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Planer Board in use

Walleye Supreme

Planer board fishing has been around for a while now, but is a relatively new concept of fishing, and one that is much underutilised by many anglers. To the extent we err - as this method of fishing has some advantages not offered by many other angling methods.

Who doesn't thrill at 'lunker' walleye, power lunging at the end of a staining line - with frantic back-of-the-boat last chance deep dives. Who doesn't enjoy the savoury, mild, pristine flavoured white flesh of this awesome and gamefish of golden grandeur! 

As a 'pro' walleye fisherman, we must be consistent at being responsible for our clientele successfully catching fish, and as pros, planer boards offer us this consistent methodology of catching fish. True, we also use downriggers, and dipsy programs, but the bread & butter is the planer board. 

But why don't more people utilize this concept of fishing?

Likely for several reasons. Some will have tried it, and didn't fare out too well. Good planer board fishing is an art - of sorts - but most assuredly isn't rocket science. 

Too, likely, many of the 'walleye guru's' won't take the time to perfect the concept - and why should they - it takes time and patience to do so - it's much easier to just get out when the fishin' is prime, and pound on fish - do a story on it - and get on to another 'fish story'. 

As a consequence, there is little written material one can read to learn about planer board fishing - so the average Joe must go through the trial & error procedures like other planer board pioneers - with many pitfalls, incredible line tangles, nothing going right - and a no/few fish - scenario. 

Yet each year, as 'pro walleye specialists', my partner and I, hear many delighted oohs & aughs from clientele landing many (between 1,500 and 2,000 yearly) 'trophy' walleye. 

We've taken the time to learn the planer board techniques, and apply them. 

Why planer boards are efficient fishing tools!

 The use of planer boards has many benefits, which to the initiated, offer unequalled fishing opportunity and success! 

The concept of planer board use allows for more fishing lines trolled simultaneously, and more efficiently than with conventional fishing strategies.

Could you troll five rods - or more - from the back of your boat - without the most wicked tangled mess you could imagine - and then, what of ten rods? 

True, dipseys will offer some relief for multi line users, but to run this many dipseys will be more complicated/difficult, than by running ten lines from a planer board set-up. 

Indeed, from the 'ass end' of "The Rebel", my home boat, which is eight feet wide at the back, we often and easily run 10 rods off the 'boards', plus 4 or more dipseys, and two downriggers - all at the same time - when we have the appropriate number of clientele aboard (we can run 2 rods per angler when fishing for walleye in Lake Erie). But we catch most of the fish from/off the planer boards; here are a few reasons why! 

The above mentioned statement shows that THE BOAT IS NOW VERY EFFICIENT, with numerous lines being trolled. 

 But there are more reasons too, FOR SPOOKY FISH - SUCH AS WALLEYE (ESPECIALLY IN VERY CLEAR WATER), AND CRAPPIE, planer board effectiveness is unequalled. Very often these spooky fish, especially in relatively shallow lakes, or when they are suspended up high (under 45 feet) in clear water - and at various time of the year, or of day or night - or temperature preference - will spook out of the way of the oncoming boat. 

This aspect - spooks them RIGHT INTO THE PATH of the oncoming lures being run off the planer boards - whammo - fish-on! 

Too, in areas where fishing pressure is intense, fish will close their mouths at the slightest disturbance (in all likelihood, partly due to law of diminishing return). But the knowledgable planer board angler, using a bit of savvy, and whom trolls his/her lure presentation overtop of suspended fish, or just overtop of structure - yet with the boat a generous distance away - will be proof positive that fish can be taken! 

 As well, the very TROLLING PATH OF YOUR LURE SPREAD is awesome indeed. If your (2) boards are being run out to the side of the boat at a distance of fifty yards each, with five rods being run from each board -YOUR TROLL PATH IS 100 YARDS WIDE! So, if you troll, say ten miles in a fishing trip - this amounts to a troll path 100 yards wide - ten miles long - and that's a lot of water being covered. 

This concept alone, especially when fishing success is marginal, as often it is at the first and last of a season, or when the fish are spotty & scattered, is an excellent way to find fish. 

In short, this allows an effective way to 'hunt out' fish efficiently. 

Add to this, that you are/should be running different lure types, or colour, or size, and very importantly, depth differences of various lures - you are effectively & efficiently covering a lot of said territory. If there are fish in the vicinity - you'll have a good chance of tearing into them. Coupled with good electronic work, such as a depth/fishfinder, and a GPS to mark a school of walleye - you are going to be CATCHING fish. 

