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By Danny Wade

The use of planer boards for muskie fishing typically brings visions of larger, dual planers deployed off a mast secured near the bow of the boat. But as you will see in this article, there is an effective means to utilize planer boards for inland lake muskie fishing as we have here in Ohio and surrounding regions. I highly recommend giving the Off Shore Tackle in-line Side-Planers a try.

I am an avid Ohio muskie angler here in the Buckeye state. I operate the Muskie Tutor Guide Service on Salt Fork Lake, here in the east central part of the state. I use Off Shore's Side-Planers routinely in my muskie pursuits in conjunction with the OR18 Snapper Adjustable Release. This combination has proven to be very deadly. The OR18 provides plenty of grip to minimize any line slippage, which is a must when trolling at 4-5 mph range.

My preferred set up using the Side-Planers and OR18's is to put a large barrel swivel about 4' ahead of where the lure will be attached. On the rear of the Side-Planer, I put a medium size snap swivel. When the planer board is release the board slides down to the barrel swivel and stops. This prevents the hassle of chasing down the boards. I run the baits 15 to 30' behind the planers.

The OR18 can be set to release upon a strike; however, my preference is to set them in a fixed tension so the board can't release. Upon playing the fish to the boat, the easily fingered tab on the OR18 can be quickly flipped open allowing the board to slide down to the barrel swivel. This setup is very useful in heavy chop or chop created by heavy boat traffic. Yes, it takes a little getting used to manually releasing the OR18, but when using them in this fashion you almost completely eliminate boards popping off or release prematurely.

Off Shore Side-Planers are a major part of my muskie fishing tactics. I find by using these boards as described, I can deploy the planers literally in seconds with minimal hassles. In the 2000 Ohio fishing season, we caught 100 muskie out of my boat.

To maximize the success of my clients, I almost always run the Side-Planers. I've been using my boards for almost 10 years now and they are still in good shape. They will always remain one of my favorite muskie catching tools.

Danny Wade is the operator of Muskie Tutor Guide Services in Salt Fork Lake, Ohio and can be reached at 740-430-0429 or by email at muskyman@clover.net .

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By Mark Romanack

Last year the Michigan Department of Natural Resources handed salmon and trout anglers a gift. On the open waters of the Great Lakes salmon and trout anglers can now use three instead of two lines per angler. Extra lines are always welcome on a trolling boat. The question is how to best use these bonus lines to catch more trout and salmon.


On any salmon boat, downriggers are the heart of the trolling system. The ultimate in depth control fishing, downriggers are an essential accessory on any salmon boat.

The typical salmon boat is rigged with four or even five electric downriggers. Frankly many anglers are surprised when I recommend that they purchase and mount only two downriggers on their boat. Rigged properly, two downriggers can be used to present four fishing lines plus four add-a-lines or sliders. A grand total of eight lures can be fished at different levels in the water column using just two downriggers. Using four or five downriggers significantly increases the amount of water disturbance caused by the cable and weight cutting through the water. This disturbance can spook fish that might have otherwise been caught by running fewer lines. The zebra mussel does such a through job of filtering plankton from the water that water clarity has improved each year, causing anglers to modify their techniques.

Two lines can be easily rigged on a single downrigger by using an Off Shore Tackle OR2 Medium Tension or OR7 Light Tension stacker release. A stacker consists of two downrigger style releases attached to a short and long wire cable. One release is attached to the short length of cable and the other to the longer cable. The pieces of cable are joined by a heavy snap that is secured around the main downrigger cable.

To rig a stacker the bottom line must be set first. Set a desired lure 6-20 feet behind the boat and place the line between the rubber pads of an OR1 Medium Tension downrigger release. This release is attached to the back of the cannonball weight.

Once the first line is secured to the downrigger release, lower the weight 5 to 20 feet into the water. Take the clip on the stacker release and close it over the downrigger cable. Next take the release on the short cable lead and also secure it to the downrigger cable. Now take a second rod rigged with a desired lure and let this bait back about 10 feet further behind the boat than the bottom lure.

Grasp the second release on the stacker, pinch it open and place the line from the second rod between the rubber pads. At this point you can lower the downrigger weight to the desired fishing depth and begin fishing. Many anglers go a step further by adding sliders to the stacker rod. A slider is simply a spoon or stickbait attached to a six foot length of monofilament with a large snap swivel on the loose end. The snap swivel is clipped over the fishing line and the lure tossed into the water. The slider will sink until it reaches the natural bow in the fishing line.

When a fish hits the slider the spoon is free to slide down the line. The angler must react quickly by popping the main release and reeling up the slack line as quickly as possible. Sliders are easy to fish, but the ratio of hooked fish to strikes isn't especially good.

A fixed add-a-line works like a slider that's positioned to stay at a particular depth along the fishing line. Rigging an add-a-line is easy. Take a six foot length of 20 pound test monofilament and thread an Off Shore Tackle OR14 medium tension release onto the line. Tie a heavy snap swivel onto each end of the leader and to one snap attach the desired lure.

After the main line is attached to the downrigger release at the cannonball, lower the weight 5-20 feet into the water. Take the snap swivel from the add-a-line and clip it over the fishing line. Next take the OR14 release and clip it to the downrigger cable. Toss the lure over the side and lower the downrigger weight to the desired fishing depth.

When a fish strikes the fixed add-a-line the OR14 release provides enough resistance to insure a solid hook set before the fish pulls the release free from the downrigger cable. The angler must then trip the line from the main downrigger release and fight the fish.

A fixed add-a-line enables the angler to set a lure at any desired depth. Because the add-a-line is fixed to the main line it's easy to duplicate a productive depth level.


Diving planers fill a very important niche in the Great Lakes trolling scene. Designed to provide both downward and outward lure coverage, divers fill the gap between downrigger lines and planer board lines.

The most popular diver on the market is the Dipsey produced by Luhr Jensen. Offered in size 3/0, O and 1, the number 1 is the largest and most commonly used diver on salmon boats. Both the size O and 1 Dipsey Divers are also equipped with an O Ring that increases the surface area of the diver and causes them to dive deeper. The Dipsey has a lot of surface area and can be used to reach depths approaching 70 feet.

A trip arm on the O and 1 Dipsey must be set for the diver to function. When a fish strikes a lure pulled behind the diver, the trip arm releases enabling the angler to fight the fish without the drag of the diver.

The Dipsey also has four settings that adjust the amount of outward coverage the diver achieves. On the O setting the diver dives straight down. On the 1, 2 and 3 settings respectively the diver tracks further out to the side, sacrificing some overall depth in the process. The Dipsey can be fished on either the right or left side of the boat by adjusting the counter balance weight positioned on the back of the diver.

Two or more Dipsey Divers can be fished on each side of the boat by simply adjusting the overall lead length or the setting number so the divers don't fish at exactly the same depth.

The Dipsey is most often used to present spoons, stickbaits or J-Plugs on a six to 10 foot leader. The Dipsey is also useful for fishing dodgers, flashers and a wealth of other trolling rigs.


Downriggers and Dipsey Divers are the workhorse presentations on any salmon boat, but using in-line boards opens up some interesting opportunities as well. Simply fishing spoons, stickbaits, J-Plugs or diving crankbaits behind in-line boards is a great way to target steelhead that are near the surface or kings, cohos, browns and even lake trout early in the season when the water is cold.

Fishing a couple Side-Planers on each side of the boat can help cover a wealth of water and produce a lot of bonus fish missed by riggers and divers.

Side-Planers aren't just useful for running high lines however. The OR12 Side-Planer is a little larger than other mini boards on the market. The extra size of this board provides better outward tracking ability, enabling anglers to fish a wealth of trolling hardware behind a Side-Planer.

Small in-line divers such as the Luhr Jensen Jet Diver are great tools for fishing from the surface to about 30 feet down. Most small lures can be fished behind these mini divers with great success and the Side-Planer can be used to position these rigs well out to the side of the boat.

Side-Planers are also handy when it comes to fishing lead core line. A lot of salmon trollers simply fish lead lines straight out the back of the boat, but with the help of a Side-Planer, anglers lead core can be fished as planer lines.

