A WORD ON ROD HOLDERS
By Mark Romanack
Rod holders are an essential part of any fishing boat.
Depending on the type of boat and fishing to be undertaken,
a few or a lot of rod holders might be in your future.
As essential as rod holders are, they have a nasty habit
of ending up in the wrong places and in the way much of
the time. This in part happens because different types of
trolling require the rod holders to be mounted in different
positions around the boat. Because anglers are always trying
to save a buck or two, they tend to scrimp on the number
of rod holders purchased. Making due with less is a good
thing, but in the case of rod holders having too many is
far better than not having enough.
SADDLE OR TUBE TYPE HOLDERS?
Anglers can choose from two distinctively different types
of rod holders. Models that are designed to cradle the reel
and pistol grip of the rod are known as saddle style. This
style of rod holder is normally mounted to the top or inside
edge of the gunwale. The rod holder can be adjusted both
up and down and about 180 degrees sideways, making them
very useful for managing a lot of rods in a small space.
The base used with a saddle type holder is permanently mounted,
but the holder itself can be moved from one location to
another. Because the bases are relatively inexpensive, they
can be mounted in various spots in anticipation of different
fishing situations. Most saddle style holders are made of
plastic or nylon, but a few are engineered from cast metal
or cold rolled steel that's plastic coated to protect the
The other common rod holder type is a plastic or metal tube
that accepts the butt of the rod. Tube style holders are
most often seen on larger boats, but they can be used effectively
on any size fishing platform. Some tube type holders are
designed with a base that can be mounted on just about any
flat surface. Most tube type rod holders however have a
base system that slips into a track. This metal track accepts
only certain brand rod holders and mounts on the gunwale
of the boat. The length of this track determines how many
rod holders can be positioned next to one another. Most
tube type holders only adjust up and down, allowing the
rod to be positioned parallel to the water or increasingly
towards the vertical position. Some of the better engineered
tube type holders also allow the rod tube to be tilted a
few degrees left or right of center.
Tube type rod holders made of stainless steel are without
question the strongest available rod holders. They are also
the most expensive to purchase. In spite of the cost, a
quality stainless steel tube type rod holder is essential
for certain fishing applications.
Fishing diving planers is one good example. Divers are large
in size, they have a tremendous amount of pull when trolled
at high speeds and the added strain of a tackling big fish
means they must really be able to take a beating. A lot
of rod holders are likely to break under this kind of strain.
When a rod holder fails, the angler not only suffers the
loss of a fish, but often an expensive rod and reel!
In general it could be said that saddle style rod holders
are better designed for small to medium sized fish like
walleye or pike, while tube type holders are stronger and
better suited for fishing salmon, steelhead, striper and
saltwater species. This is not completely accurate. A number
of saddle style holders are plenty strong to function on
a salmon or striper boat. Price is usually a good indicator
of the strength and quality of a saddle style holder.
TAKE A MINUTE
The biggest problem with rod holders is they are often mounted
without a lot of thought given to how they must function
in and among other essential gear. Before you start drilling
holes and mounting rod holders, take a minute, sit in the
boat and imagine how you'll be fishing. Form a mental picture
of where rod holders will be essential and where they may
get in the way.
I wish I had a walleye in the freezer for every time I've
seen rod holders mounted in direct conflict with swivel
seats, rod lockers, storage compartment lids, downriggers
and even other rod holder types! Most of these mistakes
can be eliminated with just a little planning and patience.
PLANER BOARD FISHING
One of the biggest advantages to fishing planer boards is
the ability to run a lot of lines. With a dual or triple
board planer system it's not uncommon to fish five or more
lines per side of the boat! Even when using in-line planer
boards a lot of anglers manage three or even four lines
Managing all these lines and avoiding tangles requires a
system of both rod placement and rod angle. Say you want
to fish three planer board lines per side of the boat. The
best way to organize these lines so they function well and
take up the least amount of space is to position them in
a bank with each holder eight to 12 inches apart.
On my boats I mount an extra rod holder in this bank. The
extra holder comes in handy when I'm clearing a line to
make room to fight a fish. Instead of reeling this line
all the way in, I often simply swing it over to the other
side of the boat so it isn't in the way while I'm fighting
a fish. This simple and easy trick has saved me lots of
grief and broken rods over the years.
Planer board rod holders need to be mounted between the
transom and the steering wheel. My rule of thumb is to keep
these rod holders near the back 1/3 of the boat.
Of these holders, the one mounted the furthest forward becomes
the outside line. The next one in line moving towards the
transom becomes the middle line and the rod holder mounted
closest to the transom is used for the inside line.
To prevent the fishing lines from touching one another when
the boat turns, I like to adjust the rod angle so the rod
furthest forward is pointing straight up. The next rod in
line is angled slightly towards the water and the third
rod in line is angled a little more. Staggering the rod
tips helps to keep the lines from swimming over one another
and getting crossed in a turn.
Most downriggers come equipped with at least one tube type
rod holder. If the downrigger has the option of adding a
second rod holder, take advantage of this useful option.
The second rod holder allows the rigger to be used with
stacker lines doubling the usefulness of the downrigger.
Even if you don't plan to use stacker lines, the second
rod holder will come in handy when repositioning lines while
fighting a fish or while running from spot to spot.
Diving planers are critical to many trolling situations.
The position of rod holders to be used with divers is also
critical. Make sure there is plenty of room between rod
holders for divers and the downriggers. The last thing you
want is your diver lines to touch the downrigger cable.
On most boats space limitations require that diver rod holders
be mounted forward of the downriggers.
I prefer tube type holders for fishing divers, but quality
saddle styles can also be used. Either way, this rod holder
must be adjustable for vertical and horizontal travel. When
two divers are fished on the same side of the boat, one
should be set to run a little deeper than the other to avoid
I manage divers by placing the rod holders in banks of two
or three similar to those used for planer board fishing.
The deepest diver is positioned in the rod holder closest
to the transom. This holder is also set so the rod is almost
parallel to the water surface. The second rod (which is
fishing closer to the surface) is positioned slightly forward
and the rod tip is angled a little more off the water to
provide separation between these two lines.
Vertical rod holders called rocket launchers are often mounted
on the top rail of hard top boats. This provides a handy
place for storing rods while motoring to the fishing grounds
or between fishing spots. Rocket launchers can also be a
handy place for fishing planer board lines or lead core
lines on larger boats.
I use this same concept in my smaller walleye boat by mounting
six inexpensive plastic rod tubes across the wall of the
livewell in my boat. The livewell runs across the entire
back of the boat, providing me with lots of room to mount
additional rod holders used primarily for transporting rods
while the boat is on plane. In a pinch these tube type holders
can also be used for planer board fishing or to hold a Snap
Weight or other rig fished on a flat line.
SMALL BOAT OPTIONS
Those who fish from cartop style boats or on fly-in vacations
will have need for portable rod holders. To be useful these
rod holders have to be strong and adaptable enough to fit
on just about any gunwale design.
I've been using Cabela's 360 C-Clamp Mount Rod Holders for
several years on fly-in adventures and they adapt well to
all the boats I've fished in. Made of tough nylon this saddle
style holder has a full range of vertical and horizontal
adjustment. At least a couple of these holders should go
on every fly-in fishing trip.
ROD HOLDER LIFTS OR EXTENSIONS
Saddle style rod holders sometimes need to be fitted with
lifts or extensions so the butt of the rod handle can completely
clear the gunwale. Depending on the brand of rod holder,
these lifts are usually made of nylon or plastic and they
are reasonable in price. This style of rod holder is best
suited to use on small to medium sized fish.
BALL MOUNT ROD HOLDERS
Both saddle and tube type holders are produced in versions
that feature a round ball mounted to a gimbal pin and base.
This style of rod holder offers endless adjustment options
and fits well in tough spots. The only drawback to these
ball mount rod holders is in hot weather. The ball can become
soft and no matter how tightly the clamp is turned, the
rod holder still moves under pressure.
ROD HOLDER BRANDS TO CONSIDER
These are all outstanding rod holders that will serve the
angler well year after year.
Check out these websites for more details.
(Riviera Trolling Systems Incorporated)
Back to Top
By Mark Romanack
Call me crazy, but I live for fast fishing action. The
kind of rod bucking, high-fiving excitement that can only
come from hooking doubles and triples! Give me nonstop trolling
action, a box full of fish and I'm a happy angler.
Trolling action like this is hard to come by, but not during
April along the southern most part of Lake Michigan. From
St. Joe, Michigan to Michigan City, Indiana, Lake Michigan
is alive with coho action and bonus king salmon, steelhead
and brown trout. Most charter captains working these waters
routinely put their clients on limit catches daily. In fact,
weather is about the only thing that can get in the way
of fishing success.
Even weather isn't a big concern along the southern shores
of Lake Michigan. Prevailing winds at this time of year
are from the west and southwest, providing anglers with
some amazingly calm fishing waters. Also, much of the best
fishing takes place in shallow water near shore, making
this fishery ideal for the small boat owner who might otherwise
not get an opportunity to target Great Lakes trout and salmon.
Captains Bill Bale and Dave Engel have fished these waters
of Lake Michigan each spring for more than a decade. Legends
on the salmon tournament circuits for their ability to catch
fish in every port they visit, the secret to their success
has a lot to do with the amazing amount of time they spend
on the water refining their skills and pinpointing the most
METHOD NUMBER ONE
"You can catch coho at Michigan City using a lot of
different kinds of tackle, but two methods produce best
for us," says Captain Engel. "In early April when
the water is still cold, slow trolling crankbaits like the
Rapala No. 7 Taildancer or stickbaits like the Storm ThunderStick
is the best approach. Keep the speed at 2 MPH or less and
use planer boards to spread out the lines."
