NEW LOOK AT OLD THEORIES
By Larry Hartwick
It seems like every year I am told that with the changing
water clarity in the Great Lakes, things are much different
than they were a couple years ago. Relic and out of touch
are a few of the things that I have heard over the past
few years, so in trying to keep a somewhat open mind, I
took a serious look at some of the practices that we have
used in the past. Here are a few of the things I explored
again this year.
10# weights still continue to out fish heavier weights.
Sway is not, repeat NOT, a bad thing. It helps define both
currents and speed. Without sway on the downrigger wire,
an angler is totally dependant on electronics, which sometimes
can give false readings due to certain weather factors.
Short leads continue to produce more fish for me than long
leads after the sun comes up. Short to me means 6-10 feet
from the release. There is a period during pre dawn that
there is a noticeable preference for slower moving baits,
therefore longer leads. Refer to the Nothing is Engraved
in Stone theory. Otherwise, if the 40 leads
quit working about the same time the sun starts to peek
out, SHORTEN the leads to INCREASE the action on the lure.
Lead core continues to be a hot topic both on and off the
water. Anytime that a vessel needs 600 feet of clearance
to maneuver, there is going to be conflict between vessels.
A little courtesy goes a long way. There are times when
boat traffic is not going to allow a vessel to claim 600
feet of territory. This game is supposed to be enjoyable
so do your part.
I have heard a lot of theories on how much depth a full
core achieves, so being somewhat a skeptic, I had to find
out for myself. So, we put out a full core with a big nasty
treble hook on the end of a spoon and proceeded to slide
progressively shallower. We did not touch bottom until the
digital depth found a little peak at 34 feet, after hitting
all the way across the peak, it floated clear in 35 feet
of water. The boat speed was a steady 2.4 mph straight line
GPS speed with no waves or current present. The full core
was set in the same manner that it would have been if it
were actually fishing with regard to leader lengths. A half
core would drop about half of that distance. 2.4 mph was
used as the speed because it was in the middle of the normal
speed range. Obviously it would drop deeper at a slower
speed and be higher if the boat was moving faster. This
varies tremendously from the claims I have heard previously,
with some claiming to achieve 50-75 depths.
Downriggers continued to be the hot ticket once we did
some homework; we found that we had been fishing below the
majority of fish on some days. Higher spreads resulted in
some phenomenal midday catches. Note that I said spreads,
hodge podge set ups with no regard to a pattern were useless.
A V pattern spread worked the best.
LEAD CORE ALTERNATIVES
I am continuing to look into ways of getting a lure into
lead core ranges without taking up a football field. Several
things have shown promise when fished in conjunction with
dual planer boards. The Snap Weights hold the most promise;
however, I did not have time to test the drop of each at
2.4 MPH with 100 feet of line out.
DODGERS AND ROTATORS
Dodgers still work great for me, although I can see why
the rotators (Hoochie, Coyote, Etc
so much favor in the last few years. They have a very wide
speed range which makes them very forgiving. This is something
that a dodger is not. A dodger is very speed sensitive.
I would think this is the reason the rotators
have gained so much popularity in the last several years.
There are a couple of them that work very well in the right
I still adamantly dislike rubber bands; there are a lot
better alternatives. Salmon anglers should be looking at
the OR-8 Heavy releases. This is the right release for Great
Lakes Salmon, especially if attracters are being used. It
is the only release that I use attached to a downrigger
weight for Salmon and using the OR-8 will increase hook
ups on fish.
Less still continues to be more when the sun is up. A 2-3
downrigger set up with a couple divers will still light
them up all day long, while the boat pulling everything
but the kitchen sink usually is watching the action. It
is hard to down size spreads, but give it a try.
Speed still kills during midday periods on the right day.
If the fish are present, keep increasing the speed until
they bite. Ive caught both Walleye and Salmon at 5
+ mph. While this certainly is not the norm, it does assure
you that they can catch a lure at 4 mph. Choosing lures
that will handle the speed is critical, the regular size
Silver Streak is one that will.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Good
Back to Top
LEAD CORE: IT IS THE LITTLE THINGS THAT MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
By Craig MacPhee, AKA Sick Time
In my short years of fishing the Great Lakes for Salmon
and Trout, I have been adamantly opposed to this stuff we
have all come to know as lead core. Before I realized the
value of this great tool, I swore to all of my fishing buddies
that there was no way I was going to resort to dragging
lead core behind my boat. If the ole Silver Streak off the
ball will not work, they just are not biting was my philosophy.
It seemed like every time I went fishing on one of Michigan's
Great Lakes, all I ever heard on the radio was, "Hey
man, watch out, I have 2 miles of lead core behind me."
This all changed the day my friend Skip Berry called me
from his boat (The Terminator) from Grand Haven,
Michigan (while I was patrolling the freeways of Detroit)
to let me hear the drag screaming from his third consecutive
20 pound King. And you guessed it...on lead core. I made
up my mind on that day that I was going to figure out what
all the hype was about.
After that fishing season, I spent the entire off-season
doing my homework. I figured out that I was in the market
for four Shimano TDR 1903 rods and four Penn 330 reels.
