The Ins and Outs of Boards



As Professional Walleye Fishermen we are regularly fielding questions about different walleye techniques, be it at sport shows, tournaments or even on our E-mail. One area of particular interest to many anglers is fishing with in- line planer boards. Any walleye touring pro will tell you, they don’t leave home without ’em. Boards aren’t the answer for every walleye fishing situation, but they are an important tool for every walleye angler’s arsenal.

Here we will answer some of the most commonly asked questions we get regarding fishing with in-line boards.

Question: How far out can you run in-line boards and still have them run effectively?

Answer: Spreading lines out to cover more water effectively is the main reason for using boards. Often, in calm water conditions on big water, we will run boards as far as 150 to 200 feet off to the side of the boat. This requires the right equipment. You can’t use wimpy rods, it takes good strong rods 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 feet long with plenty of backbone (see Walleye Angler Signature Series Trolling Rods). When running boards that far out, it’s important to set the rod holders so that the rod tips are high in the air in order to keep the line off the water as much as possible. The board itself can play a major part in how far out you can run it. A weighted board like the Off Shore Tackle OR-12 Side Planer is much less likely to & “roll” as it’s being deployed and once its set, the ballast keeps the board in an upright position, keeping more planning surface in contact with the water. This feature also keeps the boards level and “waiting” when the boat is put in neutral to fight in a big fish.

Under rough water conditions the “spread out” mind-set is reversed. Wave action hides your boat presence so subsequently it is possible to bring the boards in closer. In fact by keeping the boards close you’ll maintain much better control over your trolling set. The boards are much easier to read and when a walleye bites there is much less line out increasing the chances of boating your fish. Remember, in rough water it is always desirable to keep the fight to a minimum, because the wind will push your boat faster than normal which consequently puts more pressure on the fish. Minimal fight decreases the chances of torn walleye lips… the end result will be more boated fish!

Question: Can you run snap weights or leadcore line with boards?

Answer: Yes and no. Off Shore boards can handle the extra weight of Snap Weights, up to 3 ounces. Weights heavier than 3 ounces tend to tip or sink the board causing it to not run effectively. You can run as much as 5 colors of leadcore behind a board, provided you use a backing of mono or FireLine to the board itself. Attaching the board to the leadcore directly will again cause it to tip and not run correctly.


Question: When running multiple boards on one side of the boat, how do you get a fish in on the outside board without tangling with the inside board?

Answer: This is one of the trickiest parts of running boards, and is probably the one thing that frustrates many novice “board” anglers more than anything else. The easiest method is when you get a fish on the outside board, quickly reel in the inside board (known as “clearing the board”) and put the board (still attached to the line) in the boat’s splash well letting the lure trail straight behind the boat. Lay the rod on the floor and proceed to reel in the outside board and fight the fish in. You want to be sure to land the fish off to the side of the boat as to not tangle with the trailing line. Once you have the fish in, reset the board that was in the splash well … that now becomes the outside board.

Just keep in mind, things will run much smoother if the boat is left in gear until the board with the fish is detached from the line. That will keep tension on the lines and cut down the chances of tangles. If the fish you are fighting is a really big hog, and you do wish to put the boat in neutral to fight it, ballasted boards like the Off Shore Tackle OR-12, will remain upright in the water, ready to start fishing again once you land your trophy.

Question: It seems like it can take a long time to set out four or even six board lines. Is there a trick to setting board lines out more efficiently?

Answer: You bet! The secret to setting out multiple lines at a time is to use Line Counter reels which have a “clicker” feature. Set the board in the water and put the rod in a rod holder. With the clicker turned on put the reel in free-spool mode. The clicker will put enought tension on the line to allow the board to go out “un-attended” while another board line is prepared. Once the board is the proper distance from the boat, engage the reel and you’re fishing. For reels not equipped with clickers, you can accomplish the same thing by loosening the drag on the reels enough to allow the boards to pull the line out. With two anglers in the boat, it doesn’t take long to put out four or even six lines (where legal).

One final thought. Don’t get locked into the idea that board trolling is only for big bodies of water and are only used when pulling crankbaits. It may surprise you how often we have used boards on small lakes and reservoirs, and not just for trolling crankbaits, but with spinners, bottom bouncers and live bait rigs too.

Running boards is not nearly as difficult or complicated as many fishermen think. A little time spent practicing the “basics” of set up and retrieval and you too can be fishing boards like the pros.