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By Mark Romanack

Ever hear the adage that less is more? Sure, almost everyone appreciates a touch of minimalism when it can make our busy lives a little easier to navigate. In the world of sport fishing, less translates into simple and that's almost always a good thing.

Admittedly, trolling in general can be a rather complex way to target fish. Most trolling presentations are laden down with lots of gear and also the knowledge of how best to put these products to work. That's exactly why Off Shore Tackle's new planer board is so exciting.


The all new OR34 Mini Board packs a lot of planer board fishing opportunities into a very small and easy to fish product. The OR34 Mini Board is only about 1/3 the size and weight of our popular OR12/OR31 Side Planer, but don't let the small size mislead you. The OR34 Mini Board is a serious fishing tool that does a great job of getting lures out to the side of the boat.

Conventional wisdom suggests that larger boards do a better job of planing lures out to the side of the boat. In part this is true, but for many of the lures and presentations trollers face, smaller boards can meet their needs nicely. The modest OR34 Mini Board is both smaller and lighter than the Side Planer, yet it does an excellent job of getting the common crank baits, spoons, spinners, snap weights and other popular trolling gear anglers use out away from the boat.

Admittedly, the OR34 Mini Board isn't going to pull as much weight as theOR12/OR31 Side Planer, but it performs amazingly well with lures and trolling weights ranging from 3/8 to 1.5 ounces.


The OR34 Mini Board is light. The biggest advantage of the OR34 Mini Board is the small size and weight makes fighting fish a more enjoyable experience. The resistance of this new product is amazingly modest, making it ideal for trolling with light rods and light line.

The OR34 Mini Board is also reversible. By simply popping out the tow arm and slipping it into the opposite side, the OR34 Mini Board can be rigged to run port or starboard in seconds!

The OR34 Mini Board is versatile. This new board comes standard with an OR10 (yellow) Off Shore Tackle Planer Board Release. This release has two tension settings allowing the angler to customize spring tension for specific line sizes and trolling speeds.

The OR34 Mini Board is portable. Small enough to fit in a shirt pocket, several OR34 Mini Boards will easily fit into a tackle box, making them ideal for fly-in trips or for use on rental boats.

The OR34 Mini Board even works great from shore. River anglers are going to be amazed how well the OR34 Mini Board can tow lures out away from shore. There is literally no limit to how much river water an angler can cover with the help of the OR34 Mini Board.


The OR34 Mini Board is small and ideally suited to some specific and popular trolling situations. It's also important to note that some trolling techniques, like pulling lead core line or deep diving crank baits, still require the heavy duty planing chores of the OR12/OR31 Side Planer or a dual board mast system.

One of the most simple and easy ways to put the OR34 Mini Board into action is with small to medium sized crank baits. Simply cast a crank bait out behind the back of the boat, clip the line into the release on the tow arm of the OR34 Mini Board and then clip the snap swivel at the back of the board over the line.

Drop the board into the water and troll away letting line play off the reel until the board is out to the side of the boat the desired distance.

The OR34 Mini Board will plane out to the side 50-75 feet or more depending on the lure and trolling speed!

Because OR34 Mini Boards are so light, they can be fished with almost any rod and reel combination. Imagine, now there's no need for heavy trolling rods, reels and lines to enjoy planer board fishing.

Spoons are another trolling presentation that's tailor made for the new OR34 Mini Board. Both trolling and casting spoons can be rigged behind a OR34 Mini Board for targeting a wealth of species. Add a small snap weight or other in-line weight a few feet ahead of the spoon to achieve the desired depth and you're fishing that quickly.

Crawler harnesses are another lure that cry out for the OR34 Mini Board. Use snap weights, keel weights or just a couple split shots to sink the crawler harness, add the OR34 Mini Board and you're trolling a deadly rig for walleye, smallmouth bass and a host of other species.

The OR34 Mini Board is also ideal for targeting suspended crappie with both crank baits and jigs. Stack up to three or four OR34 Mini Boards per side if you like. It only takes a snap of the rod tip to trip the line release, making it easy to fish multiple lines per side without having to clear lines to fight fish! Also, don't overlook the OR34 Mini Board's ability to slow troll shad and other minnow baits for striper.

The practical uses of this new board are only limited by the imagination and ingenuity of those who fish them!


OR34 Mini Boards can be used to troll just about any small to medium sized lures or weight systems. Don't try to use OR34 Mini Boards to pull lead core line, bottom bouncers, deep diving crank baits or other rigs that have a substantial amount of resistance in the water.

OR34 Mini Boards can be used with almost any rod and reel, but as always, the trolling line counter reel remains the most practical way to monitor lead lengths which in turn dictate respective lure running depth.

As with any trolling presentation, conveniently located rod holders are a plus for fishing OR34 Mini Boards. If you have a small boat, clamp on style holders might be the best option. For larger boats a wealth of more permanent style rod holders will work well.

Don't be afraid to experiment with OR34 Mini Boards for targeting just about any species that swims. With a little ingenuity, these new products can open the door to amazing fishing opportunities.

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By Mark Romanack

For my money, the ultimate fresh water fish is the king salmon. It's true that an intrepid angler might someday catch a 40 pound muskie or maybe even a monster 50 pound striper, but compared to salmon in the 20 pound class, these are hard fish to come by. Adult Great Lakes salmon are amazingly abundant and easily caught in lakes Michigan, Huron, Ontario, Superior and even in Erie.

There are countless numbers of king salmon waiting to test tackle and angling skills. The typical king hits like a freight train and fights like you just hooked a jet ski!


Salmon, like every popular species, are targeted with a wealth of lures and angling methods. Too often the hype associated with these popular fish and the multitude of lures, lure colors and other gear gets in the way of success. When you boil down salmon fishing, just three simple lure groups and a handful of common presentations account for the majority of the fish. Anglers who stick with these "basics" will never be far away from hooking their next fish.


Salmon are most commonly caught on three simple lure groups including spoons, flies and plugs. For each of these lure groups there are no less than a dozen popular brands and a wealth of models to choose from.

In the spoon category, all sizes and types of trolling spoons will catch salmon. The number one choice among charter captains and serious anglers are the magnum sized spoons. Across the Great Lakes big spoons seem to produce more and bigger salmon spring, summer and fall.

