CRANKS, SPOONS OR SPINNERS? The Open Water Dilemma.
By Mark Romanack
It would help if all anglers were clairvoyant. That way
picking terminal tackle would be easier and fishing success
would always be predictable and dependable.
Unfortunately, anglers are left to more Earthly means for
choosing the 'right' fishing lures on any given day. For
the open water walleye angler, the choice for lures typically
boils down to crankbaits, spoons or live bait spinners.
Each of these lure types have magical powers on walleye
at certain times and places. The real skill is determining
which of these lure groups will ultimately produce best
UNDERSTANDING THE LURES
To effectively predict which types of lures will produce
best on any given day requires an intimate understanding
of the inner workings of crankbaits, spoons and spinners
and the fishing conditions that favor each.
Crankbaits can be broken down into three simple categories
including high action, moderate action and subtle action.
Lures that have lots of aggressive wiggling and wobbling
action tend to be best suited for faster trolling speeds
and fish that are actively feeding. A few good examples
of high action crankbaits include the Storm Hot n' Tot,
Dave's Lures Winning Streak and the Producer's Double Downer.
High action cranks have some significant advantages. Not
only do these lures have lots of action, they typically
make a lot of noise in the water as well. Because they are
most often fished at rapid trolling speeds, these lures
are a good choice for covering lots of water quickly.
Subtle action crankbaits tone down the wiggle and wobbling
in exchange for some precise profiles or shapes. Most often
fished slower and in colder water, subtle action cranks
do not stimulate impulse strikes as much as they milk out
strikes from fish that are fooled into thinking they are
an easy meal.
A few good examples of subtle action crankbaits include
the Reef Runner Ripstick, Storm ThunderStick, Rapala Husky
Jerk and Smithwick Rattlin' Rogue. Fished slow and in cool
to cold water, these lures do an amazing job of triggering
strikes, especially from trophy size fish.
In between the high action and subtle action lures are
a whole bunch of baits that feature a moderate action. Most
of the lures in this category have either a minnow or shad
style profile and they tend to produce best at mid range
trolling speeds and in cool to warm water.
Good candidates in this class include the Reef Runner Deep
Little Ripper, Rapala Shad Rap, Storm ThunderStick Jr.,
and the Bomber 24A.
Unlike crankbaits that come in every shape and size imaginable,
spoons are all relatively similar in shape and most brands
are produced in two or three sizes. Walleye seem to favor
the smaller spoon sizes that closely imitate emerald shiners,
smelt and other common open water forage species.
Like high action crankbaits, spoons are most often used
to fish for active walleye at relatively high trolling speeds.
The ability to cover water quickly and also to reduce the
amount of strikes from unwanted fish makes spoons an excellent
choice for fishing in large open water environments.
When it comes to walleye spoons, only a handful have proven
themselves. Some outstanding choices include the Wolverine
Jr. Streak and Mini Streak, the Stinger Scorpion and the
Pa's Lures Fin-Tail.
Live bait spinners are the third lure group that walleye
anglers depend heavily on. Most spinners are designed to
be fished at slow trolling speeds, making them the obvious
choice for cold fronts and other conditions when tempting
fish into striking is difficult. Live bait spinners produce
well in cool to warm water environments, however in warm
water problems with non-target species often surface. Sometimes
it is simply not practical to fish spinners, not because
walleye will not hit them, but because other less desirable
species simply won't leave them alone.
BOARD FISHING WITH CRANKS, SPOONS AND SPINNERS
Crankbaits, spoons and spinners all produce best when combined
with planer boards. Spreading out lures, incorporating the
maximum amount of lures and lines, plus covering large amounts
of water are the fundamentals that make trolling so effective.
Both in-line boards, dual and triple board planer systems
are effective ways to troll cranks, spoons and spinners.
Which type of board is best simply boils down to how many
lines are going to be deployed.
Small boat walleye anglers who typically troll with four
lines or less are best equipped with in-line boards like
the Off Shore Tackle Side-Planer. The board of choice, more
tournament pros, guides and other fishing experts prefer
the Side-Planer than all other brand in-line boards combined.
The Side-Planer is popular for several reasons. These versatile
trolling tools readily accepts several release types making
them ideal for fishing with monofilament and super braid
lines. Anglers who favor monofilament will find that the
standard equipment OR-14 is an excellent choice for fishing
walleyes at normal trolling speeds and in calm to moderate
sea conditions. Anglers who troll at high speed or who often
encounter rough water will want to upgrade to the OR-16
Snap Weight Clip. This heavy tension clip was designed especially
for the professional angler who demands that his Side-Planers
stay put on the line no matter the fishing conditions.
If super braid lines are employed, the Side-Planer readily
accepts the OR-18 Snapper. Designed especially for thin
and low stretch super braids, the OR-18 is the industry
standard for fishing Fireline, Power Pro and other popular
braided or fused lines.
Anglers who own larger boats typically deploy more lines.
The Riviera Dual or Triple Planer Board is the ideal choice
for fishing up to five lines per side.
The heart of any dual or triple board system is the planer
board release. Off Shore Tackle produces several models
that are ideally suited to open water walleye trolling.
The popular OR-10 (yellow) is a light tension release that
works best on small to medium sized walleye and normal trolling
speeds. The OR-14 (black) incorporates a little more spring
tension making it the obvious choice when using deeper diving
crankbaits or when trolling at faster speeds. Finally, the
OR-3 (white) is a full size release that features a larger
pad surface that increases the gripping power of the release
without damaging the line. Ideal for targeting large walleye,
speed trolling, using deep diving crankbaits, Snap Weights
and mini diving disks, the OR-3 is the most versatile planer
board release in the Off Shore Tackle family.
In recent years, Off Shore Tackle has added to their family
with the addition of the OR-17 Medium Tension Planer Board
Release and the OR-30 Heavy Tension Planer Board Release.
These releases are full size just like the OR-3 that accommodates
a larger pad surface but offers heavier spring tensions
when fishing with your dual or triple board planer boards.
The OR-17 is a great choice for towing leadcore lines when
fishing for salmon or trout. When the heaviest tension is
needed for the type of conditions and equipment configuration
you are running, then the OR-30 would be the choice. The
OR-30 is ideal for muskie and the exploding striper fishery
in Chesapeake Bay.
The world of open water walleye trolling is dominated by
crankbaits, spoons and spinners, helped along by the ever
popular planer board. No matter what the conditions, one
of these lure groups and board types is sure to interest
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DOWNRIGGERS, BIG WATER CLEAN UP HITTERS
By Mark Romanack
The introduction of the downrigger changed the face of
trolling forever. Despite being in service for nearly 40
years, no one has topped the concept of using downriggers
to deploy fishing lines at maximum depth. The ultimate in
depth control fishing, downriggers are an amazingly good
value when you consider what they are capable of and the
number of fish that fall prey to this trolling method every
As times change and the waters where downriggers are used
most evolve, the role of the downrigger has also evolved.
