Inline planer boards were invented years ago, but their popularity has blossomed over the past decade. While most popular on “big water” they have found use nearly anywhere anglers troll. As their popularity grew, many manufacturers started producing them, and now there are plenty of models for the angler to choose from.
Inline boards are designed to take the trolled lure to the side of the boat where the lure can be presented to fish that have not been spooked by the boat. Planer boards also allow anglers to troll many more lines without tangling. While most inline planer boards are very versatile, some are particularly useful in certain situations.
For fishing inland lakes with fairly light lures for smaller fish; mini boards such as the Church TX-12 are excellent. They do not pull as hard as the larger boards and allow the angler to use lighter rods as well. Although these boards work well, leadcore, heavy snap weights and larger fish require a larger board.
Boards such as the standard Yellow Bird and the Big Jon Side-Liner perform much better for heavier presentations excluding the largest of presentations.
For pulling very large crankbaits, copper, leadcore and large snap weights, boards such as the Church Walleye Board, Church TX-22, Offshore OR-12, the Offshore SST, and the Big Birds by Yellow Bird all perform very well. Larger boards do have their disadvantages however, as they are harder to “read” for strikes as well as debris. Larger boards also require stouter tackle to withstand the everpresent pull of the board. Offshore Tackle offers the Tattle Flag that drops when a fish pulls on the line. Although they add to the cost of the board, they prevent the angler from towing small fish and debris.
Inline boards can be set two distinct ways: fixed and sliding. A planer board rigged fixed is most common with small spreads and smaller fish such as walleye and crappie. When a strike is determined, the angler reels in the board and fish until the board is brought to the boat. At that time the planer board is removed from the line and the fish is landed in the conventional manner. To set a board to release, the angler uses a snap swivel in the back and lightens the tension on the front release so that when a fish strikes the board slides freely to a small swivel placed a few feet in front of the lure. Because the board is out of alignment after the release, it is retrieved straight behind the boat. This allows the angler to run more boards per side without having to retrieve any boards located “inside” the one with the fish on. Large fish, such as salmon and stripers are also less likely to sink the board making retreival difficult. A variation of fixed and sliding, uses a rubber band such as one from Weldon Tackle to keep the board from sliding all the way to the fish, but still releasing making retrieval easier.
While nearly any type of reel can be used, linecounter reels by far are the most popular and efficient for planer board trolling. They allow precise presentation of the lure and allows the angler to replicate a pattern once it is determined. Rods from 7-9′ in a Medium to Medium-Heavy action are most popular for most planer fishing. Okuma, Daiwa, Shimano and Shakespeare all offer rods suitable for boards.
Any type of quality line can be used with in-lines, but certain lines excel in specific applications. In recent years, “super lines” such as FireLine, PowerPro, and SpiderWire have become very popular. In many applications these lines are excellent as they have very small diameters as well as very little stretch affording the angler great sensitivity. Because of their thin diameter, super lines allow a crankbait or snap weight to dive deeper. On the flip side, super lines are very slippery due to their composition and can occasionally slip in the releases. Monofilament such as Ande, McCoy or Trilene XT is an excellent choice for larger fish as the stretch provides absorbs the shock of a surging fish.
Inline planer boards have gained popularity year after year, and more trolling anglers are learning that they are an indispensable piece of gear.