Trolling flies are a second staple of open water salmon trolling. At one time the dodger was the attractor most commonly used in combination with trolling flies. Today, more anglers use flashers or rotators when fishing flies. Flashers and rotators can be trolled at faster speeds than a dodger, making them more user friendly and easily mixed in a trolling pattern that contains other lure types.

The third lure group worth noting is collectively known as plugs. The term plugs and crank baits are often interchanged. Sometimes you hear salmon anglers referring to these lures as body baits.

Actually there are two different categories of crank baits on which salmon are routinely caught on. In the spring time when the water is cold, stickbaits like the famous Bomber Long A are popular choices.

In the summer and early fall, a different kind of body bait produces better results. High action lures like the famous Luhr Jensen J-Plug or the Silver Horde are amazingly effective when salmon start to stage up near river mouths in preparation for spawning.


Three basic lure groups are the hot pics for salmon fishing. In the same token, three basic presentations catch most of the fish. The one, two, three punch needed to catch salmon includes downriggers, diving planers and lead core line.

Each of these common presentations are easy to master and effective at triggering salmon. Combining the top three lure groups with the three best fishing presentations is the fast track to salmon fishing success.


Most anglers consider downriggers as a tool for fishing deep water. That's true, but downriggers can also be useful for fishing closer to the surface.

Both manual and electric riggers are useful. For fishing very deep water (over 75 feet) electric riggers are a major convenience. Manual riggers will get the job done nicely in the majority of salmon fishing situations. Most boats are well equipped with a pair of downriggers.

Every downrigger system requires a 10-12 pound downrigger weight and a dependable downrigger line release. The weakest link in downrigger fishing is the line release. If this critical trolling tool fails, the rigger fails.

Off Shore Tackle produces the widest assortment of downrigger line releases and stacker releases of any manufacturer. No single line release can function properly for all fishing applications and that's why Off Shore Tackle produces different releases for different fishing methods and conditions.

The standard OR1 Medium Tension Downrigger Release is ideal for fishing spoons, and plugs on fishing line from 17-30 pound test. For fishing attractors and fly combinations a heavier tension line release is needed to insure solid hook sets and no false releases. The OR8 Heavy Tension Downrigger Release is ideal for trolling with attractors.

The OR2 Medium Tension Stacker Downrigger Release is ideal for running two lines from the same downrigger. The spring tension in this stacker release is best matched up with spoons and plugs.

Downriggers function best when the lures and attractors trolled behind them are fished rather close to the downrigger weight. For spoons, plugs and attractors, the best success is achieved when these baits are fished from 10-30 feet behind the downrigger weight. Keeping these baits close to the downrigger weight increases the lure action and also helps to avoid tangling with other lines.


The simple diving planer achieves two important functions when salmon trolling. Not only do these devices dive below the surface, they can be set to track out to the side of the boat a short distance as well. Getting both down and out to the side is a huge deal on a salmon boat because it allows more lines to be run and more water to be covered without the fear of tangles.

All three popular lure groups can be used effectively on diving planers, but these trolling tools see the most use with spoons and plugs.

The best way to fish a diving planer is to set it on the No. 3 setting that gains substantial outward coverage and modest to moderate depths. Ideally the diving planer should be used not as a super deep diving tool, but rather a tool that reaches medium depths while also reaching out to the side of the boat. This compromise helps fill an important niche in salmon trolling.

The most common size diving planers are the Luhr Jensen No. 1, Slide Diver No. 1 and Walker Deeper Diver 107 mm. Each of these popular divers are similar in diameter and diving depth.

Depending on how deep salmon are found in the water column, the most common leads for these diving planers are 50-200 feet behind the boat.


Lead core line is an age old tactic for getting a variety of lures to run at depth. Compared to diving planers and downriggers, lead core is a more shallow fishing option. A half core (five colors) of 27# test lead core runs about 20 feet deep. A full core (10 colors) of 27# test lead core runs a little over 30 feet deep.

These modest depths may seem shallow for salmon trolling, but lead core is a very useful tool for targeting kings early and late in the day when these fish are likely to be feeding in shallow water.

Lead core can be trolled straight out the back of the boat, but most anglers prefer to combine lead core with in-line planer boards like the Off Shore Tackle OR31 Side Planer SST.

In-line boards allow lead core to fish well outside of diving planers, covering more water and avoiding tangles in the process. Rigging two lead core lines per side of the boat is easy with the OR31 Side Planer SST board.

Lead core is most commonly fished as a segment of lead core line sandwiched between a monofilament leader and backing material. Set the half core (shallower running) line first. Let out the lure, leader material and all the lead core line. Attach the OR31 Side Planer SST board onto the backing material and send the board out to the side 50-75 feet.

On the same side of the boat set the full core (deeper running) and attach it to the OR31 Side Planer SST board in the same way. Set the OR31 Side Planer SST board to run about 20-30 feet inside the previously set board.

Duplicate this set up on the opposite side of the boat. Rigged in this fashion, if a salmon is hooked on the outside board lines, the board and fish can be reeled in without having to clear the inside board. This is because the outside lead core line is only half a core and running closer to the surface and will slide over top of the deeper running full core set up.

Lead core can be fished with all three lure groups, but spoons and plugs are the primary salmon producers.


Combining all the common lure groups and presentations into one killer salmon trolling program is good advice. Using downriggers to cover the deepest water, diving planers to fish the mid depths and lead core to fish closer to the surface sets up a trolling pattern that not only covers all the bases, but helps to keep lines separated and tangles to a minimum.

On the average boat, setting out eight lines represents a good spread that covers all the common depths and lure types.


Salmon are one of those species that bite best early and late in the day. If possible, plan on being on the water and setting lines an hour before the sun hits the horizon in the morning. Concentrate most of your lures in the top 60 feet early in the morning and as the day progresses, fish deeper. For afternoon trips, plan to fish the last two hours of the day and 30 to 60 minutes after the sun dips below the horizon.

In low light conditions, glow-in-the-dark colors are always a good option for salmon. As the light gets brighter, switch back to more traditional salmon fishing colors and lures with lots of flash.