Once acquiring these set-ups, I was faced with several choices
on how to rig each with the lead core. I heard that some
people prefer to use monofilament for backing while others
use some form of super line. I originally went with the
monofilament, but soon switched to a super line because
I found I could get more line on the spool.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Once mounting the reels on the rods, I rigged each spool
with 20-30 yards of 20# Ande monofilament. I never plan
on letting a fish take me to the monofilament, but I use
this as a backer to the super line so it has something to
bite into. Next, using a blood knot, I connect the monofilament
to 300 yards of 50# super line. Now, I take the end of the
super line and dab it about a 3" length from the tip
with super glue. As it begins to dry, I wet my fingers and
pinch and twist the line a few times where I applied the
glue until it begins to stiffen. Once it sets, I take either
a half core (50 yards) or a full core Mason 27# lead core
(100 yards), pull about 4-6" of the lead from the middle
of the lead core and break it off. This leaves a 4-6"
hollow spot at the start of the lead core. Using a Willis
knot (designed by the great Charter Captain Willis Kerridge)
I thread the stiffened super line into the hollow spot in
the lead core until it bottoms out onto the lead that is
4-6" up. Now, you will not believe this until you try
it, but a simple overhand knot about 3" into the now
super line threaded lead core is all you will ever need
to keep this from separating. After all that rigging, I
tie a 20-50 foot piece of Ande leader from the lead core
to a Sampo swivel then hook it to one of my favorite Silver
Streak spoons. Leader weight will vary from 15-20# depending
on the time of year and the size fish I am targeting.
PUTTING IT TO USE
I have found that there really is not a guaranteed method
that works every time on the water, but what is true is
that lead core has its place, and when its working, it is
an extremely effective method to take those very wary fish.
Through the help of some good friends, I was taught the
basics of lead core and the general theory behind it. Persistence
to always do my best on the water has driven me to find
some little tricks that work when the typical half/full
core methods are not working.
Generally, I have found that running a half core and a
full core on each side of my spread seems to help keep my
fish box heavy. Typically I will run each behind the new
OR-31 Off Shore Side Planer SST Boards (Left and Right models
available). Larry Hartwick and I experimented with these
extensively (before their introduction) in between tournaments
and found that they track true and do not take all of the
life from the fish we are catching. The only modification
we made was to add another orange, OR-19 release on both
the back of the board in addition to the one being on the
bracket. You can experiment on your own using either the
supplied corkscrew or adding the additional release in its
place. You have to trust these releases because they will
hold your board without all of the other nonsense associated
with the competitors models. With these boards, running
2 to 3 rigs off each side is not a problem. In my opinion,
these are not only as good as the past models I have used
but surpass the performance of them for less money.
Now when it comes time to letting out the lead core, you
cant just let them all go and pray they do not tangle.
You have to have a system that works for you. What I have
found is that the first thing you want in the water is a
half core set-up. It sets up the fastest and will catch
those fish in the 15-25 foot range off guard. Hold the first
rod far off to the port side of the boat and begin to let
your lead out. Once you get it all out, hook the port side
(OR-31L) board ABOVE the lead core onto your super line
approximately 2-5 feet. Now you have 150 of lead core plus
20-50 feet of leader behind the board. Let the board out
a good distance from the boat (this depends on boat traffic
and wave conditions) and set it in your highest rod holder.
Next, I do the same thing on the starboard side of the boat
(using the OR-31R). Now you are effectively running 2 half-core
set-ups. I ALWAYS run them on the farthest outside of my
spread so that when a fish strikes it more often than not
will strip line and go over the top of the full cores we
are about to set.
Now for the full-cores. These ALWAYS go on the inside of
my spread. Setting these full cores, I hold the rod straight
off the back of the boat and let the line out. Make sure
you do not let it out too fast or you will end up with quite
the rat nest. (Lead core really tightens when it tangles...)
When you get all of the lead core out, you are effectively
running 300 feet of lead core and a 20-50 foot leader behind
the board. This should get you into the 35-45 feet range.
Attach this in the same fashion to your Off Shore Side Planer
SST boards as you did with the half cores. Now you slowly
let the full core out until it is 10 to 20 feet ahead of
and in front of your half core. Set it in the lower rod
holder and you are good to go. Now do the same thing on
the opposite side.
When they are running properly, your boards will look like
a flock of geese behind your boat. Picture a "V"
pattern with your boat being the lead goose. Set your drags
so they click when line is pulled. You want them set tight
enough that the boards alone will not take any line out
but light enough so that the slightest bite from a fish
will trigger a scream from the reel. Let the reel be your
tattletale. DO NOT watch your rods tips because they will
pulsate like a fish strike pretty much non- stop.
Sometimes you will get a head start and notice that one
of your boards will take off south (when you are going north)
and fall out of the "V" pattern before you hear
your drag. This is a good thing! Treat this activity just
like you would a strike. Now, when you DO get a hook-up,
and your drag begins to whine, get to it as fast as you
can and take it out of the rod holder. Do NOT start pumping
and trying to set the hook. Lead core does not work well
like that. What we found works for us is to lower your rod
towards the water, tighten your drag, and reel up the slack
until your board begins to straighten behind your boat.
Once you get the slack out, you can lighten your drag again
and start to work the fish. A constant pressure on the fish
is what you are looking for.
During my first experiences with lead core I wanted to
pump it like I would a downrigger fish. This resulted in
lots of lost fish. There is just too much slack in the line
behind the board if you do that. Concentrate on your board
and not the fish. You have to get the board in before you
can reel the fish in. If the board dives, let up, if it
is moving across the top of the water freely, reel. Use
patience and consistency in your reeling action to get your
board to the back of the boat. When you get it close (within
15-20 feet) point your rod at the board keeping the tension
tight. Slowly reel the board to within 5 feet and lift so
either you or your partner can unhook the board from the
What you DO NOT want the board to do is dive. If it does,
you will not only be fighting the fish, but the board too.
Once the board is released, reel like crazy bringing up
the slack until you feel the tension on the fish again.