Not so many years ago the typical Great Lakes trolling boat
was equipped with five electric downriggers mounted as outdowns,
on the corners and even in the middle of the transom.
Today, the typical trolling boat still employs downriggers,
but not as many. A pair of outdowns and maybe one in the
middle of the transom covers the deep water environment
without saturating the water with cables, downrigger weights
and other hardware.
The remainder of the water column is targeted using other
trolling devices like diving planers, planer boards, leadcore
line and Snap Weights. Not putting all your eggs in one
basket makes sense. The modern troller recognizes the value
of using all the trolling tools at his disposal instead
of depending too heavily on just one or two trolling methods.
SELECTING A DOWNRIGGER
The type of downrigger that best suits your trolling needs
will depend on the size of boat and species targeted most
often. For example, if you fish from an 18 foot boat and
target mostly walleye, there is little need to invest in
expensive electric downriggers. A more modestly priced manual
like the Riviera Model 500 or Model 700 makes sense. Since
walleye are rarely taken in water deeper than 50 feet, a
manual rigger can target these water depths easily and at
a significant cost savings. A pair of these riggers is ideal
in any of the 18, 30 or 48 inch arm models.
If you own an even smaller boat or you frequently visit
wilderness waters, a portable rigger like the Riviera Model
300-15 is ideal. This budget minded rigger is tough, dependable
and ideal for small boats, fly-in fishing trips and other
wilderness adventures. Purchasing one or two of these portable
riggers with the 15 inch arm makes sense in this case.
At the other extreme, large Great Lakes style boats are
best equipped with electric downriggers that can quickly
and easily handle trolling chores in deep or shallow water.
The Riviera Model 1000 is available with 24, 48 or 72 inch
arms, dual rod holders, safety clutch, swivel base and 200
feet of 150 pound test cable. Water ready, anglers will
want to invest in two or three of these units for serious
big water salmon, trout or striper fishing.
A downrigger is only as good as the line release used.
We can't stress enough how important it is to use quality
line releases when fishing downriggers. For walleye, spring
coho, pink salmon and other smaller fish we recommend the
OR-4 Light Tension Downrigger Release. If salmon, steelhead,
lake trout or stripers are the target species, the model
OR-1 Medium Tension Downrigger Release is ideal. Those who
troll for muskie, trophy northern pike or toothy salt water
species will want to invest in the OR-8 Heavy Tension Downrigger
In addition to downrigger releases, you'll also want a
few stacker releases. Stackers allow two lines to be fished
from one downrigger. This is the most practical and economical
way to add lines to a downrigger trolling pattern. The OR-7
Light Tension Stacker Release is the ideal choice for walleye
or spring coho. An OR-2 Medium Tension Stacker Release works
great for salmon, lake trout, steelhead and striper fishing.
Every downrigger should also be equipped with an OR-6 Weight
Retriever/Stacker Stripper. This simple device makes it
easy to pull the downrigger weight aboard for setting lines
and doubles as a tool for stripping stackers from the line
as the downrigger weight is raised. This inexpensive accessory
is a must item on every downrigger.
The experts at Riviera recommend a 10 pound downrigger
weight for most trolling situations. A round ball with a
trolling wing on the back works well. Some of the new weights
on the market, such as the Ridgeback Rattler, offer some
unique alternatives that weren't available until recently.
A 7 pound Ridgeback Rattler weight will track like a 10
pound weight but retrieve like a 7 pound. I do not need
to explain that this is a significant development and reduces
a lot of wear on equipment. They are available in heavier
weights, but the 7 pound weight works great. I would resist
the temptation to go heavier on this particular weight.
You will need at least one spare downrigger weight and a
spare termination kit should a weight get snagged and lost.
SUMMING IT UP
There is little doubt that downriggers are the clean up
hitters of the open water trolling scene. Nothing can match
the depth control fishing downriggers provide. Not today
and not anytime soon!
Back to Top
FISHING HEAVY METAL
By Mark Romanack
There is hardly an angler who doesn't add lead weight to
his line at one point or another. Fishing heavy metal means
different things to different anglers. To a bass angler
a heavy carolina rig is one ounce. To a walleye troller,
two and three ounce Snap Weights are commonly used to troll
up suspended walleye. Salmon anglers redefine the term heavy
metal. A growing number of salmon anglers are using trolling
weights that run 4, 6 and even 8 ounces. In many cases a
full 16 ounces of lead is used to deploy baits at the desired
depth. Now that's trolling heavy metal!
A LEAD REVIVAL
The introduction of the downrigger and diving planer changed
the face of trolling forever. Anglers who routinely used
lead trolling weights or leadcore fishing line to achieve
the necessary depths, quickly rallied behind the use of
downriggers and diving planers.
Ironically, the modern angler is revisiting the virtues
of using lead trolling weights and leadcore line. Attaching
lead weights to a fishing line is an easy and effective
way to achieve significant depths. The smaller sized weights
are routinely used in combination with planer lines, while
the heavier metal is reserved for fishing straight out the
The lead revival also includes a rebirth of leadcore line.
Leadcore also fell out of popularity about the same time
downriggers entered the trolling scene. Today, a growing
number of anglers are once again using lead lines to target
walleye, salmon and deep water trout.
WALLEYE & SNAP WEIGHTS
The introduction of Snap Weights several years ago started
anglers rethinking the use of lead trolling weights. Off
Shore Tackle Snap Weights are simply lead trolling weights
attached to an OR-16 Snap Weight Clip. This unique clip
features a heavy spring tension and a small pin inside the
clip that when the angler places the fishing line behind
the pin, it insures the Snap Weight stays where it is placed
on the line. This simple function allows Snap Weights to
be placed anywhere between the lure and the rod tip, making
them the most versatile of all trolling weights.
Off Shore Tackle produces a Snap Weight Kit that comes
with four OR-16 clips and an assortment of weights from
1/2 to 3 ounces. These sizes are the most commonly used
by open water walleye trollers.
The desired trolling depth is achieved by simply adding
more weight, or letting more line out. The combinations
of weight and lead lengths that can be used with Snap Weights
are endless, but the folks at Precision Trolling helped
develop a standard for fishing Snap Weights called the 50/50
The 50/50 System is easy to use, effective and with the
help of the book Precision Trolling anglers can use the
Snap Weight chart to determine how deep their baits are
running. Begin by setting a favorite lure behind the boat
50 feet. Next place the Snap Weight on the line and follow
up by letting another 50 feet of line out for a total lead
of 100 feet.