Salmon also bite best in water temperatures from 45 to 60 degrees. If there is a perfect water temperature for salmon fishing it would be 50 to 55 degree water. However, often salmon are caught in warmer water. This is especially true as fish stage to spawn in the early fall.


Salmon are amazing fish. Pound for pound, no other fish fights harder or is more abundant across the Great Lakes region. While charter captains commonly target these fish from large boats, salmon can be successfully targeted from smaller boats much of the time.

The keys to catching more salmon are simple and straight forward. Stick with the three common lure groups and the three most popular fishing presentations. Get out early and fish hard. The rest as they say is history.

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By Mark Romanack

Snap weights are trolling sinkers with the emphasis on simple. No other trolling weights are as simple or versatile to use as the popular Off Shore Tackle Snap Weight.

It's a forgone conclusion that among trollers, lots of fishing situations require adding extra weight to the fishing line. More often than not adding a little extra weight is the easiest way to achieve a pinch more depth.

Snap weights could not be easier to use. Little more than a chunk of weight attached to an OR16 (red) Snap Weight Clip via a simple split ring, these amazing trolling sinkers simply have no limit to their fishing uses. The beauty of a snap weight is they can be used to fish a wealth of weight sizes and the weight can be placed literally anywhere on the line the angler desires. Furthermore, the snap weight is easy to put on and just as easy to take off the line when fighting fish. A small pin that protrudes through the middle of the rubber pinch pads insures that the snap weight will stay on the line until the angler removes it.

The fishing situations outlined below are just a few of the situations where snap weights shine brightly. Read on.


It's a well known fact that walleye commonly suspend in the water column to feed on shiners, shad and other free ranging forage fish. The garden variety nightcrawler harness is one of the best ways to catch these fish and snap weights are the easiest way to present "spinners" at target depth.

Using the standard 50/50 Method outlined in the book Precision Trolling, (www.precisionangling.com) snap weights can be easily used to target any depth a walleye is likely to be living at. Simply let your favorite crawler harness out 50 feet behind the boat, clip on a snap weight onto the line and let out an additional 50 feet of line.

The snap weight chart in Precision Trolling shows at a glance how deep respective snap weight sizes will troll at common speeds. The angler's job is to determine the average depth fish are marking on the sonar unit and then match that information up with the ideal size snap weight.

If fish are marking at a variety of depths, use different sized snap weights to stagger your lures in the water column. Stick with the standard 50/50 system and simply change weight sizes to target other depths. When you start catching fish on a particular weight size, switch over other lines to the more productive weight size and hold on.


For every crank bait that dives the perfect depth, there is need to fish a little deeper. Crank baits are amazing fish catching machines, but these lures are limited by how deep they can dive.

Adding a snap weight to any floating/diving style crank bait can substantially increase the diving depth without changing the lure's action. Just placing a one ounce snap weight 20 feet in front of your favorite crank bait increases the diving depth of that lures about 30%. For the typical crank bait that dives 15 feet, one ounce of extra weight increases the diving depth to 20 feet!

Imagine the possibilities. Using snap weights there are literally no limits to how deep an angler can fish his favorite crank bait. Snap on and catch more fish. It's that simple.


Trolling spoons are awesome fishing lures, but these action packed lures don't dive on their own. Targeting these lures at depth requires combining a spoon with some other type of fishing hardware like a downrigger, diving planer, lead core line or you guessed it snap weight.

For steelhead, browns and other surface feeding species, a modest one ounce snap weight will present the typical trolling spoon about 10 feet below the surface at two miles per hour. To fish deeper, simply add more weight. It's that simple.


Salmon are a species that is commonly found in deep water. Downriggers and diving planers are the tools most commonly used to target deep water fish. Snap weights in the larger sizes can be a simple alternative to depth control fishing.

Snap weights in the four, six and eight ounce sizes can easily be used to target depths from the mid 20's to more than 40 feet! For example, at two miles per hour, a six ounce snap weight will run 36 feet down when fished 200 feet behind the boat. Impressive!

To fish even deeper try attaching two snap weight clips to the split ring and adding 10, 12 or even 16 ounces of weight. A one pound weight will fish a whopping 125 feet down when set out 200 feet and trolled 2.5 MPH.

Snap weights are a great tool for targeting salmon and other deep water fish. Troll these heavy weights straight out the back of the boat and hold on. You're going to be amazed how well this ultra simple fishing method works.


Lead core line sinks and achieves substantial depth when trolled at normal speeds. The problem with lead core is it takes a lot of line out to achieve any significant depth.

Snap weights again come to the rescue. A lead core rig consisting of five colors of 27 pound test line will fish about 20 feet down at three miles per hour. Adding a four ounce snap weight on the line near the point where the leader and lead core join, five colors will now run about 30 feet deep or almost the exact same depth as 10 colors of 27 pound test lead core.

Fishing less lead core out and adding weight makes sense. Not only does the angler not have to reel in so much line, fish are hooked better and more get landed compared to fishing longer lengths of lead core.

Putting the snap weight on and off the line couldn't be easier. It only takes a second to put the snap weight on the line and also to remove it when fighting a fish. Slick!


Fishing snap weights couldn't be easier and as you can see from the above examples, snap weights are also versatile. There simply is no limit to the ways snap weights can be used to troll up popular species. The only wrong way to fish a snap weight is to not take them fishing in the first place.

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By Mark Romanack

The popular Off Shore Tackle OR12 Side Planer continues to catch countless fish for all kinds of anglers. Beginning in 2009 this popular board has been updated to include two OR19 (orange) Adjustable Heavy Tension Planer Board Releases as factory standard equipment. The heavy tension releases are ideal for fishing these boards at faster trolling speeds, trolling lead core line, working in rough water and other challenging fishing situations.

The OR19 (orange) releases have the same spring tension as the popular OR16 (red) Snap Weight Clip. The difference is the OR19 doesn't have the pin that protrudes through the center of the rubber pads. Instead the OR19 features two rubber pads ideal for holding all common sizes of monofilament line from 10# to 25# test.

Over the years it has become common place for walleye anglers to upgrade their OR12 Side Planer by purchasing a pair of heavy tension OR16 Snap Weight Clips. The introduction of the OR19 to the OR12 Side Planer makes this extra expense unnecessary. This represents an added value of more than $8.00!