Spool up a couple hundred yards of monofilament on a large trolling reel then attach this line to a spool of 27-36 pound lead core line. Spool up the entire core of lead line and add a leader of 20-30 feet of monofilament on the end. Attach a favorite spoon or other lure to the end of the leader. Let out the leader and all of the lead line until the monofilament backing is reached. When you reach the backing, grab an OR12 Side-Planer and attach the backing line to the release on the tow arm. Next, put the backing line in the release located at the back of the board. Once the board is attached to the line with both releases, drop the board over the side and let line play off the reel while trolling. The Side-Planer will carry this lead core line far enough to the side to stay clear of diver lines while adding a unique and effective extra line to your trolling pattern.


On a salmon boat there's always room for an extra trolling line, but it's also important to make sure your lines are covering the entire water column.

A good trolling pattern for a salmon boat begins with a couple downriggers, two stacker lines, some add-a-lines, a couple Dipsey Divers off each side and a couple planer board lines covering the high lines. If you want to get creative Side-Planers can also be used to fish lead core line. The key is to cover as much of the water column as possible and then let the fish dictate your next move.

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By Larry Hartwick

Since the introduction of the first Kachman Automatic Planer Mast, there has been confusion about how they work. Most of this has been people trying to make a simple product into something that an Engineering Degree is required, nothing could be further from the truth. Using an Automatic Planer Mast is very easy. It should be called a line management system only that would probably be more confusing.

There are no motors or crank handles. The Automatic reel is designed to keep a constant pressure on the tow line. What this means in real terms is that at no time does the reel allow any slack in the tow line. This is extremely beneficial while making turns.

Trolling distance to the planer boards is determined by setting a manual stop on the reel. There is one hole and a pair of slots in the side of the reel, by putting a loop of tow line thru the hole and over the slots, a distance stop is set. This is very similar to tying a dock line to a boat cleat, and the stop distance can be changed at any time. The first time, it is easier to set the distance at the dock.

To set the planer boards out, simply place them in the water. The pressure from the board will take it out to the pre-set stop. As turns are made, the reels will automatically retrieve any slack in the tow line. As soon as the boat straightens out, the pressure from the planer board will cause the tow line to feed out to the pre-set stop again. This process will be repeated during every turn.

To retrieve the planer boards, drive directly to one board and pick it up. Turn the boat around and repeat the process. This can be accomplished even if you don't have easy access to the mast by using a tow line retriever. This is basically a ring attached to a light nylon line. The tow line retriever can be used from the cockpit of the boat without needing to access the planer mast. Once the tow line stops are set to the proper distance, there is no reason or need to access the mast.

Planer board fishing has never been easier! Worried about the reels failing? Don't. The reels are very trouble free. If it breaks, we'll fix it. This system will take the work out of planer board fishing and is guaranteed to instantly make the pilot of the boat better than they were the day before. The object of fishing is to have fun; the Kachman Automatic Planer reels will put a bunch of fun back into trolling. Have Fun!

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By Mark Romanack With Allen Nielsen

Allen Nielsen of Norwalk Ohio is an avid troller and a big fan of Off Shore Tackle products. Allen has developed a system for trolling multiple lures on a planer board line that makes trolling with Side-Planers even more productive.

Allen spends most of his time trolling in the deep waters around the Bass Islands region of Lake Erie. His system begins with a deep diving crankbait such as the Reef Runner set behind the boat 20 feet. He then clips on an OR16 Snap Weight Clip with three ounces of weight attached.

The Snap Weight is lowered into the water approximately 10 feet, then an add-a-line is clipped onto the main line. Allen prefers to use a worm harness or a Stinger spoon on the add-a-line.

An add-a-line is easy to rig. Simply take a six foot length of monofilament and thread an OR16 Snap Weight clip onto the line. Tie a snap swivel to each end of the monofilament. To one swivel attach the lure. The other swivel is clipped over the fishing line and the OR16 is then clipped onto the main line to hold the add-a-line at the desired position.

The OR16 has a strong enough tension to insure that any fish that strikes the lure on the add-a-line will experience enough resistance to set the hook. With a big fish the add-a-line may slide on the line a little, but the clip can't come off so long as the line is placed behind the pin in the OR16 clip.

Once the add-a-line is clipped into position, toss the add-a-line over the side and let the Snap Weight down to the desired fishing depth. This two lure rig can be fished as a flat line, but Allen strongly suggests adding a Side-Planer board to spread out the lure coverage.

"The Side-Planer does a good job of handling the Reef Runner and three ounces of weight," says Nielsen. "I can fish 30-50 feet down using this system."

Fishing an add-a-line on a planer board rig is a great way to cover the water column and offer fish a number of lure options. This same basic rig can be modified by using different lures and Snap Weight sizes to suit a wide variety of trolling situations.

Thanks Allen for sharing your tips.

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By Mark Romanack

The Off Shore Tackle OR12 Side-Planer is the best investment an angler can make. Simple to use, inexpensive and effective, the Side-Planer is the key to spreading out your trolling lures and covering more water. Deadly on just about anything that swims, the OR12 Side-Planer is the leading in-line planer on the market.

The popularity of the OR12 is linked to a number of key features. The overall size of the Side-Planer is slightly larger than competitive boards. This extra size enables the Side-Planer to carry the load of deep diving crankbaits, Snap Weights and even lead core line.

The pinch pad style line releases that come standard on the OR12 are another reason this board ranks first. The easiest board on the market to put on and take off a fishing line, the OR12 can also be used with a wide assortment of other Off Shore Tackle releases for specific species and trolling applications.

Every year at shows, retail outlets, boat launches and other places anglers congregate we're asked for suggestions on using the OR12 Side-Planer. The following five tips are great ways to put Side-Planers to work catching more fish.


The most overlooked fish are those that are feeding near the surface. Any body of water that has suspended forage fish is going to have a suspended population of game fish as well. Many of these fish live out the majority of their lives within a few feet of the surface, but don't expect your sonar to tip you off to their presence.

Fish that are suspended high in the water column are nearly impossible to locate with a sonar unit because the transducer coverage area is very small near the surface. Also, suspended fish tend to move out of the way of the boat before the transducer can do its job.

The only way to know if fish are feeding near the surface is to fish for them. Set a few trolling lines with favorite lures and short leads that fish in the top 10 feet. Use Side-Planer boards to spread out these lines and see for yourself what you've been missing!


Most anglers who fish in-line boards space them out to the side 50-75 feet. If the surface is a little choppy this strategy works well, but on calm days or when working fish suspended near the surface it's important to space out the boards much further to the side.

"I set my outside Side-Planer at least 150 feet out to the side," says Keith Kavajecz a professional walleye angler and Off Shore Tackle pro staffer. "My inside board is set 75-100 feet to the side. Keeping my boards positioned out to the side further helps me gain more lure coverage and does a better job of contacting spooky fish. The higher the fish are in the water column, the more important it is to fish your Side-Planers further to the side."


Anyone who has spent much time trolling knows that it's much easier to steer the boat when trolling downwind. Trolling downwind takes the work out of fishing in-line boards on rough water days.
In addition to being easier to steer the boat, it's also easier to detect strikes when trolling with the waves. Downwind trolling also allows the boards to be positioned out to the side further increasing lure coverage. Even more importantly, when a fish is hooked trolling downwind the boat speed can be slowed to make the fight more enjoyable. Trolling downwind will also put an end to tangled lines.

On windy days troll downwind while searching for fish. Once a school of fish is located pick up your lines and run directly upwind to set up for another pass. Making short, but precise downwind trolling passes is the most efficient way to stay on fish in the waves.


The OR12 Side-Planer is a fish catching machine. Adding an OR12TF Tattle Flag Kit to an OR12 makes this board an even better trolling tool. Tattle Flag kits are sold as after market items and come complete with a flag, linkage arm, necessary spring, hardware and two OR16 Snap Weight Clips. It takes about five minutes to install a Tattle Flag on the OR12 and it's time well spent.

Once installed the Tattle Flag telegraphs even the slightest bite and takes the guess work out of fishing in-line boards. When a fish is hooked pressure is applied to the line. This pressure pulls directly against the linkage arm that in turn causes the Tattle Flag to fold down. Fish on! It's that easy to use Tattle Flags.

The Tattle Flag works its magic in calm water, rough water and in turns. In fact the Tattle Flag is so sensitive that even unwanted fish such as white perch or small drum will trigger the flag. The Tattle Flag even folds down when the lure fouls on a piece of debris in the water. The Tattle Flag is a must have accessory for the OR12 Side-Planer.