Captain Engel favors the in-line planer boards for early
season coho trolling. "In-line boards like the Off
Shore OR31 SST are easy to rig and fish. We start by threading
an OR29 Speed Bead on the line about three or four feet
in front of our lure. This bead is to catch the planer board
when it releases and slides down the line."
"Next up we set our lead length using line counter
reels," adds Captain Bale. "On our boats we use
the Shimano Takota reels and have found them to be the highest
quality and most dependable available."
Once the lead length is set, the SST board is placed on
the line. "To insure the board will release smoothly,
we take the fishing line and wrap it around a finger and
twist six or eight wraps into the line," explains Engel.
"The OR19 front release (orange) on the board is opened
and the twisted line placed between the rubber pads. Next
the line is placed in a snap swivel mounted at the back
of the board."
Rigged in this manner the SST is ready to slip over the
side and let line play out while the boat is trolling forward.
These boards can be set to fish up to 150 feet out to the
side, stacking two, three or even four lines per side as
"When a fish hits, the board rockets backwards in
the water," says Bale. "I grab the rod from the
holder and snap the rod tip just enough to cause the line
to pop free from the front release. When the board trips,
it immediately starts to slide down the line."
"Don't be in a big hurry to reel in the fish,"
cautions Engel. "Give the board a few seconds to slide
down the line and the fish an opportunity to rise in the
water column a little. This insures that when the fish is
reeled in, one line won't cross over another."
Perhaps the biggest mistake anglers fishing in-line boards
make is pumping the rod too much during the fight. This
potentially pulls the board up and out of the water, increasing
the chances the board will drop at the wrong moment, catch
a wave and dive.
"When we're fighting fish on boards, we have the angler
keep the rod tip level or low to the water and reel the
fish in smoothly with as little rod pumping as possible,"
says Bale. "The rod tip isn't lifted until the board
and fish are close enough to the boat to net. This is especially
necessary when fishing lead core or copper line where the
board is fixed onto the line and not allowed to release."
METHOD NUMBER TWO
The second coho method that works well in southern Lake
Michigan is a Howie Fly fished behind the small size orange
Luhr Jensen dodger. "Coho are well known for being
attracted to gaudy colors like fire red, orange, pink and
other bright colors," says Bale. "At the terminal
end, we tend to have the best success with green, or blue
flies that have some silver or gold tinsel."
"We start to fish dodger/fly combinations in mid April
when the water warms a bit," says Engel. "Like
the crankbaits, this rig is best fished in combination with
an in-line planer board."
To rig a dodger/fly combination, start by threading a one
ounce egg sinker onto the line. Tie in a barrel swivel and
then add a two foot leader of fluorocarbon leader from the
swivel to the dodger. The fly itself is tied on a 18-24
inch leader and attached to the dodger.
"We can't say enough about using fluorocarbon for
all leader materials," says Bale. "Last year we
started using the Gamma fluorocarbon leader material in
20# test and we feel it makes a huge difference in the number
of strikes and also the percentage of fish landed."
The dodger/fly combinations are presented using in-line
boards which make up the majority of the lines set. "Normally
we'll run four SST boards per side and then fill in the
remaining rods with a diver line on each side of the boat
and a downrigger line or two," says Engel. "Spoons
are the most common lure used on the diver lines and also
on the riggers. This trolling set up allows us to cover
the entire water column and also to present a variety of
lures and lure colors."
SUMMING IT UP
Coho make up the majority of the catch. Most of the fish
are 16-20 inches in length and the perfect size for the
table. Seasoned in anglers will also catch steelhead, brown
trout and a significant number of two and three year old
One of the few places in the Great Lakes where anglers
can enjoy a consistent diet of mixed bag fishing, it's common
for anglers to catch their five fish limit during April
and into early May. As the month of May grinds on, a significant
number of the coho make their way west and north up into
Illinois waters. Most of the kings start their annual migration
north and east along the Michigan shoreline.
Once this huge concentration of fish leave the bottom of
Lake Michigan, finding them becomes the major challenge.
MICHIGAN CHARTER BOAT ASSOCIATION
BEST CHANCE PROMOTIONS (Captains Bale & Engel)
MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
Back to Top
COLOR CODED LINE RELEASES
BY Mark Romanack
No single line release can function properly in all trolling
situations. Fortunately, Off Shore Tackle produces a wide
variety of line releases designed for downrigger fishing,
downrigger stacking, fishing with dual and triple planer
boards, fishing with in-line (Side Planer) planer boards,
attaching weights to trolling lines and even fishing for
extra hard to hook muskie and saltwater species.
To better help the angler understand the function of each
of these many products, Off Shore Tackle uses a color coding
system that allows anglers to judge the spring tension of
their releases at a glance.
Off Shore Tackle produces three different downrigger style
line releases. The OR4 is white and features the lightest
spring tension of the three. Designed for fishing walleye,
brown trout, spring coho salmon and in-land lake trout species,
the OR4 features large rubber pads that provide anglers
the option of burying the line deep to increase tension
or setting the line near the edge of the pad to reduce the
The OR1 was the original Off Shore Tackle product. Today
the OR1 (black) continues to be a top seller and favorite
downrigger release for anglers targeting salmon, steelhead,
striper, deep water lakers and other large fish. Like the
OR4, the OR1 has large pads that allow the angler to customize
the amount of release tension desired depending on water
depth and trolling speed.
The OR8 is red to indicate a stronger spring tension. This
extra heavy tension release actually incorporates two springs
to insure a solid grip on heavy lines. Designed for musky
fishing and also hard to hook saltwater species, the OR8
provides the extra holding power to insure a positive hookset
when trolling in deep water, at high speeds or for hard
to hook species. This release is also the top choice for
fishing dodgers, flashers or rotators like the Luhr Jensen
DUAL AND TRIPLE PLANER BOARD RELEASES
Dual and Triple planer boards require line releases that
provide just the right amount of spring tension. If the
release has too light a tension, false releases and missed
fish are the result. If the release triggers too hard, fish
can be needlessly dragged or it can be difficult to trigger
the release. Getting that "just right" spring
tension is the job of several Off Shore Tackle releases.
The popular OR10 (yellow) line release has a light tension
ideal for fishing eating sized walleye. A favorite among
anglers on Lake Erie, the OR10 has two tension settings.
With the spring in the rearward position the tension is
at the lightest setting. To increase the spring tension
simply slide the spring into the forward position.
The OR3 (white) line release has a light spring tension,
but a larger in diameter rubber pad. The large rubber pads
allow anglers to adjust the release tension simply by how
deeply the line is buried into the release. Popular with
big water walleye anglers, the OR3 is also very useful for
board trolling situations that target spring coho, brown
trout, pink salmon or trout living in in-land lakes.
The OR14 (black) sees double duty as a dual board line release
and in-line planer release. The standard equipment release
provided on the OR12 Side Planer board, this release is
also widely used by dual board trollers. The OR14 is black
and the spring tension is slightly heavier than it's cousin
the OR10. Like the OR10, the OR14 has a sliding spring adjustment
that allows anglers to choose from two tension setting.
In the rearward position the spring tension is at the lightest
setting. Simply by sliding the spring into the forward position,
the release tension is increased. The OR14 finds itself
used most often by walleye trollers, but this release is
also ideal for trolling other small to medium sized species
including brown trout, wipers, coho, pink salmon, northern
pike and others. The OR14 also finds a lot of use as an
add-a-line release for anglers who fish downriggers frequently.
Moving up the spring tension scale, the OR17 (black) is
simply the popular OR1 downrigger release rigged with a
shower curtain hook so it can be used as a dual or triple
planer board release. The medium tension of this release
is ideal for hooking larger fish including salmon, steelhead,
stripers and small to medium sized saltwater species.
The OR16 Snap Weight Clip (red) is not a line release at
all. The extra strong spring tension and pin design of this
product insures the OR16 stays put on the line. Used primarily
for fishing Snap Weights, the OR16 is also commonly used
on the OR12 Side Planer when fishing in rough seas or trolling
at faster speeds.
The orange OR19 boasts the same heavy spring tension of
the OR16, but without the pin. This strong, but small release
is perfect for fishing dual and triple boards and species
like northern pike, steelhead, striper and salmon that are
often very difficult to hook securely.
The OR30 (red) is the heaviest spring tension release in
the Off Shore Tackle line up designed for dual and triple
board fishing. The extra strong spring tension is ideal
for fishing heavy lines, fast trolling speeds and powerful
fish. The OR30 is a favorite of musky trollers on Lake St.
Clair and saltwater anglers everywhere.
SUPER BRAID RELEASE
All of the Off Shore Tackle line releases but one are designed
to function with monofilament line. The OR18 Snapper (black)
is designed to hold slippery braided lines. Most commonly
used in combination with the OR12 Side Planer, this release
has a screw tension adjustment that allows it to be set
at any tension desired. Anglers who are after a release
that works on super braid and monofilament lines need to
look no further than the OR18 Snapper.
No single line release can do it all and at Off Shore Tackle
there is a release that's perfect for every trolling chore
and line type. Once you get the hang of the color coding
system used, making the right line release choice is easy.
Back to Top
COPPER WIRE, THE NEXT BIG THING
By Captain Bill Bale
In the world of fishing there is always something that promises
to be the next big thing. I've been around fishing long enough
to remember when downriggers were getting all the hype. The
diving planer craze took hold soon after and then there was
the stainless steel wire thing. In recent years most of the
banter on the marine radios has been about lead core line
fishing. And so it goes.
In the humble opinion of this charter captain, the next big
thing in the world of Great Lakes trout and salmon fishing
is going to be copper wire. Softer and easier to work with
than stainless wire, copper wire has the necessary weight,
strength and handling characteristics to make it angler friendly.