Now, fight your trophy in a controlled manner without all
of the pumping action you are probably accustomed to. Once
you get to the leader, your forearms might be a bit pumped,
but you now have to land your fish. Give and take with the
fish bringing it to the back of the boat until your partner
can get a net under it. If the fish cooperates and you do
everything right, the trophy is yours!
UTILIZING MORE OFF SHORE PRODUCTS TO PUT FISH IN YOUR BOX
Sometimes the fish are VERY wary and begin to get extremely
boat and tackle shy. When this occurs, fish usually go deeper
and stay away from just about anything you throw at them.
This is where lead core can be your best friend.
I use a Raymarine L750 fish finder and trust that if it
marks a fish, it is a fish. If I notice the fish on my graph
are deeper than the 20-45 feet that the half and full cores
are reaching, I utilize an OR-20 Snap Weight System to go
deeper. A good rule of thumb to remember is the deeper/heavier
line goes on the inside of the shallower/lighter set-ups.
If you remember this, you will be happier with a lot fewer
To get deeper, I start off by adding 2-3 ounces of weight
on my full core set-up directly above the lead core where
it meets the super line. With super line you have to make
sure you use the OR-16 red clip with the pin in the center
that comes with the OR-20. Once you attach your weight,
let out approximately 50 feet of super line, then attach
your board. Keep the length of line between the weight and
your board somewhat consistent and you will be able to reproduce
the depth that you find is working. If you cannot judge
50 feet, count the passes that your level wind makes across
your reel. The better you are at reproducing the set-up
that works the more fish you will catch on purpose rather
than just by chance. I have successfully run up to 4 additional
ounces of weight on a full-core set-up behind the OR-31
Side Planer SST boards.
NOT THE CATCH ALL BY ANY MEANS...
This article was not written to be a one style catch all
on everyday. As you all may know, each day on the water
can bring something new and exciting to the table that we
have to overcome to be successful. I have full faith that
each of the products mentioned above is a quality product
that I have tested personally. Each product can be found
on my boat if you look today.
The next time you find yourself thinking that lead core
is not any fun to catch fish on and that it is too hard
to work for the average angler... think again! I bet that
using Off Shore Tackle Company LLC products will make using
lead core easier than you ever imagined.
NOTE: Mason now markets a product named Redi-Core that
features either a half or full core with backing that is
spliced and reel ready.
Back to Top
LITTLE BOARDS, BIG FISH
By Mark Romanack
It is amazing how a little planer board roughly the size
of an envelope can routinely produce fish that barely fit
inside a 100 quart cooler! Also amazing is how a pair of
in-line planer boards can double the amount of fish taken
on each trip!
It is no secret that in-line boards like the new OR-31
Off Shore Tackle Company LLC Side Planer SST board are tearing
up Salmon and Trout throughout the Great Lakes and beyond.
As the Great Lakes and other top waters continue to clear
up from the plankton filtering effects of the zebra mussel,
planer board fishing has become more and more essential
to angling success.
In-line planers have become so common in the trolling world
that it is hard to imagine fishing without them. The key
to catching more fish with the Side Planer SST boards is
learning how to rig them so multiple lines can be fished
without the necessity of clearing lines while fighting fish
or fear of tangles.
When targeting large fish like Salmon, it is best to rig
an OR-31 so the board can release at the strike and slide
down the line. Rigged in this manner, two, three or more
lines can be fished per side of the boat, leaving the back
of the boat free to fish diving planers, downriggers, lead
core or other lines.
This OR-31 Side Planer SST board is a Striper, Salmon and
Trout slaying machine. In the package the board comes equipped
with an OR-19 (orange) release mounted on the tow arm and
a pigtail at the tail of the board. The OR-19 is designed
to function with heavy line sizes favored by Trout and Salmon
trollers along with providing the grip necessary to insure
that fish are hooked solidly before the board releases from
The OR-19 can be attached to the tow arm of the OR-31 as
it comes in the package or the release can be mounted using
a split ring. Both rigging methods work and each has some
FIXED TOW ARM METHOD OR SPLIT RING METHOD?
Using the fixed tow arm method allows the OR-31 to achieve
the greatest outward coverage or planing ability. This is
especially important when running multiple lines.
The split ring rigging method allows the OR-19 to move
freely on the tow arm. While the outward coverage of the
board is slightly reduced, it becomes easier to trip the
board for changing lures or if a small fish is hooked and
the board does not release at the strike.
A SECOND TOW POINT
To insure the OR-31 runs properly and achieves the maximum
amount of outward coverage, a second tow point at the back
of the board is incorporated. The OR-31 comes factory equipped
with a pigtail and is ready for action.
INCORPORATING A SPEED BEAD
When rigging an OR-31 to release and slide down the line,
it is important to incorporate an OR-29 Speed Bead (not
included in the package of the OR-31) onto the line about
three feet in front of the lure. The OR-29 stops the board
from sliding all the way to the lure.
In a pinch a plastic bead can be threaded onto the line
or a split shot added. The Speed Bead is a faster, stronger
and more convenient board stop.
SOME FINE TUNING TIPS
How the line is placed into the OR-19 on the tow arm also
influences the performance of the OR-31. If the OR-19 is
simply pinched open and the line placed between the rubber
pads, it takes a considerable amount of pressure to pull
the line free. When a fish is hooked, the angler may need
to give the rod tip a quick jerk to free the line from the
OR-19 and send the board sliding down the line.
Small fish pose a problem, because it can be difficult
to trigger the line from the OR-19. An easy way to combat
this problem is to wrap the line around your finger a few
times to form a loop when setting lines. Place the wraps
of line in the OR-19 release with the loop protruding. See
This simple step allows the OR-19 to hold securely enough
that the board runs properly, good hook sets are achieved,
but the line can be triggered from the release with only
a quick jerk of the rod tip.