Monofilament line is the preferred choice of most trollers because it has the best combination of function and value. There are times however when the new fused super lines can make a big difference in trolling success. Fused lines like Berkley's Fireline are thinner in diameter and have less stretch than the same break strength of monofilament.

The smaller line diameter creates less drag in the water and enables diving crankbaits to reach significantly greater depths. By simply using fused lines crankbaits can be used to reach deeper fish without adding weight to the line or using exceptionally long lead lengths.

Fused lines are also a good choice when trolling live bait rigs at slow speeds. The lack of stretch in fused lines helps to achieve a solid hookset at slow trolling speeds.

Unfortunately most of the line releases and clips on the market are not designed for use with fused lines. Off Shore Tackle recommends the OR18 Snapper Adjustable Release when using fused lines with the OR12 Side-Planer. This unique line clip mounts on the tow arm of the OR12 and features a cam style jaw that can be closed very tightly over the line. A pin also protrudes through the clip further insuring that fused lines can not pull free from the clip.

Another option when using fused lines is to use the OR16 (Red) Snap Weight Clip and to double wrap the line through the jaws. Double wrapping prevents the line from slipping through and cutting the rubber pads.


The OR12 Side-Planer is a fishing tackle investment that pays big dividend. Countless fish each year fall victim to trolling tactics made better by the Side-Planer. It's hard to imagine a more perfect way to troll.


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By Mark Romanack

For many anglers the pint sized planer boards known as in-line boards are a novelty. Anglers who are familiar with the workings of a dual board and mast system scratch their heads when they see those little in-line boards in use. Tons of folks dedicated to using big boards don't see a need for the little boards. Even among those who have tried in-line boards, many still wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, how can less be more?

The in-line board phenomenon has grown steadily during the last decade. In part the growing popularity of these trolling aids point to changes that have occurred in both angling species and techniques.

During the 70's and 80's salmon were the most sought after species in the Great Lakes region. Big fish and lots of them attracted anglers from all around the Midwest. The action for these brutes took place on big water. Deep water fishing techniques such as downriggers and diving planers accounted for most of the fish taken.

As anglers learned more about salmon and how to catch them, planer board systems started gaining in popularity. Stocking efforts to establish brown trout and steelhead fueled the growing demand for planer board fishing techniques. Soon every charter boat on the Great Lakes, and most of the serious amateur boats were sporting a planer mast and a set of dual planer boards.

As interest in board fishing expanded, a niche for the in-line board started developing. Anglers who tried these mini boards soon discovered that in-line boards were easy to use and effective. Dual boards still dominated the scene, but in-line boards started becoming a common sight on the Great Lakes.

By the end of the 1980's the salmon fishery enjoyed by so many had peaked and was beginning to decline. Salmon infected with Bacterial Kidney Disease started turning up dead on beaches in both Lakes Michigan and Huron. As salmon stocks declined so did interest in fishing.

Anglers who had previously focused primarily on salmon started turning their attention towards Lake Erie and a building tide of red hot walleye fishing action. Trolling crankbaits with the help of planer boards was fast becoming the quickest way to a walleye limit.

As with salmon, dual board boards quickly dominated the scene on Lake Erie. It became the norm for anglers in the Western Basin to fish 10-12 cranks at a time! Most charter captains favored the use of dual boards and the majority of the recreational anglers followed suit.

In-line boards did not enjoy a significant foothold on Lake Erie until tournament anglers popularized their use during the early 1990's. Because tournament anglers are forced to fish on a wide variety of waters, they use smaller 18-20 foot boats. In-line boards are ideal for small boat owners who rarely fish more than four to six lines.

While in-line boards can't compete with dual boards in terms of the number of lines set or fish taken, these small boards do enjoy a niche that over the years has grown to include both the trout/salmon and walleye arena. Those fans of in-line boards are also quick to point out that these trolling aids can are just as effective on pike, muskie and even bass.

The way in-line boards are used to catch different species varies. Walleye anglers prefer the board to be fixed to the line. When a fish strikes the board and fish are reeled in together, the board removed and the fight continued.

Salmon and steelhead anglers rig in-line boards so the line is connected to the release on the tow arm of the board. This release triggers when a fish is hooked. The board then slides down the line via a snap located at the back of the board. This rigging method allows several boards to be used per side and insures that a large fish won't pull the board under water.


The OR12 Side-Planer comes equipped with two OR14 Adjustable Medium Tension line releases. One release is attached to the tow arm and a second release is attached to a split ring at the back of the board. When setting the board the angler lets his lure the desired distance behind the boat and then pinches open the release on the tow arm. The line is placed near the back of the rubber pads in the jaw and the release closed. The same procedure is then performed with the second release located at the back of the board.

With the Side-Planer attached to the line using both releases, simply drop the board in the water and let line play off the reel as the boat trolls forward. When the board reaches the desired distance out to the side, close the reel bail and place the rod in a conveniently located rod holder.

In calm water the staff at Off Shore Tackle suggests setting the Side-Planer 100 to 150 feet out to the side of the boat. In rougher seas position the board 50 to 75 feet out to the side. When fishing two or more boards per side, space the boards at least 40 feet apart to increase lure coverage and reduce any chances of tangling during turns.

The standard (black) OR14 releases that come on the Side-Planer work very well for normal trolling speeds and calm to moderate seas. When faced with rough seas or at faster than normal trolling speeds the spring tension of the OR14 release may not be adequate. The fishing line may pull out of the release, causing the board to pop free.

To combat this situation Off Shore Tackle recommends using the OR16 (red) Snap Weight Clip. This clip has a much stronger spring tension and a small plastic pin located between the rubber pads. When the clip is pinched open, the fishing line can be placed behind the pin. Once the clip is closed the line is securely held and can't pop free.

Many anglers simply use an OR16 (red) Snap Weight Clip on the tow arm of the board and the original equipment OR14 (black) at the back of the board. Rigged in this manner there is no danger of the board popping off the line, even in heavy seas and at fast trolling speeds.


The Side-Planer is an excellent board for salmon and steelhead fishing, but to enjoy success the board requires some simple modifications. The board must be converted from the fixed rigging method that comes standard with the board to the release and slide method.

The first step is to unscrew and remove the flag or at least fold the flag into the down position. Next, remove the back OR14 release from the split ring and replace it with a large snap swivel.

Lines to be used with an in-line board must be equipped with some sort of stop that prevents the planer board from sliding all the way to the lure. Thread one of Off Shore Tackle's OR29 Speed Beads onto the line four or five feet in front of your lure. The Speed Bead does not require the line to be cut or retied.
Let the lure the desired distance behind the boat and then pinch open the OR14 release on the tow arm of the Side-Planer. Place the line near the back of the rubber jaws and close the release. Next open the snap swivel and place the line inside and close the snap. Drop the board into the water and let line play off the reel as the boat is trolling forward.

Most trolling reels have a clicker function that keeps a little tension on the reel spool when the bail is open. With the clicker is engaged the board will slowly work itself out to the side as the boat moves along. This simple line setting trick allows two or more boards to be set at the same time.

When a salmon, steelhead or trout strikes the lure, the line is usually jerked free from the tow arm release. The board then begins to slide down the line towards the lure via the snap swivel. The board stops at the Speed Bead and the angler simply reels the fish to net.

Sometimes a fish is hooked, but the line doesn't release from the board. In this situation the angler must jerk the rod sharply to pop the line free of the release. This often occurs when smaller fish are hooked.

The Side-Planer is commonly used to position spoons or plugs out to the side for spooky steelhead and early season salmon and brown trout. Many anglers have also discovered that Off Shore's larger sized Side-Planer tracks better than other competitors boards, providing increased outward coverage when fishing deep diving crankbaits, Snap Weights and lead core line.

The release and slide rigging method works best with powerful fish such as salmon or when rigging several boards per side. Walleye anglers who routinely fish only two or three lures per side favor the fixed method.

Only one in-line board can meet all your salmon, steelhead and walleye fishing needs. The OR12 Side-Planer is the most popular in-line board on the market for many reasons. Quality, function, versatility, affordability and dependability are trademarks of the Side-Planer. See for yourself why thousands of anglers will only trust Off Shore Tackle for their trolling needs.