Like stainless wire and lead core line, copper wire gets it
depth based on the weight of the line. What sets copper aside
is the diameter is thin enough to cut the water, but the line
is heavy enough to achieve substantial depth without using
excessively long leads.
The biggest disadvantage of using lead core is the huge amount
of line that must be deployed in order to reach the kinds
of depth trout and salmon frequent. Copper has the ability
to reach these depths with hundreds of feet less line out!
RIGGING UP WITH COPPER
Stainless wire and lead core are often spooled onto a reel
and fished as a continuous line. Copper wire is best fished
as a segment sandwiched between a monofilament leader and
monofilament backing. My favorite rig is 50 foot of 30 pound
test monofilament tied to 300 feet of copper wire which is
in turn tied to 300 feet or more 30# test monofilament backing.
I also rig 200 and 400 foot segments of copper wire for fishing
shallower and a deeper waters.
Howie Tackle Company produces copper wire and on the package
an illustration shows how to connect monofilment line to copper
line. For more details on how to purchase and rig copper wire
Copper unlike lead core has absolutely no stretch, which is
why I favor a monofilament backing. It's also critical to
have a reel with a smooth drag system. There is no margin
of error when working with copper.
HOW DEEP DOES IT RUN?
Based on using copper extensively for over a year, I feel
that 200 feet of copper wire runs about the same depth as
one core of 27# lead core line. A spool of 300 foot of copper
wire runs about the same depth as a core and a half of lead
core and 450 feet of copper will reach about the same depth
as two cores of lead core.
WHAT REELS ARE BEST?
It takes a big reel to fish copper line, in part because the
wire takes up a lot of space and the necessity of a monofilament
backing. I favor the Shimano 800 series Takota reels for fishing
AT THE TERMINAL END
Copper wire can be used to fish a wide variety of lures and
attractors. I use copper primarily when fishing spoons, J-Plugs
and crankbaits, but copper can also be used with dodgers,
flashers and rotators. FISHING WITH PLANER BOARDS
Copper wire can readily be fished in combination with in-line
planer boards. I use an Off Shore Tackle OR31 Side Planer
SST board rigged with a snap swivel at the back of the board
instead of the factory provided pigtail. This swivel allows
me to remove the board quickly when a heavy fish is on the
Rigging a planer board line with copper is easy. Begin by
letting out the lure, leader and all the copper wire on the
reel. The OR31 is then placed on the monofilament backing
by pinching open the OR19 release and burying the line as
deep in the rubber pads as possible. The snap swivel on the
back of the board is then opened and the line placed inside
and the snap closed.
Rigged in this way, the board will stay put on the line. When
the board is rigged onto the backing, I drop the board into
the water and allow line to free spool from my reel for a
few yards to get the whole rig away from other lines. When
I'm sure the copper line is far enough back to clear divers
and downrigger lines, I engage the reel and let the board
work it's way out to the side.
When fishing multiple lines per side, I like to set the most
shallow lines out furthest to the side and the deeper lines
closer to the boat. This helps to prevent tangles when setting
lines and fighting fish.
When fighting a fish on copper wire, it helps to keep the
rod tip low and the board in the water as long as possible.
If the rod is held high, the board may pop out of the water
and upon reentry can dive. I simply keep the rod tip down
until the board is within reach of the boat, then lift the
rod, remove the board and continue to fight the fish in one
smooth motion. Once the board is off the line a high rod position
works best for finishing the fight.
WHAT ABOUT THE HARMONICS?
Some anglers are saying that copper wire carries a low voltage
electric current into the water that attracts fish. I can't
say that this is actually happening, but I do notice that
copper seems to catch more fish than lead core line. When
I fish the two lines at the same time, the copper routinely
catches more fish. Is it harmonics, electric current or something
else at work? I can't say for sure, but copper works and there
doesn't seem to be any reason to fix that situation.
DISADVANTAGES OF COPPER
One thing you don't want with copper wire is a tangle or kink
in the wire. Once the line is kinked, it must be discarded.
A kinked or snarled wire loses most of its strength. Also
there is no practical way to splice two pieces of copper wire
back together again.
Use extra care when setting lines to avoid backlashes. Keeping
the line clicker engaged is a good way to keep the spool from
THE NEXT BIG THING
Copper wire may well be the next big thing in Great Lakes
trolling. Charter captains like myself are running three or
four lines per side, but I'd suggest that recreational anglers
start out with one or two copper lines. There is little doubt
that copper works and in the world of open water trolling,
who can afford not to give it a try?
NOTE: To book a charter fishing trip with Captain Bill Bale,
you can contact him on his cell phone at 616-292-6098.
Back to Top
HANDLINING FOR WALLEYE
By Mark Romanack
Imagine a fishing "system" that's so efficient at
presenting lures that no other presentation can compare. Imagine
a "system" that literally vacuums up every walleye
in the vicinity. Imagine other nearby anglers watching in
amazement as you land fish after fish, while they seemingly
can't get a bite.
Now imagine all of this happening without the benefit of a
fishing reel, rod or even live bait. If all this is hard to
imagine, you've never had the pleasure of fishing with a handline.
In the world of river walleye fishing, handlining is without
question the most "unique" way that anglers target
For those of you who are not familiar with handlining, it's
a very unique, somewhat unorthodox and just about always productive
river trolling technique. Until recently handline fishing
has been primarily limited to a pair of rivers located along
the eastern border of Michigan. The St. Clair and Detroit
Rivers are collectively two of the most important spawning
areas in the Great Lakes for walleye. Countless fish from
Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and as far away as Saginaw Bay migrate
to these rivers each spring to spawn.
Handlining got its start on these Michigan rivers, but it
works anywhere anglers fish for walleye in flowing water.
Tournament anglers have carried this technique far and wide
with impressive success. Still, the average weekend angler
knows little about handlining or how it can help anglers catch
Handline fishing is exactly what the name implies. The angler
doesn't use a traditional rod or reel to fight the fish, but
instead pulls the fish in hand over hand until it can be netted
or simply flipped into the boat. A spring loaded reel loaded
with braided wire is mounted to the boat and used to manage
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.
The most popular reel for handlining (RCWIRE) is produced
by Riviera Trolling Systems Incorporated (989-738-5700) based
out of Port Austin, Michigan. The RCWIRE comes with a Kachman
automatic retrieval hand line reel pre-spooled with 200 feet
of 60 lb coated wire, a Tempress rod holder adapter, an aluminum
clamp mount that fits ¾" to 1 ¼" rails
to conveniently fit the reel to the boat, a 5 foot trolling
shank, a 1 ¼ lb. lead weight and an allen wrench. The
angler only needs to add his own leaders and lures to get
The object of handlining is to use the weight to maintain
contact with the subtle 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, pencil
plugs 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
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's
fishing on the starboard side or left hand if he's 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's no wonder this unusual trolling technique
is so effective.
When a fish strikes, the bite is rather easy to detect through
the wire line. The angler can't however determine if the fish
is hooked on the top or bottom leader. By simply allowing
the spring loaded reel to collect the wire, the angler gently
pulls the fish to the surface until the shank comes into view.
At this point the angler checks each leader to determine which
one has hooked a fish. Without slowing his forward motion,
the angler then pulls the fish in hand over hand until it
can netted or if the fish is small flipped over the side of
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
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 walleyes 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's easy to identify areas that feature hard bottoms, drop
offs, depressions in the bottom or other structural features
that walleyes 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 fisherman 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's 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.
Handlining may not be for everyone, but don't knock it until
you've tried it. Frankly, it's hard to imagine a river fishing
technique that could do a better job of keeping lures in the
strike zone. Effective in clear, stained and even dirty 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.
Imagine catching walleye at will and you'll have a good idea
how deadly handlining can be.
Back to Top
HOW TO USE CUT BAIT EFFECTIVELY
By Larry Hartwick
One nice thing about Great Lakes trolling is that we seldom
get bored and stuck in the "same stuff, different day
mode". There is always something better, faster, stronger
around the corner that will be hailed as the newest and
greatest to ever grace the fishing department shelves. Sometimes
these are nothing more than a "flash in the pan",
while others prove their effectiveness and are added to
the ever growing arsenal that we haul around the lakes trying
to be the latest "Pied Piper of the Fish".
For several years I resisted using cut bait, stating that
I didn't need it to catch fish. We had used a version of
cut bait for about 20 years and while it was effective,
most of the time we didn't need it to box a limit. Times
change and so does the Great Lakes. The massive algae blooms,
that colored our water green are gone and have been replaced
with ultra clear blue water that makes viewing dodgers and
flashers at depths of 50 feet possible. Who would have imagined
this scenario 20 years ago?
What has changed in cut bait? For starters we can buy it
already processed instead of picking up fish in the round
at a fish market and tediously converting it into bait strips.
What a revolution! I can't begin to explain how much work
it was starting from a whole sucker! Now a stop at the local
tackle shop to pick up a couple tubs of strips, and you're
ready to go with bait. Also at a price that is much better
than what we would have into a sucker strip if we had ever
counted our time involved in the process.
Using a cut bait rig is really easy. It is probably one
of the easiest techniques to date to master in a short amount
of time. Fishing cut bait requires the use of a "Cut
Bait Rig" which is a 5 foot rig that starts at the
front of the rig with a bead chain swivel. This keeps everything
from getting twisted. Following the bead chain is a series
of three flies that are equally spaced apart. These are
strictly for color, flash and ultimately attraction. Following
behind the three flies is the bait head that will hold the
cut bait strip. The bait strip is inserted into the bait
head and held in place by inserting a round toothpick thru
the bait head and also the bait strip. Sound complicated?
It's not, stick a strip in the head, run a toothpick thru
the head and strip, break the toothpick ends off flush with
the sides of the bait head and it's ready to go. The hooks
trail along side and slightly behind the strip and are independent
of the bait strip. Now it is just a matter of picking out
a flasher or rotater that you want to use and hook the "Cut
Bait Rig" to it.
