Updated for the 2021 Season!
Fishing planer boards have been around a while now, and while they get used by many anglers, I still feel most ignore them completely. I can really see why they are a lot of added “work” in your trolling and some guys don’t want to bother. But there are so many trolling applications where using planer boards is necessary…let me explain.
What is a Planer Board?
Planer boards, for a lack of a general definition, are simply tools to get your fishing line away from the boat. If you’re trolling long flats that run for miles, planer boards are a necessity for the amount of extra ground they cover.
In the Great Lakes, for example, it’s quite common to run a string of boards off each side. They’re trolling main basins that are endless, so it makes sense to use as many as possible to better your chance at a bite.
In my neck of the woods, there isn’t a lot of LONG trolling runs. Plus, we can only use 2 rods per angler. With that being said, it’s rare that I use more than 2 planer boards for that reason.
I like to use my planer boards to run shallow and deeper as a way to find out in a hurry what depths there are active fish. If you’re getting more action on the boards over the boat rods, it’s often a good idea to adjust your boat to that depth and reset your boards as needed. The key is the efficiency of planer boards, which help you find fish quickly and run as many baits in that zone as possible.
How to Use Planer Boards
- When using planer boards, keep the rod tip high in the rod holders. That way, the line runs straight to the planer board without dragging in the water.
- Depending on the fishing line you use, and the clips used on the board, you may have to double wrap your line to prevent sliding. I use Power Pro line for my trolling, and that’s the worst line for this. When possible, and depending on the board brand, you can buy tighter clips as well. I will explain below for the brands.
- When possible, use adjustable flags on your boards. Often called “tattle flags“, these allow action from the line to be reflected on the flag itself. So if the baits hitting bottom, snagged on weeds, etc. can all be translated by the flag. An invaluable tool for using planer boards.
- Always set the planer boards first before setting out the boat roads. Sounds simple, but it’s just a simple way to avoid tangles. If using multiple planer boards, then start with the outside first and add towards the boat. When you get a fish on the board, it’s a good idea to move and adjust rods if the fish doesn’t act the way it should.
- Don’t be afraid to use planer boards in waves. The stop-and-go action from the board to the bait is tough to reproduce!
Here are My Favorite Trolling Boards
Offshore Planer Boards
If you’re going to go with a proven planer board, then go with Offshore planer boards. I’ve used them forever, and they just work. The only downfall, is they aren’t the best for LARGE musky baits. You’ll want a larger board for that. These are awesome planer boards for walleyes though.
Seriously, I could type forever but take my word for it. Buy one and put it to the test against another board! However, I do add 2 modifications to my Offshore planer boards:
- I mount the Offshore Tension Release Clip to all of my boards. I use Power Pro and this absolutely eliminates any planer board sliding. I HIGHLY recommend them.
- I mount the Tattle Flag System to all of my boards. As stated earlier, it allows me to detect what’s going on with the bait. If it’s pulling a weed, small fish, hitting bottom, etc. the tattle flag system works well for this.
I’ve used just about every application for using Offshore planer boards. Longlining, bottom bouncers, leadcore, even small to mid-size musky baits work well. They are a bit on the expensive side but they just flat out work.
TX-22 Boards by Church Tackle
If you want to give a competing planer board a try to the Offshores, then try the TX-22 by Church Tackle.
These are designed a bit differently than the Offshore boards for a couple of reaons.
First, I do like the tension flag system on these over the competition. You can easily change the tension if you’re pulling big baits or heavy bottom bouncers with ease. I do like that.
Second, and this is a tip if you use these. By design, the weight on the bottom of the planer board is pushed way forward. Instead, push the weight all of the ways back. This allows the board to ride UP in the water column, which can make a big difference in waves.
Overall, they do ride decently with some modifications. Probably your best bet if you don’t use Offshores.
PROS: Great flag system, easy to use design
CONS: Needs tweaking out of the box and I don’t favor the main clip
Mini Planer Boards by Church Tackle
I was turned on to these by a guy I know who used them a lot, so I’ve given them a try. They’re VERY small in size, so I really only use these for smaller and shallow running crankbaits.
I also tend to use these in calmer conditions, as they really skip and dive in big waves making them hard to read. But with that being said, when you know when to use them they’re awesome.
I tend to use these on the river, trolling these easy-to-use planer boards along sandbars with floating Rapalas. They’re fast and easy to clip on and off and get very wide. Not too bad to have as secondary boards in your boat.
PROS: Very inexpensive, easy to store, easy to use
CONS: Not good with deep-diving crankbaits or big waves
Opti Planer Boards
These were recommended to me by a buddy and I have a pair that I’ve used and tested. Since they were free, of course, I gave them a try.
They worked alright as a planer board in general, but it was lacking a solid line clip on the board that I was used to. We double wrapped our line, otherwise, we had it sliding down the line to the lure. The price tag is right on these boards, as they come in around 50% less than the competition.
PROS: Very inexpensive and easy to use
CONS: Lacking a good flag system and a good line clip.
There are a lot of other brands on the market. Yellowbird planer boards look very intriguing to me as well, but I have yet to try them. The clips and flag system looks solid out of the box for a decent price tag. But since I’ve yet to use them, I refrained from putting them in my review. They might be an upcoming purchase. 😉
So with all being said, planer boards are and always will be great tools to have in your boat. They do take some practice if you’ve never used them before, but once you get it down you’ll be using them often.