The OR19 release is actually the best of both worlds. Walleye anglers who want to be sure the OR12 stays on the line, will find that rigged with the OR19's, their problems are over. No matter how fast they troll and even in rough water the OR19 has plenty of tension to insure the OR12 Side Planer will stay put on the line until the angler reels it in and removes it.

The stronger spring tension of the OR19's are also a benefit to salmon anglers who troll in big seas and prefer to rig their boards so they can be released and allowed to slide down the line. To rig the OR19 releases so they can easily be triggered, simply follow these simple instructions. First, set your lead length to the desired distance. Second, wrap the fishing line around your index finger four or five times, forming a loop and a few twists of line. Third, put the twists of line into the OR19 release attached to the bracket, leaving the loop of line exposed out the top of the release. Fourth, clip over the line with a snap swivel mounted at the back of the board. The board is now rigged for the release and slide method of trolling.


The release and slide rigging method works best when targeting large fish species like salmon, muskie or striper. This is also a convenient way of rigging in-line boards so multiple boards/lines can be set on each side of the boat. A quick snap of the rod tip is all that's required to pull the loop free of the release and send the Side Planer sliding down the line.

To prevent the board from sliding down to the lure, rig an OR29 Speed Bead on the line about three feet ahead of the lure. These inexpensive beads are easy to rig and the ideal way of preventing the planer board from sliding down and potentially knocking the fish off the lure.


Also new for 2009 the OR12 and OR31 Side Planers are both now factory equipped with an environmentally friendly alloy counter balance weight. Anglers won't even notice the difference, except for the good feeling they get for being friendly to our planet.

As always the Side Planer and SST boards are ideal for hard core trolling applications. There is hardly a species in fresh or salt water that can't be caught with the help of these work horse planer boards. As always, Off Shore Tackle is constantly looking for ways to improve their products and help anglers catch more fish.

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By Larry Hartwick

2008 was full of surprises, some good and some bad. The worst of the bad was $4.50 boat gas and the best was the spring trout and salmon fishing in Lake Huron.

After all of the havoc unleashed from the hundreds of invasive species that have been deposited on the Great Lakes by some human greed, we are never quite sure what we will find each spring. To say that I was pleasantly surprised would be a gross understatement. I was elated! Fishing was great! Was it as good as 1985-1987? No, but it was still good.

Lake Huron has always had great lake trout fishing so it wasn't really a surprise that lake trout were still plentiful. The big surprises were the coho and king salmon. Coho were very abundant which is an unknown phenomenon because it has been over 10 years since any coho were planted in Lake Huron. They were on both the Canadian and U.S. shores at the same time and covering a minimum of 80 miles of shoreline in Michigan alone. No one knows where they are coming from but it appears that they are natural reproduction and my guess is that they are coming from the Canadian rivers.

The amount of coho has been increasing since the alewife crash, although populations of the native emerald shiner and rainbow smelt have been booming. The coho were feeding heavily on the emerald shiners and were getting fatter by the week. The first week of May had the average coho weighing between 1 ½ to 2 ¾ pounds, a week later they were 2 ½ to 3 ½ pounds, and by the first week of June, I had reports of 4 to 5 pound fish.

The kings were more abundant than previous years with some caught in May weighing up to 15 pounds. Wherever you found the smelt, the kings were there.

All of the normal methods produced fish, but the stand out winner was using the Riviera Triple Planer Boards run in conjunction with the Riviera Kachman Dual Automatic Planer Mast.

Even though we don't have easy access to the bow of the boat, the Riviera Kachman Automatic Planer Mast can be pre set for the distance that the Riviera Triple Planer Boards are deployed. Retrieve lines are then used to set releases. These act in a similar fashion as a weight retriever would on a downrigger. With the mast extended to the 7 foot working height, the planer boards are being towed from approximately 10 feet high. This added height keeps the tow line out of the water and maximizes the efficiency of the planer boards. We towed a variety of stick baits from the Riviera Triple Planer Boards with the best producers being 14A and 15A Bombers.

Various colors produced well with the fish having a preference for gold tones with a splash of red or orange on several occasions. Planer board leads varied from 50 to 100 feet behind the release and we normally ran 3 lines per side from each triple board. We used Off Shore Tackle OR3 Light Tension Planer Board Releases which provided the proper tension for solid hook ups.

Downriggers produced as well when we extended the leads to match those being run on the triple planer boards with 80-100 feet behind an Off Shore Tackle OR8 Heavy Tension Downrigger Release. The additional holding strength of the OR8 release gave us the proper hook sets even at those extended distances. We used Mason T-line in 25# test clear monofilament to reduce line stretching.

Early May found the best results with the downriggers run in the top 10 feet of the water column and then the depths increased after mid May. We had 4 super colors and lures that worked virtually every day off of the downriggers. These baits and colors included the Northport Nail Wild Thing WT-21, Raider Glow Chicken Pox, Michigan Stinger Natural Born Killer, and Wolverine Glow Yellowtail. They were all exceptional fish producers in May. Other colors were probably working as well but there was not any reason to switch colors that were producing every time.

Diving planes worked as well with the same colors used as we deployed on the downriggers. They produced fish as well but, most days we fished a planer board and downrigger program because they work well together and complimented each other with no interference.

Limit catches were common with several trips ending in a limit of fish in less than 2 hours dock to dock. Most of this action took place in less than 30 feet of water. The key was finding the depth that the bait was in for that particular day. Do not be afraid to look in some fairly shallow water. There were many trips that we released several salmon while trying to pick up another trout for a limit. I can assure you that this not been an issue in the last few years.

What will 2009 bring when the ice leaves Lake Huron? Hopefully more great spring action!!

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By Mark Romanack

If anyone needs to be organized it's an angler. Name a hobby other than fishing that requires so many different pieces of gear and other essentials that must be somehow stored and organized? Most avid anglers have enough gear to fill a garage! Try fitting all that stuff into a fishing boat and still leaving some room to fish.