Rigged properly the OR-31 is death to Striper, Salmon,
and Trout and a great tool for presenting spoons, J-Plugs,
body baits and other common Trout and Salmon lures. If a
pair of these trolling aids can double your fishing success,
imagine how many fish you will catch running 4, 6 or more
Side Planer SSTs!
Back to Top
STACKING UP TROUT AND SALMON
By Mark Romanack
Everyone who fishes Salmon and Trout wants to stack the
odds of success in their favor. Stacking lines is the key
to putting more lures in the water and Off Shore Tackle
Company LLC (OST) is the leader in stacker technology.
A stacked line is a means of adding a second fishing rod
and line to a downrigger, effectively doubling the number
of lines that can be fished from each downrigger.
OSTs OR-2 Medium Tension Stacker Downrigger Release
is comprised of two OR-1 downrigger releases attached to
a short and slightly longer length of steel leader material.
The two lengths of leader material are joined with a heavy
duty stainless snap that is designed to clip over the downrigger
To use a stacker release you must first rig the main line
onto the downrigger weight. An OR-1 medium tension downrigger
release is the best choice for Trout and Salmon fishing.
Let your lure the desired distance out behind the boat,
(20-50 feet works good) pinch open the OR-1 release and
place your line near the back of the rubber pads. Close
the release and lower the downrigger weight five to 10 feet
below the surface.
Take the OR-2 release and clip the stainless snap over
the downrigger cable and close the snap. Take the release
on the short lead, (it should be positioned on top of the
longer lead) pinch open the release and bury the downrigger
cable into the rubber pads. Next grasp a second fishing
rod and let the desired lure 10-20 feet behind the boat.
Take the stacker release on the longer lead and pinch it
open. Bury the fishing line of the second rod deep into
the rubber pads and close the release. See Illustration.
Now when the downrigger weight is lowered two lines will
be deployed a fixed distance apart. Stacking helps not only
to set a second line from a downrigger, but also helps in
spreading out lures in a trolling pattern.
Two downriggers equipped with stackers will often out fish
four downriggers that arent equipped with stackers.
Stackers allow a second line to be added to your trolling
pattern without adding the additional cost of another downrigger.
Also keeping the number of downriggers to a minimum helps
in reducing the amount of cable hum created when trolling.
It is a good idea to keep the stacked line on a shorter
lead than the main line to avoid tangles. Also, the stacked
line should be a lure like a spoon or shallow diving crankbait
that will not dive down and foul the main line. These simple
tips help to reduce the chances of tangles and keep the
stacker and main line fishing effectively.
SMALL FISH PROBLEMS?
When small fish are a problem, try using the OR-7 Light
Tension Stacker Downrigger Release (white). Designed for
Walleye, Brown Trout and smaller Steelhead and Salmon, the
OR-7 functions the same as the OR-2. The lighter tension
of the OR-7 is ideal for smaller fish.
STACKERS VS SLIDERS
Many anglers use sliders instead of stacker releases. A
slider is simply a spoon or other lure rigged on a short
length of monofilament with a heavy duty snap swivel on
both ends. One snap swivel is attached to the lure and the
other clipped over the main fishing line. When the lure
is tossed into the water it slowly works its way down the
line. How deep a slider fishes depends on how fast the boat
is trolling. When a fish is hooked on a slider, the rig
slides down the line to the downrigger weight. Because there
is no tension on the slider rig, many fish that strike are
not hooked securely.
Compared to a stacker rig that can be fished at any desired
point along the downrigger cable, sliders are crude by design
and function. A stacker also provides the necessary resistance
to insure the fish that hit are hooked solidly. The cost
of a stacker rig is well worth the investment when you consider
how many more fish it will produce and how they can help
anglers duplicate a productive trolling depth.
Back to Top
THE SECRET OF DOWNRIGGER RELEASES
By Mark Romanack
The sport of fishing is full of secrets. The sport of fishing
is also full of short cuts and homemade products that are
designed to save anglers money, but end up costing them
fish. For every commercially designed and manufactured downrigger
line release there are two homemade options available to
anglers. All the homemade versions are inexpensive; unfortunately,
all these homemade products will let you down at the worst
I am always amazed that an angler will spend hundreds
of dollars on quality downriggers, then go fishing with
a two cent rubber band as a line release, says Off
Shore Tackle Company LLC (OST) CEO, Bruce DeShano. When
it comes to homemade line releases I have seen them all.
I have also seen a lot of fish lost needlessly because an
angler got penny wise and dollar foolish.
UNDERSTANDING DOWNRIGGER RELEASES
A downrigger is only as good as its weakest link. The downrigger
line release has to function flawlessly or expensive downriggers
can not do their job properly.
The secret to producing a quality downrigger release is
understanding how important the tension setting on these
releases is to fishing success. If the release tension is
too light, fish that strike will pull the line of the release
easily and not hook themselves in the process. If the downrigger
release tension is too heavy, the angler will not be able
to trip the release when a fish is hooked.
MAKING A BETTER MOUSE TRAP
While the function of a downrigger release sounds simple,
the fact is building a quality release is very difficult.
Achieving the desired results is difficult because of a
number of variables that must be taken into consideration.
When OST manufacturers a line release they take into consideration
line stretch, line diameter, trolling speed and lure type.