Another nice aspect of planer board fishing is that you can purchase the needed boards, mast etc. from many marinas/tackle shops. But you can also make your own boards from wood at home, and with a minimum of equipment. This later fact allows you to custom build a set-up of planer boards that suits your need & boat. A trip to a marina where planer board fishermen tie-up is a great place to glean info. This can be especially important when you run into specific problems for a specific boat etc. No publication could ever even come close to being able to cover all of the potential combinations or requirements of custom planer board setup. 

I've confined this write-up to great lakes walleye fishing - but planer boards can also offer great opportunity for river fishing, small lakes, and different fish species - more on these similar concepts - but with a few alterations/adaptions in later write-ups. 


Once you've arrived at the area in which you are going to fish, slow down to a suitable troll. We usually find about 2.0 mph is a great 'set-up' speed. At this speed, the boards pull out nicely, and out, away from the boat. As well, once you start setting up the fishing rods, and actually letting out the fishing line(s), this 2 mph speed allows for a relatively quick procedure. 

Let out the planer board(s), if using two boards, concentrate on completely setting up one board before starting to set up the second.

Let out your fishing line/lure, so you get maximum distance needed to suitably run your lures at a given depth (consult a crankbait trolling guide), or at the distance back which is likely to be most productive. 

Tip: - is the day is sunny & bright, and there is lots of pressure from other boats - or the weather is very calm - let out long leads!

If there is a good 'chop' on the water, and overcast, and the fish may be feeding more aggressively, you can shorten your leads. But depth is also crucial to fishing success - watch that depth/fishfinder - and listen to your VHF radio to see what depth is working for others in the area. 

Planer Board line clipClip the line release over the planer board cord (using the metal attached clip). 

Clip the line into the line release clips - allow to slide down the planer board cord to the spot you wish the line to troll from, and your lure will automatically go/follow out to this spot & will troll from there. 

Watch the rods closely - once a fish hits, and releases - allow it to swing back into 'the slot' behind the boat before starting to fight the fish. The slot is an area where there are no lines at the back of the boat - so the fish can be fought relatively free of other lines. 

If one of the rods 'goes dead', and you have a 'fish on' that did not release - snap the line out of the release clip (referred to as 'snap off', or snapping off), allow the fish/line to swing into 'the slot' and then, fight your fish. 

At the end of the day, or for a lure change, snap off (line out of the line release clip) one rod at a time, crank it in before doing the same for the next rod. If you are doing a lure change, snap off the line from the release clip, crank it in, change the lure, and re-set-up the rod. If you are finishing up for the day, continue snapping off each rod and cranking them in one-at-a-time, until all rods are 'in'. 

Firmly, but gently (brute force & you'll break something), pull in each board, take off all of the release clips; store these in a bucket etc. for next trip/usage out. Place the planer board where it'll have a safe & secure trip home. 

I mention this because the great lakes often give a bouncy ride back to port, and you don't want the boards bouncing all over the place. 



          Pro-Factsheets are now available :

- Single In-Line Planer Boards
- Double Boarded Planer Boards
- Simple, Effective and Functional Mast Set Up for Planer Boards
- Release and Stopper Clips for Planer Boards and Downrigging


If you are serious about learning more about how to effectively set-up and run your planer boards, I've written a "Pro Report" on this subject which will be priceless for those delving into this relatively new fishing strategy.

Indeed, I go into great detail about the actual planer board setting up process - so you won't have to go through all the tangles, and potential problems so often encountered by novice planer board anglers.

 In this booklet you'll find out:

  •  'How to', and what's crucial when you place your boards into the water, and why.
  •  'How to', let the planer boards out, measure fishing line distances that you wish to use (in conjunction of information from depth trolling guide).
  • 'How to' properly clip the line into the line release clips.
  • 'How to' slide the clip down the board cord & spacing considerations for lines.
  •  'How to' properly, and with ease, snap a line off the release clip.
  •  'How to' tell if a fish is on a line - but hasn't snapped off the line release.
  •  'How to' avoid tangles, and diving planer boards.
This above information is available in non rocket science format, easy to read & understand, and is geared for one wishing to learn how to properly setup & troll using planer boards. It is not a bunch of fish stories. Too, it is for those already planer board fishing that are having any of the above associated problems, this information booklet will be well worth the price!

Author: John A. Vance
Copyright © 1998 John A. Vance. . .
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