the desired distance to the side,
engage the reel handle and place the rod in a rod holder.
Repeat this sequence until all allowable lines and lures
are in the water.
This simple and straight forward fishing style stresses
the fundamentals. Success boils down to covering water.
By trolling fast and using Riviera's Kachman Automatic Retrieval
Mast and Dual Planer Board system, I spread out my lures
and effectively cover the maximum amount of water possible.
When I'm done fishing for the day, pick up is as easy as
setting the boards. I simply angle the boat toward one of
the boards and motor directly toward it. The spring-loaded
reels automatically retrieve the planer board line and store
it neatly for the next fishing trip. With one board recovered,
I repeat this process to pick up the second board. Each
board is then folded down for storage and it's time to head
for home. Planer board fishing has never been easier or
Back at the dock, a quick disconnect aluminum base allows
me to quickly remove my mast for the drive home. Targeting
trophy class muskie doesn't require expensive trips to exotic
lodges. With the right gear anyone can plan their own Lake
St. Clair muskie adventure.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mike Norris is an outdoor writer, radio
show host, and founder of the critically acclaimed "Walleye
Masters Institute" fishing school. He is featured weekly
in the "Outdoors" page of the Aurora Beacon and
Elgin Courier and monthly in Midwest Outdoors Magazine and
Television. His radio show, "The Outdoor Journal"
on WLBK, 1360-AM in Dekalb, IL is a favorite among Chicago
area anglers. Norris is best known as a leading expert on
trolling for walleye and his video release "Precision
Trolling Techniques for Trophy Walleye" has helped
teach others to master these techniques.
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DON'T DO THAT
By Larry Hartwick
Each year we devote most of our effort into telling anglers
what to do. In this case, the object is to save you grief
and out of pocket expense. We've all been bitten by that
secret advice from well meaning persons whose end result
costs you a pile of fishing dollars.
Don't oil any clutch or drag. WD-40 and the other super
penetrants are oil or the same classification.
· Don't run Dipsy Divers off of planer board tow
lines. Planer boards were never designed to do that.
· Don't use 300-600 pound test super braid line
for planer board tow line. Tow lines need to be able to
break. This is a safety feature. (Your safety)
· Don't use cable that exceeds 150 test on downriggers.
Here again, the cable has to be able to break, there are
a couple of boats on the bottom that can attest to this.
This again is a safety feature.
· Don't use monofilament on downriggers or planer
masts. You will ruin any plastic spools that it is put on.
· Don't use weights heavier than 10 pounds on downriggers.
If you want less sway, use a thinner profile weight. Downriggers
are designed to be used as fishing tools, not winches.
· Don't repeatedly jerk on a graphite rod that
is hung on a snag. It's the best way in the world to have
to buy a new rod.
· Don't believe that light flashing, ionized diode
receiving, nuclear powered, co-inverter stabilized, voo
doo enhanced purple wizz bang that fish are magnetically
drawn to - means anything more than, I hope they are gullible
enough to buy this.
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DOWNRIGGER ADD-A-LINE RIGGING TIPS
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 at 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 (black) planer board release. Begin by tying one
of the snap swivels to the monofilament line. Next take
the tag 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. Try this simple add-a-line rig
for yourself and see how it converts more strikes into landed
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The NPAA (National Professional Anglers Association) is
a nonprofit organization made up of professional anglers.
These anglers may be tournament fisherman, guides, or anglers
who want to support the professionalism of the angling world
to advance the fishing industry. The NPAA is dedicated to
the advancement of the professionalism among the professional
anglers and the growth of the fishing industry.
The reasons to join the NPAA come in many different forms.
The NPAA has created an insurance plan for our members.
The NPAA does Member Only Product Programs with our Supporting
Members. This is a chance to get the best products on the
market at highly reduced rates. The NPAA supplies you with
a bimonthly newsletter to keep you informed on what the
organization and its members are doing.
More importantly though, as a member you have the chance
to be a part of an organization that is supporting, creating,
and educating fisherman on the importance of professionalism
in the fishing world. This is an organization founded by
fisherman for the fisherman. www.npaa.net
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Trolling takes a lot of gear. Some of the most unique and
useful products on the trolling scene are products used
regularly by the Off Shore Tackle pro staff.