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By Mark Romanack With Allen Nielsen

Long line trolling is a lost art. The popular use of planer boards has made long line trolling obsolete, or has it? Allen Nielsen of Norwalk Ohio considers long lining to be an important trolling technique. An avid Lake Erie walleye troller, Allen uses a unique form of long lining in addition to trolling with planer boards.

"When trolling I like to get as many lines as legal in the water," says Nielsen. "I often fish a full compliment of Side-Planer boards and also a Snap Weight rig with a crawler harness, spoon or stickbait as a flat line. This extra flat line takes a lot of fish."

Nielsen's flat line rig has a different twist. Instead of simply setting out the lure, adding the Snap Weight and then letting out the desired lead length, he goes a step further. Nielsen sets the lure back, adds the Snap Weight, lets out the desired lead to get the Snap Weight to the target depth and then he attaches a three inch foam float to the line using an 8 inch steel leader and an OR16 Snap Weight clip. The float is then let back another 50-100 feet, effectively presenting this flat line well away from the boat.

The float provides enough resistance that when a fish strikes it is quickly hooked. Also the float is highly visible so the angler can clearly see that a fish is hooked.

This extra flat line rig is back far enough that it is out of the way and doesn't interfere with fish being landed on Planer Board lines.

Thanks Allen for sharing this unique trolling tip with readers of the Off Shore Release.

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By Larry Hartwick

Spacing Riviera Downrigger Corporation's Dual Planer Boards (DPB) 2" further apart makes these planer boards more stable in rough water without making the boards themselves bigger or heavier. In addition to making the boards wider, the staff at Riviera has changed the ballast in the board to raise the nose slightly. These changes went into effect at the start of the 2000 season, so don't panic if you've recently purchased a set of boards.

Collectively these changes make the DPB the trolling board others are compared to. In calm or rough water, the DPB is ideal for anglers targeting walleye, salmon, trout, steelhead, muskie, or stripers.

Refinements have improved the DPB, but the features our customers have come to expect haven't been changed. The Riviera DPB still folds down for easy storage. The boards incorporate foam panels to provide consistent buoyancy and the bright yellow finish is easy to spot on the water.

There's also a three position tow ring that allows anglers to custom rig the board to the trolling conditions in seconds. For fast trolling speeds set the tow ring in the forward position. For normal trolling speeds the middle setting is best. For slow trolling chores place the tow ring in the furthest setting back.

Product improvements are always on the horizon at Riviera. Anglers will also want to check out the Posi-Stop Dual Planer Board Mast (DPM-P). The smoothest manual retrieve planer mast ever developed, the Posi-Stop mast eliminates the clutch found on most planer board reels.

Instead a strong and positive pin system is used to secure the wheel once the desired amount of planer line has been let out. The pin operates like a bolt action rifle, making it easy to lock the pin in place to securely hold the wheel or to lock the pin in the free spool setting. New for 2002, the Posi-Stop mast now features a powdered coated aluminum/magnesium wheels. Light, but with the strength of steel! Built to last a lifetime.

Simple, strong and smooth to operate, the Posi-Stop Dual Planer Mast makes fishing planer boards easier and more fun than ever.


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Walleye are built for feeding in low light conditions. This capable predator has an oversize eye that absorbs the slightest spark of light, a torpedo shaped body that can maneuver on a dime and a mouth full of razor sharp teeth.

Not only do walleye have the physical tools to hunt at night, they are also equipped with resourceful hunting instincts. Walleye hunt in packs, using their bodies to herd baitfish into any dead end they can find. Fast sloping breaklines, sea walls, piers and even the surface of the water form barriers that walleye use in hunting down baitfish.

Walleye often slip into shallow water areas at night that they wouldn't venture into during the light of day. Anywhere concentrations of baitfish turn up, walleye will follow under the cover of darkness.

Trolling for walleye at night is an exciting game. Lakes that routinely produce only small fish during the day often turn out lunkers under the cover of darkness. This is especially true of clear water natural lakes. Those who spend countless hours chasing walleye at night feel that trophy walleye feed almost exclusively between the hours of sunset and daybreak.

Some of these after hours trolling situations clearly call for the stealth of an electric motor. When working shallow water structure or cover, an electric motor can provide an important edge. However, there are many instances when power trolling makes more sense. Large flats, well defined edges or areas of open water are best fished using a small gasoline kicker motor.

Trolling with the help of Side-Planers is one of the best ways to target overlooked walleye that live in these areas. To get in on the action anglers only need a modest amount of gear.


Crankbaits are the primary lures used for trolling up night eyes. To meet the many situations an angler may encounter will require an assortment of three crankbait styles including shallow diving stickbaits, floating/diving shad baits and floating/diving minnows.

Some of the most popular stickbaits for walleye include the Rapala Husky Jerk, Smithwick Rattlin' Rogue, Reef Runner Ripstick, Storm ThunderStick, Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow and the Bomber Long A. In the shad bait category good walleye lures include the Rapala Shad Rap, Storm Hot n' Tot, Cotton Cordell CC Shad and Wally Diver. Diving minnows that routinely produce walleye include the Reef Runner Deep Little Ripper, Storm Deep Jr. ThunderStick, Rapala Deep Husky Jerk and the Bomber 24A.

In addition to crankbaits anglers will also need a set or two of OR12 Side-Planer boards. Side-Planers are essential for presenting crankbaits out away from boat noise and also to cover the maximum amount of water. Most anglers prefer to troll two Side-Planers on each side of the boat.

A Side-Planer will do a great job of presenting lures out to the side, but in the dark you'll need another accessory to be able to see the boards and detect strikes. The OR12NL Night Light is a small flashing strobe that clips onto the flag of the Side-Planer. Powered by a single watch battery, the Night Light sends out a red blinking light that can be seen for hundreds of yards. Each Night Light lasts for up to 100 hours of fishing fun. The battery in the Night Light can be replaced as needed.

The same trolling rods, reels and lines used during the day can be applied to night trolling. Line counters are recommended. A line counter reel makes it easier to monitor trolling lead lengths and to duplicate effective leads.

A bait clicker is also a helpful aid on a trolling reel. This feature sends out an audible click when line is pulled off the reel spool. More on bait clickers in a moment.

Any time you fish at night, it's important to have dependable lights that can be used to aid in rigging lines, landing fish, etc. A set of halogen flood lights mounted in such a fashion that they shine down on the back of the boat work best for rigging lines and fighting fish. The lights are only used when rigging or fighting fish. While fishing only the bow and stern navigation lights are switched on.


The lures selected will depend on the location of fish in the water column. It's common for anglers to encounter walleye that are feeding near the surface. These fish may be located in open water or along piers, breakwalls and over the top of submerged weed beds. Shallow diving stickbaits set behind the boat 40-100 feet work best when walleye are feeding near the surface.

Night walleye also feed along submerged islands, brush piles and other cover located in deeper water. A floating/diving shad or minnow bait is ideal for reaching these fish.

The book Precision Trolling provides a handy reference guide for the diving depth of 180 popular crankbaits. The data is based on lead length and line diameter. This reference tool enables trollers to accurately predict the depth of their lures, increasing presentation accuracy and reducing the chances of snagging and losing valuable crankbaits.

Once a lure is selected and the desired lead length is let out, the Side-Planer is attached to the fishing line by pinching open the OR14 (black) release on the tow arm of the board. Make sure the line is positioned at the back of the rubber jaws to insure the board stays attached to the line. Next open the release at the back of the board and place the line in this release as well. With the board attached to the line by both releases, clip a Night Light onto the flag of the board and turn it on. Drop the board into the water and while the boat is trolling forward allow line to play off the reel and the board to work its way out to the side.

Position the outside board from 75-100 feet to the side and the inside board 50-75 feet to the side. With four lines in the water the boat is covering an enormous amount of water.

The Night Lights make it easy to see the Side-Planers. When a fish is hooked the board will pull backwards in the water from the weight of the struggling fish. The moment the board starts sagging back, get the rod out of the holder and begin to reel the board and fish towards the boat slowly. A slow and steady retrieve works best. Don't pump the rod or attempt to set the hook. Simply keep pressure on the fish.

As the Side-Planer nears the boat, flick on a floodlight and remove the board from the line by pinching open the front and back releases. It only takes seconds to remove a Side-Planer. Once the board is removed from the line continue to fight the fish to net.