At this point the Snap Weight can be fished as a flat line
behind the boat or married up to either an in-line planer
board, dual board or triple board system. Slick.
The Off Shore Tackle OR-12 Side-Planer works well with
Snap Weights. The OR-12 can handle up to three ounce Snap
Weights. If larger Snap Weights are to be used in combination
with planer boards, a dual board or triple board system
and heavy tension line release like the OR-19 is required.
HEAVY SNAP WEIGHTS
Snap weights are available in 4, 6 and 8 ounces sizes in
addition to the smaller weights sold in the Snap Weight
Kit. These larger weights are popular with salmon and trout
anglers who are targeting fish in deep water.
The running depth of 4, 6 and 8 ounce Snap Weights was
recently documented by Precision Angling, publishers of
the Precision Trolling book series. A new book Precision
Trolling Big Water Edition provides depth data for the large
sizes of Snap Weights on several line sizes. This unique
book also includes the running depth of 18, 27 and 36 pound
test leadcore lines, one pound lead balls and all the common
diving planers with and without the dive rings.
Precision Trolling Big Water Edition is available for $24.95
at major retail outlets or on the internet at www.precisionangling.com
or by calling 800-353-6958.
ONE POUND BALLS
A one pound ball seems like a lot of weight to add to a
trolling line. Amazingly, this much weight can be easily
handled with a diver style rod and 25-30 pound test line.
Effective for bumping bottom at depths out to 100 feet,
there are two popular ways of attaching one pound balls
to the fishing line.
Using two OR-16 Snap Weight Clips, a one pound ball can
easily be secured at any point along the fishing line.
LOVE THAT LEAD CORE
The recent revival of leadcore has opened the eyes of many
open water trollers. Leadcore is an effective way of presenting
a large array of terminal tackle at surprisingly deep depths.
Like other fishing lines, leadcore is rated by its break
strength, ie 18#, 27#, 36# or 45# test. This break strength
has nothing to do with the actual weight of the wire used
inside the nylon casing. The size 18 and 27 leadcore lines
actually use the same wire. The same is true of 36# and
45# test lead core lines.
The biggest value of leadcore is it passes through the
water without making any noise than can alert or disturb
fish. Normally fished in 10 yard increments or colors, it
is common for anglers to fish a full spool or 10 colors
of leadcore behind the boat. Some extremists fish 15 and
even 20 or two full cores of leadcore! Two cores of leadcore
equals 600 feet of trolling lead! Now that's long lining!
Leadcore is commonly fished as a flat line behind the boat,
but with the help of in-line planers leadcore can also be
used to gain significant outward lure coverage as well.
The new Off Shore Tackle OR-31 SST Planer is designed especially
for fishing leadcore lines. Equipped with a heavy tension
OR-19 release on the tow arm and a pigtail attachment at
the back of the board, the OR-31 can be easily rigged to
stay on the line or release and slide down the line as desired
by the angler.
Most leadcore anglers prefer to keep the board fixed to
the line, since so much leadcore is deployed behind the
board. The OR-19 can easily be replaced for the OR-18 Snapper
that features a cam style locking system that holds the
line solidly, but gently.
SUMMING IT UP
The lead revival has trollers using a wide variety of trolling
weights and accessories to target walleye, salmon, trout,
steelhead, striper and more. At Off Shore Tackle, you will
find everything you need to get the lead both down and out
to the side.
Back to Top
FISHING WITH URIGS
By Brian Stangle
Where do we start? Umbrella Rigs (Urigs) have to be the
easiest and yet some of the more complicated items to fish.
Easy from the standpoint of putting them in the water and
catching fish (the most effective tool we have used for
stripers) and complicated for some of the finer details
if you really want to be proficient with them.
As a newby to the Urig world, Bill Carson and Mack Farr
have been highly instrumental in taking us up the learning
curve on this tool. Bill and Mack are both excellent anglers
and also students of the game. Unlike many who rely on time
tested and proven tactics for catching stripers, Captain
Mack has created a line of Urigs, second to none, that give
those techniques solid competition. As many of you know,
we prefer trolling and Urigs are just the ticket if you
at all are inclined to troll for stripers.
Although we are far from mastering the art of trolling
Urigs, we would like to share our experiences, trial and
error. First, a quality reel and rod are a must. These rigs
have a lot of resistance in the water and require stout
equipment that can handle abuse from multiple fish at one
time (more on that later). This year Shimano introduced
a new trolling lineup which included the Tekota Line Counter
and Talora rods. We have finally given in to Captain Mack's
suggestion on the 40# line after going from Power Pro (not
enough diameter to match the dive chart), 20# Big Game (not
quite strong enough), 25# Yo Zuri (still just a little too
small for those multiple fish hits) to 40# Ande mono on
three rods and 40# Maxima Fluorocarbon on one (just to see
if it makes a difference). The drag on the Tekota is just
incredible and can be adjusted in micro increments by listening
to the clicker built into the star drag (very nice feature).
The rods are just unreal for fighting these fish. With the
power winching ability on the reel and the stout backbone
on the Talora, the combination is perfect. When we are not
fishing for stripers and pulling lead or cranks for 'eyes,
the added sensitivity of the TC4 graphite wrapped glass
construction gives us the feedback we need to monitor those
baits. As mentioned above, it is not unusual to hookup multiple
fish on one rod so be sure to have good tackle.
The Urig itself is actually a pretty simple concept, but
the details are where the differences lie. The Captain Mack
Urig arms are pretty much the same as anyone else's, a center
weight, with wire arms bent to attach multiple leaders (4-7
on the 3 arm and 5-9 on the 4 arm) and jigs or shad bodies.
One of the subtle differences that we feel makes a difference
in added strikes is that the Captain Mack bucktail rigs
(there are cheaper rigs out there) are the only we know
of that come with hand tied bucktail jigs developed by Mack
himself specifically for stripers. The other rigs will work,
but these rigs truly set themselves apart from other rigs
as the bucktails really make the rig come alive. With 6"
grub trailers in chartreuse or white and the hand tied bucktails
with Mylar inserts and red thread, they are the perfect
combination. Mack has also developed a dive chart for these
rigs based on using 40# line and a boat speed of 2.5, achieved
with most boats at idle or just above. Knowing where these
are is critical
if you want to keep them. Trolling
open water doesn't require as much attention to detail,
but if you are in structure you need to know where that
rig is and Captain Mack tells you right on the package.
The Urig is a negatively buoyant presentation, otherwise
known as a lure that SINKS on its own. With that in mind
speed and line out become key factors in making sure you
know where your bait is. If you decide to add this tactic
to your arsenal, be sure to add a Urig retriever to the
mix, you will snag up at some point and losing a $20-30
rig is not that much fun.