K&E TACKLE BIG WATER TROLLER
Where crawler harnesses are concerned, most are not cut
out for a life of trolling. The new Big Water Troller is
part of the Mark Romanack Signature Series produced by K&E
Tackle. This unique harness is built for trolling. The leader
is made from a super tough hard monofilament material that
handles like monofilament, but lasts much longer. This two
hook harness features a single No. 2 Mustad hook up front
and a No. 6 Triple Grip treble hook at the back to hold
onto the big ones. The harness comes standard with a No.
5 Colorado blade attached to the leader using K&E's
patented Clev-R Clip metal clevice that allows blades to
be easily changed. Ideal for fishing with Snap Weights,
diving planers or downriggers, this open water harness beats
them all. For more information on this and other K&E
Tackle products log onto www.stopperlures.com .
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STRAIGHT TALK - STRAIGHT SHOTS FROM THE HIP
By Larry Hartwick
The past 3 years have seen a huge increase in the numbers
of salmon being caught, and also a large increase in the
number of people that are new to the game of catching them.
According to the questions that we field over the course
of the year, we (and the print media) have not been doing
a very good job in explaining various techniques used on
a daily basis.
We intend to address this problem in this and following
issues of the Off Shore Release. All of the best techniques
are simple to use, although at the first glance they may
seem difficult. Once you have a days worth of experience
using these various techniques, you should be very comfortable
using them. These techniques are not limited to salmon,
they work great on most species. The key ingredient to remember
is the best set ups are the simplest to use. Make sure that
the various techniques you employ will work in harmony together.
Achieving this may be as simple as where and how rod holders
Remember, you'll catch more fish running 2 rods with a
good presentation than you will running 10 rods with a poor
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TIPS FOR FISHING ATTRACTORS WITH DOWNRIGGERS
Attractor fishing techniques are enjoying more attention
these days, thanks to some new and unique dodger and flasher
designs. The Wolverine Flodger and Luhr Jensen Coyote are
two attractors that combine the best features of a dodger
and a flasher.
The biggest advantage of these attractors is they can be
trolled faster than ordinary dodgers. Instead of having
to slow down and fish only a spread of dodgers, these new
products allow anglers to mix attractors into a trolling
pattern of spoons, J-plugs and other hard baits.
The faster trolling speeds used with these attractors,
presents a challenge in selecting a release to use when
fishing downriggers. Ordinary downrigger line releases don't
have enough spring tension to hold an attractor trolled
at salmon speeds. If too little tension is used on the release,
fish that strike are often not hooked securely.
The Off Shore Tackle OR8 solves this problem. Designed
for anglers who troll downriggers in saltwater, the OR8
has a double spring that provides an extra strong tension
setting that's essential to fishing with attractors.
Simply use the OR8 attached to the downrigger weight in
place of ordinary line releases. The OR8 is also equipped
with a heavy duty snap and wire leader to insure this release
lasts and lasts.
The OR8 is used like other Off Shore Tackle downrigger
releases. Simply pinch open the release and place the line
three quarters of the way back into the rubber pads. For
fishing attractors we recommend using 20-30 pound test monofilament
Some of the best salmon and trout lures for fishing with
attractors include George Richey's Michigan Squid and K&E
Tackle¹s new Mad Shad fly.
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TIPS FOR FISHING IN-LINE BOARDS
In-line boards are outstanding fish catching tools. The
Off Shore Tackle Side-Planer is the choice of more serious
trollers than any other board. Part of what makes the Side-Planer
so popular are the many ways this board can be rigged and
the many species that can be caught using these unique trolling
Getting the most from in-line boards requires a few insider
tips that make board fishing easier and more productive.
"One of the most common mistakes I see anglers make
with in-line boards is the methods they use to reel in hooked
fish," says Off Shore Tackle's Bruce DeShano. "When
a fish such as a walleye is hooked on an in-line board,
the weight of the struggling fish causes the board to be
dragged backwards in the water. Don't set the hook when
you see the board jerking backwards. Jerking on the rod
at this point is only going to pull the board out of the
water and not pull against the fish. What often happens
is the angler jerks the board, giving the fish slack line
that allows the fish to escape."
