Back in the 80s the concept of the in-line planer board was just catching on. Today, the in-line board fishing frenzy has expanded to include a new generation of boards known collectively as “mini boards” because they are even smaller than the traditional in-line boards on the market. The “mini board” has quickly found a niche among those who troll inland waters and rivers.

Designed to catch things like suspended crappie, the “mini board” can and does help anglers catch a wealth of other species. The cool thing about the “mini board” is it’s one of the few examples where fishing with less really can spell out more success!


Crappie are a popular species across most of middle America. Abundant in natural lakes and a host of impoundments, this popular species is often found suspended in the water column. Suspended fish are best targeted with trolling tactics and these pint sized in-line boards are sized perfectly to fish with the light line and rods favored by crappie anglers.

Simply grab your favorite crappie lures, rods, reels and let the mini board help with the process of covering water. Most mini boards come factory equipped for the “Release and Slide” method of planer board fishing. This technique allows several boards to be stacked on each side of the boat.

The easiest method for insuring a quick and smooth release is to wrap the line first around your index finger a few times to form a loop. Next open the line release that comes with the mini board (my favorite is the OR10 release from Off Shore Tackle) and place the release jaws firmly on the twists of line so the loop stick out the top of the release. Follow up by placing the line through the snap swivel located at the back of the board.

A quick snap of the rod tip is all it takes to release the board and send it sliding down the line. Be sure to add a barrel swivel and bead in-line about three or four feet ahead of the lure so the board doesn’t slide down to the fish.

Another advantage is that a mini board is easily reversible, allowing anglers to rig for fishing on the starboard or port side of the boat in seconds. Small crankbaits and jigs dressed with twister tails are the most common lures trolled for crappie.

River Walleye

In the spring walleye invade rivers for spawning and often set up housekeeping for weeks after the spawn is complete. The mini board is ideal for fishing rivers with crankbaits, in-line weights, spoons, crawler harnesses and a host of other common walleye tackle.

The same rigging methods commonly employed with crappie trolling work well for walleye. Using the release and slide rigging method, two, three or more boards can easily be fished on either side of the boat.

Steelhead And Salmon In Rivers

The versatile mini board is also perfect for fishing rivers that attract steelhead and salmon. High action crankbaits are popular river steelhead lures and with the help of the mini board anglers fishing from boats or shore can easily fish waters others overlook.

Simply cast out the crankbait of choice and attach the mini board on the line with both the tow arm release and snap swivel at the back of the board. Now drop the board in the water and play line off the reel so the current can sweep the board and bait out away from the boat or shore.

The mini board is a slick way to position diving crankbaits up under log jams, undercut banks and other places it’s almost impossible to cast to. From a boat, wading or fishing from shore, these fishing tools help anglers cover more productive steelhead water.

When salmon move into the streams to spawn, they are vulnerable to the many presentations of the mini board also. Salmon love to eat fresh and cured spawn when they move into the rivers. Using Jet Divers to pull chunks of skein or spawn sacs is a common way to catch salmon. With the help of the mini board it’s a snap to add additional lines on the port and starboard side of the boat while fishing a flat line or two straight out the back.

Deep holes are the best places to try this technique, but like steelhead these small boards can be used to present spawn and lures up under log jams, overhanging banks and other areas impossible to reach with other methods.

Inland Lake Trolling

The opportunities to use pint sized in-line boards to catch bass, walleye, pike and trout from inland lakes is almost unlimited. Perfect for trolling along shorelines, weed edges, drop offs, islands and other places fish hang out, even better a mini board can be fished using the rods and reels you already own.

Taking The Next Step

Mini in-line trolling boards were designed to allow anglers an opportunity to explore trolling with their existing rods, reels and lures. Once bitten by the trolling bug, anglers will no doubt want to take a more sophisticated approach to their trolling.

Incorporating line counter reels is the biggest step a troller can make towards fishing success. The mechanical lead length counters on these reels allows anglers to monitor trolling leads and predict the running depth of their lures. Even better, once a fish is caught using a particular lure and lead length, the line counter reel makes it possible to duplicate what’s working.

Quality rod holds are another accessory item every serious troller needs. Available in several configurations, the most common rod holder design are known as saddle styles that are generally made of plastic and designed to cradle the rod and reel. Tube type holders are another design that are made from metal or plastic and designed to hold the rod by the handle. Flush mount rod holders sit into the deck, making them the least adjustable option, but also the least obtrusive option. Made from plastic or metal, flush mouth rod holders come in vertical and angled configurations.

Summing It Up

The newly popular mini in-line board has proven to be a winning way to catch lots of different kinds of fish. As the years pass, no doubt new and better ways to troll with boards will come to light. In the mean time, anglers can choose from either in-line boards or mini boards for their trolling needs.