The bait clickers on most trolling reels have a handy purpose when fishing at night. Once the lines are set and the rods placed in their respective holders, engage the bait clicker and back off on the reel drag until line starts to slip from the reel. As line slips out the reel will produce an audible clicking sound. Now tighten the drag just enough to stop the line from slipping and the reel from clicking.

When a fish is hooked the weight of the fish will cause line to slip from the reel, giving an audible tip off to the rod which has hooked a fish. This simple tip helps to sort out strikes that occur in the dark.

Power trolling with Side-Planers and Night Lights is enjoying more popularity every year. Hot beds for this activity include the waters of Lake Erie near Huron, Port Clinton and Sandusky Ohio, the entire Western Basin of Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay, Lake St. Clair, Little Bay de Noc, Big Bay de Noc, Muskegon Lake, Lake Macatawa, Green Bay, Tawas Bay, Thunder Bay, the Bay of Quinte in Lake Ontario and many other places.

A wealth of smaller natural lakes and impoundments also hold unlimited night trolling potential for walleye. Just about anywhere walleye are found, there is potential to power troll up a limit of walleye with the help of Side-Planers and Night Lights.

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By Dr. Steven Holt, Co-Author Precision Trolling

Thanks to the Off Shore Tackle Snap Weight, interest in fishing clip-on style trolling weights has skyrocketed. Outdoor magazines around the nation frequently run stories that describe how to use Snap Weights to catch more walleye, salmon, trout and other fish. Most of this ink has been focused on using Snap Weights in connection with crawler harnesses, spoons and shallow diving stickbaits.

A popular rigging method known as the 50/50 system has become the jumping off point for anglers who fish Snap Weights. This simple rigging method involves letting out a chosen lure 50 feet, then attaching a Snap Weight to the line, followed by letting out an additional 50 feet of line.

Even before Snap Weights were readily available on the market, work had begun to document reliable depth diving data anglers could refer to when fishing these trolling aids. Depth diving data for the popular 50/50 system is published in the popular book Precision Trolling. This trolling guide provides accurate depth diving data for the 50/50 system based on 1/2, 3/4, 1, 1 1/2, 2 and 3 ounce weights.

Because Snap Weights sink, the trolling depths of these in-line weights are dependant both on speed and the size of the Snap Weight. To make predicting fishing depth easy, Precision Trolling offers depth data for three common trolling speeds including 1, 1.5 and 2 MPH. This landmark depth guide helps anglers zero in on the strike zone and catch more fish with Snap Weights.

The 50/50 system works exceptionally well, but this rigging method is only the beginning when it comes to fishing Snap Weights. A wide range of lures, lead lengths and weights can be employed when fishing Snap Weights. The key is to monitor important details such as lead lengths and the weights used then simply duplicate the combination(s) that are catching fish.

Shallow running lures are the obvious choice for trolling with Snap Weights because the angler only needs to be concerned with the running depth of the Snap Weight, not the lure. Spinners, spoons and stickbaits tend to run at or slightly below the level of the Snap Weight.

The question then becomes, how deep will my favorite diving crankbaits run if a Snap Weight is used to increase their running depth? The subject of adding Snap Weights to diving crankbaits was one we avoided for some years because we felt there were simply too many variables to control during the testing process.

We were wrong! Amazingly we discovered that by using some simple standardizations we could develop a highly reliable formula for predicting the running depth of crankbaits with a Snap Weight added.

To streamline the process we chose a simple set of standardizations. Testing was conducted using a variety of floating/diving crankbaits with a total lead length of 120 feet. A Snap Weight clip with a one ounce weight was positioned exactly 20 feet in front of the lure. We then began to test the steady state running depth of these lures, using the scuba technology we developed for testing other trolling gear.

We were amazed to discover a nearly perfect and highly reproducible formula for predicting the diving depths of crankbaits fished in combination with Snap Weights. Even more exciting this formula worked equally well with all sizes of floating/diving cranks.

When a one ounce Snap Weight is added 20 feet in front of a diving crankbait, the adjusted dive depth will be exactly 33% greater than the same dive curve without the Snap Weight. For example, if a lure will dive 15 feet on a 120 foot lead, adding a one ounce Snap Weight 20 feet in front of the lure will increase the diving depth by five feet or a total diving depth of 20 feet.

This Snap Weight rigging method has been dubbed the 20 Plus method and provides anglers with a wealth of valuable trolling information. Virtually any floating/diving crankbait can be fished up to 1/3 deeper by simply adding a one ounce Snap Weight 20 feet in front of the lure. A simple table that shows this conversion at a glance is published on page 20 of Precision Trolling the 6th edition.

The question now becomes what will happen if more than one ounce of weight is used in the 20 Plus method? Stay tuned for answers to this question. No doubt adding more than a one ounce weight to the 20 Plus method will cause the lure to run deeper, but to what degree we can't speculate. On the water testing during the summer of 2002 will answer this and other commonly asked questions about Snap Weight trolling. Watch for the 7th edition of Precision Trolling to be released early in 2003 for answers to these trolling questions and more.

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By Mark Romanack

Ever notice how a good idea opens up the lines of communication for even more and better ideas to come? In the case of Snap Weights, the 50/50 method has quickly become the standard rigging method used by thousands of anglers who troll for walleye, salmon, trout, pike and more.

Snap Weights solve the age old problem of how to add weight to fishing lines in order to increase the target depth. Snap Weights are the invention of Off Shore Tackle, the folks who make the most popular planer board and downrigger line releases on the market. The Snap Weight isn't a line release however.

The OR16 Snap Weight (red) is a clip that is attached to the fishing line by squeezing open the rubber jaws and placing the line between the jaws. A small pin indexes between the jaws further insuring that once the fishing line is placed in the jaws, the Snap Weight will be secured to the line. Different sized weights are attached to this clip using a split ring that allows weight sizes to be changed quickly.

When a fish is hooked, the Snap Weight is removed from the line as it nears the rod tip. It only takes a quick pinch between your thumb and forefinger to complete the job!

The most common rigging method for fishing Snap Weights is known as the 50/50 system. This rigging method uses a standardized lead length of 100 feet with a Snap Weight positioned midway between the lure and rod tip. Fishing depths are adjusted by attaching different size weights to the split ring on the Snap Weight clip.

Most anglers start out fishing the 50/50 system by using several different weights so that the respective lures are fishing at a variety of depths. Once a productive combination of lure and Snap Weight size are achieved, other lines are converted over.

This straight forward trolling strategy works great, but there are many other ways to use Snap Weights effectively. The 50/50 system is a great starting point and a good place to return to when fishing gets tough, but don't overlook other Snap Weight fishing methods.


On any body of water the fish most often overlooked are those that live closest to the surface. Anglers tend to target the fish they can see on their electronics. Fish suspended within 10-15 feet of the surface rarely show up on a sonar unit because the presence of the boat causes these fish to move out of the way before the transducer cone can intercept them. This is especially true in clear water conditions where fish are extra spooky.

Even in turbid waters it's difficult to mark fish close to the surface. Because the transducer cone angle is small compared to the surface area of water that must be covered, marking high fish on the sonar rarely occurs. The only practical way to know if suspended fish are living near the surface is to set some lures to run shallow, add some planer boards to your trolling pattern and see what happens.

Fortunately fish found near the surface are there for one reason, to feed. Walleye, salmon, trout, muskie and other species often force schools of baitfish to the surface where they can block their escape and feed at will.

Trolling spoons and crawler harnesses are a couple great lures for targeting fish that suspend near the surface. Snap Weights are the ideal way to present these lures to the target depth.

If walleye are the species, try trolling crawler harnesses at 1-1.5 MPH. Set a crawler harness 25 feet behind the boat then add a 1/2 ounce Snap Weight. Let out an additional 25 feet of lead and attach the line to a planer board so the lure can be presented out to the side of the boat.

At this slow trolling speed a 1/2 ounce Snap Weight will present a crawler harness 6-8 feet below the surface. To get a little more depth try a 3/4 or 1 ounce Snap Weight.

Keeping the overall lead short can be critical when fishing at these slow speeds. A short lead reduces line stretch and significantly improves hook penetration.

Steelhead and salmon anglers are often faced with the same situation. The fish are high in the water column and too spooky to catch with downriggers. Say the target species are steelhead, spoons are the lure of choice and the trolling speed is a brisk 3.5 MPH. The same 25/25 lead with a 1/2 half ounce Snap Weight would barely keep the spoon in the water. To sink the spoon 6-10 feet will require a heavier two ounce Snap Weight with a 25/25 lead combination.