Now that we have all of our tackle and are in the boat
going 2.5 or faster, we are ready to deploy the first rig.
We'll be sure to hang the rig from the rod tip making sure
all the jigs are tangle free and ready, slowly lowering
it into the water, we let out line with the clicker on and
the clutch off for just enough resistance to prevent tangling.
Once we have let out the desired line length, we will attach
our Off Shore OR-31 SST Side Planer with pigtail clip and
send it out to the side. The front clip is on the line,
and the pigtail clip is wrapped around the line so when
the fish strikes the board releases out of the front clip
and slides down the line free until the fish is landed.
Once we have the outside line set and place the rod in the
holder, we are sure to set our drag so there is just enough
resistance to prevent the drag from slipping at trolling
After your rigs are set and you have a nice symmetrical
spread of planer boards running alongside the boat, it shouldn't
be long! We try to run the deeper, heavier rigs on the inside
boards and the lighter longer lead rigs on the outside.
For example, we will run a 3 arm four jig on one outside
board, a 4 arm 5 jig light Urig on the other outside and
then a heavy shad body rig and a 4 arm 9 jig on the inside
two boards. The theory is that if you have a fish hit on
the outside, they generally will rise and you can play them
across the inside deeper running rig without having to take
in any lines. Running multiple boards with Urigs can create
quite a circus on the boat, a welcome one. If you are going
to run the rigs right off the boat, we recommend starting
with 2 and moving up from there. When we hookup, we keep
the boat moving and play the fish, but some may want to
stop and play the fish, if you do this, YOU MUST CLEAR THE
OTHER LINE, it will sink to the bottom and become an anchor.
The only item we haven't covered is landing the fish. We
prefer a Boga Grip as we can hold the Urig and grip the
fish in the mouth while lifting it into the boat. This prevents
the fish and Urig from tangling in the net. The fish can
be weighed and released quickly after a photo. Be very careful
as 5-9 jigs swinging around on an upset striper can make
quite a mess.
Let us know if you have any questions or if you would like
to see first hand how we use these tools, we would love
to book a trip for you. If you would like to pick up these
rigs in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Charlie's Sporting Goods
carries them or you can contact us if you are not in town
and we can get you set up.
Good luck and happy fishing!
Back to Top
By Mark Romanack
Good things come in small packages. When most anglers think
of diving planers, they imagine the soft ball sized Dipsy
Diver or the even larger Magnum Dipsy designed for dredging
up salmon from the depths. These outstanding products are
proven fish catchers, but a diver does not have to be jumbo
sized to catch lots of fish. On the opposite extreme, pint
sized divers are easy to fish and when combined with the
benefits of planer boards, every bit as effective as their
WHAT IS A MINI DIVER?
Mini divers or what some anglers refer to as mini disks
are simply smaller versions of the diving planers made popular
for open water salmon, trout and walleye fishing. Approximately
one third the diameter of full sized divers, these mini
disks are capable of reaching 30 feet or more, making them
ideal for walleye, and early season trout, salmon and steelhead.
While most mini disks are designed to be directional, their
small size limits the amount of outward coverage they can
provide. Frankly, these divers are best used in the zero
or straight down setting and combined with in-line, dual
or triple planer boards to gain the necessary outward coverage.
Another type of diver also fits into the mini category.
The smaller sizes of the Luhr Jensen Jet Diver are also
ideally suited for fishing in combination with planer boards.
Depending on the line type used and the target species,
several different board and release combinations are recommended
for fishing these products.
WHAT TERMINAL TACKLE WORKS BEST?
Mini disks and divers can be used with a wide assortment
of lures including thin flutter spoons, heavier casting
spoons, shallow diving crankbaits and crawler harnesses.
The typical leader length used is six to 10 feet.
FISHING WITH MONOFILAMENT
Mini divers are becoming a dominate factor on the walleye
and salmon fishing scene. Ideal for reaching the depths
open water walleye are commonly targeted at, most anglers
gear up with 10-14 pound test monofilament line. Salmon
anglers are better equipped with 17-20 pound test monofilament.
Both in-line boards like the Off Shore Tackle Side-Planer
and full sized dual and triple board systems like the Riviera
Dual Planer Board, Riviera Triple Planer Board and Dual
Planer Board Masts can be used to deploy mini divers when
When fishing Side-Planers the ideal board to line connection
is the popular OR-16 Snap Weight Clip. This unique clip
has a strong spring tension and internal pin configuration
that insures the board remains fixed on the line. When using
the Snap Weight clip, the Side-Planer must be reeled in
when a fish is hooked. The board is simply removed from
the line and the fight continued. Rigging two boards per
side of the boat is the most common way Side-Planers are
fished when using mini divers.
Anglers who wish to deploy more lines will want to incorporate
a Dual Planer Board or Triple Planer Board and Dual Planer
Mast system. Using this system up to five mini divers can
be run per side.
Depending on the target species, a couple different planer
board releases are recommended. For salmon and other large
species, the OR-17 Medium Tension Planer Board Release or
the OR-19 Adjustable Heavy Tension Planer Board Release
provides the necessary resistance to insure a positive hookset.
These releases are designed to match up with monofilament
lines ranging from 14-30 pound test.
For smaller species like walleye or brown trout, the OR-3
Light Tension Planer Board Release is ideal for fishing
mini divers. This release works great on 10-20 pound test
FISHING MINI DIVERS ON SUPER BRAID LINES
Mini divers will achieve significantly greater depths when
fished on thin, low stretch super braid lines. The OR-18
Snapper Adjustable Tension In-Line Planer Board Release
was designed especially for fishing with no stretch lines.
The OR-18 attaches to the tow arm of the Side-Planer in
a matter of seconds, making it easy to switch release types
depending on the line being used.
When a fish is hooked, the Side-Planer is reeled in along
with the fish. When the board comes within reach of the
rod tip, the OR-18 can be flipped open and removed from
the line with one hand.
SUMMING IT UP
Mini divers may be small in size, but they bring a lot
to the trolling party. Ideal for fishing walleye or trout
and salmon when these species are found within 40 feet of
the surface, it's hard to image a product that is more suited
to open water trolling. Paired up with the above mentioned
Off Shore Tackle and Riviera products, mini divers are big
Back to Top
SIZE MATTERS IN PLANER BOARDS
By Mark Romanack
Planer boards come in all shapes and sizes. Big and little,
these trolling aids all serve a similar function, but when
it comes to deploying large amounts of lines and fishing
in rough water, dual and triple boards rule.