The problem with fishing tackle is you'll only need it if you don't take it. How many times have you had to stop at a bait shop to purchase something you already owned but left it at home? Getting better organized is something every angler could benefit from. A few organizational tips make it easier to lay your hands on essential gear and avoid having to choose what goes and what stays home. After all, an angler's goal should be to take it all and let the fish decide what gear will be needed on any given day.


Storing long trolling rods is a major problem in most boats. Many rod lockers simply won't accept rods longer than seven feet. Inexpensive plastic vertical rod tubes are a great way to organize trolling rods when running from one fishing spot to the next. Produced by Berkley and many other companies these rod holders are sold individually or in banks of 3, 4 and 6 rod holders. Mounted on the side of the console or near the transom of the boat, these rod holders insure that your rods won't tangle or bang together when running. When trolling these tubes double as a handy place to store your landing net ready for action.


Ever put a dozen rods into the rod storage locker and then tried to get one out? What a mess. Cloth rod covers are an expensive way to cover rod/reel combinations that are strung and ready for action. The cloth covers the guides and line and prevents the rods from tangling. Each cover runs around $5.00, making them cheap insurance against rod damage and frustrating tangles.


Tipped over your minnow bucket lately? Minnow buckets always seem to find a way to get tipped over or to get in the way. Even if your minnows don't spill, chances are they will be dead before you can use them.

Mesh minnow bags that fit into your boat's live well are an interesting alternative to traditional minnow buckets. Keeping your minnows in the live well allows them to be treated to fresh water, insuring the minnows will be frisky when needed.

These mesh bags feature a foam float to keep them upright in the live well and easy to get minnows as needed. When not in use the bags collapse and take up very little room. One mesh minnow bag is plenty to hold all the minnows needed for a long day of fishing. Slick!


"In-line planer boards are essential tools for many trolling situations, but storing them between fishing trips or even between trolling runs has been a problem," says walleye pro Keith Kavajecz. "A new product known as the Planer Tamer neatly stores four planers and some essential tools or six planer boards. Designed to mount along a rod box or at the transom of the boat, this cool new product protects your Side Planer boards and keeps them handy.


If you troll with a mast system and dual or triple planer boards, you no doubt have a host of planer board releases that need to be contained and kept handy. In the house wares section at any department store, you can find a slick solution. Small (8"X12") mesh plastic baskets hold 50 or more OR10 (yellow) walleye planer board releases. I have two and keep one on each counsel of the boat, ready for action. When I need a planer board release, they are always handy and the mesh boxes allow the releases to dry out between uses.


When I was in college I literally lived out of plastic milk crates. Just about everything I owned fit nicely into one of these durable and handy containers. Anglers can find just as many uses for plastic milk crates, but one of the most handy is for storing the many Plano boxes anglers use to store crankbaits and spoons. Milk crates come in two sizes and both will fit nicely under the console of most boats. The mesh design allows water to drain out, keeping the things stored inside organized and relatively dry. The things you can store in these durable containers are endless.

Milk crates are great for storing anchors, anchor line and dock lines so they can dry out after use. These handy items can also help to keep a minnow bucket from tipping over so easily. Bulky items like marker buoys, in-line planer boards and sea anchors can also find a good home in these inexpensive containers.


Hard coolers and boats just don't go together well. Because the cooler won't fit into dry storage compartments, they end up cluttering the floor of the boat. Soft sided coolers are ideal for storing crawlers, cold drinks, lunch or anything else that needs to stay cold. Because they can be molded into just about any shape, they fit into dry storage compartments where they are out of sight and out of the way. Off Shore Tackle has a handy 6 pack size soft cooler that works great for these items! Check it out on the Off Shore brand product pages on this website.


Every angler should have a camera on board. How do you keep expensive camera gear dry in a fishing boat? Metal ammunition cans sold at army surplus stores are the answer to storing delicate and expensive gear like cameras, flash attachments, film, digital scales and hand-held GPS units. A rubber seal in the lid makes these containers 100% waterproof and because they are made of metal they are also crush proof. Line them with pieces of foam rubber to cushion your gear and you'll be ready for a quick hero shot every time you're on the water.


Is your boat carpet getting thin in some high traffic areas? Rubber floor mats (the type sold at farm stores) can be custom cut to fit just about any space. These mats provide secure footing, they keep objects from sliding around on the floor and they help contain messes associated with fishing crawlers or minnows. A layer of rubber on the deck also makes just about any boat quieter. When they need cleaning, simply pull them out and hose them off.


Fishing success often boils down to being prepared and organized. Hopefully, one or more of these tips will help keep your fishing boat ship shape and ready for action in 2009. At the very least your fishing partners will be amazed they can clearly see the floor on your boat.

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By Larry Hartwick

As the ice flows leave the lake waters, the baitfish (Smelt) move inshore in search of spawning tributaries. The smelt will actively seek out waters that range from creeks to large streams for spawning. More often than not, these locations will be the same year after year. This is vital information for the anglers that target trout and salmon in the spring.

As the smelt stage off of these tributaries, they attract predators in large quantities. These fish often will range in groups that could easily be referred to as wolf packs. There are going to be very few single fish, so if you catch one, there are usually a lot more in that immediate area.

Most of the time, these wolf packs will be very concentrated in one area. The key to success is locating the productive area and then STAYING on the area. The most prominent error that I observe, made by anglers every year, is leaving a productive area while the fish are there and feeding.

How often have we seen a boat take a fish or two and continue trolling in the same direction without turning around? The key to success is keeping the boat on the fish by either circling or running a figure 8 pattern. Sound too difficult? With multiple rods in the water, it takes a little more finesse to turn around than stay in a straight line.

With that said, a common sense approach to rigging a boat in terms of rod holder location, downrigger locations, and planer mast location will eliminate most of the hassles associated with spinning in circles or figure 8's while working a wolf pack.

Planer masts should be mounted as far forward as possible on the boat, as this eliminates the tow line coming in contact with rods during a turn. Can't access the front of the boat easily? No problem, Riviera manufactures an automatic planer mast that can be operated without physically having to accessing the unit each time you set lines and does not require 12 volt power to operate it. Good tools such as this eliminate a lot of hassle while using planer boards.