The flashers are normally fished from 3-12 feet behind
an OR8 Heavy Tension Release although you can experiment
with different lead lengths. Keep in mind the flashers cut
a larger circle in the water as the length behind the ball
increases. You only need enough distance to achieve a nice
roll on the bait. The bait shouldn't be spinning like a
top, but should keep a continuous roll as it turns over
and over to create the desired attraction. If you use only
one "Cut Bait Rig" at a time, you really won't
see much difference in the catch rate as compared to any
other method. This method is most productive when two or
more flashers and "Cut Bait Rigs" are deployed.
One of the biggest differences that I have witnessed is
that it will light up fish all day long as opposed to the
morning and evening flurry that has been the norm. Like
anything else, the more you use it, the more effective you
will be. My personal preference is for using "Reel
Flashers" with Shure Strike Ultimate Cut Bait Rigs
behind them. Both come in a vast array of colors that will
match any situation that you are likely to encounter. These
can be fished on downriggers, divers, leadcore, copper wire,
planer boards or any other method being used in the Great
Lakes. One very effective
presentation when the fish were up in the water column,
was the use of the Riviera TPB (Triple
Planer Board) to deliver leadcore lines or mono lines. The
mono lines were weighted with weights
up to 8 ounces using OR16 Snap Weight Clips to keep them
attached to the line.
All are effective methods depending on the day. Yesterday's
fish are history and today is definitely
a different day, keep experimenting! Will you smell like
fish? Yes, but isn't that the point?
Note: You can contact Shure Strike by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Back to Top
POPULARITY OF IN-LINE BOARDS CONTINUES TO GROW
By Mark Romanack
The in-line planer board (AKA Side Planer) isn't exactly
a new fishing concept, but the ways anglers are finding
to better use these boards is newsworthy. Perhaps the best
way to describe these little boards is to say they are inexpensive,
versatile and highly effective. Those are some pretty powerful
alkaloids, but the in-line board deserves a lot of credit
for both catching fish and for getting anglers hooked on
New last year the OR31 Side Planer SST in-line board immediately
became popular with open water anglers. Similar to the popular
OR12 Side Planer, the OR31 is bright orange in color, comes
without the flag and is equipped with an OR19 Adjustable
Heavy Tension Planer Board Release. Ideal for fishing lead
core, copper wire, mini disks, Snap Weights and a wealth
of other trolling hardware, the OR31 was designed with salmon,
trout and stripper fishing in mind.
Factory rigged for fishing the release and slide method
of board rigging, the OR31 SST is perfect for stacking several
lines per each side of the boat. The illustration shows
how to twist the line while rigging the SST to release easily
when a fish strikes, sending the board sliding down the
line. The trick here is to create a loop of line that is
pinched between the jaws of the release. When a fish strikes
the loop of line is easily pulled free, sending the board
sliding down the line via the snap swivel mounted at the
back of the board.
For fishing situations that require the board to remain
fixed on the line, the factory rigged OR19 works great.
Simply open the release and bury the line as deep as possible
between the rubber pads. Close the release and clip the
snap swivel over the line. Rigged in this manner, the board
will remain on the line and must be reeled in as the fish
is fought. When the board is close enough to the boat to
reach, the board is removed and the fight continued. This
rigging method is preferred by anglers who fish lead core
and copper wire rigs.
Ironically, the OR31 has also made a big splash with walleye
and general purpose trollers. Walleye guys who stack several
lines per side like the OR31 SST because it is rigged from
the factory for the release and slide method of board fishing.
Some anglers mix OR31 and OR12 boards in the same trolling
pattern using the yellow OR12 boards on one side and the
orange OR31 boards on the other!
Both the OR31 and OR12 boards function best when fished
on monofilament lines. If braided lines are used, we suggest
upgrading to the OR18 Snapper Release. This cam action release
can be adjusted tight enough to hold the most slippery superbraid
lines without fail. That's part of the versatility of Off
Shore Tackle in-line (Side Planer) boards. A number of different
releases can quickly be rigged on these boards for specific
trolling situations, line types, trolling speeds and other
applications. No other in-line board is as versatile or
dependable as the OR12 and OR31.
The tattle flag kits continue to grow in popularity. Sold
only as an after market kit, it takes about five minutes
to rig an OR31 or OR12 board with a Tattle Flag kit (OR12TF).
Designed to telegraph light strikes and to indicate when
small fish or debris is being dragged, the Tattle Flag is
must have equipment for anyone who trolls for smaller fish,
with live bait, in waters where panfish or sheepshead are
common and in weedy waters.
The unique and foolproof spring adjustment of the Tattle
Flag allows this strike indicator to be used with a wide
range of fishing tackle. Reducing the spring tension makes
the flag more sensitive to light strikes. Increasing the
flag tension allows the Tattle Flag to be used with deep
diving crankbaits, Snap Weights and other trolling gear
that pulls hard in the water.
The perfect spring tension setting is when the flag leans
slightly backward. In this position the angler can actually
confirm that the lure is wobbling as the flag vibrates back
Until you've fished a Tattle Flag, you can't imagine how
often fish strike, but aren't hooked. The Tattle Flag telegraphs
both light and hard strikes, tipping off anglers to the
overall mood of the fish on any given day.
BOARD READING TRICKS
Effectively fishing in-line boards requires anglers to
develop board reading skills or the ability to determine
strikes. Newcomers to the world of in-line boards often
struggle at first with this chore. Even seasoned veterans
can have a tough time telling when a fish has been hooked
during turns or when fishing in rough water.
The best way to fish in-line boards is in pairs positioned
20-50 feet apart. A single board is tougher to read because
there is nothing to compare it to. When in-line boards are
fished as pairs, it's much easier to see if one board moves
slightly out of formation.
Fishing downwind is another trick that makes it easier
to read in-line boards. Traveling with the wind, the boards
tend to spread out better and follow a more predetermined
path. When a strike occurs, the movement of the board pulling
backwards can be detected easily. Also, because the boat
is moving in a steady direction constant pressure is maintained
on the fish. This helps the hooks to penetrate better and
reduces the chances of fish escaping. Trolling downwind
is also the best way to maintain a constant course, reduce
tangles and eliminate the need for someone manning the steering
wheel every second.
Fishing downwind is a good idea in calm seas, but especially
important in rough water. The rougher the water becomes,
the more difficult it is to read boards as they cut into
the waves. Simply going with the flow and fishing downwind
will make board fishing a more enjoyable experience.
Turns are when a lot of fish are hooked, but it is also
one of the more difficult times to detect strikes. When
the boat is turning, pay particular attention to the boards.
The outside lines which will be speeding up and often the
increased lure speed triggers strikes. If you suspect that
a fish has been hooked in a turn, grab the rod and pull
tight against the board. If the board seems unnaturally
heavy, chances are good you've hooked a fish.
While most of the strikes will occur on the outside lines,
don't ignore the inside lines that are slowing down. One
dead giveaway that an inside line has hooked a fish is when
the boat straightens back out and the board seems to be
lagging behind. If in doubt, check the line immediately.
It's better to find nothing wrong, than to drag a small
fish around needlessly. Using Tattle Flags will eliminate
this common problem associated with in-line boards.
It's also important when turning not to turn too sharply.
A sharp turn will allow the inside line to swim over top
of the outside line. Once the lines cross, the boards will
not return to their normal running position.
Making wide turns helps to keep the lines free of one another.
Another trick is to reel in the inside lines close to the
boat before making a turn. This allows the turn to be much
sharper without crossing lines in the process.
A WORD ON VERSATILITY
In-line boards can be used to target just about any species
that swims. Walleye anglers are perhaps the biggest fans
of in-line boards, but rigged correctly these boards can
be used to take Great Lakes salmon, trout and steelhead
as well. Striper anglers have literally fallen in love with
in-line boards. Nothing does a better job of spreading out
lines when working fish in open water that are found at
different water depths.
The next time you take a pike or walleye trip to Canada,
toss in a pair of in-line boards. You'll be amazed how many
untapped northern pike and walleye live in open waters far
from the nearest point or other structure.
In-line boards are also deadly for fishing inland trout
species, bass over the tops of emerging weed beds, musky
along weed lines, saltwater species that live on the shallow
flats and much more. It's hard to imagine a single fishing
tool that is more versatile and or better able to target
more species than the in-line board. Happy trolling in 2006.
Back to Top
SNAP WEIGHTS, THE 50/50 SYSTEM AND BEYOND
Back to Top
By Mark Romanack
Just about everyone who fishing open water uses trolling
weights of one type or another. The Off Shore Tackle Snap
Weight is a simple device that's designed to place weight
on the fishing line anywhere between the lure and the rod
tip. With a quick pinch between the thumb and forefinger,
a Snap Weight can be added or removed from the line, making
these the hands down "easy" ways of fishing trolling
When the Snap Weight system (OR20) was first introduced
several years ago, the need to establish some standards
for use and depth become obvious. The folks at Precision
Angling Specialists, the founders of Precision Trolling
developed a simple and easy method of fishing Snap Weighs
called the 50/50 system.
To use the 50/50 system all an angler needs to do is let
out his favorite trolling lure 50 feet behind the boat,
add a Snap Weight onto the line and then let out an additional
50 feet of trolling lead. When a fish is hooked the whole
rig is reeled in until the Snap Weight can be removed from
the line. It only takes a second to remove the Snap Weight
and continue fighting the fish.
Using scuba gear to document the running depths of Snap
Weights, Precision Trolling tested the 50/50 system with
1/2, 3/4, 1, 1 1/2, 2 and 3 ounce Snap Weights. These weight
sizes are the most commonly used among open water trollers.