Fish located in deeper water can also be targeted with Snap Weights. The same 25/25 lead combinations can be used to target deeper fish by simply increasing the size of the Snap Weight. For example, the same spinner rig and trolling speed used for targeting walleye near the surface can be used to fish 15 feet down by simply increasing the Snap Weight size from ½ ounce to 2 ounces. To fish a little deeper yet the second lead length can be extended from 25 to 50 feet making the overall lead length 75 feet. The combinations of lead lengths and Snap Weight sizes are endless.

Many anglers who fish Snap Weights also incorporate the Side-Planer in-line board to present lines out to the side of the boat. The Side-Planer is an excellent tool for fishing Snap Weight rigs up to three ounces in size.

Heavier Snap Weights can be fished with a mast style board system such as the Riviera Dual Planer Board. Using Snap Weights in the four to six ounce range, anglers can target deeper depths or troll at faster speeds to meet a wealth of fishing challenges.

When using heavy Snap Weights in combination with a dual planer board system, a line release with a little more tension must be used. The normal OR10 Adjustable Light Tension or OR14 Adjustable Medium Tension line releases aren't designed to hold heavy Snap Weights. This is especially true when trolling at faster speeds.

The ideal line release for fishing heavy Snap Weights or at high trolling speeds is the OR17 Medium Tension Planer Board Release. Don't let the medium in the name fool you. The larger diameter rubber pads of this release keep a firm, but gentle grip on monofilament lines from 10-25 pound test. The tension on the OR17 can be adjusted by how deep the line is placed between the rubber pads making this release ideal for light biters like walleye, up to toothy and hard to hook fish like muskie and king salmon.

The ways Snap Weights can be used to troll up more fish are endless. It never hurts to start out with the popular 50/50 rigging method, but don't be afraid to experiment with other lead length options. The more anglers experiment with Snap Weights the more they will discover just how effective these in-line trolling weights can be.


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By Mark Romanack

Trolling comes in many forms. The game of trolling ranges from simple presentations that drag lures in the prop wash to sophisticated hardware consisting of accessories such as downriggers and outriggers. No matter how simple or complex, all forms of trolling have one common denominator. Sooner or later some type of weight must be added to the fishing line to achieve the desired depth range.

No matter what species is targeted or how lures are presented, adding weight to the line will eventually become necessary. Using varying amounts of weight is the only practical way to present lures at the different depth ranges anglers are frequently faced with.

Not surprisingly, imaginative souls have conjured up several ways to affix weight to a fishing line. Split shots, rubber core sinkers, in-line keel weights, three-way rigs and bottom bouncers are just some of the weight options that solve the problem of getting lures a little deeper.

Unfortunately, most sinker options require the weight to be permanently fixed in position on the line. Attaching the weight near the lure solves the problem of getting more depth, but it also creates a new set of problems.

Adding weight to the fishing line reduces the natural wobbling, flashing, wiggling and swimming action of spinners, crankbaits, spoons and other trolling lures. When weight is fixed to the line near the lure, the lure is essentially tethered on a short leash. The end result is a lure with less action.

Weight positioned near the lure also presents another problem. The weight is an unnatural object in the water that can actually cause wary fish to become even more suspicious. The spooking factor created by adding weight to the line is most noticeable in clear water. Under these conditions game fish have the advantage of scrutinizing lures and other objects in the water at their leisure. Many species such as salmon, trout and even walleye frequently follow trolled lures as if trying to decide if they should strike at them or not.

Underwater cameras have helped us document this behavior time and again. Game fish are quickly attracted to a passing lure when it's first spotted. The fish moves in for a closer look, then follows along briefly as the lure does its thing. During this game of cat and mouse, the fish is mesmerized for a moment. Unfortunately the spell is quickly broken if anything seems unnatural or out of place. Instead of striking the lure, the fish loses interest and simply breaks off the chase.

As anglers we can minimize stale lure action and the spooking factor that adding weight to the line causes by simply increasing the distance between the lure and the weight. The answer to this problem comes in the form of a unique in-line trolling aid known as the Snap Weight. Snap Weights allow trolling sinkers to be added and then removed from the fishing line at any point between the rod tip and the lure.

The secret to the Snap Weight system is the OR16 Snap Weight Clip that allows trolling weight to be attached on the line when setting lures, then reeled in when a fish is hooked and removed from the line as the Snap Weight nears the rod tip. It only takes a second to put on or take off a Snap Weight.

Snap weights enable trolling weight to be easily added to the line 10, 20, 30, 40 or even 50 feet ahead of the lure! A wide assortment of weight sizes can be used to achieve just about any common fishing depth. With the help of a Snap Weight, anglers can get the depth they need without detracting from lure action or spooking fish.

The heart of a Snap Weight is an Off Shore Tackle OR16 (red) clip. This clip features a heavy spring tension that grips the fishing line firmly between two rubber pads.

It's important to note that the Snap Weight clip is NOT a line release. This product is engineered with heavy spring tension to insure the Snap Weight remains on the line. When a fish is hooked, the angler reels the fish and Snap Weight in together. When the Snap Weight nears the rod tip, the angler simply removes it with a pinch between the index finger and thumb.

As added insurance against losing the Snap Weight, a small plastic pin protrudes from one pad and nestles inside the other pad when the clip is closed. To put the Snap Weight on the line, the clip is pinched open, the fishing line placed behind the pin, and the clip closed. Once the clip closes there is no way the Snap Weight clip or attached weight can come off the line.

The versatility of the Snap Weight comes into play as different size weights are used. Weights easily clip onto a split ring attached to the Snap Weight clip. Changing weight sizes only takes seconds.

Off Shore Tackle offers a Snap Weight kit that features four OR16 clips, four split rings and an assortment of weights ranging from 1/2 to 3 ounces. Heavier weights up to 8 ounces can be purchased separately and used to achieve even deeper depths. Some fans of Snap Weights use these trolling aids to add up to 16 ounces of weight to their trolling lines.

Anglers have the option of purchasing the OR20 Snap Weight Kit or building their own Snap Weight system by purchasing OR16 clips and weights separately.

The Off Shore Tackle Snap Weight was the first in-line trolling aid of its kind. Since the introduction of the Snap Weight half a dozen other companies have introduced their own version of this product. However, none are as easy to put on and take off the line as the patented OR16 Snap Weight Clip. The name Snap Weight has become synonymous with in-line trolling weights and a system of trolling that has swept the nation. Countless walleye, salmon, pike, muskie, trout, steelhead and other game fish have fallen victim to the Snap Weight system. Simple to use, effective and inexpensive, nothing beats the Snap Weight system when getting to the right depth means adding a little weight.


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By Mark Romanack

Fishing is one of those recreational activities that ranks right up there with baseball, barbecues and pigging out on a cold slice of watermelon. To those of us who routinely enjoy fishing, the experience becomes more rewarding each time on the water. Unfortunately, a lot of kids have not experienced the rush catching a nice fish brings.

Statistics indicate that the number of young people exposed to fishing declines each year. Single parent homes and our urbanized society are part of the problem. Americans simply don't have the close association with the outdoors and nature they once did.

It would be easy to blame the declining interest in fishing on the single parent family, but the truth is many anglers don't make an effort to share their love of the outdoors with young people. Too often we get caught up in our own fishing adventures and don't make time to introduce others to the sport of fishing.

This summer make a point to get some young people involved in fishing. Kids enjoy all types of fishing, but trolling is an especially good way to insure first timers enjoy a positive experience on the water. The beauty of trolling is that everyone on board doesn't have to be a fishing expert. As long as the angler operating the boat understands the basics of trolling, everyone on board can share equally in the fun. With other types of fishing the angler's skill, or lack of, often plays a role in the angling success or failure.

When picking a trolling destination, select a target species and location where the action is likely to be fast. Trying to introduce a kid to fishing while trolling for muskie isn't a great idea. Sure you might catch the fish of a lifetime, but the odds are you won't catch a thing. When involving kids in fishing it's important to get their attention right away. There's no better way to accomplish this goal than to catch a bunch of fish quick.