The Riviera Collapsible Dual Planer Board (Part Number
DPB) is the standard the rest of the trolling industry strives
for. Perfectly ballasted so the nose rides slightly up,
these amazing boards plow through rough water with amazing
efficiency. The three position tow point allows anglers
to change to different trolling conditions instantly. Storing
these boards is also easy. Simply fold them flat and slide
them into any out of the way location. The new Riviera Collapsible
Triple Planer Board (Part Number TPB) operates in the same
manner as the DPB but is capable of handling more types
A dual board requires a dependable mast system. Riviera
offers four different mast types to meet the needs of novice
to expert anglers. The model DPM-K features a six foot linear
composite mast, a pair of Kachman Automatic Retrieval Reels,
150 feet of fluorescent 200 pound test planer line, aluminum
pulley system and stainless guide bushings. Four different
mounting bracket options are also available.
The DPM-KA features a seven foot collapsible aluminum power
coated mast and all the features of the DPM-K. This mast
is also available in four deck mounting options.
The DPM-P is a manual retrieve mast with the Riviera exclusive
Posi-Stop aluminum reels. This mast features the six foot
composite mast, a nylon mounting block and all the other
standard features of Riviera Dual Planer Board Masts. Four
deck mounting options are also offered with this manual
The final mast in the Riviera line is the model DPM-PA,
a seven foot collapsible aluminum mast. This mast features
the popular Posi-Stop aluminum reels, all the standard mast
features and three different deck mounting options. Riviera
is the only company that uses aluminum alloy, powder coated
reels on their manual masts instead of plastic.
Riviera also is the only manufacturer that offers four
different deck mounting adaptors designed to allow a planer
mast to fit into various pedestal seat bases.
HARD TOP OPTIONS
If your boat has a hard top or high rail, you can choose
from either Riviera's model RCP-P Aluminum Manual Retrieval
Posi-Stop Reels or the RCP-K Kachman Automatic Retrieval
Reels. For a perfect compliment for hard tops and radar
arches, Riviera offers a new Track Mount System (Part Number
TM) for the RCP-K reels. Sold individually, these reels
come complete with planer line and aluminum clamp to secure
to a 7/8 to 1 1/8 inch rail.
A WORD ON PLANER RELEASES
We have said it before and we will say it again, planer
releases are not a one size fits all device. To fish planers
effectively anglers must match up the planer release to
the species, trolling speed and line diameter used. Off
Shore Tackle manufactures a complete line of planer board
releases designed for fishing everything from table sized
walleye to trophy salmon. Check out the article "Understanding
Planer Board Releases" to get more information on choosing
and using planer board releases.
SUMMING IT UP
Anglers who take board trolling seriously want to fish
multiple lines per side, they want to fish in all weather
and wave conditions and they demand a board and mast combination
that is strong and dependable. You won't find better quality
or engineered products than the Riviera family of dual and
triple planer boards and masts.
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STRIPERS AND LIVE BAIT
By Bruce DeShano
The OR31 Side Planer SST (orange) was designed with live
bait fishing for stripers in mind. The OR19 Adjustable Heavy
Tension Planer Board Release (orange) allows you the adjustments
to fish small baits or large, fast or slow. It has even
proven to be good for fishing umbrella rigs at speeds of
over 3 MPH. When using live bait, I will use a four foot
leader with a circle hook or a sharp treble on one end and
a barrel swivel on the other. This helps keep the line from
twisting with the free swimming antics of the live bait.
I will then place an OR29 Speed Bead on the main line ahead
of the swivel to keep the board from sliding down to the
fish when it is released. Some anglers put a plain bead
on the main line before tying on the swivel for the same
purpose. After letting out 10-15 feet of line I will attach
an OR-16 Snap Weight Clip (red) and usually a 1 ounce weight
depending on the size of the bait I am using. Bigger shad
would require more weight to keep them from swimming up
towards the surface when they see a big striper looking
hungrily at them!
After determining how deep I want to fish for the stripers,
I let out the proper amount of line and put it through the
pigtail on the backend of the OR31 SST Side Planer. Then
I pinch the line in the front release so that it is facing
the right direction when I put it in the water. Now I let
line out while I slowly troll along and rig another board
the same way. You can let the boards go out as far as traffic
will allow. Please be considerate of other anglers when
you are fishing near them. It is easy to take up too much
area and have people upset that your hogging the lake. Keep
a sharp eye out for non-anglers since they won't even be
looking for your boards and could run them over.
I will change the length from my bait to the snap weight
as conditions demand. I have found that a longer distance
to the weight will allow the bait more room to swim up and
down the water column and attracts fish when they are scattered.
This can also cause tangles when there is not enough room
between the boards to keep them from swimming together.
Tangled lines are not fun!
Other times, when the fish are tightly packed or you want
to make the impression of a school of bait, you need to
keep the weights close to the bait and a more precision
depth control can be achieved.
Many of the striper anglers I have met use the rod holders
made by Driftmaster (www.driftmaster.com) for both planer
boards and down rods. They are made of stainless steel and
dipped in a durable coating. They are easily removed and
come in several models for different conditions. I like
the pro duo model the best because it can be used as a flatline
or horizontal rod holder as well as a 30 degree angled rod
holder for planer boards. When a fish hits, it is easy to
get the rod out of these holders. I have several of these
on my Ranger 620 and they have been great when trolling
or bottom bouncing for walleye. Give them a look and you
will be pleased with the quality and variety of applications
Once you get the feel of running live bait with snap weights
and using OR31 SST boards, you will find yourself catching
more striper than ever before. The National Striped Bass
Association has many tournaments across the country and
more of the winning anglers are using the Off Shore Tackle
Company LLC's OR31 Side Planer SST.
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THERE IS MORE THAN ONE WAY TO CATCH YOUR SPORTFISH......ON
By Captain Craig MacPhee, A.K.A. "Sick Time"
Last year was found to be a challenging one for those of
us who found ourselves fishing on Lake Huron. Fishing to
any degree beats a good day at work, but we found that we
really had to stay on the fish to be productive day in and
day out. While my tournament partners and I worked hard
pre-fishing every tournament we competed in, we just could
not put it together on a consistent basis. We went from
days literally catching 30-40 fish from top to bottom in
the water column to days we struggled to catch just a few.
The salmon here in Harbor Beach, Michigan seemed to disappear;
however, the trout population was second to none. Those
of you who think catching trout is not fun have never came
to this part of Michigan to give it a try. To me, there
is no better way to introduce a first timer to fishing than
off the back of my boat landing fish galore.