There is no such thing as a one size fits all downrigger
release. OST produces three different downrigger style releases
to insure optimum fishing success. The OR-1 Medium Tension
Single Downrigger Release is designed for fishing Salmon,
Trout and Steelhead. The OR-4 Light Tension Single Downrigger
Release is designed for Walleye and fishing smaller Trout
and Salmon. The OR-8 is a Heavy Tension Single Downrigger
Release designed for salt water fishing and Muskie fishing
The tension setting of each of these releases can further
be adjusted by how deeply the line is placed between the
rubber pads. The rule of thumb is to error on the heavy
side when choosing line releases and setting the tension
setting. It is also important to note that line releases
are designed to function with monofilament line, not super
braids (AKA super lines) or other braided lines.
Rubber pad style downrigger releases are designed to hold
monofilament line securely without damaging the line. Over
time however, the line will begin to cut into and wear out
the rubber release pads. The rubber pads in all OST downrigger
releases are inexpensive and can be easily replaced as needed.
Super braid lines are not designed to be used with rubber
pad line releases. If these lines are used, the rubber pads
will need to be replaced frequently and it may be necessary
to use a higher than normal spring tension on your downrigger
Commercial downrigger releases may seem expensive compared
to rubber bands, alligator clips and other homemade releases
but there is no substitute for quality and function in the
world of downrigger release aids. The only way to guarantee
you will hook and land the maximum number of fish, is to
insure you are fishing a quality line release.
Back to Top
TROLLING FOR ALTERNATIVE SPECIES
By Mark Romanack
It is 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,
Muskie, Bass 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, Crappie often stage in deep
water areas adjacent to the shallow flats where these fish
spawn. Huge schools often suspend in open water where they
are easy pickings for anglers who troll small crankbaits
behind 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. A few examples of good baits for Crappie trolling
include the No. 5 Shad Rap, Strike King Bitsy Pond Minnow,
Rebel Crayfish, Cotton Cordell CC Shad, Normans Baby
N and Bandit 100 series, but just about any small sized
crankbait will produce Crappie.
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 the Side-Planer with a Tattle
Flag kit. The spring loaded flag kit allows 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,
wire (linkage arm), spring, spacers and two OR-16 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 sometime scatter in open water, but usually
the best schools form along the deep water edge of breaks,
weed lines and other cover. You will have the most success
trolling areas adjacent to flats, emerging weeds, submerged
brush and other cover that Crappie 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 and Muskie are also especially vulnerable
to trolling. These fish 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 and
Muskie 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 these toothy critters in both spring
and summer. Early in the season it is 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, Manns Loud Mouth, Smithwick Rattlin
Rogue and Bomber Long A. In clear water select natural finishes
and reserve brighter colors for fishing water that is 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 OR-14 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 OR-14 is slid into the forward (toward
the pads) or heavy tension setting.
Pike and Muskie 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 and Muskie 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 is 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 these fish suspend over open
water. Instead of using only shallow diving stickbaits,
mix in some deeper diving crankbaits into the pattern. Pike
and Muskie 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, Rapala
Deep Husky Jerk, and Luhr Jensen Power Dive.
When setting up a trolling pattern, vary the lead lengths
and lure running depths to cover as much water as possible.
Often Pike/Muskie 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 diameters, making this handy
reference the final word in crankbait running depths. Currently
in its 7th edition, Precision Trolling is $29.95 and
can be ordered by calling Precision Angling Specialists
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 is 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 is deadly on cats is crawler
harnesses trolled behind Off Shore Tackle Snap Weight in-line
weights. 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 are 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 any harder than a channel cat hooked
in open water.
The words Bass and trolling are seldom found in the same
sentence. Tradition dictates that Bass are one of those
species that anglers normally cast for. Ironically, both
Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass are easy targets for trolling
Early in the year slow trolling over the top of flats with
emerging weed beds is a good way to target Bass that are
cruising the shallows looking for an easy meal. Shallow
diving stickbaits are the key to fishing this shallow water
As the weather and water warms, Bass will begin to use
deeper water. Trolling diving crankbaits along weed edges,
meandering breaklines and even in open water often produces
amazing catches of both Large and Smallmouth Bass.
The trick is to keep moving and fish tight to cover including
weed edges, rocky shorelines, sunken islands, reefs, the
tips of long points and other places where Bass can find
both food and cover. The Side-Planer is a great tool for
searching out bass and other alternative species. Salmon,
Steelhead, Trout and Walleye are the most popular species
targeted by trollers, but they are not the only way to get
your string stretched. Panfish, Pike, Muskie, Catfish and
even Bass are waiting to be taken. When you start trolling,
you never know what you will catch.
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TROLLING SUPER LINES
By Mark Romanack
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 did
not 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 do not work well with most planer board releases.
Off Shore Tackle Company LLCs OR-18 Snapper 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 Snappers
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 is no need to wrap the line
around the jaws. Simply open the jaws, place the line between
the rubber pads and close the jaws using the cam action
lever in the forward position. That is it, the line is secure
and there is no danger of line abrasion.
The Snapper is sold as an after market item for the Off
Shore Tackle Side-Planer board. 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 are
ready to go fishing.
Off Shore Tackle recommends using a Snapper on the tow
arm and an OR-14 as the rear tow point attachment when rigging
the board to stay on the fishing line. The Snapper also
works well in combination with OR-12TF Tattle Flag kits.
Keeping the Side-Planer on the line and fishing is a snap
with the Off Shore Tackle Snapper.
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DOWNRIGGER FISHING PRODUCES RESULTS
By Larry Hartwick
Although I am very comfortable fishing planer boards, divers,
or lead core lines, my number one method for putting fish
on the lines is downrigger fishing. This statement will
probably surprise some people, but the first lines that
get set on my side of the boat are the downriggers. It does
not matter whether we are targeting Salmonoids or Walleye
the downriggers remain my first go to method. Why? Because
they produce results!
Twenty years ago, articles on downrigger fishing were very
prevalant in the outdoor magazines. The problem lay in the
fact that the material in the articles was the same old
stuff with different authors slant applied to the story.