The chart provided in Precision Trolling is based on three
common trolling speeds.
The 50/50 system is a great way to put Snap Weights into
service, but this only scratches the surface of the ways
Snap Weights can be used to troll up more walleye, pike,
salmon, trout, striper and other species.
Another simple way to manage Snap Weights is to use a single
weight size and an initial lead length of say 25 feet. To
vary the depth gradually increase the distance between the
Snap Weight and the rod tip until a productive pattern is
Snap Weights can also be used with much heavier weights
for targeting deep water species like striper or lake trout.
A Snap Weight clip will easily handle four, six and even
eight ounce trolling weights. By putting two Snap Weight
clips onto the same split ring, anglers can fish up to 16
ounces of weight without fear of losing the weight. Slick!
SNAP WEIGHT OR LEAD CORE?
The popularity of lead core trolling these days brings up
the question, which trolling system is better? The answer
is they both are! Snap Weights position the entire weight
in one spot on the line. Slight changes in boat speed and
wave conditions will cause the Snap Weight to rise and fall
rather quickly in the water column. Since the Snap Weight
is constantly searching the water column, they function
best in open water environments or when hunting for fish.
Lead core line spreads out the weight over a great distance.
Because the weight is dispersed, lead core line tends to
run a more consistent depth compared to Snap Weights. The
consistent running depth provided by lead core line makes
this system ideal for fishing bottom structure, contours
and also for specific depth fishing like targeting thermoclines.
Both Snap Weights and lead core line are useful trolling
tools. Don't limit your options by using just one method.
THE 20 PLUS METHOD
Snap Weights are most often used for getting walleye spinners
to depth, but they can also be used to gain additional depth
from floating/diving crankbaits. The staff at Precision
Angling Specialists discovered that a one ounce Snap Weight
placed 20 feet in front of a typical floating style crankbait
will increase the diving depth by about 1/3. In other words
a crankbait that would normally run 15 feet will run 20
feet when a one ounce Snap Weight is attached to the line.
This bit of useful information is a great way to get a little
more from deep diving crankbaits.
For even more information regarding Snap Weights check out
the publications Precision Trolling and Precision Trolling
Big Water Edition available at leading sporting goods stores
or on line at www.precisionangling.com.
CAN SNAP WEIGHTS BE USED WITH BRAIDED LINES?
Snap Weights were designed to function with monofilament
fishing lines. Snap Weights can be used with super braid
lines if the smaller weight sizes are employed. Using larger
trolling weight in combination with super braid lines may
cause the Snap Weight to pop off the line and be lost.
SUMMING IT UP
Snap Weights are without question the fastest and most convenient
means of adding weight to a fishing line. The 50/50 method
is a good place to start, but don't limit your fishing to
this popular rigging option.
SNAP WEIGHT TRICKS
By Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz
The Snap Weight (OR16 and red in color) is one of those
ideas that was way overdue. One thing about trolling that
always seems to hold true, is the constant need to control
lure depth. There simply is no easier way to add weight
to a trolling line than using an OR16 Snap Weight clip.
The OR16 was designed to quickly accept weights from 1/2
ounce to three ounces. For the majority of walleye trolling
chores weights from 1/2 to two ounces are ideal but many
anglers use larger weights including sizes up to four, six
and even eight ounces on their OR16 clips! The options of
adding or subtracting weight are almost endless thanks to
this simple and affordable invention.
The OR16 Snap Weight Clip looks like other Off Shore Releases,
but this product isn't designed as a line release, but rather
to hold trolling weights on the line at any point between
the lure and the rod tip. To use an OR16 simply pinch open
the OR16 clip and slip the line in behind the pin. The heavy
spring tension used on this clip insures the OR16 will remain
on the line where you want it. When the clip is allowed
to close, the line is held firmly between two rubber pads
and the pin is indexed into a hole in the bottom rubber
pad so there is simply no way the Snap Weight can pop off
Since the OR16 stays put on the line, the angler must remove
it when fighting a fish. The easiest way to remove a Snap
Weight is to have a fishing partner reach up and pinch open
the OR16 as it nears the rod tip. This process should take
no more than a second. Once the Snap Weight is removed,
resume the fight as normal.
With a Snap Weight, trolling weights can be added to the
line near the lure or anywhere on the line from the lure
to the rod tip. Ideal when targeting suspended fish, if
Snap Weights have any weakness it's that sometimes getting
a solid hookset is difficult when using heavier size weights
and light biting fish like walleye.
The illustration shows two typical Snap Weight set ups including
one with a heavier two ounce weight and another with a lighter
one ounce weight. Note that the two ounce Snap Weight runs
with a greater angle or bow in the line. When a fish strikes,
this bow or angle must be pulled tight before the fish can
be hooked securely.
A light biting fish like a walleye will often feel the resistance
and drop the bait before the line pulls tight. To avoid
this situation, try using a lighter weight (such as a one
ounce) and setting the lead length further back to help
compensate for lost depth. Because the smaller weight creates
a more modest angle or bow in the line, faster hook-ups
are achieved and even light biting fish have a difficult
time detecting anything unnatural.
MORE TIPS FOR LIGHT BITERS
This simple Snap Weight trick works wonders on light biting
walleye, but there are some other tips that can also help
put more fish in the boat. Instead of using single beak
style hooks for crawler harnesses, tie up your own harnesses
using two No. 6 Mustad Triple Grip treble hooks. Treble
hooks do a much better job of hooking and holding open water
fish. This goes double for light biters.
The Triple Grip is a super premium hook that's ultra sharp
and penetrates with the slightest pressure. To make this
hook grab and hold even better, take a pair of needle nose
pliers and bend each hook point slightly outward. When one
of the hook points bites, this slight modification causes
the hook to rotate and allow other points to also penetrate
into the fish.
LEARN TO DROP BACK
Walleye are notorious for following a bait that making a
half hearted effort to strike. Often the result is a lightly
hooked fish that almost immediately shakes free.
The OR12 Side Planer telegraphs these light strikes by sliding
backwards in the water momentarily, then pulling forward
again. If the OR12 has a Tattle Flag (OR12TF) attached,
the flag will go down for a couple seconds then pop right
When you see the board move or the flag drop and pop back
up, immediately free spool line from the reel for a few
yards. This allows the board to lay stationary in the water
and the trailing spinner to flutter and stall. When the
reel is popped back into gear and the board suddenly jerks
forward, trailing walleye will often strike at the rapidly
escaping lure. This simple trick really works to trigger
strikes from lethargic or otherwise light biting walleye.
Back to Top
THE NEED FOR SPEED
By Mark Romanack
Trollers have a need for speed. No matter if the target
fish are walleye, pike, muskie, salmon, trout or any number
of other species, trolling speed influences important variables
such as lure depth and lure action. Trolling speed also
creates what anglers refer to as a strike triggering response
or reaction strikes.
A number of things can trigger a strike response from fish
including lure flash, color, action, shape, smell and of
course lure speed. Most anglers rank speed near the top
of this list and anyone who has spent much time on the water
knows that trolling speed is often one of the most important
variables to recognize and control. Trolling speed is also
one of the easiest variables to experiment with.
THE PROBLEM WITH SPEED
The major problem with trolling speed is that communicating
this important information with other anglers can be difficult.
Trolling speed is most commonly measured by using one of
three different types of trolling speed indicators. The
most common type used are mechanical spinner wheels that
are mounted to the transom of the boat and interfaced with
a sonar unit. The second type are after market spinner wheels
that mount on the transom and incorporate an independent
dash mounted read out. The third type of speed indicator
are Global Positioning Systems that record trolling speed
simply as boat speed over ground.
All of these trolling speed indicators are accurate and
reproducible relatively speaking. However, since these different
types of units are not calibrated against one another, the
speed reading of one device rarely matches that of another.
You can prove this fact to yourself by incorporating two
or more speed indicators on your boat and noting how the
read outs rarely jive. Again this is largely because the
many different brands and models of speed sensing devices
do not have a standard they are all calibrated against.
Therefore it's safe to say that unless the person you're
trying to share information with is using exactly the same
brand and model of speed sensor, you're probably talking
apples and oranges when you share details about trolling
It's also important to note that wind and wave conditions
can have a huge impact on trolling speed. It's inherently
easier to monitor and maintain a specific trolling speed
when fishing downwind or with the flow of the waves. Trolling
into the waves causes the boat to periodically slow down
or hesitate because of wave pressure striking the hull.
Also the boat doesn't follow a direct course when traveling
into the wind, but instead wanders left and right of intended
line of travel further influencing forward speed.
Even if the help of an autopilot is employed, trolling speed
is almost impossible to maintain when trolling into the
wind. It's for this very reason that all the testing for
my popular book Precision Trolling is conducted in calm
seas or downwind in light seas. Precision Trolling is a
user guide that provides accurate and easy to understand
depth diving data for over 300 different crankbaits, snap
weights and other common trolling gear. The new 8th edition
also provides useful dive curves created using super braid
lines that appear right on the Dive Curve, not a difficult
to understand conversion chart. For more information check
out www.precisionangling.com or call 800-353-6958 and visit
with one of our staff members.
SPEED AS IT RELATES TO LURE DEPTH AND ACTION
Most anglers are of the opinion that lure speed has a significant
impact on lure diving depth. This is only partly true. Lures
such as crankbaits that float at rest and dive when pulled
through the water do not dive deeper as the trolling speed
When trolling a crankbait, water resistance striking the
bill of the lure forces the bait downward in the water column.
Meanwhile an equal upwards force in the form of increased
line friction prevents the lure from gaining depth despite
the fact that speed has been increased.
The primary ways to increase diving depth of floating/diving
lures is to lengthen the trolling lead or to reduce the
line diameter (thus reducing friction) used while trolling.