Instead of jerking on the rod when a fish is hooked, simply
reel in the fish and board together using a slow and steady
retrieve. "Set your drag so you can just gain line
on the fish as you're reeling," advises DeShano. "If
you set the drag too tight and the fish runs, the board
may be pulled under water, the line may break or the fish
may simply pull the hooks free."
When fighting walleye and other medium sized fish, it's
best to keep the boat moving forward at about the same speed
the fish was caught until the board can be reached and removed
from the line. On a big fish, it may be necessary to slow
down a little in order to gain line on the fish. Don't stop
the boat however until the board has been removed from the
line. So long as the boat is moving forward, you're keeping
constant pressure on the fish.
There's also an advantage to keeping the boat moving forward
while fighting a fish. If the boat is moving, there's a
good chance another fish may be hooked. If the boat is slowed
too much or stopped, the remaining lures go dead in the
water and the chances of catching a double or triple go
out the window. Sometimes it pays to be greedy!
"Here's another way to avoid problems when fishing
in-line boards," says DeShano. "When the board
is getting close to the boat it will pull out of the water
and become suspended on the line between the rod tip and
the fish. If the rod tip is suddenly lowered, the board
will splash down into the water and can dive in much the
same way as a diving planer digs. Once the board clears
the water, keep the rod tip up and don't let it touch the
Reeling in the board too quickly, especially in rough seas,
can also cause the lip of the board to catch and make the
board dive under the surface. If a board dives, you'll have
to free spool the line and provide enough slack so the board
can float back to the surface.
How a Side-Planer runs in the water can be modified depending
on how the board is hitched to the line. In the package
the board comes with a release on the tow arm and a second
release mounted to the back of the board. With the line
attached to both releases the board will ride flat in the
Some anglers prefer to remove the release from the back
of the board and mount the second release on the back edge
of the front tow arm. With two releases mounted on the tow
arm, the Side-Planer runs with the nose slightly up in the
air. This makes the board more responsive and easier to
detect strikes, especially when small fish are hooked. Unfortunately,
this rigging method works best only at slow trolling speeds.
For normal to fast trolling speeds it's best to rig the
board with one release on the tow arm and a second release
at the back of the board.
These simple tips are a few ways to enjoy more fun and function
from the Side-Planer board.
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TROLLING FOR ALTERNATIVE SPECIES
By Mark Romanack
It's widely accepted that trolling is one of the best ways
to catch salmon, trout and walleye. Any time anglers are
faced with the chore of finding and catching fish on large
bodies of water, trolling is the obvious choice. Trolling
can be just as effective on smaller bodies of water and
equally deadly on a wealth of other species. Panfish, pike
and even catfish are fair game for trollers who know when
and how to target these fish.
Crappie are classified as panfish throughout their range.
The title comes from their size, not their feeding habits
or behavior. Crappie may be small compared to other species,
but these widespread fish are also aggressive predators.
During the weeks prior to the spawning season, crappie are
especially active and readily caught using trolling tactics.
During the pre-spawn period, crappies often stage in deep
water areas adjacent to the shallow flats where these fish
spawn. In the case of crappies, huge schools often suspend
in open water where they are easy pickings for anglers who
troll small crankbaits behind in-line boards such as the
Off Shore Tackle Side-Planer.
The same medium or light action trolling rods, reels and
lines used for walleye fishing can double as crappie trolling
equipment. The crankbaits selected however should be crappie
sized models. Examples of good baits for crappie trolling
include the No. 5 Shad Rap, Strike King Bitsy Pond Minnow,
Rebel Crayfish, Cotton Cordell CC Shad, Norman's Baby N
and Bandit 100 series.
Fishing two in-line boards on each side of the boat makes
a good crappie trolling spread. Crappie often run small
and it can be difficult to detect bites and hooked fish.