Some bordered on plagiarism as writers struggled to be experts
in fields that they were not qualified to write about. People
got really tired of reading a gaggle of words that said
nothing of use to an angler of any experience level.
With this in mind, we have probably neglected the people
who are starting to learn downrigger fishing or would like
to if they were armed with the proper knowledge. This article
is designed to cure that problem.
Downrigger fishing is also called Depth Control fishing
for good reason. It is really the only trolling method that
can be repeated with a high degree of precision. It offers
day after day of repeatability no matter what boat you are
What you will need to get started are downriggers, trolling
weights (AKA cannonballs), line releases, rods, reels, line,
and terminal tackle (i.e. lures).
Either manual or electric downriggers work great. Choose
the one that fit your budget and needs. Our manual downriggers
can also be converted to electric down the road. If you
choose a manual downrigger, make sure that one turn of the
crank handle raises the weight 2 feet instead of 1 foot.
This obviously equals half of the effort required to retrieve
Downrigger weights need to be at least 8# in weight to
offer the proper resistance required setting the hook on
a strike. 10# weights are the right choice for the Great
Lakes angler and should not exceed 10#. There is a lot of
bad information being handed out to beginning anglers. The
worst being the use of extremely heavy weights, remember
downriggers are not boat winches. With proper care and use
they should last as long as the boat. The theory behind
using very heavy weights is they hope to eliminate or lessen
the amount of sway that occurs from the weight to the downrigger.
A downrigger normally set at 100' is actually between 85-90'
deep at normal speeds.
While reducing sway initially may seem like a good idea,
cannonball sway is not only necessary but also vital. Cannonball
sway is a TOOL that we use to monitor speed changes and
With a little practice, you will be able to read the boat
speed and tell changes in speed before the person looking
at the digital speed indicator notices. You will also see
how prevailing lake currents affect your boat speed. Boat
speed is a critical part of the trolling equation so why
eliminate part of the tools available to you?
The release is one of the most overlooked but probably
as important as the lure selection. The job of the release
is to hold the line securely without doing any harm to the
line. It also cannot release prematurely while being able
to set the hook upon a fish strike. That is a pretty tall
order to fill! Luckily, Great Lakes anglers have a couple
options that fill the bill known as Off Shore Tackle Company
LLCs OR-1 and OR-8 releases.
The OR-1 Medium Tension Single Downrigger Release is the
proper release to start with. It is a very good and simple
to use release that does it all. The OR-8 Heavy Tension
Single Downrigger Release is a heavy tension release that
we use when fishing attractors, mainly dodgers and flies,
or the newer rotating attractors and flies. These rigs create
more drag and therefore need a release with more tension.
The OR-8 is not a wimpy release and should not be used on
line lighter than 20# test. Rubber bands have their following
and I have experimented with them over the years. The next
statement reflects TENS of THOUSANDS of hours on the water.
If you are using rubber bands, they are costing you fish
in the boat! Period. The percentage of solid hookups using
the OR-1 or OR-8 releases is significantly higher. To those
of you that I fish tournaments against, please keep using
Great Lakes anglers are blessed with a huge variety of
rods and reels to choose from. Suitable rod lengths for
downrigger fishing range from 7' to 8 1/2' in length. Consider
the available room in the cockpit area of the boat, tight
quarters call for shorter rods. The longer rods will give
the angler a better leverage advantage and are slightly
easier to use when maneuvering a fish to net. My favorite
rods are made by St. Croix, but I'm pretty picky. Reels
should be level winds WITH a good clicker. Why anyone would
design a level wind trolling reel without a clicker is beyond
me but they have. The first time that you let down a lure
on a downrigger without the reel clicker engaged it will
become self-explanatory why they are essential. There are
a lot of good quality reels on the market so look them over
and pick out the one that fits your budget.
Great Lakes trollers should pick a quality line that is
low stretch with good abrasion properties. A good choice
for a casting line is NOT normally a good trolling line.
Casting line needs to be limp, while trolling line should
be pretty stiff stuff. My favorites are Mason T-Line and
Ande Premium lines in at least 20# test. I usually use 25#
because I fish a lot of dodgers and flies, and dodgers are
hard on line when they get wrapped around a fish. There
is no difference in the amount of strikes you will receive
using 17# test or 25# test line. There will be a difference
in how often you need to replace tackle however. Remember
that gill net is made from heavy monofilament line and thousands
of WARY fish stick their heads in it every year. So that
kind of shoots holes on the LINE SHY THEORY.
Terminal Tackle is really the fun part of trolling. Anglers
can have a ball experimenting with various colors, tape
combinations, and patterns. We refer to this as arts and
crafts days when it is too rough to fish. Great Lakes anglers
will need a variety of spoons, dodgers, rotators, flies
and plugs depending on the time of year. Buy quality tackle
and it will last. A good bet is to check with some veteran
anglers in the area you intend to fish before filling the
tackle box and finding out that your color preferences don't
match those of the fish.
Spring fishing shows are a good avenue to research the
good color patterns. Tackle manufacturers want you to catch
fish on their products so they really aren't going to sell
you a bunch of color combos that won't work. There are a
lot of good spoons out there but my go to spoon is usually
a Magnum Silver Streak. Richey's Flies, Purple Taco Flies
and Salty Dog Flies also see a lot of action. There are
many more good flies out there that I haven't had the time
All the dodgers and attractors work, so choose the ones
that best fit you needs. J-Plugs and various body baits
(minnow imitators) also work well at the right time of year
so don't ignore them.