Any lure or trolling device that sinks is speed dependent
as relates to running depth. The slower these devices are
trolled the deeper they run and the faster they are trolled
the less depth they achieve. In short, trolling speed has
a greater impact on lure action and how fish relate to this
action than the depth achieved.
PICKING A TROLLING SPEED INDICATOR
Of the three common types of speed indicators, I favor the
after market types that feature an independent needle style
read out. Based on thousands of hours of on the water research
for Precision Trolling, I have come to the conclusion that
the data provided by most sonar mounted spinner wheels fluctuate
too wildly to be useful. These constant fluctuations in
trolling speed read out makes it difficult to determine
an accurate trolling speed or to maintain a consistent speed.
Moor Electronics produces three after market speed and surface
temperature units that are high quality, accurate and dependable.
The least expensive is the Osprey. When running at high
speeds, the spinner wheel on these units must be removed
from their housing to prevent damage. For a little more
money the Kingfish and Tournament Kingfish offer trolling
speeds from 0-6 mph and operational speeds up to 60 mph,
making them convenient to use and hassle free.
The large dial of the Kingfish units resembles the speedometers
found in older cars. When the spinner wheel which is larger
in diameter than other brands of spinner wheels begins to
move, the needle on the Kingfish unit responds instantly.
Because there is considerable space between the numbered
speed graduations it's easy to monitor minor changes in
trolling speed at a glance. Also, this important feature
allows anglers to maintain a desired speed with less oscillation.
These units can be deck or flush mounted as desired. For
more information on these machines, log onto www.moorelectronics.com.
Another speed control option is simple to use. Luhr Jensen
produces a speed control unit that mounts to the side of
the boat and features a lead weight the dangles into the
water. The faster the boat moves, the more this lead weight
swings backwards, moving a corresponding needle that indicates
trolling speed. While the Luhr Jensen product may not calibrate
exactly with other speed units on your boat, it is a good
indicator of minor changes in speed.
SUB SURFACE SPEED
For most trolling situations surface speed is what anglers
should be most concerned with. However, when faced with
deep water trolling chores, such as downrigger fishing on
the Great Lakes, a sub surface speed indicator can be invaluable.
Sub surface currents are more common than many anglers realize
and the direction of the water flow isn't necessarily downwind
as you might expect.
Sub surface currents are caused by thermal barriers in the
water column. Significant currents associated with these
thermal barriers may flow in any direction of the compass
and are completely unpredictable. To identify these currents,
a sub surface speed indicator is essential. Most of the
major downrigger companies sell sub surface speed and temperature
probes. Moor Electronics also produces a popular unit known
as the Sub-Troll 900.
When fishing in deep water it's important to monitor sub
surface currents and how these currents relate to lure trolling
speed. For example imagine your boat moving in a north direction
at a surface speed of 3 mph. Fifty feet below the surface
where your downrigger lines are fishing, a sub surface current
of 2 mph is moving south. The colliding sub surface current
and surface boat speed effectively cause the trailing lures
to move only 1 mph, not 3 mph like the surface speed suggests.
Lure action is greatly influenced by trolling speed and
a great deal of lures only function within a rather narrow
speed window. Without the help of a sub surface trolling
speed indicator it's impossible to determine either the
speed or presence of sub surface currents. It's like trolling
in the dark.
TROUBLE SHOOTING SPEED INDICATORS
Trolling speed indicators are often delicate and easily
damaged. Also, if these units are not properly installed
they will not yield accurate or consistent results.
The spinner wheel style indicators must be mounted on the
transom of the boat at the point where the transom and hull
meet. The bracket should be attached to the transom, while
the spinner wheel is exposed slightly below the hull so
it responds properly to water moving over the hull. On aluminum
boats make sure the speed indicator is mounted well away
from rivets, keels, chimes, outboards, livewell intakes
or anything else that disturbs the smooth flow of water.
When spinner wheels are used with trailerable boats, it's
a good idea to wrap a rubber band around the wheel to prevent
it from spinning needlessly as the boat is trailered down
the highway. If this simple step is not taken, eventually
the bushings will wear out and the spinner wheel will become
less accurate. Hitting these spinner wheels occasionally
with a spray style lubricant also helps to clean and keep
them spinning smoothly.
Most subsurface trolling speed indicators operate using
an antenna mounted to the downrigger and a sending unit
mounted to the downrigger cable near the weight. The cable
serves as a transmitter wire. This style of trolling speed
indicator is relatively trouble free and only requires a
9 volt battery to be replaced about once a year.
The trolling speed readings provided by GPS units are based
on satellite data that is constantly changing. This is why
you can often sit motionless at the dock and note that the
GPS speed over ground actually says you're moving. At high
speeds GPS speed over ground is very accurate, but at the
trolling speeds the speed over ground indicated will fluctuate
not unlike spinner wheel style speed indicators.
Anglers who take a serious look at trolling speed will find
that this easily manipulated variable is often the best
way to trigger more strikes and catch bigger fish. Everyone
who trolls has a need for speed.
Back to Top
TRIPLE PLANER BOARDS STILL GET R DONE
By Larry Hartwick
2005 was first year that the Riviera Triple Planer Boards
were available to the public. They definitely have filled
a gap between what a dual planer boards would do and what
anglers wanted them to do. With the resurgence of lead core
line and the ever increasing clarity of the Great Lakes,
anglers have been seeking alternative methods to deploy
more lines. It has been no secret that too many lines in
the water during the mid day periods would usually spell
out NO FISH in capitol letters. Another thing that is also
not a secret is the reluctance of anglers to take lines
out of the water. The TPB (Triple Planer Boards) have cured
most of that problem by allowing anglers to spread out their
lines over a much greater distance to the side of the boat.
The TPB will easily handle 4 full core rigs without giving
up much distance from the side of the boat.
Anglers fishing the famed Chesapeake Bay are also jumping
on the TPB band wagon in their quest for huge Striped Bass.
These anglers use some serious lures with some serious weight
when compared to what we use in the Great Lakes. One of
the common lures is an Umbrella Rig which can weigh 2 pounds.
That is the equivalent weight of 4 full core rigs. These
are serious rigs and I can tell you that I haven't talked
to many anglers fishing the Chesapeake Bay that were willing
to only fish one rig per side of the boat. These dilemmas
are normally what inspire changes and this was no exception.
The TPB got a new ballast system during mid season in 2005.
The results were excellent and the TPB can haul a lot more
"junk" thru the water than ever before. In fact,
we applied the same ballast changes to the DPB (Dual Planer
Board) for 2006 and you will see increased performance from
them as well.
One word of warning, the TPB is a serious planer board
that pulls out to the side of the boat very well. It can
be too much planer for some of the early mast set ups. Here
at Riviera Trolling Systems Incorporated, we spool all of
our masts with 200 pound test Dacron planer line because
we don't want to hear how many releases went in the water
when the tow line broke and we believe in using the best
products that are available. If your mast came with 135#
test line it would be wise to change to the good stuff.
We will never be content to sit back and watch. We are
constantly looking at new products and new ways to improve
our existing product line with the end result being to make
your time on the water more enjoyable. Fishing is supposed
to be fun! Enjoy it!
Back to Top
UP'S AND DOWN'S
By Captain Craig MacPhee
I found the 2005 fishing season to be just as challenging
as 2004. Just when we'd think we had it all figured out,
mother nature would once again show us who the boss was.
My home port is Harbor Beach, Michigan, which is on the
mid-western side of Lake Huron. The salmon fishery there
has greatly reduced over the past few years but the lake
trout fishery has been world class. We fished stretches
of Lake Huron from White Rock to Port Austin and found quality
lake trout to be abundant throughout. Although the fish
were abundant, we could tell there was definitely something
going on with the bait fish situation in the area. One day
the fish would be in Harbor Beach, and the next day the
same school of fish would be in 10-15 miles away. We had
to constantly stay on the fish that were following the few
bait fish that were around.
Although my home port is Harbor Beach, I spent most of
my summer tournament fishing the Great Lakes and chartering
on Therapy Too, Captained by Al Elzinga out of Port Austin,
Michigan. He is the owner of Huron Charter Service and has
spent upwards of 25 years in the charter business. Captain
Al worked with me showing me the ropes of the charter industry.
Our chemistry almost instantly clicked as I was eager to
learn and he had a wealth of knowledge to share. We both
found ourselves to be very competitive with one another
and it pushed us to work harder so our clients could catch
more fish. When I combine the tournament knowledge learned
from Riviera's well-known Larry Hartwick, and the charter
experience I learned from Captain Al, I consider myself
to be in the middle of some pretty good company. The experienced
gained in such a short time has been unbelievable.
While working those charters we found it necessary to fish
deep and utilize the new craze of "cut bait."
It was not uncommon for us to be fishing the bottom 10 feet
of water in depths of 100-150 feet. To accomplish this we
had to slow our speeds down and really target the area holding
the fish when we found them. While fishing cut bait, we
learned it is not important to throw the whole kitchen sink
at them and hope you'll get a bite. The important thing
is to fish 6-8 quality presentations in an area you know
there is fish, and capitalize when you get on them. It was
not uncommon for us to have 3, 4, 5 and even 6 fish on at
a time. What worked best for us day in and day out were
Opti-Dodgers and Reel Flashers rigged with Shure Strike
Ultimate Cut Bait Rigs. To obtain the trolling depths spoken
about with these set-ups, it was EXTREMELY important for
us to use quality high tension releases. Every boat I was
on this year, including my own, utilized the red Off Shore
Tackle OR8 Heavy Tension Releases on their downriggers.
