In-line planer boards like the popular Off Shore Tackle Side-Planer have been around a long time. In fact, fishing enthusiasts like me have been fishing these boards most of our adult lives! During that 30-something-year span of time, in-line board fishing methods have evolved a great deal.
Better line releases, releases designed to handle braided lines, articulating flag systems, mini boards and magnum boards are just some of the advancements that have made board fishing not only more productive, but also more fun.
Doesn’t Fit All
In the world of board fishing it’s the line releases that do the heavy lifting. This simple, but critical piece of gear makes it possible for an in-line board to be rigged and fished a bunch of different ways. Line releases also enable boards to be fished with monofilament or with braided lines. In the world of board fishing one size or type of line release simply doesn’t fit all, because no single line release can function flawlessly for all species of fish and all trolling applications.
If the board an angler chooses doesn’t readily adapt to a wealth of different line release designs, that board is seriously limited in the fishing applications it can be applied to. For example, the Side-Planer produced by Off Shore Tackle comes factory equipped with two releases. The OR19 (orange) release on the tow arm is designed to be used with monofilament and fluorocarbon lines. The OR16 (red) Snap Weight Clip mounted to the back of the board features a patented pin between the rubber jaws that prevents the line from popping free of this clip.
This unique set up allows the board to be released, but still held firmly in place on the line. Rigged in this manner anglers can stack two, three or even four boards per side of the boat and trip them as fish are hooked. The advantage of tripping, but keeping the board pinned in place on the line is fish can be hooked and landed without having to clear other lines.
Using the Off Shore method, the board comes to the boat quickly and without resistance. Once the board is within reach of the boat it can be removed like removing a Snap Weight, freeing up the angler to fight the fish to net while feeling every head shake and tail wiggle along the way.
The release and slide method employed by other board manufacturers forces the angler to fight both the fish and the resistance of the board in the water until the fish comes to net. An in-line board that has been released and allowed to slide down to the fish pulls very hard and destroys the enjoyment of fighting the fish.
This “old school” rigging method also enables fish to escape more often. More fish are lost using this rigging method because the fish can pull against the resistance of the board and tear free.
The Braid Brigade
A growing number of trollers are using braided and fused lines for trolling. In part these “super lines” are popular because they last longer than monofilament and don’t have to be replaced as often. Super lines also have near zero stretch allowing anglers to achieve better hook sets even when trolling with long leads. Thirdly, “super lines” are thinner in diameter and they allow fishermen to troll deeper than possible with traditional line types.
The number of anglers who have jumped onto the “super line” train in recent years is impressive. Fishing these “super lines” with in-line boards requires using releases designed especially to function with thin, slippery and low stretch line types.
Cam operated jaw type releases like the Snapper produced by Off Shore Tackle were designed to grip and hold super lines firmly. A set screw in the release jaw allows the tension to be set as needed to hold firmly any size super line.
The drawback to this release design is the line is fixed in the release and the board cannot be tripped. The angler must reel in the board and remove it from the line before continuing to fight the fish to net.
A simple trick anglers use to fix this issue requires an ordinary office rubber band, an OR19 release on the tow arm of the board and a little ingenuity. Half hitch the rubber band around the braided line after letting the lure out the desired distance behind the boat. Place the rubber band between the rubber jaws of the OR19 release and then place the line behind the pin on the OR16 release at the back of the board. Wrap the “super line” around the OR16 jaw and place it in the rubber pads to prevent the line from sliding.
Rigged in this way anglers can stack multiple boards per side of the boat and trip them by popping the rod tip as fish are hooked. This allows anglers who prefer “super lines” to have their cake and eat it too!
Another “super line” rigging option is to employ the unique Sam’s Release produced by Silver Horde. This swing arm jettison style release allows “super lines” to be wrapped around a rubber plunger that is in turn held firmly in an adjustable tension clip.
In-line boards should be equipped with a flag to make them easier for other trollers to see on the water. The flag can also be rigged as a strike indicator by adding an aftermarket product called the Tattle Flag Kit or the new Economy Tattle
The Tattle Flag Kit comes with two releases, a new flag, linkage arm, washer, spring and necessary hardware. If an angler already owns an Off Shore board, the Economy Tattle Flag Kit is less expensive and comes with the linkage arm, spring and necessary hardware for rigging.
What articulated flag systems do is make it easier to detect subtle strikes when fishing in-line boards. When a fish is hooked the flag folds down making it obvious even to first timers that a fish has been hooked. The Tattle Flag also folds down if a weed is snagged or a small fish like a white perch or white bass is hooked. This simple “aftermarket” product makes board fishing a much more efficient and enjoyable experience.
The pint sized mini boards hit the market a few years ago. Obviously the smaller stature of these boards means they cannot pull as much weight or function in rough water as well as larger boards. The application here is to allow anglers the option of using lighter lines, rods and lures to target fish like crappie and other overlooked species.
Trolling for open water crappie using small crankbaits and even jigs is becoming amazingly popular. Mini boards are perfect for stacking multiple boards per side of the boat and targeting smaller fish like crappie.
Another application for the mini boards focuses on shore fishermen who target steelhead, salmon, smallmouth and other river species. Mini boards can be used to present plugs, spinners and even egg set ups in river current. Simply cast out the desired lure or rig and then place the mini board on the line. Drop the mini board in the water and play off line as the board works its way out into the current.
Mini boards are reversible making them handy for fishing on any bank and they are also ideal for steering a bait into log jams, near undercut banks and other places that fish hide out.
Mini boards also accept multiple release types which means these boards can also be fished readily with monofilament, fluorocarbon or super lines.
Magnum sized in-line boards are designed to pull heavy loads of copper or lead core line, lead drop balls, large diving crankbaits and even small diving planers. The larger size of these boards gives them the power to pull heavy loads and still plane out to the side of the boat effectively.
Trout and salmon anglers gravitate to these magnum boards because they are often tasked with fishing their lures deep and also out away from the boat. Musky fishermen who troll with larger bucktails, deep diving crankbaits and heavy weight systems are also finding that the magnum boards are ideal for these trolling niches.
Summing It Up
In-line boards have been on the fishing scene some time, but they have also evolved considerably over the years. Getting the most from these fishing aids involves staying in touch with new rigging methods, refined line releases, aftermarket products and other new product introductions.
In the past 30 years, in-line boards have evolved from being a cute novelty to becoming a dominate force on the trolling scene. Useful for trolling big water, small waters and even rivers, there is little the in-line ski can’t tackle in the modern world of board fishing.