Downriggers should be mounted so they don't interfere with using either planer boards or diving planes or your other downriggers. The perfect set up for downriggers has all of the end pulleys in a straight line when viewed from the side of the boat. In this configuration, it is nearly impossible to tangle lines but it requires the outside downriggers to be run at an angle to the transom. Most swivel bases will have a 45 degree angle that will usually work well. If not, the bases can be set at the proper angle when they are mounted. I have come to prefer this installation over the years, as everything "flows" without interfering with each other. Downriggers should have a minimum spacing of 48" apart on the end pulleys.

Rod holders for the planer boards need some spacing between them (I like about 8-10") and the ability to be adjusted to different angles. Having multiple angles on the rod holders allows a greater separation on the rod tips and will greatly reduce the amount of tangled lines. This also applies to rod holders for diving planes. The use of a track mounting system will allow for experimenting with various locations and leave you with more options.

The formula for spring fishing is simple, rig your boat to be user friendly, find the wolf packs at the bait concentrations, and do not leave them until you have had enough fun for the day!

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By Mark Romanack

For decades the gasoline kicker motor has ruled the roost when it comes to serious trolling chores. From walleye to salmon and just about everything in between the nine to fifteen horse kicker motor has been the magic that gets the work done.

A kicker motor has plenty of power for all practical trolling speeds and these little engines are stingy on a gallon of gas. As popular as the "kicker" motor has become, there may be a better option looming on the horizon.


Ironically electric trolling motors have historically been used not to troll but rather to position the boat from one casting location to the next. These products are typically used more for boat control than maintaining a particular trolling speed.

That era may be quickly coming to an end. The advent of the auto-pilot style electric motor has opened up a wealth of serious trolling options for anglers targeting walleye, striper and other species where the typical boat speeds range from 1 to 1.5 MPH. Slow trolling with an auto-pilot electric motor has a host of advantages and can be applied to in-line boards or traditional structure trolling.

First off, the electric motor is quiet. Even the quietest four stroke outboard is loud compared to an electric motor. In the boat, the silence of an electric motor is golden. You can talk without yelling and for the first time enjoy the peace and quiet anglers are so often seeking.

Secondly, an auto-pilot electric motor can easily be used to set a course and maintain it. Trolling with the typical gasoline kicker motor requires the angler to constantly adjust the course. With an auto-pilot electric motor, just set the desired compass heading and let the electric motor do the work of driving.

Even electric motors without the auto-pilot feature can be useful for these slow speed trolling chores. Any electric motor with a power drive style head will do a pretty good job of following a particular course setting. This is because the power head will stay positioned in one direction even when the continuous switch is engaged.

Traditional push-pull cable driven style electric motors can't be used in this capacity because when the unit is set to run on continuous, the head indexes, causing the boat to run in a tight circle.

Thirdly, auto-pilot electric motors have a cable on the control pad that allows the controls to be placed literally at any location in the boat. If you need to make a course adjustment or change trolling speeds there is no longer the need to move to the front of the boat.

This simple remote control option allows guides to fish and control the presentation at the back of the boat, freeing up the front of the boat for their clients.

A fourth advantage of electric motor trolling is the speed control. The speed control on an auto-pilot electric motor allows minute speed adjustments compared to the typical four stroke kicker motor that's either going too fast or too slow all the time.

On a rough day when the wind and waves are pushing the boat too fast, the electric motor can be turned backwards and used to slow down the trolling speed as needed.


Electric motors depend on battery power. The typical 24 volt electric motor with 80 pounds of thrust will troll a 20 foot walleye boat at 1.5 MPH for six to eight hours. A 36 volt motor will add another three or four hours of running time.

To extend the running time of a 24 volt electric motor, simply rig a third battery into the system to increase the amp hours without increasing the voltage.


Bow mount electric motors require a long shaft to insure the power head stays in the water all the time. For the typical Deep V walleye style boat, a shaft length of 60 inches is the minimum recommended length. Using longer shaft lengths is a clear advantage when trolling in rough water. If wave action causes the power head to contact the surface, the prop loses its bite and forward motion is interrupted. The deeper the boat, the more important it is to have an extra long shaft on the trolling motor.


For trolling speeds faster than 1.5 MPH another option is required. Fishing with crank baits or spoons can easily be handled with the primary outboard motor. These days even big V6 engines can troll at 2.0 to 3.5 MPH with ease.

The leader of the pack in terms of slow trolling outboards is the Mercury Verado. This four stroke engine is available in 135-200 HP four cylinder models or 200-300 HP six cylinder models. All are capable of running amazingly quiet and trolling down smoothly.

Another advantage of trolling with the Verado is power is controlled by a digital throttle that provides instant and positive speed adjustments. Unlike a four stroke kicker motor that routinely is running too fast or too slow, the speed on a Verado can be tweaked to literally any fishing speed required. Kicker motors tend to speed up or slow down the RPM speed even when the throttle adjustment isn't changed. The Verado throttle stays true and provides a smooth and consistent speed in both trolling and running situations.


The way anglers troll is quickly changing. The gasoline kicker motor was once the work horse of trolling, but that era may soon be over. Today with the advent of auto-pilot style electric motors and ultra smooth four stroke primary outboards, the traditional "kicker" doesn't seem so necessary anymore.

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By Douglas Cameron

As you know fishing for walleye on Hubbard Lake can be a difficult thing, especially in the hot summer weather when they are deep. On Thursday, July 17, I went out in our pontoon boat to give it a try using planer boards for the first time that summer. By mistake, I used quick release rod holders. As I was heading north in about 40 feet of water, I heard a sound and watched as one of my rods disappeared overboard. I quickly pulled the other line in and turned around to try to retrieve the road board that was still floating. However by the time I reached it, it had gone under. I stopped the pontoon and stood there cussing my stupidity. I then noticed the planer board just below the surface a short distance away. I used my extendable boat hook to try to get it but it was too far. I started the motor and tried to get close to the board but lost sight of it and could not find it again. Morning of stupidity cost me a good rod, reel and planer board, a value well over $100. Stupid me!

Saturday, July 26, was the HLSIA All Species Fishing Tournament. My neighbor Rudy Von Zittwitz and I went out early in the morning in our pontoon at 7:00 a.m. to try to catch walleye. It was windy and so we opted for drift fishing - dragging crawlers on or near the bottom of the lake and letting the wind and waves propel them. We would motor out to 40 feet depth, cut the engine and let the waves take over.