This was not a coincidence by any means. Once you try them,
the difference between what you use now and the OR8 will
speak for itself. This release has great holding power even
under the pressure of big rotators in deep water. False
releases and the agony of re-setting a line 100 plus feet
down are a thing of the past. Rock-solid hook-ups are the
In between charter weekends I was on the road most of the
time fishing different tournaments. I've got a pretty awesome
wife and some pretty generous sponsors that help make it
This year I fished Lake Ontario on both the New York and
Canadian side, Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan on the entire
Michigan border. I do not consider opportunities like charter
fishing and tournament fishing "work". Sometimes
they are long hard hours, but in my opinion, they are a
profession but not "work".
The tournament season for me started off at Port Dalhousie,
Ontario, on Lake Ontario. This was my first time ever fishing
on Lake Ontario and I was anxious, as well as a bit nervous.
After arriving in Port Dalhousie, the nervousness quickly
went away. What I learned almost immediately was the Canadian
anglers are friendly, genuine people.
On the first day of the tournament we landed on the fish.
As I was setting out rod number 1, it took a rip 10 feet
behind the boat. I was in shock but we all agreed instantly
we were definitely in the right place. We were fishing a
surface program using body baits behind Off Shore Tackle
Company LLC's OR31 Side Planer SST boards with the OR18
Snapper Releases. As we managed to get 4 rods in the water
in a hurry, we had 3 fish almost immediately. This all happened
within the first 20 minutes of fishing and this set the
pace for the day. The boat I was fishing on had a Lowrance
X15 graph and it was set up perfectly. We were only fishing
in 20-30 feet of water but that graph did not lie. The X15
would mark a school of fish and 30 seconds later when our
planer boards came through we were hooked up. The ease of
retrieving and re-setting these boards made our first day
a good one. The stealth they provide was the key. Without
them, I know we would have ended up very frustrated because
our downriggers, although generally effective, did not take
Day two was completely different. We went to our GPS marks
from day one and made a pass. The Lowrance X15 graph was
blank but we "just knew" the fish were there.
Well, ultimately, they weren't. What we learned from this
tournament was if you have a Lowrance Sonar graph, ALWAYS
trust it, and to follow your pre-determined "plan B"
program; which we did not have.
I spent the next few months chartering and fishing various
tournaments throughout the Great Lakes. In one way or another,
the team I was on cashed checks just about every time. Our
best results happened when we fished Port Darlington, Ontario,
on Lake Ontario.
Gearing up for this tournament, we did a bit of team re-structuring
and came up with a good combination as a whole. Right off
the get go we all agreed to keep it "light" on
the boat and to listen to each others input whether it was
good or bad and make a team decision based on the scenario.
Our new Lake Ontario team consisted of myself along with
fellow Off Shore Tackle pro staffer, Lance Valentine, and
two of Canada's very own Deryk Hastie (Big D), and Skeiner.
If anyone was to call Skeiner by his own name of Adrian
I doubt they'd get his attention.
Once again, Canadian hospitality paid off for us. We had
never fished there before and did not know anything about
the structure or fishery. As we were launching my boat "Sick
Time" we met a guy named "Jim" as he recognized
our Off Shore Tackle attire and asked if we were fishing
the tournament. We told him we were and asked if he had
any advice. He advised us he wasn't fishing the tournament
but just limited out on a school of big kings. With Jim's
information, within 10 minutes we were in the middle of
a nice school of mature kings. My new Lowrance X26 color
sonar graph really helped take the guess work out of where
the fish were at in the water column and the size of the
fish we were dealing with. After figuring out it was a cut
bait bite, we figured out the right combination and put
it to them. We quickly caught and released 10 kings and
were feeling pretty good about the information we had. Our
effective program was running Shure Strike Ultimate Cut
Bait Rigs with herring strips behind "Reel Flashers"
on each rod. The fish were devouring the cut bait.
The fished stayed in that same area for the next two days
and then a strong wind worked up overnight with sustained
gusts up to 40 mph. The fish were being pushed even further
away from Port Darlington, but we stuck to our game plan.
As we moved to another location, we re-rigged our cut bait
rigs with new herring and got our Riviera Triple Planer
Boards ready to fire out once we stopped. As we got to our
location, it was like a light turned on. We saw nothing
but big red and yellow hooks (fish marks) on our graph.
This time we made sure to rely on our graph again. The X26
did not let us down. We marked a school bait fish that contained
12 big fish in the middle of it. The color separation IS
that good with this graph. We were able to keep making passes
through the bait we marked with 2 downriggers rigged up
with the Ridgeback Rattlers (to get the fish to look at
our spread) and cut bait, two mono dipseys with cut bait,
and 2 leadcores with cut bait off the Triple Planer Boards.
We picked off individual fish as we went. We could see the
fish hit our lures on the graph before our downrigger and
dipsey rods went off. Everything seemed to come together
at once. Finally!!! Within 30 minutes, we landed 4 fish
over 20 pounds. Our biggest was just under 26 pounds. We
circled that same school of fish until there was only one
big mark left. We caught 11 fish at or near 20 pounds within
3 hours. I guess the one remaining fish was "no fool."
He realized he was now by himself and decided he was not
all that hungry after all. The weigh in was an adrenaline
rush as the competition was very close. We capitalized on
our opportunities and were able to move from 11th place
on day one to winning the tournament on day two.
I wish we could take all of the credit ourselves but we
know without the help of our sponsors and our conversation
with "Jim" at the boat ramp, or without our quality
equipment, this win may have never been possible.
The more I learn about salmon and trout fishing, the more
I realize the importance the flexibility, and the willingness
to explore new ideas. You have to be willing to take the
ups and the downs in stride and learn from your mistakes.
Keep it light on the boat and don't take anything personal
during the heat of the battle.
I'd like to thank Bruce DeShano (and entire Off Shore Tackle
Company LLC Staff) and Larry Hartwick (Riviera Trolling
Systems Incorporated) for believing in us enough to let
us use your products. We truly believe in the quality products
that both of you provide and recommend them to our "friends."
I would also like to thank Jim McConville from Lowrance,
John and Heidi Stieben from Opti-Tackle, and Chip Greene
from Ridgeback Rattler Downrigger Weights for the opportunities
they provided us as well. If any of you reading this article
see us on the tournament trail this year or see us speaking
at seminars please do not be afraid to say hi or ask any
questions. We always have time to meet new friends and share
Back to Top
WIDE OPEN WALLEYE
By Mark Romanack, Gary Parsons, Bruce DeShano, Jim McConville,
Captain Jerry Lee, Dr. Steven Holt, and Keith Kavajecz
Open water walleye fishing is the "final frontier."
Sprawling lakes and reservoirs that support enormous schools
of trophy walleye have taken center stage as the fishing
grounds of the future.
Pardon the Star Trek vernacular, but the one fish that most
anglers consider to be the ultimate bottom dweller is actually
an opportunistic feeder. The always hungry walleye is as
likely to suspend in the water column as it is to hug the
bottom at dinner time.
Once anglers understand that walleye are not necessarily
structure fish, nor are they always found suspended in the
water column, they have the knowledge to search out these
fish even in the seemingly endless space of open water.
Few absolutes are associated with this unique species, but
it's safe to say that walleye prefer to feed in areas that
provide the most readily available food source and that
often means open water.
IT'S A TROLL-A-THON
One look at the wide open spaces walleye call home suggests
that trolling is the only practical way to search out and
pattern these fish. No matter if the fish are suspended
in the water column or found belly to bottom, trolling is
usually the best way to catch them.
Keep in mind that walleye are constantly roaming in search
of food. The hot spot today may be a complete zero tomorrow.
This fact of open water fishing means that anglers face
a daily struggle to find and stay on fish. To the die hard
structure angler, this wanderlust approach can seem a lot
like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack.
"Straying into open water is a leap of faith for the
average walleye angler, but the rewards are worth the change
in mind set," says Gary Parsons an expert open water
angler. "One of the biggest advantages of fishing walleye
in open water is these fish are usually motivated to feed.
Walleye use open water for one reason, to feed. When a group
of fish is located, chances are they will bite and bite
often. Limit catches are more common than not when all the
pieces of the open water trolling puzzle come together."
"It's important to understand that open water trolling
is practiced on both a horizontal and vertical playing field,"
explains Parsons. "Planer boards reach out to cover
water on a horizontal plane. Meanwhile, lures and other
diving devices do their part to reach the vertical depths.
Collectively these trolling aids cover water in an efficient
way that forms a solid foundation for success."
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Open water trolling requires some specialized pieces of
fishing gear the average walleye angler may not own. Line
counter reels are a good example of the specialized gear
trollers require. Line counter reels feature a digital counter
that records lead length as line is played off the reel.
Monitoring lead lengths makes it possible for anglers to
predict the running depth of their lures and also to duplicate
productive lead lengths as needed.
Daiwa was the first to introduce a functional line counter
reel, but today a number of manufacturers including Cabela's,
Bass Pro Shops, Okuma and Shimano produce excellent line
counter reels suitable for open water walleye trolling.
Planer boards are the second piece of specialized gear instrumental
to open water trolling success. "Planer boards present
lures out to the side of the boat helping to cover more
water and contact more fish," says Bruce DeShano of
Off Shore Tackle Company, one of the leading manufactures
of in-line (AKA Side Planers) planer boards and other trolling
gear. "In-line style planer boards designed to attach
directly to the fishing line are inexpensive, easy to use
and a highly effective way of trolling open water. These
mini boards have literally stolen the open water trolling
show. Simply let your lure out the desired distance, clip
the in-line board onto the line and let out more line until
the board reaches the desired outward coverage."
In-line planers also have another function. "In addition
to presenting lures out to the side of the boat, these trolling
aids also become strike indicators," explains DeShano.
"When a fish is hooked, the board gets dragged backwards
in the water as the fish struggles. Meanwhile, the angler
reels in the board and fish together while to boat continues
to troll along. When the board is retrieved to within reach
of the boat it is removed from the line. It only takes a
couple seconds to remove the board and continue the fight.