To solve this problem equip a Side-Planer with a Tattle
Flag kit. These spring loaded flag kits allow the flag to
fold down from the weight of a hooked fish. Even small fish
are readily detected on a board equipped with a Tattle Flag.
The Tattle Flag is sold only as a kit, not as boards equipped
with Tattle Flags. Each kit comes complete with a flag,
linkage arm, spring, spacers and two OR16 Snap Weight clips.
It takes about five minutes to convert an ordinary Side-Planer
into a Tattle Flag board.
Start out trolling by varying the lead lengths on each crankbait
to maximize the vertical spread of the lures. Experiment
with lead lengths until a few fish are caught, then simply
duplicate productive lead lengths and lures with other lines.
Pre-spawn crappie sometimes scatter in open water, but usually
the best schools form along the deep water edge of breaks,
weed lines and other cover. You'll have the most success
trolling areas adjacent to flats, emerging weeds, submerged
brush and other cover that crappies use when spawning. Early
in the season water on the north and west ends of the lake
receive the most exposure from the sun and warm first. Schools
of pre-spawn fish will be attracted to these areas first,
then other areas as the lake begins to warm.
Other panfish such as white bass readily fall victim to
this same trolling strategy. White bass are especially aggressive
and noted for traveling in huge schools.
Northern pike are another overlooked species that is especially
vulnerable to trolling. Pike will strike at trolled lures
most any time of year. During April, May and June these
fish are most apt to be found in shallow water near flats
with emerging weed beds. Later in the summer, adult pike
abandon the shallows and head for open water where they
often suspend in the water column and target whitefish,
ciscoes and other pelagic baitfish.
Trolling crankbaits in cooperation with Side-Planer boards
can make short work of pike in both spring and summer. Early
in the season it's tough to beat a trolling pattern of stickbaits,
worked over the tops of emerging weed growth. Most stickbaits
only dive from six to eight feet, making them ideal for
fishing over the tops of emerging weeds growing in six to
10 feet of water.
Some of the top pike producing baits in this category include
the Reef Runner RipStick, Rapala Husky Jerk, Rebel Minnow,
Storm ThunderStick, Mann's Loud Mouth, Smithwick Rattlin'
Rogue and Bomber Long A. In clear water select natural finishes
and reserve brighter colors for fishing water that's stained
Set these lures from 40-80 feet behind the boat and attach
a Side-Planer to the line using both the front and rear
mounted OR14 line releases. Squeeze open the pinch pads
and place the line near the back of the rubber pads. To
insure the board stays securely on the line, check to be
sure the spring in the OR14 is slid into the forward or
heavy tension setting.
Pike living in shallow water can be very spooky. For the
best results let the Side-Planers out to the side at least
75 to 100 feet. Stacking two boards per side of the boat
makes an effective and manageable trolling pattern.
Pike usually strike hard and then immediately make a short,
but powerful run. The Side-Planer will telegraph this strike
by dragging backwards sharply in the water from the weight
of the struggling fish. When trolling Side-Planers there's
no need to set the hook. Instead, keep the boat trolling
forward while reeling the fish towards the boat slowly.
Adjust the drag tension on the reel so the line slips a
little while the angler is fighting the struggling fish.
Fight the fish by keeping steady pressure on the fish and
reeling slow and steady. Stop reeling only when the fish
makes a run.
As the angler begins to win the battle, the board will be
reeled within reach of the boat. Remove the board from the
line by pinching open the two releases. Once the board has
been removed from the line, you can slow down the boat or
put the motor in neutral for the remainder of the fight.
A similar approach works when pike suspend over open water.
Instead of using only shallow diving stickbaits, mix in
some deeper diving crankbaits into the pattern. Pike like
high action crankbaits. Some good choices for open water
trolling include the Storm Hot n Tot, Bomber 25A, Reef Runner
Deep Diver, Storm Deep ThunderStick and Rapala Deep Husky
When setting up a trolling pattern, vary the lead lengths
and lure running depths to cover as much water as possible.
