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The ups and downs of planer board fishing

Planer board fishing: Advantage or hindrance?
Planer board fishing: Advantage or hindrance?
Charley Stull courtesy of

Just when you think you’ve got all your gear dialed in to the methods that works best for you, something else comes about and gets you thinking in terms of ways to catch more and bigger fish.

In this case, considered equipment as well as a method, planer board fishing has been around for a while now. But using it to your advantage is key as opposed to it being a hindrance. To many anglers who don’t have a clue to what planer boards are?

A planer board is a surface running floatation device that aids to the technique of flat-line trolling, where lines are towed at a predetermined varied distance on one or each side of the boat, allowing for more coverage of your offerings as you troll.

The planer devices are towed by your boat with a non-fishing tethered line or cable while your trolling line, attached via a release clip to the planer board, pops free as a fish strikes your bait.

Yet some smaller models are attached directly to the fishing line and released completely when a fish strikes your bait. However, these planer boards have to be retrieved after the fish is caught.

To some this model can create havac to trolling operations because you have to maneuver the boat out of the way of your trolling route and in some circumstances in reverse to retrieve the detached planer, and with all other riggings still out, the risk fouling and tangling other lines can prove to be super encumbering and an absolute hindrance.

The disadvantage using the tethered planer is that when a fish strikes and your trolling line is then released from the board, you must either gather the tethered line and board in while a fish is on or try and land the fish from the back of the boat.

There is a way to still leave the planer rig out and work the fish on the side of the boat and of coarse steer the boat so other lines and rigs don’t tangle, but in any event, a lot of experience and an experienced partner on-board really helps keep you trouble free.

Planer boards are designed to be either port or starboard models. They do assist your trolling methods substantially because they allow for much more versatility, expanding coverage.

Using and visualizing a V pattern starting from the stern of the boat straight out using two down deep rods (via lead core or bottom bouncers), one outside rod using a mid range presentation on each side of the boat, and then the two side planers, again one each side of the boat, bringing baits say 50-feet or more out and parallel with the boat, keying on the upper part of the water column, gives you more and better coverage.

Of coarse that’s six lines out and you will need three anglers with double-rod fishing licenses to pull it off. But this is a great way to effectively cover more water at various depths, maximizing the boats utility for rod space without complicating operations and in effect eliminating unproductive waters while putting baits in the strike zone.

It can be a lot of work switching rods and baits in and out while keeping lines from fouling and tangling up. With choppy waters, wind and boat traffic to contend with, it’s proven to be challenging to even the most experienced anglers.

So there are certainly some ups and downs about planer board fishing. When you can be effective using this method it does pay off because you can troll your bait in a stealthy manner up in the shallows where you can’t run your boat and you can expand your coverage widely.

But sometimes it’s best to be trouble free just using conventional methods of trolling so you can enjoy a day on the water as opposed to a day you would rather be at work.

Never the less, give planer board fishing a try and see for yourself. You might find a way of fishing that is quite enjoyable to you, or not.

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