The Western Basin of Lake Erie is an ideal place to take a kid trolling. Odds are you'll catch lots of small to medium sized walleye, a bunch of fresh water drum, some white bass and maybe even a small mouth bass or two.

This fertile body of water is one of the richest trolling fisheries in North America. Lake St. Clair is another great place to troll. You never know what you might catch when you fish on Lake St. Clair. Walleye, northern pike, muskie, small mouth bass, white bass, crappies, rock bass, catfish and drum are all abundant and readily caught.

Saginaw Bay is also a fine fishing destination for introducing kids to the pleasures of trolling. Saginaw Bay yields good to excellent catches of walleye and there are always, drum and channel catfish willing to bite spinners or crankbaits trolled behind planer boards.

When introducing kids to trolling, get them involved in the fishing process. Let them help with selecting lures and setting lines. When it's time to try new lures, let them help reel in the lines, select new lures and reset the lines. The best way to learn things on a boat is by doing. The overall fishing experience is going to be more rewarding if your guests feel like they made a contribution to the success.

When a fish is hooked, make a big deal of it. If the fish gets away, don't dwell on it. A little coaching is okay, but don't forget to keep things light and fun. I've been on charter boats where the captain literally yelled at clients when a fish got away. Remember, the object isn't to fill the boat with fish, but rather to enjoy the experience of catching each fish.

When trolling, it never hurts to keep a good supply of soft drinks and snacks handy. In between strikes, pass the time eating, drinking and telling stories. It doesn't take long for newcomers to discover that fishing isn't just about catching. The fellowship enjoyed on the water is part of what makes fishing such an enjoyable experience.

When a strike occurs, the angler is connected to the fish. At the same moment the angler also connects with those around him. Help a young person make a connection to fishing this summer. The smiles generated may be your own.

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Choosing Planer Board Types

When trollers get together, debate is soon to boil. Eventually the topic turns to planer boards and someone poses the question; "Which are better, dual planer boards or in-line planer boards?" The great planer board debate has gone on for as long as planer boards have been in use. One fraternity believes that dual planer boards are the planer board workhorses. The other faction argues that in-line boards are easier to use.

As is often the case in a debate, both sides of the issue typically put forth a good argument. The truth is, both dual board and in-line planer boards accomplish similar functions. The primary purpose of planer boards is to spread out trolling lines in order to contact more fish. Beyond this primary function the use of dual boards or in-line boards is largely a personal choice. There are however, times when one type of planer board has advantages over the other.


Full sized boards such as the popular Riviera collapsible dual planer board (DPB) have their roots in big water. Designed to be used on open water and with larger sized fishing boats, there is little doubt that dual boards have the edge when fishing rough water.

The large size of these boards enables them to plow through bumpy seas when trolling with or against the waves. Trollers who spend much of their time quartering seas or trolling into the waves will find that dual boards are the best investment.

Dual boards also have the clear advantage regarding the number of lines that can be fished per side. With a dual board system it's common for anglers to fish four, five or even six lines per side! If you've got a big boat and frequently fish with four to six anglers aboard, dual boards are the answer.

Dual boards are also the obvious choice for fishing situations that involve deep diving crankbaits, Snap Weights, lead core line, gang spinners, dodgers and other trolling hardware that is heavy or that pull exceptionally hard in the water.


For all the advantages dual boards pose, in-line boards are equally handy. Handy is the right word, because in-line boards such as the Off Shore Tackle Side-Planer are much easier to use than dual boards. Simply set your lure the desired distance behind the boat, clip on the Side-Planer, let out more line until the board is the desired distance from the boat, put the rod in the holder and troll. When a fish is hooked, the Side-Planer and fish are reeled in together, remove the board from the line and continue to fight the fish. This straight forward style of board trolling is easy to learn and fun.

In-line boards have some other subtle advantages. In-line boards ride the waves in a different way than dual board boards. With in-line boards being smaller in size, they tend to jerk around in the swells while imparting a unique start and stop action to the lures. Many veteran trollers feel that in-line boards trigger more strikes than dual board systems that produce a more uniform trolling action. They also have an advantage of maintaining steady tension against the fish during the entire fight. When a fish strikes a lure trolled on a dual board system, the line is pulled free from a release. For a few seconds slack line exists until the boat catches up to the fish and the line is pulled tight again. These few seconds of slack line are often enough to allow a fish that's not hooked securely to escape.
With an in-line board, hooked fish pull against the resistance of the board.

The angler keeps tension on the fish by reeling the board and fish in together. So long as the boat is kept moving forward slowly, there's constant tension on the fish. In-line boards work so well that few hooked fish escape. This is one of the primary reasons professional tournament anglers favor in-line boards.

Both dual boards and in-line boards have their advantages and disadvantages. Choosing one type of planer board over another boils down to how and where the boards will be used. On big open waters where big boats rule, the dual board is the king of planer boards. Anglers who fish from smaller boats and often frequent a wealth of different water types, in-line boards are both functional and practical.

While the choice is personal, the fact is you can't make a bad decision. Both dual boards and in-line boards are efficient and exciting ways to fish. Take your pick and get trolling.


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By Mark Romanack

When the Off Shore Tackle Snap Weight Clip (red), OR16 hit the market a few years ago, it was an immediate success. The concept of using in-line trolling weights that can be placed anywhere on the line and easily removed when fighting a fish, solved the headache of using split shots, sinkers, rubber core and other trolling weights forever.

Walleye and salmon anglers alike quickly began using the OR16 as a replacement release for the OR14 (black) that comes standard on the Side-Planer board. The extra strong spring tension of the OR16 was ideal for insuring the Side-Planer stays on the line when trolling for walleye. Salmon and steelhead anglers like the extra tension because it insures a solid hook set before the line is tripped from the release.

The OR16 has served anglers well, but in 2001 this popular product received a design modification that will make it even more useful and popular. At first glance the improved OR16 looks the same. When the jaws are pinched open however you'll notice a small plastic pin is positioned in the center of one jaw and the pin fits into a hole in the opposite rubber pad. When the OR16 clip is opened and the line placed between the rubber pads, be sure to place the line behind the plastic pin. This simple modification insures the Snap Weight Clip will remain on the line, even if heavy Snap Weights are used or if the weight contacts the bottom.

This same feature also insures that those anglers who use the OR16 as a line clip for the Side-Planer board won't have to worry about the board popping off the line when fishing in heavy seas.

The improved OR16 is recommended for use with monofilament lines from 10 to 20 pound test. The OR16 will also hold larger sizes of super braids such as 20-60 pound test, but we recommend that anglers who use super braids try the OR18 Snapper Adjustable Release which is designed specifically to hold super braids.

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New for 2002 is the orange OR19. This release has an adjustable heavy tension spring designed for salmon and large fish on planer boards. The OR19 comes with both a split ring for in-line planer board use and quick clip for using with dual planer boards and harder pulling baits. When fishing with the Side-Planers using the slide back method to get the board behind the boat, put the OR19 on the front bracket. You can also use the OR19 as a fixed slider so that it will hold hard enough to set the hook then slide down to fight the fish.

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By Mark Romanack

It's widely accepted that trolling is one of the best ways to catch the big three; salmon, trout and walleye. Any time anglers are faced with the chore of finding and catching these species, trolling is the obvious choice. Trolling is most often practiced on large bodies of water, but this fishing technique is just as deadly on small lakes and rivers. Trolling is also deadly on a wealth of other species. Panfish, pike and even bass are fair game for trollers who know when and how to target these fish.


Trolling for panfish? You bet. Crappie are classified as panfish throughout their range, but this title comes from their size; not their feeding habits or behavior. Crappie may be small compared to other species, but these widespread fish are also aggressive predators. During the weeks prior to the spawning season, crappie are especially active and readily caught using trolling tactics. During the pre-spawn period, crappies often stage in deep water areas adjacent to the shallow flats where these fish spawn. Huge schools often suspend in open water where they are easy pickings for anglers who troll small crankbaits behind in-line boards such as the Off Shore Tackle Side Planer.

The same medium or light action trolling rods, reels and lines used for walleye fishing can double as crappie trolling equipment. The crankbaits selected however should be crappie sized models. Examples of good baits for crappie trolling include the No. 5 Shad Rap, Strike King Bitsy Pond Minnow, Rebel Crayfish, Cotton Cordell CC Shad, Norman's Baby N and Bandit 100 series. The smaller the crankbait the better when tempting crappie.