Often pike will suspend just above a thermocline where the
water is cool and well oxygenated. The book Precision Trolling
is a trolling guide that shows the running depths of hundreds
of popular crankbaits. The data provided is based on lead
length and line diameter, making this handy reference the
final word in crankbait running depths. Currently in it's
6th edition, Precision Trolling is $24.95 and can be ordered
by calling Precision Angling Specialists at 1-800-353-6958.
When most anglers think of catfish, they see images of bottom
fishing with live bait. Many species of cats, especially
channel catfish, are aggressive predators that can be readily
caught using board trolling tactics. In many bodies of water
such as Saginaw Bay, Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie catfish
travel among packs of suspended walleye because they prefer
the same roaming schools of minnows.
Cats can be caught using the same trolling techniques used
for walleye. Crankbaits, spoons, weight-forward spinners
and crawler harnesses are all good lures for catfish trolling.
Adding a touch of live bait to a crankbait trolling program
can help target a few more catfish bites. There's no doubt
these fish feed by smell as well as sight. Simply adding
a small piece of nightcrawler to the back hook of a crankbait
is an easy trick that interests both cats and walleye.
Another trolling technique that's deadly on cats are crawler
harnesses trolled behind Off Shore Tackle Snap Weight in-line
sinkers. As with other species, Snap Weight trolling works
best when combined with Off Shore Tackle Side-Planer boards.
Like suspended walleye, catfish can be anywhere in the water
column when they're hungry. The best approach is to vary
lead lengths on crankbaits and the size Snap Weights used
with live bait rigs to achieve a number of different depth
levels. Change lead lengths often and let the fish communicate
which lures, weights and depth ranges they prefer.
Cats taken from the Great Lakes often average eight to 10
pounds. Few fish pull harder than a channel cat hooked in
Salmon, steelhead, trout and walleye are the most popular
species targeted by trollers, but a number of other fish
are just as vulnerable to tactics popularized on the Great
Lakes. Panfish, pike and even catfish are just some of the
fish waiting to be taken. When you start trolling, you never
know what you'll catch.
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TROLLING TIPS FOR LEADCORE LINE AND IN-LINE BOARDS
By Captain Mike Peel
A hot new technique for catching suspended salmon, trout,
walleye, and striped bass is trolling leadcore line behind
Off Shore's OR12 Side Planer attached directly to the leadcore
line backing with a red OR16 line clip on the front of the
board and a snap swivel on the back. Inline boards enable
you to present baits to fish near the surface or suspended
mid-water. When the line is hooked to the clip, the inline
planer will run out to the side of the boat with the leadcore
line and lure trailing behind it. After a strike, the release
breaks free from the front of the board then turns around
and slides down the line towards the fish. To keep the board
from sliding all the way down to the bait, use a Speed Bead
planer board stop about one rod length from the lure. Without
the Speed 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, which will damage it, or
cause the hook to be pulled out of the fish's mouth.
Dacron leadcore line is color coded with a different color
every thirty feet. It's available in eighteen to sixty pound
test. The heavier the pound test of leadcore the more lead
it contains and the deeper it will sink while being trolled.
Unlike a sinker that has to be placed closer to the lure,
you can reel the leadcore line through the rod guides. This
allows you to use longer leaders that will prevent you from
spooking fish in clear water. For most applications, twenty-seven
to thirty-six pound test is usually sufficient. If you want
your lure to sink deeper yet, use an OR16 Snap Weight Clip
with two to four ounces of weight, placing it on the leader
near the leadcore itself. This will still give you a long
clean leader, but allow you to fish for deeper, suspended
fish. Captains using this method of fishing leadcore score
big during the warm summer months.
Leadcore has a fairly large diameter, so large capacity
reels should be used. These reels need to be able to hold
one hundred and fifty to two hundred yards of backing, the
leadcore line, and fifty to one hundred feet of monofilament
leader. Use a nail knot to tie the backing and leader to
the leadcore line. Never use spinning reels. They will twist
and damage leadcore line.