The struggle we faced with the decreasing salmon population
caused us to come up with some different ideas and develop
them into strategies that worked for us. We managed to find
salmon almost every trip but it was never easy. Admittedly,
not all of the ideas we used were discovered by us. We consider
ourselves very fortunate to be amongst a good group of friends
that work together on different ideas to come up with the
most productive presentations. Although none of our ideas
are a catchall everyday thing, they definitely helped put
more fish in our cooler. The following is an introduction
of a few new products by Off Shore Tackle Company LLC and
Riviera Trolling Systems that may be new to you but have
been tested and proven to be effective by myself along with
several competitive tournament anglers around the Great
After last year's article on the use of the OR31 Side Planer
SST Board, we discovered that we were not utilizing the
board to the best of its ability. We figured out that utilizing
Off Shore Tackle's OR18 Snapper Release on the front and
an OR16 Snap Weight Clip on the tail of the board was an
even better way to run our Leadcore. We logged literally
hundreds of hours on the water and could not come up with
any better inline board combination than the OR31 SST board
with an OR18 and OR16. We were able to run up to 8 leadcore
presentations, 4 on each side, without a tangled mess.
The way the snapper release is designed, it allows the
backing from our leadcore to be synched down and locked
onto the board. When the fish strikes our presentation the
board pulls across the top of the water like a torpedo and
will not allow it to trip and dive. This saves us time and
lost fish. For those of you who use boards that release
when a fish strikes and then the fish spits the hook, you
know what a pain it is to reel in an entire full core just
to re-set your line. If a fish hits this presentation and
spits the hook, you just simply let it back out. By design,
we do not want our fish to trip the release causing our
boards to slide down the line. The board is locked onto
our backing no matter what happens. When you reel in the
board, a simple flick of the thumb on the OR18 release and
a pinch on the back OR16 clip will set your board free.
Then, you are fighting your fish one on one. We feel this
set-up gives us a better hook-up to land ratio and really
helps keep each individual rig out of the way of the other
when a fish strikes. On a money saver note, if you happen
to "snag bottom" or "break off a fish"
the only thing you will lose is your lure. Losing an entire
set-up is a thing of the past. Boards designed to slide
down the line work great when you are not dealing with 100
plus yards of leadcore. But for those of you who have ever
pulled in a 20 pound plus salmon on leadcore with a board
that has tripped, you know exactly where I am coming from.
It is like pulling in a cinder block that won't budge.
For those of you who prefer to keep things on a simple
and sweet level, we came up with yet another idea that worked
wonders with leadcore. About mid season last year, Riviera's
Larry Hartwick developed a big triple planer board (Part
Number TPB) to compliment his already existing dual planer
board (Part Number DPB). If you already have a Riviera dual
planer board system, he can convert the existing dual board
into a triple board with his conversion kit. We used my
boat "Sick Time" as a testing platform and were
able to find the true triple board performance capabilities
by the end of the summer. Larry had hands on direct involvement
with the research and development of this board and actually
saw how it worked on the water under various situations.
We tried the triple board in big waves, flat water, up wind,
down wind, and everything in between. With a few minor adjustments
that had to be made to the board, this board flat out produces!
Not to mention, it folds flat and can easily be stored away
under my boat seat.
We rigged my boat with Riviera's automatic planer reels
(Part Number RCP-K) and mounted them on a track along the
top of my hard top. Although each boat is different, this
set up proved to be the best way to utilize the triple boards
on my boat. If you don't have a hard top or prefer a planer
mast, this set up will work on a mast just as well as the
direct hook up to my hardtop. One word of caution though.
Here is my disclaimer...with the vertical pull this triple
board creates; I would not recommend just any planer mast
system. With the front of your boat being the 12 o'clock
position, these boards spend most of their time running
in the 4 o'clock position. They DO NOT lag back behind the
boat like some competitor's boards. I would recommend calling
Larry directly at Riviera to see if what you have will work
with the boards.
We found that this new triple board will pull up to 4 full
core behind each board. The advantage to this is simple.
If you prefer to fight a fish one on one without the added
pull of the inline boards or feel overwhelmed at the idea
of running several leadcore inline boards at once, this
is for you.
After running each board out to its pre-determined distance,
the board was locked in place and we were able to start
setting lines. Depending on the fish we were targeting,
we used either the OR17 Medium Tension Planer Board Release
or the OR30 Heavy Tension Planer Board Release. There are
two schools of thought on how to set out the leadcore with
this set-up. You can either set out equal amounts of core
on each side or you can vary your lengths of leadcore on
each side keeping your deepest core closest to the boat.
For instance, when you zero in the fish and find them to
be somewhere between 30 and 45 feet, you could put out 4
full core set-ups on one side of the boat. When a fish hits
one of the presentations, you will be fighting the fish
one on one behind the boat. After landing the fish, all
you would have to do is let the leadcore back out on that
specific rod, attach it to your planer board line, and let
it fall into place. Let out line on the remaining rods,
adjust the rod you just landed your fish on, and you are
once again running 4 full cores without having to worry
about weaving the lines in and around one another.
The second school of thought would be to run varying lengths
of leadcore on each side as you would with the inline planer
boards. For instance, to do this you would want to run your
shallowest (two colors or so) presentation out on the triple
board first. As you get closer to the boat, you would want
your leadcore colors to increase so eventually you would
have your deepest, (ten colors or so) furthest back presentation
closest to the boat. Although effective, it is harder to
operate your leadcore like this because with the triple
board because if a fish strikes your third farthest rod
out there, potentially you would have to re-set the two
inner rods to get your third rod back out where it belongs.
I highly recommend the first scenario.
For us, both styles of planer boards worked up to and beyond
our expectations last year. We found some very strange patterns
in the fish and they usually decided to wait until tournament
day to show us just how erratic they could be. This taught
us to be more creative and open minded when it came to fishing.
Last year in a tournament in Lake Huron's northernmost
part, we found fish to be anywhere between 5 feet and 165
feet down over the same body of water during the same time
of day. This held true for salmon and trout alike. During
this particular tournament, we had two set-ups that were
on absolute fire. The first set-up that worked for us was
to run 1 to 2 colors of Leadcore behind our boards matched
with 30 feet of the new Ande 20# Fluorocarbon as leader
material and a Silver Streak Magnum Glow Piranha. This presentation
could not have put the lure down more than 4-5 feet from
the surface but due to the stealth of the Ande Fluorocarbon,
and the action of the leadcore, it created a presentation
with the Silver Streak that was unbelievable. The trick
here was to have the ability to get our lines back into
the water as quick and efficient as possible. Without the
use of our boards this never would have been possible. We
landed 6 salmon and 4 trout in waters that were believed
to be extinct.
The second set-up that worked for us was to bounce bottom
in 165 ft. of water utilizing a 30# wire rod set-up and
a three way swivel. We ran the 30# wire to the front part
of the swivel, attached a 1 pound ball to the bottom of
the swivel, and a 3 foot piece of Ande 50# Fluorocarbon
to the back of the swivel. We attached an Opti-Tackle chrome
dodger and a Purple Taco mirage fly as our bait. To reach
bottom at 2.2 mph we had to put out upwards of 550 foot
of wire. We caught 2 salmon and 7 trout off this presentation
while running our 1 and 2 color leadcore successfully off
the planer boards.