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HOW TO USE A DOWNRIGGER
1. Let the lure out behind the boat to the desired distance
2. Attach the line to the weight by putting the line into
the release pads of the release that is attached to the
3. Lower the weight to the desired depth (remember to add
10 percent to the depth for sway).
4. Place the rod in a rod holder and reel in enough slack
line to put a bend in the rod.
5. Relax and wait for a strike, sometimes changing depth
or lure colors.
6. When a fish strikes, line releases from the line release
and the rod pops straight up.
7. Remove rod from the rod holder and reel in slack line
until the fish is felt.
8. Fight and land fish.
9. Grin ear to ear.
10. Take pictures of the fish so you can brag to friends
11. Repeat Sequence.
12. Pretty easy huh?
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OFF SHORE TACKLE --TACKLES THE STRIPED BASS
By Bruce DeShano
With the forming of the National Striped Bass Association
(NSBA) and their 73 tournament format, Off Shore Tackle
has become a participant in their events.
Off Shore Side Planer SST's are now on the market in a
bright orange color, without a flag and with the heavy tension
adjustable OR-19 adjustable release. It has the pigtail
(AKA corkscrew) for the slide back method of fishing the
board. This is the method of choice for the Striper angler
and now they will not have to hunt for extra parts. Once
rigged this way, the board will release from the front clip
and slide down to the stop or the weight ahead of the hook.
By putting the screw eye and corkscrew on the end of the
board, it will pull through the water easier when fighting
The NSBA (www.fishNSBA.com) will have many of the events
televised on the Outdoor Channel, giving added exposure
to Off Shore products throughout the South. Striper teams
are being added this year to go along with the extensive
walleye, trout and salmon programs for anglers fishing competitively
The NSBA format is family orientated and when I fished
one of their events last year with Guide Tim Tarter at Lake
Cumberland, KY everyone had a great time. There are a lot
of husband & wife and parent & children fishing
these events. It is a great way to introduce youths into
the fun of fishing. Big fish are possible at every event
with the sight of a 40# fish bringing a big smile to any
anglers face. NSBA will have several categories this year
for anglers of different skill levels. Check their website
(www.fishNSBA.com) for all the possibilities. It is going
to be a lot of fun fishing for stripers.
Striper are very common in the southern lakes and the tournament
trail will go from Pennsylvania to Kansas. They are a great
fighting and excellent eating fish and their population
is maintained by stocking. They do not reproduce to any
great extent in fresh water impoundments. Striper can be
caught with a variety of methods. Casting, trolling, fishing
jigs in deep water and with live bait. Many of the fish
are caught with boards and very slowly trolling live shad.
It is almost as much fun throwing a cast net for the bait
as it is fishing for the Striper.
For those of you (me included) that do not care to sit
on a bucket in the winter looking into a hole in the ice,
Striper are the answer. From KY to the Carolinas these fish
are biting all winter. Guides are available everywhere and
the weather at its worst is usually better than anything
we have up north at that time! Give this fishery a look
and I think you will be surprised. I know I was and I will
be found several more times during the year fishing for
these beautiful fish.
Maybe we will have to organize a "Northern Invasion"
next winter and have a striper outing for snowbirds. What
do you think? Let me know.
Back to Top
By Mark Romanack
The tradition of walleye fishing is alive and well. Each
spring tens of thousands of anglers head to their favorite
river with the sole purpose of boating a mess of walleye,
then later sharing the sweet harvest with friends and family.
Traditions like this have become so interwoven in the fabric
of our lives, it is hard to imagine the arrival of spring
without a walleye trip or two.
The various ways walleye are targeted is steeped in some
long standing beliefs that these popular fish bite certain
presentations better than others. Overwhelmingly the most
popular way to fish for early season walleye involves casting
or vertically jigging jigs tipped with minnows. These long
standing fishing methods have proven themselves effective
for generations and for many anglers there is little reason
to try anything else.
Anglers all have their favorite fishing methods and I am
certainly no different. Vertical jigging has put hundreds
of walleye in my livewell over the years and convinced me
that no other angling method can compare when fishing flowing
water. I was wrong.
A few years ago I had the privilege of meeting Doc Murray,
one of our most colorful and enthusiastic river anglers.
A retired general practitioner, Doc spends virtually every
free minute fishing the Detroit River from late March when
the first spawning fish enter the river until early June
when the final waves of fish make their way back to Lake
His preferred method of fishing; the unlikely technique
known as hand lining.
I had spent some time watching Doc fish and had a good
idea what hand lining was all about, but nothing is a substitute
for actual on the water experience. Doc invited me to join
him in his boat and proceeded to explain the wonders of
hand lining. Thanks to his patience and willingness to share,
I soon found myself beginning to understand why so many
anglers swear by unusual fishing strategy.
For those of you who are not familiar with hand lining,
it is one of the most unique and unorthodox river trolling
techniques ever developed. Except for some isolated exceptions
handline fishing is primarily limited to a pair of rivers
located along the eastern border of Michigan. The St. Clair
and Detroit Rivers are collectively two of the most important
spawning areas in the Great Lakes for walleye. Countless
fish from Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and as far away as Saginaw
Bay migrate to these rivers each spring to spawn.
Handlining got its start on these Michigan rivers, but
it works anywhere anglers fish for walleye in flowing water.
Tournament anglers have carried this technique far and wide
with impressive success. Still, the average weekend angler
knows little about hand lining or how it can help anglers
catch more walleye.
Handline fishing is exactly what the name implies. The
angler doesn't use a traditional rod or reel to fight the
fish, but instead pulls the fish in hand over hand until
it can be netted or simply flipped into the boat. A spring
loaded reel loaded with braided wire is mounted to the boat
and used to manage the main line.