Fishing two in-line boards on each side of the boat makes a good crappie trolling spread. Crappie often run small and it can be difficult to detect bites and hooked fish. To solve this problem equip a Side Planer with a Tattle Flag kit. These spring loaded flag kits allow the flag to fold down from the weight of a hooked fish. Even small fish are readily detected on a board equipped with a Tattle Flag.

The Tattle Flag is sold only as a kit, not as boards equipped with Tattle Flags. Each kit comes complete with a flag, linkage arm, spring, spacers and two OR16 Snap Weight clips. It takes about five minutes to convert an ordinary Side Planer into a Tattle Flag board.

Start out trolling by varying the lead lengths on each crankbait to maximize the vertical spread of the lures. Experiment with lead lengths until a few fish are caught, then simply duplicate productive lead lengths and lures with other lines.

Pre-spawn crappie sometimes scatter in open water, but usually the best schools form along the deep water edge of breaks, weed lines and other cover. You'll have the most success trolling areas adjacent to flats, emerging weeds, submerged brush and other cover that crappies use when spawning. Early in the season water on the north and west ends of the lake receive the most exposure from the sun and warm first. Schools of pre-spawn fish will be attracted to these areas first then other areas as the lake begins to warm.

Other panfish such as white bass readily fall victim to this same trolling strategy. White bass are especially aggressive and noted for traveling in huge schools.


Northern pike are another overlooked species that are especially vulnerable to trolling. Pike will strike at trolled lures most any time of year. During April, May and June these fish are most apt to be found in shallow water near flats with emerging weed beds. Later in the summer, adult pike abandon the shallows and head for open water where they often suspend in the water column and target whitefish, ciscoes and other pelagic baitfish.

Trolling crankbaits in cooperation with Side Planer boards can make short work of pike in both spring and summer. Early in the season it's tough to beat a trolling pattern of stick baits, worked over the tops of emerging weed growth. Most stick baits only dive from six to eight feet, making them ideal for fishing over the tops of emerging weeds growing in six to 10 feet of water.

Some of the top pike producing baits in this category include the Reef Runner Rip Stick, Rapala Husky Jerk, Rebel Minnow, Storm Thunder Stick, Mann's Loud Mouth, Smithwick Rattlin' Rogue and Bomber Long A.

Set these lures from 40-80 feet behind the boat and attach a Side Planer to the line using both the front and rear mounted OR14 line releases. Squeeze open the pinch pads and place the line near the back of the rubber pads. To insure the board stays securely on the line, check to be sure the spring in the OR14 is slid into the forward or heavy tension setting.

Pike living in shallow water can be very spooky. For the best results let the Side Planers out to the side at least 75 to 100 feet. Stacking two boards per side of the boat makes an effective and manageable trolling pattern.

Pike usually strike hard and then immediately make a short, but powerful run. The Side Planer will telegraph this strike by dragging backwards sharply in the water from the weight of the struggling fish. When trolling Side Planers there's no need to set the hook. Instead keep the boat trolling forward while reeling the fish towards the boat slowly. Adjust the drag tension on the reel so the line slips a little while the angler is fighting the struggling fish. Fight the fish by keeping steady pressure on the fish and reeling slow and steady. Stop reeling only when the fish makes a run.

As the angler begins to win the battle, the board will be reeled within reach of the boat. Remove the board from the line by pinching open the two releases. Once the board has been removed from the line, you can slow down the boat or put the motor in neutral for the remainder of the fight.

A similar approach works when pike suspend over open water. Instead of using only shallow diving stick baits, mix in some deeper diving crankbaits into the pattern. Pike like high action crankbaits. Some good choices for open water trolling include the Storm Hot-n-Tot, Bomber 25A, Reef Runner Deep Diver, Storm Deep Thunder Stick and Rapala Deep Husky Jerk.

When setting up a trolling pattern, vary the lead lengths and lure running depths to cover as much water as possible. Often pike will suspend just above a thermocline where the water is cool and well oxygenated. The book Precision Trolling is a trolling guide that shows the running depths of hundreds of popular crankbaits. The data provided is based on lead length and line diameter, making this handy reference the final word in crankbait running depths. Currently in it's 6th edition, Precision Trolling is $24.95 and can be ordered by calling Precision Angling Specialists at 1-800-353-6958.

Both small mouth and largemouth bass can be caught trolling. In fact the largest bass on record have been taken using trolling techniques.

Largemouth are more likely to be found in among heavy cover. To target this species, try trolling a shallow diving stick bait or crankbait over the top of weed flats or along weed edges.

Small mouth love cover too, but this species is most often found on flats with scattered weeds or outcroppings of gravel and rock. Diving crankbaits presented behind Side Planer boards produce so well on small mouth it makes you wonder why anyone would bother with plastic worms.

Salmon, steelhead, trout and walleye are the most popular species targeted by trollers. Panfish, pike, largemouth and small mouth bass are just as vulnerable to trolling tactics. The fact is, when you start trolling you never know what you'll catch.

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By Jerry Fox Jr.

Sometimes traditional trolling tactics aren't the answer. When it comes to trolling for walleye in rivers, a specialized angling method takes the art of trolling to a new dimension.

Wire line trolling is a mainstay for many walleye anglers in the metro Detroit area. Popular for over 60 years, wire lining is the ultimate in hands-on walleye fishing!

Developed as a technique for fishing the fast current of the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers, wire lining or hand lining as it is also called has recently gained popularity in other parts of the country. As this unique fishing method gains acceptance, more anglers are asking how to get involved in wire line fishing.

Wire line fishing requires some basic equipment. The wire itself is 60 pound test cable stored on a spring loaded reel. The wire line reel is best mounted near the front of the boat along the gunwales. Riviera Downrigger Corporation produces a spring loaded reel (RCWIRE) that's ideal for the job. Each reel comes complete with 200' of wire already loaded, a 5' shank and a 1 ¼ pound weight.

The shank attaches to the wire and has several clevises attached that will ultimately accept trolling leads. At the bottom of the shank a heavy duty snap accepts a lead cylinder mounted on a length of heavy wire. The lead weight varies in size depending on water depth. One pound weights are normally used for most shallow water or moderate current situations. In deeper or faster water up to two pounds is often used.

Two or three trolling leads are attached to the clevises. Most hand liners prefer to use two leads. The lead closest to the weight is approximately 20 feet long and mounted 24 inches above the weight. The next lead is 40 feet long and mounted 12 inches above the first lead.

Staggering the leads allows two lures to be fished tight to bottom without fear of tangles. The most common lures are stickbaits such as the Rapala Minnow, Storm ThunderStick, Bagley Bang-O-Lure, Bomber Long A or Reef Runner Little Ripper. Other baits that find their way onto a wire line rig include the Helin Flatfish, pencil plugs, various spinners and a wealth of other shallow diving crankbaits.

When setting a wire line rig it's important to bring the boat up to trolling speed then lower the weight and shank into the water a few feet. Next feed your trolling leads into the water and watch the lures to be sure they are in tune and running properly. Once the lures are running properly, lower the whole rig to the bottom keeping the weight ticking bottom at approximately a 45 degree angle behind the boat.

Wire lining is effective because it keeps two lures in the strike zone 100% of the time. Even in areas where the current is fast or the bottom irregular, an angler fishing a wire line rig can keep pace with changes in bottom contour by simply letting out or taking up a little wire line to maintain contact with bottom. The more erratic the bottom the better this presentation works.

Wire lining is often practiced at night, but this technique works equally well during the daylight. At night walleye are often taken in water less than 10 feet deep. During the day, most of the action takes place in deeper water.

When a fish strikes a wire line rig, the angler can easily feel the struggling fish. The wire is slowly pulled in by hand and the spring loaded reel keeps the wire from tangling. The weight is placed in the boat and the angler determines which trolling lead has hooked a fish. The fish is pulled in with a hand-overhand retrieve. When the fish makes a run, the angler allows line to slip through his fingers.

Trolling leads are normally made from 20 pound test monofilament. Smaller line tends to tangle too much. Keeping the boat clean and organized is important when hand lining to avoid unnecessary tangles.

Two anglers each fishing a hand line rig with two trolling leads each is the ideal set up. Hand lining is effective, easy to learn and considered by many to be the ultimate in hands-on fishing.

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