A good choice of rod would be a seven to eight foot medium
action with ceramic guides. The smooth ceramic guides will
help prevent wear of the braided Dacron coating that protects
the line and gives its strength. Medium to medium heavy
action rods are needed to control the inline boards while
they are attached to the fishing line. Stiffer action rods
are also needed to control fish with a lot of line, and
this is often the case while fishing leadcore. The best
choice for backing on the reel is thirty to forty-five pound
test braided Dacron. Because you can count the number of
times the color changes, you will know how much line you
When fishing walleye with planer boards, nearly all fish
will be taken on deep diving body baits. Quite often, walleye
can be suspended below even where the deepest diving body
baits will run. Because of this, what started in Lake Erie
has become a unique way to run diving body baits deeper
than they're designed to run. This method is called "segmented
lead core fishing." Depending on the desired depth
you need to obtain, add one, two, or three ten yard sections
of twenty-seven pound lead core line to your fishing line
to increase lure depth. Splice in the section of leadcore
about fifty feet ahead of your lure using two nail knots
to connect the leadcore to your line. Anyway you fish leadcore,
add a sweeping action to your baits.
Unlike a sinker that has to be placed closer to the lure,
you can reel the leadcore line through the rod guides, allowing
you to use much longer leaders that will prevent you from
spooking fish in clear water. A variety of body baits are
used for this hot walleye catching rig, but deep diving
cranks usually provide consistent action.
Some of the best leadcore baits for salmon and trout are
spoons. Many spoons will catch fish on your "core".
Use your favorite downrigger or Dipsy Diver spoons behind
leadcore and you will see why most Great Lakes charter captains
rely on their leadcore rigs for consistent action. Since
the zebra mussels made their waters so clean and clear,
most believe that fishing far behind and to the side of
the boat is a key factor in catching fish.
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WHEN 3 RODS MIGHT BE LESS
By Larry Hartwick
Michigan trout and salmon anglers will be allowed to use
three (3) rods per angler beginning with 2001. This applies
only to salmon and trout anglers in the Great Lakes and
does not pertain to any inland lakes. There should be some
interesting disputes as walleye and salmon waters overlap
in many areas. Hopefully the new fishing regulations will
clear up questionable areas (these regulations only apply
While many anglers are overjoyed about being able to use
3 rods per person, they may be rejoicing prematurely. Since
the accidental introduction of the Zebra Mussel, the Great
Lakes have been getting clearer by the minute. No longer
do we have the tremendous algae blooms of years past. For
the most part, the "Green" water is gone and the
"Blue" water is in. With the advent of this super
clear water, comes new challenges. The largest challenge
to overcome is the fishes ability to see 40 to 50 feet or
more in this ultra clear water. This is a radical change
from when the algae count in the water was so high that
we couldn't see more than 3 to 5 feet into the water. Now
it is nothing to be able to see a dodger working 40 feet
below the boat. That is clear water!
What does that mean to you the angler? It means that during
the bright parts of the day when light penetration is peaking,
it is very possible to "over power" the fish with
too much flash in the water.
How do you continue to catch fish in these conditions? There
are a couple ways that work well. Some anglers opt to start
fishing earlier, say 5 a.m. and quit for the morning when
the fish slack off around 8 a.m. as the sun begins to penetrate
the water. If this doesn't appeal to you, then the second
step is to either put fewer lures in the water or spread
them out more. For several years we have cut back to half
the spread of lures in the water as the light penetration
increased. If this change alone hasn't turned the trick,
we are also bumping up the speed. This works as well on
walleye as on salmon. Most days, one of these, or a combination
of both will keep you catching fish through the brightest
part of the day. Be aware that the best lure in the world
won't catch fish that have moved. As light penetration has
increased over the years there has been an increased tendency
for the fish to move out and down during the day. Obviously,
this doesn't apply to heavy overcast or foggy days when
light penetration isn't a factor or before the water temperature
is high enough to allow cold blooded fish to chase a lure.
For several years now, we have been trying to find a method
that would allow us to recover our original number of baits
during times of increased light penetration. The only viable
solution has been to make the boat wider through the use
of divers and planer boards.
The Luhr Jensen Dipsey Diver has been by far the most popular
diver in the Great Lakes region since its introduction because
it can be set to carry the lure to either side of the boat.