Because the boat is moving forward as all this is happening,
a hooked fish never gets an inch of slack line making them
a favorite among tournament pros who hate to loose fish."
A third piece of specialized gear aids the open water walleye
troller. "A combined sonar/GPS navigation system isn't
a luxury, but rather a necessity for fishing walleye in
open water," says Jim McConville, Regional Sales Manager
for Lowrance Electronics. "Walleye can't hide from
high quality sonar units. Sonar plays a major role in pinpointing
the location and depth of fish in open water. Just as important,
a Global Positioning System allows anglers to record the
location of fish making it simple to insure successive trolling
passes hit the mark."
Without a GPS unit fishing open water walleye is like fishing
blindfolded. Combination sonar/GPS units represent the best
value in marine electronics. The brands of electronics most
often used by open water walleye anglers are Lowrance and
Line counter reels, planer boards and sonar/GPS units are
all vital pieces of gear for open water trolling. Just as
important is the knowledge of knowing how deep the popular
lures and trolling devices used by walleye anglers will
"Two landmark books produced by Precision Angling Specialists,
LLC answer the question of depth for just about anything
an angler might want to troll," says Bruce DeShano.
"Precision Trolling provides the diving depths of over
300 popular crankbaits, while Precision Trolling Big Water
Edition offers depth data for open water gear including
diving planers, snap weights and lead core line. Together
these two books are nicknamed the "troller's bible"
because they answer the question every troller wants to
know. How deep does that dive?"
The "Dive Curve" charts in the Precision Trolling
books show at a glance how much line must be deployed to
achieve specific target depths. With this bit of invaluable
information anglers can literally "aim" their
lures at fish spotted on the sonar.
MINI DISKS, SNAP WEIGHTS & LEAD CORE LINE
Faced with the challenge of presenting a wide variety of
lure types anywhere in the water column, requires versatile
trolling hardware. Three types of trolling aids step up
to the challenge. Mini disks, snap weights and lead core
line are among the most popular ways to target open water
"Mini disks are a relatively new phenomenon,"
says Captain Jerry Lee a 30 year walleye veteran based out
of Lake Erie. "Smaller versions of the directional
style diving planers popular with trout and salmon trollers,
mini disks do a great job of reaching the depth ranges walleye
are most likely to call home. The typical mini disks range
in size from the diameter of a quarter to that of a silver
Three major manufacturers produce these disks including
Big Jon, Luhr Jensen and Fishlander. "All three brands
of mini disks are similar," adds Lee. "The fishing
line is attached to a snap on the front of the diver. At
the back of the diver a second snap accepts a six foot leader.
At the business end of the leader small spoons, shallow
diving crankbaits and crawler harnesses are the most popular
"Mini disks have a directional setting like their bigger
cousins, but the outward tracking ability of these small
disks is minimal," explains Lee. "I set the mini
disk on the zero setting so it dives straight down into
the water and then use a planer board to get the necessary
Snap weights are clip on style trolling weight that have
become very popular among open water trollers. "The
beauty of a snap weight is they can be placed anywhere on
the line between the lure and the rod tip," says Bruce
DeShano. "Clipped to the line by means of a pinch pad
line release similar to those used for downrigger fishing,
snap weights feature a split ring that makes changing sinker
"When a fish is hooked using a snap weight, the angler
simply reels until the weight comes to the rod tip,"
adds DeShano. "Then with a pinch of the thumb and forefinger
the weight is removed from the line and the fight continued.
Slick and easy, snap weights also work well in combination
with planer boards."
Another benefit of snap weights is they rise and fall rapidly
in the water as boat speed fluctuates. Trailing lures are
constantly fluctuating in the water column, hunting for
fish. For this reason, snap weights work best when fishing
in the top two thirds of the water column. Trying to fish
snap weights too close to the bottom can lead to annoying
Lead core line is the third method used to deploy open water
trolling lures. A thin lead wire covered with a coating
of braided nylon, lead core line isn't exactly new. Widely
in use since the late 1940's, lead core comes in various
break strengths like monofilament. The 18 or 27 pound test
sizes are the most popular among walleye trollers.
"Lead core is most commonly fished as a segment of
weighted line sandwiched between a monofilament leader and
backing," says Dr. Steven Holt co-author of the Precision
Trolling books. "The lure, leader, all the lead core
line and varying amounts of backing are deployed to control
the running depth."
The variations used with lead core are endless, but a common
rig consists of a 50 foot monofilament leader, connected
to three colors (30 meters) of 18# test lead core, matched
to 200 yards of 10# test monofilament backing.
"Because lead core line distributes the cumulative
weight over a greater distance, it runs at a more consistent
depth than snap weights," says Dr. Holt. "Lead
core gets the nod when fishing near bottom or when it's
necessary to keep a lure in a precise depth zone."
Like mini disks and snap weights, lead core line can also
be deployed using in-line planer boards. Each of these three
trolling aids are invaluable for open water walleye situations.
SPOONS, SPINNERS OR CRANKS?
Three trolling aids handle the necessary depth chores and
three lure types produce the best on open water walleye.
Flutter style trolling spoons, open water crawler harnesses
and shallow diving stickbaits are the baits of choice for
open water walleye trolling.
Flutter spoons bring with them a lot of flash and action.
Designed to be fished a little faster than other trolling
lures, a good spoon has an effective speed range of 1.5
to 4 MPH.
"The key to catching open water walleye on spoons is
to use a lure that closely matches the size of the forage,"
says Captain Lee. "Most flutter spoons are produced
with trout and salmon in mind. These baits are simply too
big to interest walleye that feed on smaller forages. Spoons
in the 2-3 inch range are the ideal size for walleye. Of
the many spoons on the market, only three have proven themselves
over and over again. The Wolverine Tackle Jr. Streak, Michigan
Stinger Scorpion and Fishlander No. O. are all excellent
walleye trolling spoons."
Spoons work best on walleye that are aggressively feeding.
Because these lures can be trolled at faster speeds, they
are a great tool for covering water when searching for fish.
A quality ball bearing swivel is essential when trolling
spoons to prevent line twist and allow these lures to achieve
Crawler harnesses or what walleye pros simply call "spinners"
represent the opposite end of the spectrum. Spinners do
a great job of triggering strikes from walleye that aren't
aggressively feeding. The combination of the slower trolling
speed, a rotating and flashing spinner blade plus the appeal
of live bait combine to make these lures legendary walleye
Spinners must be trolled rather slow to prevent line twist.
The most productive speeds range from .75 to 1.5 MPH.
"The typical crawler harness will fool walleye in open
water, but a few modifications can greatly improve the fish
catching ability of these lures," says Keith Kavajecz,
host of the TV series The Next Bite. "The single hooks
used on most spinners are too small to provide good hooking
ratios. A No. 4 or better yet No. 2 beak style hook is needed
for open water fishing. Many anglers go a step further and
replace the back hook with a No. 6 treble hook to increase
hookups even further."
Spinners equipped with treble hooks improve hooking success,
but they also increase the likelihood of snags. A good rule
of thumb is to use single hook style harnesses when fishing
near bottom and treble hook style harnesses for suspended
Crankbaits are the third lure type that the open water walleye
angler can't live without. Minnow shaped lures rank among
the top producing walleye crankbaits. Lures in this category
come in both shallow and deep diving models. Shallow diving
models can be used with mini disks, snap weights and lead
core. Deeper diving models that have more resistance in
the water can not be used with mini disks. Diving crankbaits
can however, be used in combination with snap weights or
lead core to achieve deeper depths.
The crankbaits suitable for open water walleye trolling
are too numerous to mention, but some of the shallow diving
classics include the No. 13 Rapala Floating Minnow, Storm
ThunderStick, Bomber Long A, Reef Runner RipStick, Smithwick
Rattlin' Rogue and Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow. Among diving
crankbaits good choices include the Rapala Husky Jerk Deep
Diver, Reef Runner Deep Little Ripper, Storm Deep Jr. ThunderStick,
Yo-Zuri Deep Crystal Minnow and Rebel Spoonbill. Each of
these crankbaits have proven to be consistent walleye producers.
RUN AND GUN
Part of finding success in open water boils down to the
willingness to move and move often if necessary. The aggressive
run and gun approach is how tournament pros approach open
water walleyes. "Finding concentrations of fish is
the most important part of the puzzle," says Keith
Kavajecz, one of the pioneers of open water trolling tactics
widely in use today on the Pro Walleye Trail. "I spend
much of my time in open water cruising around watching the
sonar unit for pods of fish. Until I find them, I'm not
going to set a single line. Sometimes I have to search for
hours to find fish, sometimes I find them right away. Every
day on the water is different, but one fact doesn't change.
You can't catch fish that aren't there."
Kavajecz advises anglers to keep moving until they find
fish. He also adds this bit of encouragement. "Once
you find a good sized school of open water walleye, they
usually aren't hard to catch," says Kavajecz. "The
hard part is finding the fish. Once you've overcome this
hurdle catching them is often anticlimactic."
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
The open water trolling arena is complex compared to the
typical bottom bumping methods used by the walleye fishing
mainstream. The rewards however for straying into open water
are many. An untapped open water fishery exists just about
everywhere walleye are plentiful. The majority of anglers
think of the Great Lakes when talk turns to open water walleye,
but trolling opportunities also exists on countless inland
lakes and reservoirs.
Getting geared up the necessary equipment is half the battle
of open water trolling. The next major hurdle is understanding
that walleye can turn up anywhere in the water column where
food is abundant.
Take an aggressive run and gun approach to finding fish
and then follow up by dissecting the water column with the
right kinds of trolling devices and lures. Zero in your
lures to the right water depth and the rest as they say
is fishing history.
Wolverine Tackle Company
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