During the morning Rudy managed to catch five walleye (two keepers) and I, none. About 9:30 Rudy caught something - he said it was big, and I got the net ready. After a few minutes, Rudy decided he had caught the bottom and suddenly, the line gave. I went back to my rods and Rudy reeled in. "Look what I have," he announced. In amazement I saw that Rudy had the lure I had been using when I lost my planer board and rod on July 17. "A chance in a million," I thought. At that point it was time to pull lines and head out.

As we headed toward the middle of the lake, Rudy pointed out something in the water ahead. It was a planer board, just sitting upright in the water. "That's my planer board," I said, now getting very excited. "It has to be." There were no other boats around. Rudy manned the net and when he had the planer board safely in it, I cut the engine. We both pulled line still attached to the board and quickly up came my rod, scuffed but otherwise in good shape. What are the chances!

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Cory Symoens, not only a good angler, but also a great cook, prepared this dish for us while in Sweden!

1 Large onion
2 cups breadcrumbs
8 potatoes (peeled)
1 cup cream
1 cup whole milk (important to use whole milk)
½ stick of butter
1/4 cup parsley
1 ½ - 2 lbs. walleye fillets
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Place walleye fillets in the center of olive oiled large deep baking dish.

Boil the potatoes and let cool. When cold, quarter and place them around the edge of the dish with walleye fillets in the center.

Sauté the butter and onions with olive oil until the onions are golden brown. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove pan from heat and stir in the breadcrumbs and parsley. Set this dish aside for now.

Salt and pepper the fish and potatoes in a pan. Pour cream and milk over the fish. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mix evenly over fish and potatoes.

Place in a heated oven at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.

Eat and enjoy!

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By James Collins

Growing up in Northern Maine led me to become an avid hunter, angler and eventually a guide.

Muskie, as you know, are called the fish of a thousand casts. Now we are boating more muskie than ever, and it is simply because of the Off Shore OR12 Side Planer boards we bought at LL Bean.

They are perfect! They troll well at various speeds and handle much larger lures than I expected. My first weekend with them on the boat, I decided to get some of my pals together and take a trip with them before we took paying customers out so I would look like I knew what I was doing.

On this first weekend of using the OR12 Side Planers, we hammered muskie all weekend! The boards worked flawlessly, hookups were consistently solid, and the spread we put out was fantastic! I'll be telling everyone about how much they helped me. Thanks again!

If anyone wants to catch muskie sometime, send them my way. I would love to have people come up and see what the northern Maine woods have to offer. (James Collins can be reached at 207-942-5250).

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By Mark Romanack

Anglers are inventive soles. For just about every problem an angler faces, there is a product designed to solve that problem. For example, spoons are wonderful trolling lures that have an abundance of natural action. The problem is spoons don't sink very deep when trolled. To deploy spoons to greater depths anglers commonly use a variety of diving planers designed to dive below the surface taking the spoon along for the ride. The spoon is attached to the back of the diver using a short leader. Problem solved; well sort of.

Other problems trollers struggle with is that diving planers are heavy, they create a lot of drag or resistance in the water, they need to be fished on heavy line and all of this takes away from the enjoyment of fighting the fish. To solve this problem a number of manufacturers are producing "mini divers". Pint sized versions of the devices more commonly used to troll for trout and salmon, mini divers are just the ticket for trolling at shallow to moderate depths.

The first place that mini divers found a niche was for walleye trolling on Lake Erie. The perfect combination of features, mini disks easily reach the 15-25 foot depths walleye anglers commonly troll at. Ideal for trolling spoons, crawler harnesses and small shallow diving crank baits, these divers are also small enough that they create minimal drag in the water. Because mini divers are small they can be fished in combination with planer boards, further making them a "go to" product for open water trolling chores.

Across Lake Erie mini divers are in wide use. Anglers fishing for walleye on other sprawling waters are also starting to discover the benefits of these mini divers. Outside of the walleye niche, the mini diver market has been slow to take off. That's a pity because the mini diver can be used to target just about any species that lives in open water.

The mini disk is the ideal tool for trolling coho, brown trout and king salmon early in the year. In the spring these fish are often found in shallow water or in the top 20 foot of the water column. Mini disks can also be used to target open water steelhead that suspend near the surface most of the year.

The list of uses for mini disks doesn't stop with cold water species. Northern pike, smallmouth bass and even muskie are prime targets for diver fishing.


Most mini divers fall into two categories including round disks that are weighted to achieve depth and floating versions that achieve depth like a crank bait diving down into the water. Both designs work very well and each has their own set of advantages. Most mini divers have no release mechanism. Instead the line is tied to a snap on one end and the leader is tied to another snap at the other end. The exception to this rule is a new mini diver produced by Walker Downriggers that has a release arm similar to that found on larger diving disks.


Disk style divers come in different sizes. The smaller devices are approximately the diameter of a half dollar. Some larger divers about the diameter of a tennis ball are also available. Obviously the larger divers are designed to fish a little deeper, but even the smaller sized disks reach substantial depth when fished on thin super braid fishing lines.

Just like other trolling devices, two primary factors determine how deep diver disks run. The amount of lead length deployed and the line diameter used are the two factors that influence depth. Longer leads allow these divers to achieve greater depths as do thin diameter lines that have less resistance in the water.

The smaller sizes of mini disks have minimal drag or resistance in the water similar to that of a deep diving crank bait. Because these devices are small they work best when fished in combination with small or light lures like spoons, spinners and stick baits.

Disk divers are also directional like their larger cousins. By tilting the weight slightly to the left or right of center, these planers can be made to dive down and slightly out to the side. The operative word here is slightly. Mini disks are so small that they achieve very little outward planing ability compared to full size diving disks. Most anglers prefer to fish mini disks on the zero setting that dives straight down. Some even go so far as to glue the weight in place so the diver is permanently set on zero.


Divers that float at rest and dive like a crank bait when trolled are also available in small enough sizes to qualify as a mini diver. The Luhr Jensen Jet Diver is unique in that it floats at rest and dives when trolled, but this diver doesn't impart an action or wiggle to the lure. The Jet Diver pulls straight in the water and like other divers a leader is used to attach the lure to the diver.

