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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 trolling.

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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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 board.

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.


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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 another.

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 grip.

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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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 the minnows.

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 the boat.

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 possible.

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.

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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.


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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 to learn.

"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."

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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 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.


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 strikes.

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 angle."

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.


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.


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 treble hooks.
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 metal clevice.

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 quality blades.


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.

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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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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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 line releases.

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 heavy traffic.

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 releases.

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 fish.

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 more effective.

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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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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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 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 fish.

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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.


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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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 are mounted.

Remember, you'll catch more fish running 2 rods with a good presentation than you will running 10 rods with a poor presentation.

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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 line.

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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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 methods.

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 water again."
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 water.

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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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 or dirty.

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 Jerk.

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 open water.

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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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 have out.

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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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 to Michigan).

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 hot.

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 its right.

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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