While the divers don't take the lures a tremendous distance
to the side of the boat, they do fish far enough away from
the lures under the boat to be a plus in the spread. The
majority of Great Lakes boats are being rigged without the
benefit of outrigger poles; however, the use of outriggers
in conjunction with divers will increase the width of the
trolling spread to 40-50 feet depending on the length of
outrigger poles in use. Outriggers change the way that divers
can be used in a trolling spread and with practice will
allow the troller to use multiple divers on each side of
the boat. This can be a plus on the days the divers get
Planer boards, until recently, were thought of as only being
a viable option when the fish were in extremely shallow
water or if walleye were the targeted fish. As far as salmon
are concerned, once May was over, the boards were mothballed
for another season. This has changed dramatically as the
water has cleared up. Both in-line and the dual planer boards
are now producing fish through the summer months. Planer
boards allow you to fish a spread that can easily cover
a width of 100-150 feet, in effect making your boat 100-150
feet wide. An angler can easily fish 3-4 lines per side
using planer boards with a little practice.
One method that has been overlooked by salmon anglers is
the method used for years while fishing off shore scum lines
for steelhead. Basically this involves fishing spoons from
planer boards while using enough weight in front of the
spoons to keep them submerged. Most scum line steelhead
fishing is done in the top 10 feet of the water column,
so only a slight amount of weight is needed. This is where
the techniques change, for several years we have been experimenting
with various weights ran in conjunction with spoons from
the planer boards. By using the Off Shore Tackle OR16 Snap
Weight Clip, we are able to add 1 - 8 ounces of weight in
front of a spoon. The weight can be placed anywhere from
10-50 feet in front of the spoon to aid in getting additional
depth from the spoon, although I prefer 30-50 feet. This
is not because we are afraid of the weight spooking fish,
it has to do with the action imparted to the spoon. If the
weight is too close to the spoon on a choppy day, the action
of the spoon will be too radical; however, on a calm day
they can easily be fished 10 feet in front of the spoon.
The weight is then fished 100 feet behind the planer board.
Only the weight is changed to change the depth of the spoon.
The weights will not fall off the line even on large salmon
or steelhead due to the design of the clip. The actual depth
of the spoon can not be determined due to the fact that
depth will vary according to the boat and current speed.
Simply keep adjusting the weight until the fish tell you
I have enjoyed good success using this method even if the
fish are considerably deeper than what you believe your
spoons to be. This method works best on bright days with
good light penetration. I have had several fish come at
least 40 feet vertically to hit a spoon being trolled behind
planer boards. How do I know this? By taking the temperature
of the fish and knowing where the temperature breaks in
the water column are that day. Many species of fish don't
like to hold in 60 degree + water, but they sure don't have
a problem going there to feed and with the advent of clear
water they can certainly see that far.
Which is better, in-line or dual planer boards for this
method? Both. In-line boards will out fish dual planer boards
every time in calm water. This is because the in-line boards
are in perpetual motion imparting action to the lures. As
the water gets rougher, the dual planer boards start to
shine, due to the fact that they move less in the water;
therefore making the lure action less radical. In previous
years, the main drawback to using the dual planer boards
was the inability to turn the boat sharply. Too radical
of a turn would "set" the dual board up to be
flipped over by a wave. This situation was created by the
slack line encountered from the sharp turn, leaving the
dual planer board at the mercy of the waves. This problem
has been eliminated with the introduction of the Riviera/Kachman
Automatic Planer Reels by Riviera Downrigger Corporation
a few years ago. These reels are available in either a rail
mount (RCP-K) configuration or as a mast system (DPM-K).
These automatic reels keep constant tension on the dual
planer boards which will not allow the dual planer boards
to be flipped or turned by waves; therefore, eliminating
tangled lines and making tighter turns possible. Which type
of planer board that is put into use on a given day is really
up to the angler. Both types are deadly although a three
ounce weight is about the maximum weight that can be used
on an in-line (OR12 Side Planer) planer board.
For the final thing to ponder, those clear divers that everyone
seems to believe is a stealth technique, actually show up
under water as a vivid silver color. Have fun, that's what
it's all about.
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