Available in a No. 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 sizes, the Jet Diver is most popular among walleye anglers. The No. 10 and 20 are popular in Saginaw Bay and the Western Basin of Lake Erie. The larger 30 and 40 Jets are widely used in Lake Erie's Central and Eastern Basins where walleye are often found in deeper water.

The 10 and 20 Jets have minimal drag in the water and are commonly used in combination with either in-line planer boards or dual board mast systems. Larger 30 and 40 Jets are large enough to have considerable drag in the water and work best in combination with dual board mast planer systems.

Spoons are the most common lure trolled behind Jets, but these floating/diving devices are also handy for fishing crawler harnesses and shallow diving crank baits.

Like the mini disks, Jets see little use among salmon, steelhead and trout anglers. It's even rarer to see a pike or muskie troller using a Jet Diver. It's funny how anglers associate certain products with certain species and rarely use them to target others.


The fact is, both mini disks and Jet Divers are hardcore trolling tools that can be used to target a wealth of species. Any time the fish are within 30 feet of the surface, chances are a mini diver of some type is going to get the job done.

Even better, these useful trolling tools work well with either dual and triple planer board systems or in-line boards like the popular Off Shore Tackle Side Planer. Combining mini divers with planer boards makes these products even more useful, effective and versatile.

Walleye anglers recognize the value of these pint sized divers more than other anglers, but with time that too will change. Until then, don't underestimate the value of mini divers for catching all kinds of Great Lakes fish.

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By Mark Romanack

Trolling for just about any kind of fish is a numbers game. How deep are the fish? How many lines can I use? What's the limit? How fast should I troll? What pound test is best?

These are just a few of the numbers questions anglers must ask themselves every time they go fishing. The most important question however zeroes in on one very specific aspect of trolling. How much line do I have out? Lead length or the amount of line played off the reel is a critical element of trolling. While other variables influence on lure running depth. Lead length is the primary factor that determines where in the water column a lure is likely to run.

Anglers who control and monitor their lead lengths closely are rewarded with critical fishing information. Say for example that you have decided to set your favorite crank bait 60 feet behind the boat. Only a few moments pass before the rod bucks and a nice fish is hooked up. Obviously when the fish is landed, you'll want to return that lure to the same depth by letting out exactly the same amount of line again.

If you happen to have another one of the same lure in your tackle box, it would be a good idea to set it out also using the same lead length. Determining what lead lengths are the most productive and duplicating them is the corner stone of trolling.


There are a number of ways anglers can monitor their lead lengths, but none are as user friendly or accurate as a line counter style reel. Virtually all line counter reels use similar technology to determine how much line is being played off the reel. A gear driven counter is connected to the reel spool. As the spool turns and line plays out, the counter keeps track by clicking off the lead length in feet.

The counter has a button that allows it to be reset to zero before each lure is set. This simple fishing tool converts trolling from a guessing game into a sport where anglers can accurately predict the exact lead lengths that will produce fish.

Clip on style line counters that mount to the rod or metered fishing lines are other ways to monitor lead length, but neither is as convenient to use as a line counter reel.


Most anglers don't realize that all line counter reels don't measure lead lengths exactly the same. How much line is on the reel spool, the diameter of the line used and the width of the spool are all factors that influence the numbers that appear on the counter.

For example, if the reel you're fishing is half full of line, each rotation of the spool is letting off less line than if the spool was full. This is precisely why it's important to make sure all your reels are full to capacity when trolling.

Different sized line counter reels also function differently. A reel sized for walleye isn't calibrated to provide the same numbers as a salmon sized reel. This is because the spool size and width on these reels is somewhat different. The most accurate way to monitor trolling leads is for an angler to use a series of reels that are exactly the same model and size. It's also important that each reel be filled to capacity. Also, load each reel with exactly the same diameter fishing line.

By controlling these important variables, anglers can enjoy amazingly accurate and useful data from a line counter reel.


When it comes to line counter reels an angler can spend $40.00 each or as much as $200.00 a piece. Obviously, the more expensive reels are built using higher grade materials and designed to last longer.

Which model is right for each angler depends on how much time will be spent fishing and the budget available. Most anglers settle for reels that fall into the middle of the road in terms of quality and cost.

For example, Okuma is one of the leading producers of line counter reels. They produce three different models including the Magda Pro that retails for around $40.00, the Convector that retails for about $75.00 and the Catalina which costs around $130.00. All three are excellent reels, but each offers a series of features which in turn controls the price point. In the end, each angler must choose the reel that offers the best combination of features based on how he or she fishes.


One of the common questions regarding line counter reels is can I use reels designed for salmon to catch walleye? The answer is yes. Anglers who target both small and larger fish species are wise to invest in the larger size reels, best suited to catching big fish. These same reels can then be used to catch smaller species like walleye or browns by simply using smaller diameter fishing lines.

Selecting the smaller sized reels only makes sense if the angler plans on only fishing walleye or other smaller species. The line capacity of the smaller sized reels simply isn't adequate for targeting big kings.


Monofilament fishing lines dominate the trolling scene, but a growing number of anglers are experimenting with braided lines. Monofilament line has a unique set of characteristics that make it ideal for most trolling applications. Monofilament is relatively thin in diameter for the break strength, it holds knots well, is difficult for fish to see, and offers controlled stretch and is reasonable in price.

Super braids seem to cost more but they actually last longer than monofilament and they provide some specialized features that have a niche in trolling. Braided lines are very thin in diameter for the break strength which allows them to deploy lures to greater depths. Braids also have near zero stretch, which means long leads can be used without fear of losing hook setting power.

When fishing braids, smaller reels can be used because the small diameter allows reels to enjoy a larger line capacity. About the only negative regarding braids is the reduced knot strength. Because these lines don't stretch, they suffer from poor shock strength compared to monofilament line.


Every serious troller recognizes the value of monitoring lead lengths closely. Without question using a line counter reel is the best way to stay on top of the lead length issue. If you don't already use them, step up to line counter reels and watch as the mystery of trolling melts away into limit catches.

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