From long lining to planer boards, snap weights to inline weights or lead core, there is a time and place for all these when it comes to trolling. Whether you out targeting trout, pike, walleye, or salmon, trolling produces an abundance of fish, and if done properly using the right presentations, big fish will be landed as well. Of all the trolling techniques, pulling planer boards and using lead core are my favorite techniques. Pulling planer boards is a lot of fun and, most importantly, extremely successful. When it comes to boards, I run Off Shore Tackle planer boards. I add the Tattle Flag Kit that is available for the boards and I then replace the front release clip with an OR-19 heavy release clip. This clip has proven to work very well with all lines, even thin Super lines. Planer boards can be used to accomplish a variety of things. Number one is they work great at spreading out your lines. With multiple boards, you can cover an extremely large area when searching for fish.
Example: When the water temperature climaxes at the maximum temp, the shad move toward the surface, forcing walleyes off the structure, making them feed on the surface. Once this happens, the fish spread out, so you should as well.
Once you’ve practiced using one board, you can start to run multiple boards on each side of the boat, and run them as far as 250 to 300 feet or more. In a situation where there is little or no boat traffic, you can cover 300 to 600 feet of water in one pass. Another reason for using planer boards, and one I come across quite frequently, is to target spooky fish or “ghost” fish. Your boat, even the shadow, can frighten some fish, particularly large walleye and big pike.
Example: When pike fishing in the fall, the big mature fish will be feeding in the shallow, clear water of the flats, where boat noise and shadows will spook them. By pulling boards, you can avoid spooking these fish and in turn, put them in the boat.
Boards solve this problem by keeping all your lines away from the commotion of your boat. Sometimes these fish are located near the surface or in shallow water and the noise of your boat will scare them off. Although your boat might disturb the fish directly under you, it will not affect the fish under your boards.
The last reason I think boards are great is for covering an entire piece of structure. Let’s say you have a shoreline like a dam face or a rocky shoreline with a steady ledge running from shallow to deep. This is a situation we encounter on Front Range walleyes all the time. Suppose there are fish near shore in 4 to 5 feet of water, but you also have fish holding deep in 25 to 30 feet of water and some others in between. All you have to do is put your boat in 15 feet and let the boards out to the 4 and 5 foot range with a shallow running crank bait on one side, and let out the boards with a deep crank or crank with a snap weight to the deeper fish on the other side. Make one pass and you’ve got it all covered.
Example: When you have spring fish strung out on a riprap shoreline, some fish may be spawning in shallow, 5 to 7 feet and some may be holding deeper, 18 to 25 feet. Put your boat between the two and cover it all.
My next favorite technique is using lead core line. The average person hears lead core and they think depth control. Depth control is one important part. With lead core, you can make any lure go any depth. As an example, let’s say you have a stick bait that will run 4 to 6 feet deep by itself. With lead core, you can reach any desired depth you want.
The other important part of lead core is that it follows your boat true. You can get lead core to do things that mono or super line would never do. Imagine you let out 80 feet of mono and 80 feet of lead core and you did a couple of figure 8’s with your boat. Your mono would be a tangled mess and your lead core would be a figure 8. Lead follows every turn your boat makes, it does not cut corners. I’ve pulled lead in 6 to 8 feet on shorelines that require constant turns.
Keeping these thoughts of depth and lead core running true, combine them and fish the contours by utilizing boat speed. For example, there is a submerged road bed that runs East to West with depths of 20 feet on either side and 14 feet on top of the road. Throw in a strong wind blowing from the South, making the walleyes face the South and feed on the shad getting pushed by the current. There are fish holding in the 20 foot about a foot off the bottom and there are also fish holding on top of the road about a foot off of that as well.
Lead core is the only possible way to fish and cover all these depths correctly. I’ll put on a shad imitation bait and start trolling at 1.5mph with that bait about 18 to 19 feet down so it is in perfect position for those deep fish. As I approach the road bed, I bump up my speed to 2.2 or 2.3mph for 3 or 4 seconds in order to pull my bait up, and then I will slow down to let my bait sink back down to the deeper fish. So from start to finish, my lures will be in the perfect position the whole time without taking in or letting out any line. This way, your lure is in the zone 100% of the time, as opposed to 50 % with mono or super line. This technique takes practice, but is very effective once you learn it.
The key to catching any fish is the ability to present any bait in any situation. This is especially true when it comes to mature fish. A large, lets say walleye, does not and will not work to eat. This fish has no struggles when it comes to food and therefore does not want to work to eat. It would use too much valuably energy to chase food down. By using boards and lead you can position your bait with in inches of your target, making it easy on the fish to strike. If you try and become proficient with these techniques you are guaranteed to catch more and bigger fish.
© 2023 Nate Zelinsky
About the author, Nate Zelinsky:
Nathan Zelinsky is a full time professional walleye angler. He has fished the MWC along with many other tournaments. Besides tournament fishing Nathan is owner/operator of Tightline Outdoors guide service which is an all species guide service, fishing for Walleye, Smallmouth Bass,Northern Pike, Trout, Catfish, Carp, Perch, Tiger Muskie, Kokanee Salmon and Wiper. Nathan spends around 300 days a year on the water or ice. Nathan also runs a Ice Fishing School in the winter months. He is a frequent guest on ESPN Outdoots with Terry Wickstrom and also appears frequently on Angling Adventures, Fishful Thinker and Lip'em & Rip'em.
Nathan is also a member of ICE TEAM.
Nathan is sponsored by Lund Boats, Mercury Marine, JR’s Tackle, Interstate Batteries, JIffy Augers, Berkley, Fenwick, Phlueger, White Caps, Crowly Marine, Replicas INC, The Sign Guys and Gal, Ice Armor, Clam, Vexilar, Mr. Heater, Ice Team, Blue Quill Angler, Todays Tackle and Line-X.