Why use planer boards? Bottom line … to catch fish
Whether you are a novice walleye angler or a seasoned walleye hunter, fishing with planer boards is an essential technique you need to master. So many anglers mistakenly think walleye fishing is all about dragging a three-way rig or a jig along the bottom with a piece of live bait to entice a strike. Sure, many walleye can be caught with those approaches under the right set of conditions, but by investing a few bucks in a couple of board rods, planer boards, snap weights, rod holders and a few other odds and ends, you can apply the planer board approach and discover a whole new world of walleye fishing that the bottom draggers will never know. The reward for your efforts will be more walleye in your boat.
To discuss the basics of planer board fishing, there are few better in the walleye world than Sand Point, Mich., Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Circuit pro Bruce DeShano. Known by many in the industry as the “Chairman of the Boards,” DeShano is the chief executive officer of Off Shore Tackle, a leading manufacturer of planer boards and accessories.
FLW Outdoors: Why should a walleye angler who does not use planer boards right now start using them?
Bruce DeShano: The answer to that is pretty simple. In my opinion, there is no more effective way to fish for suspended walleye, and walleye suspend quite frequently. By using planer boards, you essentially make your boat larger. What I mean by that is you can have several lines out away from your boat fishing an area where suspended fish exist. They allow you to cover a much larger area in a smaller amount of time. If you tried to fish for these walleye with a standard flatline approach, or with any other method, you would just be missing out on an awful lot of fish. Bottom line, this method catches fish.
B.D.: I guess that depends on what an angler thinks is a lot of money. You will need to purchase a few planer boards, snap weights, rod holders and a couple of 6- to 8-foot medium action rods spooled up with 10- to 12-pound test line. Many anglers already have much of this basic equipment. All in all, not much extra money needs to be spent to start fishing with planer boards.
FLW: What are a couple of situations where you recommend fishing with planer boards?
B.D.: Planer boards are great any time you are fishing a large, open body of water. Lake Erie, Lake Winnebago or Saginaw Bay are good places to use boards. These large bodies of water often have schools of baitfish roaming in the open water, and that is where the walleye are going to be. You will also want to use planer boards when you are fishing for walleye, and they are close to shore and skittish. Instead of using the standard flatline method to present your lure, which will disturb the fish by driving your boat over them, you can position your planer board far enough away from the boat to be able to troll only your lure through the fish without frightening them. Aside from those two basic situations, you can use planer boards anywhere you want to try for suspended walleye. Whether it is a small inland river or lake or one of the Great Lakes, you need to try them and experiment.
B.D.: Oh yeah, there are definitely good lures to use when fishing with planer boards. During the spring, I like to use shallow-running stick baits. Luhr Jensen, Smithwick and Reef Runner all make excellent lures for hooking walleye in the spring. I prefer bright colors when fishing the Great Lakes or muddy water and natural colors for most inland river or lake fishing. When the weather starts to warm up in the late spring and summer, pulling crawler harnesses and spinners behind the boards is very effective. I use either gold or copper Hildebrandt blades or Mack’s Smile blades in green or silver. With any of these lures, you have to let the walleye tell you what depth and trolling speed to use. Too often, anglers have a mindset that the fish will be this deep and want a lure trolled at this speed. Set your lures at different depths and experiment until the walleye start to strike and pay attention to how fast you are trolling and what depth the fish hit.
FLW: What the heck is a snap weight?
B.D.: A snap weight is a simple system allowing you to tie your weight to your line only once. When you want to change your weight, you pull in your line and simply press a release to remove the weight and replace it with another. This eliminates all sorts of wasted time and tangled lines when you need to retie. With snap weights, you can quickly have all of your lures fishing at the depth where the walleye are hitting.
FLW: How far back from the planer board do you position the snap weight and the lure?
B.D.: I call this the 50-50 method. Position your weight about 50 feet back from the planer board and place the lure about 50 feet back from the weight. It’s very simple and very effective.
FLW: Are walleye the only fish you can catch using planer boards?
B.D.: You can catch any fish that swims using planer boards. It is too bad bass tournament anglers can’t troll. We catch some huge bass on Lake Erie and other big water fisheries from the spring through the fall. In fact, some smallies in the 5- to 6-pound range are caught almost every season pulling plugs or crawler harnesses. Anglers casting for these fish will never find them.
FLW: As a tournament pro, where are a couple of your favorite spots to use planer boards?
B.D.: I have many spots over the years that have been good to me using planer boards. There are two, however, that consistently produce fish using planer boards. One is Lake Erie out of Port Clinton. I like to troll with boards out in the 20-foot depths. I like to pull brightly colored Reef Runners behind boards out there. The other area where planer boards are great is Saginaw Bay. In particular, I hit the lower portion of the bay in the 6- to 10-foot depths. I know I can produce a solid stringer almost every trip, while many other anglers are out looking for the huge fish playing a hit-and-miss game. Planer boards have been very good to me as a tournament professional.
For more information about Off Shore Tackle, visit Offshoretackle.com.