Of course we were catching fish over other depths of water
on different presentations but we could not believe the
extremes we were witnessing. Who would have ever thought
that fish would be spread from 5 feet down to 165 feet over
the same body of water at the same time. From this we concluded
the fish are either very confused or just plain hungry.
Over the past few seasons I have used and tried just about
every trick, gimmick, and catch all out there. Some have
worked and some have been just that...gimmicks. One thing
I will stress is to be open minded when it comes to fishing
presentations. If you have an idea and think it may work,
try it. If it works, it will be one more thing in your arsenal
come tournament day.
I have full faith in the equipment and products I use and
would have to say the inline OR31 SST planer boards offered
by Off Shore Tackle Company LLC and new TPB Triple Planer
Board offered by Riviera are second to none. If you sportfish
competitively, they are an absolute! They continue to have
my full endorsement!!
Back to Top
TRIPLE PLANER BOARDS GET R DONE
By Larry Hartwick
New for 2005 is the Riviera Triple Planer Board, Model
# TPB. The TPB utilizes the best features of the Dual Planer
Board, Model # DPB with the added stability of the third
board. This widens the spread to over 16", which greatly
decreases any tendency for the outside board to lift out
of the water when towing heavy rigs.
The Riviera Triple Planer Board is a product of the ever
changing environment that we are chasing salmonoids in.
With the re-invention of trolling with leadcore lines, there
was a need for a planer board that would handle the added
drag from towing multiple leadcore lines. The TPB was designed
to fill that bill and is the product of some severe testing
in conditions that most anglers would choose not to be in.
Most of the tests that I was involved in were actually
multiple tests for various products that were used in conjunction
the TPB. Specifically, we used our Kachman Automatic Planer
Reel RCP-K on our new Track Mount, Model # TM. The TM is
a slick way to mount a planer reel to a hard top, fly bridge
or radar arch. The TM is functional, looks good, and is
easily removed for a clean appearance on a vessel that requires
the function of a multiple purpose boat. We use 200# high
visibility Dacron planer line on ALL of our planer reels
while most of the industry uses 135# test. The releases
that we tested on the towline were the Off Shore Tackle
OR-17 and OR-30 releases. These are serious releases for
towing the heavy stuff! Until recently they were used primarily
for muskie fishing with very large crank baits, not the
case anymore! Most of these releases were attached to leadcore
lines, wire line, Snap Weights, Jet Divers and various other
combinations that would have been difficult to use efficiently
with out being attached to the TPB. The TPB easily handled
multiple lines and all of the other products actually performed
better by being solidly anchored to the TPB.
Developing a new product usually involves a great deal
of hard work to test and fine tune the product before it
gets in the hands of anglers. In the world of planer boards,
the hard part is achieving the proper balance, front to
rear and side to side. The original design of the TPB did
exactly what we expected from a planer board until I went
striper fishing in Chesapeake Bay. For those of you who
have never experienced it, it is basically a Saginaw Bay
or Lake Erie chop that can be combined with a tide effect
of up to 10 mph. To say that this is a tough environment
would be an understatement. To aggravate the situation,
they use baits that can weigh up to 30 ounces. (A full leadcore
weighs 8 ounces). One of these baits duplicate using 4 full
cores on one side and I haven't seen anyone fishing there
that was content with using only one rod per side. Quite
often the lures are "stacked" which consists of
a 3-way rig using a lighter bait on top and a heavier bait
on the bottom. It is very similar to the Lake Erie 3-way
spoon and plug rig with the exception that the lures might
weigh over a pound. Although I haven't experienced it first
hand, they tell me that a pair of 50 pound stripers on one
rod is quite a sight.
Fine tuning the TPB in this environment would have been
tough without the help of a new friend, Ken Chaffin, who
lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Ken is a knowledgeable
saltwater angler and appears to like a challenge as much
as I do. Ken's constant contact thru his cell phone and
emails contributed significantly and it shows in the finished
product. Many thanks Ken!
The TPB is a serious product that will work equally well
in either a fresh or saltwater environment. I'm confident
that the TPB will give us some fresh approaches to enhancing
our trolling spreads.
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UNDERSTANDING DOWNRIGGER RELEASES
By Mark Romanack
Downriggers are expensive pieces of fishing equipment.
Ironically, the weakest link in this sophisticated fishing
system is the point where the fishing line and the downrigger
weight are attached. Collectively known as the downrigger
release, some strange things are used to make this critical
connection. Rubber bands, alligator clips and a wealth of
other home made devices end up at the business end of a
downrigger. That is a pity because these so called downrigger
releases simply can not get the job done properly. Countless
fish are missed or lost every year because penny wise anglers
resist investing in quality downrigger releases.
A quality line release designed for downrigger fishing
insures three important functions. First and foremost a
good downrigger release insures that when a fish strikes,
enough resistance is achieved to deliver a solid hook up.
Secondly, the line release must be used over and over again
and not damage the line in any way. Thirdly, the line release
must relinquish its grip at the proper moment so the fish
can be fought to net.
All this sounds simple, but achieving the right amount
of resistance and dependable performance is no simple task.
Rubber bands are a poor excuse for a downrigger release,
but they are not completely without value. They do a nice
job of holding rolled up fishing maps together!
The OR-4 (white) Light Tension Downrigger Release was designed
for walleye, spring coho and other trolling situations that
call for a light hand. Perfectly matched with 10-25 pound
test monofilament line, the OR-4 attaches to the downrigger
weight with a heavy duty steel cable and clip.
The famous OR-1 (black) Medium Tension Downrigger Release
was the first Off Shore Tackle product and continues to
be the most popular. Designed as an all purpose downrigger
release for salmon, trout, steelhead, muskie and striper,
the OR-1functions best with 10-25 pound test line.
The OR-8 (red) Heavy Tension Downrigger Release features
a double spring to deliver the extra resistance necessary
for hooking muskie, trophy pike and toothy salt water species.
Designed to be used with 20 pound test and larger lines,
the OR-8 is the heaviest tension downrigger release in the
Off Shore Tackle family. This release has become a favorite
with trollers using rotating flashers and flies as well.
Downriggers are expensive pieces of gear. Don't compromise
your fishing success by using an inferior downrigger release.
Insist on genuine Off Shore Tackle downrigger releases.
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UNDERSTANDING PLANER BOARD RELEASES
By Mark Romanack
It is human nature to seek out the one size fits all approach.
In the world of planer board fishing, no single line release
can fulfill the duties for a multitude of species, different
line types, varying trolling speeds and wave conditions.
