Home > Articles > 2005 Articles
Please scroll down to view all articles or select individual articles from the following list:

DISCLAIMER: Product features, opinions and/or contact numbers may have changed since the following article was written.

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 and when.


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.


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 walleye.


Back to Top

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 year.

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.


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 Release.

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.


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

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!


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 back.

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.


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 System.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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 speeds.

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 larger cousins.


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.


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.


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 fishing monofilament.

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 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.


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 winners.

Back to Top

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 of lines.


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 mast.

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.


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.


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.


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.

Back to Top

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 for them.

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.

Back to Top

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 Lakes.

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

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.


Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

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.


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.


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 release.

Back to Top

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.


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

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 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, 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!


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?

Back to Top