Early spring is normally not a time when walleye anglers think about trolling … or is it? We’d bet our favorite crankbaits that there is a sizeable group of anglers that are spending a vast amount of time these days pouring over their arsenal of trolling lures, line, rods, reels, ands boards wondering what’s going to be the magic formula that will put numbers of fish in the boat for them this season. We’re sure this is the case because of the number of trolling related questions that have been getting tossed our way at sport shows, filling our email boxes and swelling the internet forums on our web site. Trollers are getting anxious and they want to know what its going to take to have the best season ever.
One of the many questions that get brought up again and again is about how we set-up our Off Shore OR-12 Side Planer boards. From the factory, these are the best boards going … their tough and perfectly ballasted so they ride upright in the water under most any wave conditions and work well at virtually any trolling speed. One of our modifications however, is to remove the OR-14 Releases (the black ones) and replace them with stronger OR-16 (red) Releases. We remove the release hardware from the back of the board and mount both releases on the board’s main arm. Another option is to use a single OR-18 Snapper Release on the main arm of the board. The advantages to this “Pro Set-Up” are that it makes the boards easier to read because they will “tip back” more noticeably when a fish is on. This set up also makes removing the boards easier, especially when you’re fishing like a lone wolf, fighting in the fish and clearing the board all by yourself.
As you prepare your equipment for the upcoming season, be sure to check your boards for things like loose or broken brackets, broken releases, flags, or worn out floatation in the back of the board. During the pre-season, Off Shore Tackle offers several “Off Shore Tackle Board Tune-Up Clinics” at local tackle shops and sport shows around the upper Midwest. This is a great way to extend the life of your OR-12 Side Planers and learn more about the care and maintenance of them. Ask around your area …if there’s a clinic planned near you it won’t be that tough to find out about it.
Now’s also a good time to take inventory of your arsenal of trolling rods and reels. Walleye trolling rods should have a few key features: They should be long … 7 feet 6 inches to 8 feet 6 inches is a good range. The should have a strong backbone for handling such trolling accessories as boards, weights, and diving planers, but yet have a soft tip section to aid in fighting big fish. The Walleye Angler Signatures Trolling Rods which we designed for Bass Pro Shops feature all these characteristics, and are a great value.
When it comes to reels for trolling, nothing beats line counter reels for allowing anglers to duplicate successful trolling patterns effectively. Reels like the Bass Pro Shops Gold Cup Line Counter Reel model GC2000LC are ideal for most walleye trolling applications, with the exception of lead core line trolling tactics which require the larger spool capacity of a reel like the Gold Cup model GC4000LCB. Ideally it’s great to have all your trolling rods and reels be the same models … that way it is easy to duplicate productive trolling sets precisely without having to make concessions for varying reels and line capacities. That’s not to say that if you’re just getting started in the walleye trolling game you need to go out and buy six new trolling outfits (although if you can we encourage it), but it’s a goal to work toward.
Of course you’re going to need good line to fill those trolling reels and this is one area where the choices can muddle the mind. It’s tough to go wrong with the old stand by Berkley Trilene XT in ten pound test. This line has great abrasion resistance, just enough stretch to act as a good “shock absorber” when fighting big fish, and let’s be honest … its very cost effective for filling a number of large capacity trolling reels. For those situations where you’re trolling crankbaits in deep water and are looking to get your lures deeper than they can go on monofilament, ten pound test Berkley FireLine is tough to beat. This is a no-stretch “super line” with the diameter of four pound test mono, which allows lures to dive as much 30% deeper than they would on monofilament.
A new line that is sure to get a lot of attention among trollers this upcoming season (us included) is Berkley’s Vanish Transition Fluorocarbon line. This new-age fluorocarbon offers not only the underwater “invisibility” and low-stretch characteristics of conventional fluorocarbon, but becomes highly visible above the water, a trait that trollers are growing to appreciate because it helps in viewing their trolling spreads (to keep lines from getting tangled), finding boards let well out to the sides of the boat, and better visibility when bringing a fish in to the net (especially helpful for those of us that have celebrated more than one 49th birthday.
Of course we all know there is never a magic lure, mystical tactic or even a “sure thing” body of water when it comes to walleye fishing success. But the factor we can all control is to be prepared to have the best fishing season ever … to be geared up and ready to take on anything the walleye Gods want to throw our way. Whether you’re an experienced troller, or a “newbie”, you do not want to start the season off without having gone through a thorough check list of your trolling gear and stock your arsenal to the hilt, ready, willing and able to meet the walleye trolling challenges ahead.