Attached to the end of this wire is a lure spreader locally
referred to as a shank. The shank is actually another piece
of wire with two or more clevices attached at key points
along the shank that accept trolling leads made from heavy
monofilament line. At the bottom of the shank a heavy snap
accepts a lead weight that ranges in size from 12 ounces
to two pounds.
Depending on water depth and current speed, just enough
weight is selected so when the wire, shank, leaders and
lures are all lowered the angler can easily feel the weight
Currently the most popular reel for hand lining is produced
by Riviera Downrigger Corporation (Model # RCWIRE). The
Riviera reel comes pre-spooled with braided wire, a rail
clamp mount, and rod holder adapter to conveniently fit
the reel to the boat, trolling shank and a lead weight.
The angler only needs to add his own leaders and lures to
get started hand lining.
The object of hand lining is to use the weight to maintain
contact with the many contours of the river bottom, while
taking every caution not to drag the weight or snag bottom.
The trailing harnesses are staggered in length so that two
lures can be fished near bottom without fear of the lures
tangling one another. Normally the bottom clevice is located
about two feet above the weight and a 20 foot leader of
20# test monofilament is attached to this clevice. Further
up the shank another 18-24 inches a second clevice is secured
that accepts a longer 40 foot leader.
This two line configuration is the most common used by
handliners because it allows two lures to be fished tight
to bottom where walleye strikes are most likely to occur
with little fear of snagging or loosing the lures. Most
anglers favor small stickbaits when hand lining such as
the famous No. 11 Rapala floating minnow, but a wealth of
other stickbaits and even spinner concoctions are often
used by handliners.
To set a handline and begin fishing the angler begins slowly
trolling upstream and pulls out enough wire to lower his
weight a couple feet into the water. The leader attached
to the bottom clevice is then set by threading it out into
the water by hand. Once this bait is set and swimming properly
the shank is lowered a couple more feet into the water and
the second leader is let out. The second leader is longer
to allow the bait an opportunity to dive deep enough to
be positioned tight to bottom.
Spare leaders are pre-tied, marked for length and stored
on a leader wheel to prevent them from getting tangled.
Once both leaders are set and swimming freely, the weight
is lowered the rest of the way to the bottom and the angler
grasps the wire lightly using the index finger of his right
hand if he is fishing on the starboard side or left hand
if he is fishing on the port side.
A typical handliner will control the boat using a tiller
outboard and fish himself on the starboard side, while a
buddy fishes the port side of the boat. Some more sophisticated
handliners rig special foot pedal in their boats so they
can steer with their feet and leave both hands free to fish!
As the boat trolls along upstream, the angler can easily
lift and drop the weight while keeping track of changing
water depth. Meanwhile the trailing stickbaits are positioned
near bottom 100% of the time. Unlike jigging that allows
the bait to constantly enter and leave the strike zone,
hand lining keeps the lure where fish are most likely to
see and strike it all the time. It is no wonder this unusual
trolling technique is so effective.
When a fish strikes, the bite is rather easy to detect
through the wire line. When the strike occurs the angler
can1t determine if the fish is hooked on the top or bottom
leader. By simply allowing the spring loaded reel to collect
the wire, the angler gently pulls the fish to the surface
until the shank comes into view. At this point the angler
checks each leader to determine which one has hooked a fish.
Without slowing his forward motion, the angler then pulls
the fish in hand over hand until it can netted or if the
fish is small flipped over the side of the boat.
Once landed, the leader is returned to the water and the
shank lowered again to bottom. Slick!
THE FINE POINTS
Hand lining has been practiced and refined for generations.
There are very few ways to improve on the basic hand lining
presentation, but the way anglers approach the river bed
can make a huge difference on how many fish are contacted
and ultimately caught.
The bottom of a walleye river is rarely flat and featureless.
Instead the bottom composition changes from soft mud to
scattered rock or a combination of rock, sand and gravel
substrate. In addition deeper waters such as the river channel
wind around features such as points, islands, etc., creating
a convenient navigation route for walleye moving both up
and downstream. Walleye prefer to travel along and rest
near these meandering edges whenever possible.
Because a handline angler is in constant contact with bottom,
it is easy to identify areas that feature hard bottoms,
drop offs, depressions in the bottom or other structural
features that walleye prefer. In short, a handliner is learning
the intimate details of his fishing area in a way that jig
angler can not match.
To the casual observer, it appears that hand lining is
mostly about aimlessly trolling upstream. In reality there
is some aimless trolling involved in getting to know productive
stretches of the river bottom.
However, once a handline fisherman has found a 3spot on
the spot 2 that is holding fish, it becomes second nature
to make repeated passes over the structure that is holding
fish. By quartering into the current, the angler can present
his trailing lures to fish that the boat has not passed
It is even possible to troll downstream while positioning
the boat for another upstream pass over prime real estate.
The longer an angler uses the handline to explore his river
environment, the more intimate his knowledge of the river
bottom and places where walleye hang out becomes. Over time
this angler develops a mental list of spots that typically
hold fish and each day on the water simply becomes a milk
run of sorts.
Few anglers understand the rivers they fish like a handliner.
This often misunderstood trolling technique is without question
one of the most efficient ways to fish flowing water.
Hand lining may not be for everyone, but I learned first
hand not to knock it until I tried it. Frankly, it is hard
to imagine a river fishing technique that could do a better
job of keeping lures in the strike zone.
Effective in clear or stained waters, the hard core handliners
ply their craft after dark, but for beginners fishing in
the daylight is the best way to develop confidence in this
The tradition of fishing spring walleye in rivers is alive
and well. Maybe with the help of hand lining it is time
to start a new tradition?
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