One size doesn't fit all and Off Shore Tackle understands
that best. A full compliment of line releases are available
in the Off Shore Tackle line designed for every fishing
situation and every species.
WHY SO MANY RELEASES?
Spring tension line releases are designed to function within
a range of line diameters and trolling speeds. If the spring
tension is too weak, the necessary resistance to insure
a good hookset will be lost. If the spring tension is too
heavy, it is difficult to trigger the release. To make planer
board fishing fun and effective, the line release tension
has to be just right.
Spring tension releases are also designed to function with
monofilament lines. Monofilament has just the right amount
of stretch to function properly with the entire family of
Off Shore Tackle line releases.
The OR-10 (yellow) is a light tension line release designed
for walleye and other smaller fish. The spring can be slid
forward toward the pads to increase tension or backwards
away from the pads to reduce the tension. This release functions
best with 10-17 pound test monofilament.
Another adjustable walleye release, the OR-14 (black) features
a slightly heavier tension than the OR-10. Suitable for
larger walleye, faster trolling speeds or when trolling
deep diving crankbaits, the OR-14 is an excellent general
purpose line release. The OR-14 functions best with 10-17
pound test monofilament.
The OR-19 (orange) was designed especially for larger species
including striper, salmon, muskie, steelhead and trout.
Like the other releases in this family, the OR-19 is adjustable
and insures a firm grip on the line when trolling at rapid
speeds and in high seas. The OR-19 works well with 14-30
pound test lines.
The OR-3 (white) was designed for light biting and hard
to hook walleye. The larger pad diameter enables anglers
to place the line shallow or deep into the jaws to adjust
the resistance. Popular with walleye anglers and also those
who troll for browns, pink salmon and other small to medium
sized fish, the OR-3 is another multi-species release. The
OR-3 functions best with 10-20 pound test lines.
The OR-17 (black) has salmon fishing written all over it.
The same release used in the legendary OR-1 downrigger release,
the OR-17 features a medium spring tension and large pad
diameters. To set a light tension, simply place the line
near the outside of the rubber pads. To increase the tension,
bury the line deep into the release jaws. Our most popular
release for salmon fishing, the OR-17 also works well for
striper, large trout, steelhead and muskie. The OR-17 is
designed to function with 14-30 pound test lines.
The OR-30 (red) is an extra heavy spring tension release
designed for muskie, trophy pike, and salt water species.
Designed to function best with lines 20 pound test and larger,
this release has the strongest spring tension for the largest
and toughest to hook fish.
WHAT ABOUT BRAIDED LINES?
Most spring tension line releases do not function well
with braided lines. The thin diameter and low stretch characteristics
of braided or fused lines requires a completely different
type of line release.
The OR-18 Snapper is specially designed for anglers who
wish to fish super braid lines in combination with in-line
planer boards. A unique cam action on this release allows
even slippery super braids to be held securely.
The OR-18 Snapper readily mounts to the tow arm on the
Off Shore Tackle OR-12 Side Planer and the OR-31 SST Planer.
When it comes to planer board fishing, one size doesn't
fit all. Off Shore Tackle manufactures the largest line
of releases on the market. From light tension walleye models
to extra heavy salt water models, Off Shore Tackle has your
Back to Top
UNDERSTANDING STACKER RELEASES
By Mark Romanack
Everyone knows that if one line is good, two is even better.
The art of downrigger fishing is made twice as good with
the introduction of a simple device known as a stacker release.
A stacker release simply allows two rods to be fished from
a single downrigger, doubling the lines in the water and
the value of downrigger.
For only a few bucks a downrigger can double it's value,
but beware because not all stacker releases are created
equal. Just like a downrigger release, a stacker release
must be properly designed to hold the line firmly and gently.
When a fish strikes the stacker's job is to insure enough
resistance is achieved to guarantee the hook drives home.
HOW DO STACKERS WORK?
Rigging a downrigger with two rods using a stacker release
is easy. Stackers feature not one but two releases connected
together by a steel cable and clip.
Begin by setting a favorite lure 20-50 feet behind the boat.
Take this line and place it between the jaws of the downrigger
release. Lower the downrigger weight a few feet into the
water and stop. Now take a second rod and set a second lure
10-15 feet behind the boat. Now take an Off Shore Tackle
stacker release and open the heavy duty stainless clip.
Place this clip over the downrigger cable and close the
clip. Now grasp the shorter lead of the two releases and
place it on the downrigger cable above the clip. These two
steps position the stacker at a predetermined location above
the main line and insure it stays put. The final step is
to take the line from the second rod and place it between
the jaws of the second release on the stacker. Lower the
downrigger weight to the desired depth and you are ready
to fish not one, but two lines effectively.
It is important to run the higher of the two lines with
a shorter lead length to avoid tangles. Also, make sure
the short lead on the stacker is attached to the downrigger
cable and the longer lead to the second line. This also
avoids any problems with line tangles.
Off Shore Tackle produces two different stacker releases
for the avid downrigger angler. The OR-7 Light Tension Stacker
Release has just the right amount of resistance for trolling
up walleye, browns, spring coho and other small fish. Designed
to function best with 10-25 pound test line, the OR-7 is
a workhorse among stacker releases.
The OR-2 Medium Tension Stacker Release was built with
salmon and steelhead fishing in mind. Ideally suited for
10-25 pound test lines, the OR-2 is the most popular stacker
release ever developed.
Fishing stacker releases is the best way to get maximum
value from expensive downriggers. Fishing two lines from
a single rigger is the fast track to trolling success.
Back to Top
WIRE AND WALLEYE
By Mark Romanack
For those not familiar with handlining, it's one of the
most unique and unorthodox river trolling techniques ever
developed. Handlining got its start on the Detroit and St.
Clair Rivers in Eastern Michigan, 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 handlining or how it can help anglers catch more walleye.
Handline fishing is exactly what the name implies. The
angler does not 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 tunk bottom.
Currently the most popular reel for handlining is produced
by Riviera Trolling Systems. The Riviera Kachman reel (Part
Number RCWIRE) comes pre-spooled with braided wire, a rail
mount 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 handlining.
The object of handlining 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 handlining such as the
famous No. 11 Rapala Floating Minnow, but a wealth of other
stickbaits and even spinner concoctions are often used by
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,
handlining 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
can not determine however 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
Handlining has been practiced and refined for generations.
There are very few ways to improve on the basic handlining
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
anglers can not match.
To the casual observer, it appears that handlining 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
angler has found a "spot on the spot" that's holding
fish, it becomes second nature to make repeated passes over
the structure that's holding fish. By quartering into the
current, the angler can present his trailing lures to fish
that the boat has not passed over. 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.
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 game.
The tradition of fishing spring walleye in rivers is alive
and well. Maybe with the help of handlining it is time to
start a new tradition?
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